DEAR OLD TRAINER: My husband and I enjoyed your article about dogs and cold weather but we have a question. Nico, our 2-year old Akita, stayed inside all summer, but wants to stay outside since it got cold. She always went in and out with our two older dogs, but she changed when winter arrived and insists on staying out, even at night. Is her igloo doghouse warm enough for the cold weather we get? What do you advise?
Edith, Scottsbluff, Neb.
A: Let Nico stay out if she wants. Akitas originated in the cold mountain regions of Northern Japan. They have the thick, weatherproof coat common in snow country breeds and are impervious to cold.
And, as you know, Akitas have an independent streak and like to do things their own way, including spend time alone.
An igloo doghouse is fine as long as it’s big enough for Nico to turn around in and stretch if she feels like it.
A dog house is often too warm for the taste of a snow dog, so Nico may sleep in a snow bank when the big storms roll. My Samoyed sleeps in her house when it’s clear but curls up outside if it’s snowing. All I see when I wake up is a mound of snow.
Face the doghouse entrance away from prevailing winds. An igloo house contains insulation, but you help by putting it in a protected area of the yard. The more you shield it from the elements the easier it is for a dog to keep warm and dry.
Use a foot of straw for bedding. Blankets freeze hard as a rock. Replace the bedding or add new straw every month. Spread the old bedding on the ground. It’s good fertilizer.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: You discussed big dogs in the cold, but what about our three little ones? Boo, a Yorkie, Gus, Yorkie mix, and Murph, a Shih Tzu, all like to play in the snow, but Boo and Gus start shivering after a while. Murph never gets cold, but has ice pellets all over his whiskers and fur when he comes in. Do you ever use dog coats?
Liz, Boulder, Colo.
A: No, but it’s a good idea for Boo and Gus. They weren’t bred for the cold so help them out with warm fleece coats. If dogs are having a good time they want to stay out even if they get cold, but call them in if they shiver. Take them out several times for short trips instead of exposing them for a longer period.
I only had one dog that got cold, an English Bulldog who loved the snow so much she ran wild, but the minute she stopped running she got cold and I would take her in immediately.
My Shih Tzu, Max, loves snow and thinks he’s a snow plow. He never gets cold, but comes in with more ice on him than the rest of the pack put together. Doesn’t bother him, but it takes me 10 minutes to break off the ice balls.
Dogs need exercise and to be outdoors even in winter, but little dogs have a harder time retaining heat. Get Boo and Gus full body parkas if that’s what it takes, then use a towel or hair dryer to dry all three when they come in.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.