March 1, 2016

Farm working Dogs in New Zealand. 8. Housing and Welfare

  By Dr Clive Dalton

 Your dog deserves the best!
It's a sad fact, that there are many working dogs that don’t have adequate housing.  For a dog to live a long productive life, good clean, dry, well-ventilated and draught-free housing with a comfortable bed is a basic requirement.  Housing should also be free of parasites and disease.

There’s a wide range of housing available for dogs these days, and no excuse for dogs to be living tied up under trees, living in holes in the ground, drain pipes, rusty 200 litre drums, or in broken kennels on dirty muddy ground.  The costs of good dog accommodation cannot be accepted these days as a reason for poor housing - see the opening comments about the value of a dog. 

The inside dog box
A dog can be housed in simple box inside a building such as a barn or shed.  The box need not be weatherproof but should keep the dog warm and free from draughts in winter.  Regular clean bedding such as straw is ideal.  Some shepherds don’t provide bedding and the dogs if warm are quite happy.  In summer the dog will probably lie outside the box or on the top.

The dog can be chained to the box or the shed wall, and the floor should be amenable to regular cleaning and disinfection.  A concrete floor is best for the box to stand on.

Single outside kennel
This is the traditional kennel, best made of tongued-and-grooved boards with a landing at the entrance.  

·      The dog is chained to the kennel or may be on a wire runner to allow exercise.
·      Here dogs are in contact with the soil and their own faeces.
·      Dogs often dig holes, which in wet weather hold water, and the whole area turns to mud.  They often undermine the kennel which then falls into the hole!
·      The kennels need to be shifted regularly. 
·      Providing clean fresh water is an extra chore as dogs often tip their water containers which are best fixed to the kennels.
·      These single kennels need to be placed in shade in summer, and where they can get sun in winter
·      Remember that dogs tied up in outside kennels are not secure from thieves.

There are now many kennels on the market made of metal, plastic materials or fibreglass.  They are lighter than wood and easier to shift, but make sure they are not too hot in the summer or too cold in winter. 

Combined kennel and run
These are now very popular and many types are readily available in a range of materials.  The most common are of galvanised metal.  Their features are:

·      The dog is kept warm , dry and draught-free.
·      There is easy access to clean the run, but it should also be easy to get into the kennel for cleaning. 
·      In the run the dog is on a slatted floor up off the ground.
·      The water container can be easily fixed inside the run.
·      The whole unit can be moved on to clean ground or can be permanently set on concrete and hosed out below.
·      The unit is ideal for bitches while on heat, and can be used for whelping.
·      In summer these runs need to be placed in the shade.
·      It's easy to secure the run and kennel from thieves.

Dog motel units
These are common on large farms and have many good points:

·      Dogs can see each other and are in social contact. 
·      The dogs are warm, dry, draught free.
·      A reliable piped water supply can be provided.
·      Dogs are high off the ground and away from contact with faeces
·      Cleaning is usually easy with a high-pressure hose below the kennels. 
·      The units can be locked and/or alarm systems installed.

When designing, buying or managing a unit, make sure that:
·      Dogs which fight can be separated or screened with a sheet of metal between kennels.
·      The droppings and old bones from below the kennels can be properly disposed of.   A septic tank near the kennels is ideal.
·      You can get into the kennel units to clean them out.  Have a good back entrance to each unit.
·      With many dogs housed together there will always be dogs barking!  Siting the motel away from houses may be important, but remember this may reduce security surveillance.
·      It's a good idea to incorporate a whelping section into the unit and some pens for newly-weaned pups

Transporting dogs
It's illegal to carry a dog in a car boot that is not adequately ventilated.  Leaving the boot lid open a little is not adequate as fumes are sucked inside.  There are now many good dog kennels made to fit on the back of vehicles.  These should provide adequate room, good ventilation, and keep the dog warm in winter and not too hot in summer.

There is always concern about car fumes, but there have been no cases of dogs in such boxes being overcome with fumes.  Dust in summer is also a concern.  Dog trialists are the main users of these boxes and they are most concerned about their dog's welfare.  They report no problems.  They stress that on hot days always park the car in shade.

There is a danger of the dog being injured if the car is rammed from behind so it would seem wise to mark the box in bright colours to be easily seem by following drivers.  Make sure you can lock the kennel door securely.

Dogs carried on flat deck trucks must be secured with a short chain that won't allow the dog to jump or fall off.

There's been recent concern about dogs with their heads sticking out of dog boxes on stock trucks.  These boxes are often so low on the road that it would seem possible for the dog to be injured if any passing vehicle got too close.  Having the dog secured in a low box makes more sense, than when dogs are up on the top of the truck.  They are not allowed to be loose with stock in the truck.

It would be safer to have the box on the verge side and not the traffic side of the truck. 
Then there's the question of fumes.  This is probably not as bad on big trucks where the exhaust often goes up in the air like a tractor. 

Under current legislation, a dog's welfare is the sole responsibility of the owner. This law protects the dog from cruelty and neglect, and it's an offence to knowingly allow an animal to suffer unnecessary pain or distress.

There are certain minimum standards which must be provided under the law, below which an owner may be prosecuted.   You can find full details these in the Dog Code of Welfare on the Ministry of Primary Industry's website.

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