Posted on October 30, 2011
By Joe Shown, President of K-9 Kondo
Being in the doghouse doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. But if you aren’t using the right kind of doghouse bedding, it can be.
Many dog owners believe wood shavings make comfortable doghouse bedding. But try sitting in a beanbag chair for 30 minutes. After you’ve moved around a little bit, your butt ends up on the floor, and all of the cushioning effect of the chair’s beads is around you rather than under you. It is the same reason that wood shavings make poor bedding material for your dog. Whatever started out in the doghouse under your dog has now moved to the side of him, rather than providing him comfort and insulation from the cold.
So what is the best dog bedding that provides the comfort and insulation your dog deserves? Many dog owners use wheat straw with the assumption that it is the best doghouse bedding material. They are wrong.
Long-stem grass hay is the best natural type of doghouse bedding that is available in most regions. Some dog owners think that grass hay and straw are the same, but the only thing they really share is that they are both plant material. Straw is the stem of individual wheat plants. It is hollow and, because of its structure, much more brittle than grass hay. Straw breaks down quickly under a dog, creating a pile of straw dust. Indeed, it is better than nothing, but if used, it should be changed every few days.
Conversely, grass hay will retain its structure much longer than straw, creating much less dust. The best grass hay suitable for dog bedding comes from warm season grasses such as Big Bluestem and Indian grass. Cool season grasses such as Smooth Brome and Timothy also work very well. Each one of these varieties makes a very nice nest that will surround the dog, allowing him to hunker down with comfort in the coldest of weather. Straw will do this, too, but for a much shorter time while exposing your dog to far more dust.
One of the many things that I have learned in interacting with dog owners and customers is that they—myself included—do not change their dog’s bedding as often as they should. Too often I have had a dog owner talk to me about changing dog bedding in the spring. I always ask if they would go all winter without changing their bed linen. If doghouse bedding is not changed regularly, it begins to break down, no longer making a cozy nest. It can also be moist from exposure to rain, condensation, or your dog tracking moisture into the doghouse on his feet. Wet doghouse bedding makes for a cold dog. So if you want to keep your dog toasty warm in cold weather, give him clean, dry grass hay on a regular basis. There’s nothing your dog loves better than fresh, clean bedding in his doghouse…well, except for an abundance of your attention!