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The quest for the "ultimate" hot-weather dog retreat

 
pioneer
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With heat indexes in the triple digits, I'm trying to figure out how create a retreat for my dogs.  I bring them in when the temps are terrible, but I would like to have an outside option.  The dogs are large and would prefer to be outside.  I came up with a list of criteria for this shelter:

1)  As near indestructible as possible, both from the dogs, and Mother Nature.  I want them to be safe and sound through thunder, lightening, falling branches, and tornadoes, as well as extreme temperatures.  One of my dogs can be pretty destructive, so dog-proof is necessary.
2)  I would like it to stay as cool as possible in the summer. If it works as a winter home as well, that would be fine, but isn't necessary.  I have other plans in that direction.
3)  Cost and labor effective.  If the doghouse costs my a thousand dollars to build, I'll just continue to bring them indoors when the weather is truly hostile.  Same story if it takes me 200 hours to build.
4)  As permanent as possible.

At this point, I'm leaning towards making an above ground concrete dome.  I haven't worked out all the details yet if I go that direction, but thoughts are very much welcome on ways to do this.  I'm not certain if a concrete dome (with a dirt floor) would stay cool in the temperatures we are having now.  Generally it cools off here at night to the 50s or 60s, but recently it's been 70ish, so I'm afraid the concrete will heat up in the day and stay too warm.  

I've thought about an underground shelter, but even if I go that route, it will probably be concrete, and to go deep enough that I'm sure it would be effective would be very labor intensive with hand tools.  I could bring it truck loads of earth to cover it and I'm not against that idea.  I would prefer to use natural stone, but my land doesn't have much of it so I would have to buy it.  I considered earth bags, but unless I make it human-sized so I could work in it, the bags would be exposed on the inside, and therefore probably eaten by the dogs.

Anyone have thoughts or ideas?  
 
Posts: 1976
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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We don't get excessively hot but we've had a few 100 degree days lately. Our great pyr has several trees he digs around and lays under in the shade to cool down. Our other 2 dogs somehow slip their massive bulk under our back porch. We have a sheep trough full of water and I've seen the pyr laying in that as well.

We've had a doghouse before and our wiemeraner did use it but the LGD's would not. Our pyr, in particular, will not seek comfort in anything enclosed. Even in the house he lays in a spot where he can see all of the doors in the house.

If you build them something, will they even use it?

If I had to build something for my pyr I'd probably lay a cement pad and do a lean-to over it. The cement would keep him cool and the roof and 3 walls would keep him shaded. He couldn't destroy it as I'd make the lean-to out of metal. I believe this would work as our garage lacks doors and is essentially a metal pad with 3 walls. You can find all the livestock and the LGD's laying in there. Drives my husband nuts!
 
Trace Oswald
pioneer
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elle sagenev wrote:

We've had a doghouse before and our wiemeraner did use it but the LGD's would not. Our pyr, in particular, will not seek comfort in anything enclosed. Even in the house he lays in a spot where he can see all of the doors in the house.

If you build them something, will they even use it?

If I had to build something for my pyr I'd probably lay a cement pad and do a lean-to over it. The cement would keep him cool and the roof and 3 walls would keep him shaded. He couldn't destroy it as I'd make the lean-to out of metal. I believe this would work as our garage lacks doors and is essentially a metal pad with 3 walls. You can find all the livestock and the LGD's laying in there. Drives my husband nuts!



You have a great point there.  My LGD sleeps on top of the current doghouse until about -20F.
 
pollinator
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Great post! I'm working on the same thing. It's gets HOT in Haiti these days!

My plan: use pallets to make a 3-sided box open to the north side. Did down about 18 inches and reinforce with local rocks. Put a couple of inches of sand in the bottom. Create a trellis over the top and plant grapes or something else that's a vigorous climber. That should give shade, the vines will insulate and cool, and going down will give them a place to dig and act as a cellar. I can pour water into it from time to time when it's dry.
 
garden master
Posts: 2124
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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We have one cat that absolutely insists on being an outside cat. Bringing him inside did not result in mad dashes out the door. Rather, a deep deep sadness. As a formerly happy cat, he utterly ceased to purr. He got his way, and is now outside. The day we let him back outside, he was dashing all over the yard. He kept sneaking up on us where we were working, with a tiger sized purr in his chest, and dashing back off to chase nothing again!

Here in the Mid-south, our actual temperature rarely gets above 100 degrees F. But factoring in the humidity, our heat index has caused it to feel like 115 numerous times in the last several weeks. On these days, I see him sprawled in two types of places. One, in the shade, on a bare spot on the ground. Two, on a stack of cinder blocks that remains in the shade until near 1:00 PM. The blocks retain a coolness for a surprising amount of time.

