Better Beds For Gun Dogs
September 23, 2010
These Commercially Made Beds Offer Major Canine Health Benefits
Most gun dog owners do a good job of providing their canines with good food, good veterinary care, good training and exercise, and a good place to stay in their own homes or an outside kennel. Not everyone, however, provides a good place for a dog to rest and sleep. Old towels, worn out blankets, beat up mattresses, and throwaway pieces of carpet as well as upholstered furniture meant for human use are some fairly common but often inadequate and even dangerous kinds of bedding material provided for some canines.
"Because the average gun dog spends 75 percent of its whole life in a prone position resting and sleeping, a good bed is very important to every dog's overall well being and physical health," says Dr. Jim Rieser, a veterinarian, German shorthair breeder and bird hunter from Franksville, Wisconsin. "Despite the fact that little formal scientific research has been done on the subject of dog beds, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that dogs need good beds, just like people do, to maintain a stable skeletal framework, a sound connective tissue and joint system, and a healthy muscular condition.
"Even a dog's internal organs as well as skin and hair coat are better maintained with a well designed and constructed dog bed," Rieser, along with many veterinarians, believes.
In addition to these general well being and overall health benefits, most good dog beds provide all canines with a comfortable place to rest and sleep so that they can be quickly and easily revived and rejuvenated after a hard day of training or a long day of hunting. The gun dog that rises stiff and sore from a night spent on a hard floor in the house or cold concrete in an outside kennel would wake up much more ready and eager to go if its rest and relaxation time had been in a good dog bed.
"Another benefit of well conceived and functional dog beds is that they will keep most dogs off the furniture in your house," says the wife of one bird hunter. "We finally got Molly, our Labrador, to stay off our $3,500 couch by getting her a $35 dog bed from the local mall mart. That turned out to be a cheap but effective way to save expensive furniture and to keep Molly in one room where her own bed was located."
Given these reasons to have a better dog bed for your gun dog, here are some guidelines to consider in choosing among these products. Though the main purposes of a bed are to give a dog a comfortable and healthful place to rest and sleep, there are several factors that need to be considered in finding the bed best suited for your own canine.
Features To Consider
Anyone who looks into any dog gear supply catalogue, website, or retail store will probably see hundreds of dog beds for sale in dozens of designs, made from several types of materials, and offered at a wide range of prices. As a consequence of this diversity, choosing one bed for your gun dog may seem complex and mind-boggling. But a review of bed features can make the bed choice easier and wiser.
The cover on any dog bed is a major influence in the comfort, health benefits, and efficiency of these products. Though a cover needs to be soft, breathable, and non-abrasive with a feel that most dogs would find inviting, any cover also should be durable, washable, and replaceable to deliver its full potential.
Cover material types include natural fibers such as cotton or wool and synthetics such as polyester or nylon. All materials should be evaluated on their potential to maintain a comfortable canine by wicking away excessive body heat and moisture and controlling canine body odor. Many dog beds come with covers specially treated with chemicals to resist moisture retention and with anti-microbial solutions designed to retard the growth of canine smells.
Most beds come with washable covers held in place with zippers that allow the outer fabric to be removed and cleaned in a conventional home-style washing machine. A few lighter duty dog beds with covers and cushioning permanently sewn together can be run through a washer without removing the exterior fabric or the inner cushioning material.
Most removable covers are replaceable when worn out so the buyer needs to be sure that replacements are available and in the company's long term inventory. Some manufacturers recommend buying a replacement cover with the initial purchase of their product. The life span of any dog bed, of course, depends on the nature of the dog that uses it with some canines gently climbing into the bed and lying down to rest while others are more inclined to scratch and stomp the bed before settling in for a short nap or a long night's sleep.
Providing the Right Support
The cushioning material at the core of a commercially manufactured dog bed is usually made from a choice of spun polyester filling, orthopedic foam, or memory foam. Cedar ribbons are sometimes mixed in with spun polyester to add a chromatic aroma that retards fleas and ticks, soaks up doggy smells, and adds further loft to the synthetic cushioning material.
Any cushioning material should be soft and comfortable (one main point of the bed in the first place), moisture and odor resistant (some materials are treated with anti-microbial substances to keep canine smells from growing), and resilient and tough (the material needs to bounce back and keep its shape after a dog has walked on it 10,000 times and slept on it for many years).
Polyester is popular because of its lower price, odor and moisture resistance, and resiliency or ability to keep its original shape. Orthopedic foam and memory foam, the most high tech and more expensive bedding materials, are popular because their open cell construction creates a firm and supportive cushioning structure.
This helps to more evenly distribute a dog's weight and efficiently adapts to the contours of a dog's body to avoid pressure points. Most types of foam pads will breathe well enough to create an airflow that will dispel excess heat and moisture. And many foam products are treated with anti-microbial agents to control odor.
Choosing and Using a Dog Bed
Does your gun dog want and need a better bed? Buy a bed and see if your dog will use it. If there is a choice for the dog between a cold, hard place on the floor or warm, soft spot on a dog bed, most dogs will soon let their owners know what they prefer. And though many dog beds end up in the dog owner's house, dogs that ride in crates and trailers or l
ive in outside kennels also deserve to choose and use dog beds.
Decide what design and structural features are necessary in a dog bed before getting one. The size and shape of a bed should be determined by the dimensions and weight of your dog and whether it's a "baller" or a "sprawler" when lying down--does your pooch curl up into a ball with its nose tucked into its belly or does it sprawl out with its head, neck, and legs distended?
