Our dogs are not only very hard working members of our farm team, they are also real characters which give us a lot of enjoyment (and strife on a bad day) .They hold a special place in our farming community and they are great companions in an often lonely job.
So what can we do to make things better for the team and also improve their performance and fitness to work?
Last year as part of the Waipukurau farm dog vaccination run we ran a very successful “Pimp your
Kennels “competition. The photos that were sent in were great and we were really pleased to see the innovative things farmers were doing to make great housing for their sheepdogs.
Kennels elevated off the ground with grating – Elevation is really important to keep dogs off the ground as this reduces worm re- infestation from dog pooh. Elevated kennels make cleaning easier and slatted floors allow waste to fall away. Make sure that the slat size is small enough not to cause leg and foot injures and large enough to allow faeces to easily fall through.
It’s safe to say that the old chain to a dog kennel system is no longer seen as good practice and there are a number of reasons for this. You do get collar rub and leg chain injuries with this type of kennelling which is totally avoidable. The close contact between dogs with no partitions for protection from dog fights is also a major concern as is the direct contact with grass/dirt acting to increase worm re-infestation. There are difficulties in providing water containers that do not get tipped over when dogs excitedly strain on their chains. Shade and protection from wind is often also an issue.
Concrete pads – A lot of the kennels in the competition were also sited on concrete pads which make cleaning easier and also helps with environmental control of fleas.
Kennel size and runs – We saw a number of different versions. Draft free well-made kennels are important and more and more farmers are using batts to insulate their kennel walls and roofs to keep the dogs warmer. If you are building new kennels this would be a great idea as it is smart to keep your dog’s warmer in winter as they then use less of the food you give them to just keep warm and more of the food to give them energy to work – a win win situation.
A number of kennels had both front and back access doors. This improves cleaning and makes removing old bones, dog bowls etc. from kennels an easier job as well as enabling sick dogs to be assessed more easily.
Extra points were given for clean and tidy well-functioning kennels. It’s also a good idea to have safe rat trap areas to reduce rat infestations which can carry diseases such as leptospirosis.
There were also a number of farmers who had thought to make access ramps to the kennels for older working dogs and injured working dogs. This is a great idea for when you have a convalescing animal or to reduce the wear and tear on older sheepdogs exhibiting arthritic signs.
Water supply –There were a lot of great photos showing automatic reticulated water systems for the kennel. This would be an easy thing to fit into existing kennels as well as into new builds.
Shelter from sun, rain and wind – This was the final judging criteria that we used and was one in which there are lots of gains to be made. Often when we plan to build kennel areas we think easy vehicle access and clear, open space but this by its very nature often leaves the kennels exposed to the elements. Utilising existing buildings for shelter, planting wind breaks, using shade cloth and attaching corrugated iron over the runs for shade are all reasonably easy ways to improve this.
Bedding in kennels and dog coats – Although we did not use this as a criteria there is definitely a move towards providing bedding in the kennels and dog coats especially in the winter and for older dogs who are a bit stiff. Of course previously bedding had a bad reputation for flea infestations but with the new products now available this is no longer the issue due to their persistent effect which effectively breaks the flea life cycle.
We were very happy with the fantastic response to our “Pimp your kennel” competition. Thanks to all those who entered and a big congratulations to Charlie Graham, our overall winner!
The challenge now is now for all of us to look with fresh eyes at our own kennel set ups and to check what easy fixes we can make to keep our teams happier and healthier this winter.