If you want your dog to be as comfortable and warm as is possible during cold nights, you’ll want to set her up with a warm and weatherproof dog house.
However, dog houses can still be rather chilly (especially during the winter), and there are a few other steps that you’ll want to take to provide the most comfortable accommodations possible.
One of the best ways to do so is by providing your dog with a good bedding, which will cushion the floor and help keep her a bit warmer.
Bedding is probably not a strict necessity; plenty of dogs have survived over the years while sleeping on the bare ground. But, I’m willing to bet that you are shooting for a slightly higher standard than survival – you want your pooch to be warm, comfy, and cozy while sleeping in her house!
This means that you’ll want to use a good bedding in your dog’s canine abode. Your dog will certainly appreciate it, and it will help keep her warmer and more comfortable than if she is forced to sleep on the bare ground or cement.
Bedding also helps to protect the floors of dog houses that feature them against scratches and scuffs. Your dog may not care about the aesthetics of his doghouse floor, but these types of damaged areas can rot relatively quickly, which can ruin your dog’s house.
People have used a variety of different things for dog bedding over the years, and some have proven more suitable than others. Some of the time-tested materials include:
A good blanket, sheet, or towel can make a simple and effective bedding for your dog. Linens offer a bit of cushion and they don’t cause the mess that particulate beddings (such as wood chips) can or harbor insects as readily.
Now you don’t want to use your favorite duvet for your dog’s house, as she’s going to ruin it pretty thoroughly over time. Instead, try to find a durable blanket which you won’t mind throwing out after it’s been used for several months (or years). Try to wash the blanket periodically to keep it as clean as possible and to help prevent odors from developing.
Note that blankets can serve as hiding places for spiders, snakes and other creepy crawlies, so it is wise to take it out and shake it vigorously once a week or so to limit these types of problems. Also, inspect the blanket regularly to ensure your dog hasn’t ripped apart the seams or chewed through the fabric. Dogs who consume the filler material (even accidentally) may suffer from health problems.
A nice, fluffy rug can make an excellent bedding for your dog. Rugs offer most of the same benefits that linens do, and they typically feature a rubberized back, which helps to protect them from moisture and keep them from sliding around. However, rugs are not easy for your dog to scrunch up like she can a blanket, so they aren’t as well-suited for extremely cold weather.
If you have a well-behaved pooch who isn’t prone to chewing on things, you may want to select a rug with a long/high pile (long individual fibers), as this will provide greater comfort and warmth. However, chewers should be given beds with short piles to discourage them from ripping the threads out.
You can just use an ordinary rug (such as the kind you’d use in front of your door or inside your bathroom), but an indoor-outdoor rug, which is designed to stand up to the elements will last longer.
A dog bed is one of the more expensive options for keeping your dog warm and comfortable when she’s in her house, but it is also head-and-shoulders more effective than any other option.
Your dog will love the comfort provided by a good orthopedic mattress (the Big Barker is a great choice for those not frightened by the price tag) or the warmth provided by a heated winter bed, which come in self-warming or electric designs.
While there are definitely some solid bed options, relatively few dog beds are specifically designed for outdoor use, and low-quality beds will quickly fall apart if left exposed to the elements for a length of time.
Make sure to opt for a durable bed if you plan on your dog using it for several winter seasons – the cheap stuff won’t cut it. You may also want to invest in a water-proof cover to protect the fabric.
Wood chips – specifically those made from cedar or pine – are another safe option for most dogs. Cedar and pine chips have insect-repelling qualities, which will help prevent fleas and other bugs from setting up shop in your dog’s house, and they provide great insulation and comfort for your dog too.
Cedar and pine chips also smell pretty good. However, the same volatiles that are responsible for the pleasant fragrance may be irritating to dogs with sensitive noses or respiratory systems, so keep an eye out for signs of lung or nose irritation, such as sneezing.
Note that some cedar and pine beddings are comprised of small chunks or blocks of wood, while others are comprised of thin shavings. The shavings are the better option, as they provide much more comfort for your pooch – nobody wants to lay on a bunch of hardwood chunks.
Note that wood shavings should never be used with pregnant or lactating females, nor should it be used in dog houses containing puppies. Wood shavings can harbor bacteria that, while rarely a problem for adults, can severely sicken puppies.
Just as people have discovered a few great beddings over time, they’ve also discovered a few that don’t work well. A few of the worst such choices include:
Although hay and straw often make suitable beddings for livestock, they are poor choices for dogs.
Hay and straw often serve as great habitat for fleas, as well as other bugs, such as the mites that cause sarcoptic mange. They are often contaminated with bacteria too – after all, many of these products come from farms, so they are exposed to livestock diseases and other pathogens.
Most hays and similar materials also rot quickly when they get wet and they don’t offer any of the benefits wood shavings and other beddings do.
However, hay and straw can be used for adding insulation outside and underneath of a dog’s house – we just don’t recommend putting any inside.
Fortunately, sawdust isn’t a terribly popular bedding for dogs; but it is used with livestock on occasion, and I’m sure more than one owner has wondered if it would also make a good bedding for their dog.
That’d be a negative, ghost rider (am I dating myself with a Top Gun reference?).
While I can kinda-sorta see the logic in the choice – it’s cheap, and it is derived from wood – sawdust is not an ideal solution. I imagine that most owners who try it once quickly vow never to use it again.
Sawdust is simply too fine to be used as a bedding. It will clump in your dog’s moist cracks and crevices, and it will plug up her eyes, nose, and mouth too. It doesn’t provide dogs with a particularly comfortable place to lay, and it is very messy.
Newspaper can make an acceptable bedding choice in a pinch, although you’ll surely want to pick a more viable long-term solution as soon as possible.
I’ve actually used newspaper for whelping dogs because it is easy to discard and replace when it becomes soiled. However, were I in the same situation in the future, I’d opt for linens (although I’d consider them disposable too – I found whelping to be a rather revolting process).
Although it falls apart after only a brief time, newspaper is pretty safe (although the ink may stain your pup’s skin or fur), it’s essentially free, and it is quite absorbent. You could shred the newspaper into long strips if you like, but it is probably safer to leave the sheets whole.
Crumple the sheets up and then flatten them back out a bit to help trap air pockets between the sheets. This will provide a tiny bit more cushioning and help keep your dog warmer. Be sure to use a big stack of newspaper (think several Sunday editions) to provide as much comfort and warmth as possible.
If you really want your best buddy to sleep comfortably outside, you may want to also consider checking out our list of the best dog houses for winter, along with our guide to warming up an outdoor dog house without electricity.
What kind of bedding are you thinking about using for your dog’s house? Have you had success with any non-traditional options? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.