Calluses on canine elbows (above) and hair loss on hips are sure signs that a dog may need a better bed. Either condition indicates excess pressure on body parts whenever any breed of canine is lying at rest or asleep. A bed with a softer cover and a more supportive cushion could help to solve these health problems.
Likewise, size and shape choices may depend on how much room there is in your house or outside kennel. Decisions about materials include, for example, choosing between soft and breathable natural fibers versus tough and moisture resistant synthetic fabric. And, the cushioning inside a bed can range from natural odor absorbing material such as cedar ribbons or highly resilient synthetics made from spun polyester with chemical odor control added.
Let a Veterinarian Advise You
Every year veterinarians treat dogs with bad cases of hip dysplasia, joint diseases, and other physical disorders. People spend thousands of dollars on medications and operations to make their dogs better. Then some of them take their dogs home and make them sleep on the hard linoleum in the house or the concrete floor of an outside kennel.
A good dog bed could make a big difference in the recuperation of these dogs and could have had a possible preventative effect in the development of these problems in the first place. Though veterinarians may not sell dog beds, they might recommend specific types of beds for dogs with any kind of joint, bone, or muscle related illnesses.
Expand the Range of Dog Bed Use
Though most dog beds are designed to be used in a dog owner's house, they can also be put into an outside kennel where a dog might live part or full time. Likewise, there are special made beds for dog crates, dog trailers, or dog boxes mounted on truck chassis. Dog beds in these locations can help a tired dog rest up after a day of training or several days of hunting. And beds in a crate, trailer, or dog box can help a wet dog get dry and stay warm in any kind of weather.
Don't forget your gun dog's bed when you travel. Some beds that are portable and compact can be folded or rolled up and taken into a motel room or anywhere else you and your dog are staying. And a dog that is being boarded for a short or long term should have its own bed to ensure good health, comfort, and well being when away from home.
Dog Bed Maintenance
Pick a practical dog bed that can be easily and conveniently cleaned and maintained. Any dog bed when regularly used will get dirty so having a washable outer cover is important. And many beds may have an inner stuffing that breaks down or compacts over time and, consequently, may need to be replaced. In some cases, a dog bed with long term hard use may simply wear out, so tossing out a worn one and getting a new one might be necessary.
No matter what type of dog bed chosen and used, be sure to watch any dog's reaction to it. Some canines are born to chew and claw everything they can--including dog beds--most of which can all be destroyed by a dog dedicated to destruction. Tearing up a bed is one problem; a bigger one arises if a dog eats the pieces that can then plug up a digestive tract and cause major illness and as well a death.
Dog beds are also an effective way to keep dog hair and body grit concentrated in one spot. "With the beds set up on the linoleum in the hallway of our house, my wife says cleaning up is easier because all she has to do is sweep dog hair into a pile then pick it up with the vacuum cleaner," one golden retriever owner has found.
An old upholstered chair can serve as a dog bed, but the fabric cover and the internal cushions are difficult to clean when dirty and expensive to replace when worn. In addition, any people sitting in this chair"assuming they can convince the dog to move, of course"will probably pick up lots of dog hair on their clothes.
"I have a portable dog bed that can be rolled up and stashed in our truck when I travel and stay in motels on a hunting trip," says the owner of a French Brittany. "That way I keep Elsie in one spot in the room so I don't fall over her on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night."
Some gun dog owners combine two types of beds as one way to increase the effectiveness of the products and to reduce the maintenance requirements. Start with a bed that has a two-inch thick 24 x 36 inch memory foam mattress covered with a synthetic fleece and surrounded by a padded four-inch high soft-sided bolster. Then put on top another less expensive bed made from a breathable nylon fabric stuffed with a polyester filler about two inches thick and permanently sewn into place. When this top bed gets dirty, it can be cleaned in a washing machine at home.
All dog beds need to have components that are durable because most dogs subject bedding to a lot of abuse. Most dogs of any breed, age, or temperament don't just walk up to and lie down in a bed. Instead, they have to walk around on it and stomp it down to make a nesting area. Then they may scratch at the fabric to soften up their landing spot. And most dogs, like people in their beds, will shift around all day or all night to get comfortable--in the dog's case with more walking, stomping, and scratching. Consequently, the material on the outside and inside of any dog bed should be rugged and resilient.
Though most dog beds are simply designed and constructed as forms of mats and mattresses with outsides made of fabric and insides filled with some type of cushioning material, there are added features in some of these products. For example, there are therapeutic beds with cooling chemicals and beds with electric heaters, beds with special non-allergenic, non-irritating, non-toxic components, and beds that are guaranteed to be scratch and chew proof.
Likewise, there are beds made to be rolled into a compact package for dogs that travel, beds that are leak-resistant for dogs that are incontinent, and beds made for exposure to the outdoor elements, and beds made especially for dog crates and dog boxes. And, for dogs not suited for fabric beds, there is Kennel Deck, a bed designed and constructed s a hard plastic pallet warranted to be indestructible.
Like the people who own them, gun dogs are creatures looking for comfort in places that are soft, warm, and comfortable when they lay down for a few minutes of relaxation or for a full night of deep slumber. The right bed can provide a healthy resting spot for tired muscles, joints, tendons, bones, and internal organs.