Finally, to my point, if you do end up building something, locate it where it will have shade for most of the day.

 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:We have one cat that absolutely insists on being an outside cat. Bringing him inside did not result in mad dashes out the door. Rather, a deep deep sadness. As a formerly happy cat, he utterly ceased to purr. He got his way, and is now outside. The day we let him back outside, he was dashing all over the yard. He kept sneaking up on us where we were working, with a tiger sized purr in his chest, and dashing back off to chase nothing again!

Here in the Mid-south, our actual temperature rarely gets above 100 degrees F. But factoring in the humidity, our heat index has caused it to feel like 115 numerous times in the last several weeks. On these days, I see him sprawled in two types of places. One, in the shade, on a bare spot on the ground. Two, on a stack of cinder blocks that remains in the shade until near 1:00 PM. The blocks retain a coolness for a surprising amount of time.

Finally, to my point, if you do end up building something, locate it where it will have shade for most of the day.



Poor baby! My Chester was the same. We had to keep him in the house once he started wandering, because people here eat cat as a delicacy. They ate my last cat :(

Buy once we got him fixed, he's free to go since he stays close by. He's happy! He usually stays cool wherever the dogs are hanging out (he identifies as a dog). But we don't have any place with 24 hour shade yet, so hopefully I can create that. I plan to build him his own little lookout perch on the shelter too. He'll love that.

But this reminded me . . . Floor tiles. People use these to keep bunnies cool. Just set them in the cage (like a square foot one) for them to lay on. Perhaps you might get some scrap tiles for that?
 
gardener
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elle sagenev wrote:
We've had a doghouse before and our wiemeraner did use it but the LGD's would not. Our pyr, in particular, will not seek comfort in anything enclosed. Even in the house he lays in a spot where he can see all of the doors in the house.



OMG, yours too?  I thought this was a quirk our guy has.  He has a variety of couches, love seats, unoccupied people beds, and dog beds he could use, but he refuses to "settle" anywhere but in the spot between the doors of the two back bedrooms where he can see all the way down the main hallway to the front door, surveying every other door in the house plus the portals to the kitchen, pantry, and living room.  We eventually gave up and put down a plush carpet runner in that spot, because it's not ideal for big dogs to lay too much on very hard surfaces like our tiled concrete floors.

We call him "the dog who watches" because he's just as bad outside.  He's got a pallet (an old futon mattress folded double sitting on top of a wooden pallet so that air can circulate underneath so it won't get moldy/nasty) just outside the front door that he loves.  But if we park too many cars out there so that his sight lines across the yard and up the driveway are impaired, he moves out into the middle of the driveway and scoops a little bed hole in the gravel -- in a spot where he can see our front door, the entire yard, and all of the frontage road that goes by.

His outside pallet is under cover at least, being on a carport.  But he utterly refuses to enter any kind of doghouse or shelter.  Coming inside to borrow our air conditioning, on the other hand, he is perfectly willing to demand; he'll stand up on his hind legs, peer in the window in the top half of the door, and hammer on the screen with both front paws if he decides we are being too slow about coming and inviting him in.  (Usually he just curls up against the door while he's waiting, but his patience is not infinite!)  
 
pollinator
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My shepherd-pit is the same- will not sleep in the kennel/house, even when it is cold. We get quite hot and relatively cold (40C down to -5C) and we`re most concerned about the cold, but even on the coldest nights he will curl up on the grass (!) and sleep exposed, ignoring the kennel. If I`m worried about him getting frostbitten, I have to bring him inside the house (which I do maybe twice a year).
He really doesn't seem to suffer with the heat, despite his shepherd fur. We have a paved driveway that he will lay on in the summer-- sometimes in the shade, or not! I don`t pretend to understand his motivation. I have a home office and our house is built on a concrete pad foundation so it stays cool in the summer-- on a hot day he will want to come in if there's not much interesting outside to bark at.
I would think a concrete pad type thing with some sort of shade would be a good start- I like the idea of a lean to or trellis with climbers to provide shade- that way it stays open enough that they want to be there. Shaded concrete, even in hot summer, stays nice and cool. I don`t see my dog using anything enclosed during the day, no matter how hot it is-- he might miss out on something. On the hottest days, he crawls under my car (where he can still keep an eye on our frontage)
 
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For cooling pets, there are gel-filled mats.  No water or electricity involved, it starts cooling as soon as they step on it. The cooling effect lasts for 3 to 4 hours, and then it needs a "rest" for about 15 minutes, and then it's ready for another few hours.  Larger-dog size costs about $45.
 
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