by Jonathan Jeffrey Kimes
This feature is not intended to be a learn all about kennel management, but rather a review of the kennel operation at Pluperfect. This has two particular objectives, namely, to provide ideas and insight into managing a small hobby breeding kennel, and to provide information on how the Pluperfect dogs specifically are managed.
Pluperfect is situated on a property of about 7.5 acres in size. The kennel building is a conversion of one third of an existing barn. The barn is approximately 150 feet from the house. The kennel building itself measures 13 by 43 ft and has a main eastern exposure with windows on the east, north and south sides. The floor is poured cement with two floor drains. The kennel has two heating/air conditioning units situated on the north and south ends (although only one is used at a time the other is used as a back-up), utilizes a series of seven dual fluorescent shop lights, has hot and cold running water, and uses a ground-diffusion septic system. The kennel has its own fuse box and is wired to support considerable electrical usage.
The entrance into the kennel is through a door at the south-east corner of the building. It leads into the kitchen area. The kitchen is separated from the main kennel room by a wall with a stable door in the center. The kitchen is outfitted for a washer and dryer, has cabinets, a large steel sink, a pantry and a raised full length bath tub. There is also a mini-refrigerator which is used to house the cooked meat, and cheese for baiting (and bribing!). (Vaccinations are trusted to a full sized refrigerator housed in the garage of the house.) The kitchen is utilized to house a puppy pen when puppies are brought out to the kennel from the house at about six-seven weeks of age. There is a window over the sink on the south wall and a large window on the eastern wall. Bathing and grooming is also done in the kitchen.
The main kennel room houses the indoor pens. I do not prefer indoor/outdoor runs for two reasons: 1) it is too easy to not handle the dogs when such a housing situation exists, and 2) the runs are generally too small for my liking. I therefore use large crates in the kennel room for pens. Our crates are approximately 27 in. wide and 42 in. long and have legs to keep the floors off the ground. Basically, for kennelling, I want the crates to be as large as possible the dogs should be able to completely stretch out and stand up on their hindlegs this is sufficient kennelling as long as the dogs have access to outside runs several times a day. There are two doors in the main kennel room one leads into the middle area of the barn where crates are stored as well as the trash-can to keep the odor out of the kennel room, the other leads out into the kennel yard. I like lots of natural light for kennelling dogs, and we have a large window on the northern wall which overlooks the puppy paddock and double large windows on the eastern wall.
The kennel yard measures approximately 60 by 60 ft and is completely enclosed by wooden 6 ft high privacy fencing. Security and privacy are utmost concerns to me and so I like not having my dogs visible to neighbors however distantly located. The kennel yard has several inches of smooth river rock along with a cement slab which is used to floor three kennel runs. This allows us flexibility to use for dogs who are rock eaters, coated dogs, dogs show-groomed that we wish to keep clean, and a place to put dogs when its rainy to keep the low to ground Corgis from having their bellies collect water and mud/dirt. We use light-sensitive flood lights to provide lighting at night these can be switched on/off or left on to automatically illuminate the yard when it gets dark.
The runs are portable chain link panels of 6 ft in height. Most of the runs are of the heaviest gauge for chain link as I have had Bull terriers who like to pull on the fencing. Six of the runs measure 6 ft wide by 24 ft long, including the three runs with cement flooring. Two of the runs measure 12 by 24 ft. I also have a large pen measuring approximately 20 by 30 ft and the puppy paddock measures 14 by 24 ft. Beginning in early spring, the runs are covered by netting as used in green houses to protect from sun, and this is left in place until early winter when it is removed to prevent damage from the weight of snow. The rest of the kennel yard is open which allows for ample room to let dogs loose. The kennel yard also has a water faucet used for a hose attachment to aid in cleaning runs. We also have three gates, including one double gate to allow for delivery of rock as needed.
The easiest way to walk through how the kennel is managed is to describe the daily routine. This description will communicate to the reader the amount of dedication and time required on a seven-days-a-week schedule to husband a small kennel. Remarkably, 80% of the kennel chores are managed by my mother who has extremely high standards for kennel management and always keeps me towing the line! With this kennel arrangement, we have found that although the kennel can comfortably house up to 25 dogs, we find keeping 10-12 dogs the most manageable number. Beyond that, kennel chores take on exponential amounts of time.
Our morning begins by letting the dogs out of their crates into the kennel yard. Most of the adult dogs are cooperative and know the routine and so nearly all the dogs are let out simultaneously. We then go to each run in its turn and call the dog or dogs to that run. With luck, they will run and happily jump into the run. If we have puppies in the kennel, they are let out first and we use a length of string cheese to bribe them into the run. This not only trains them to go to the run but also gives them a short baiting lesson, as we stand in the run, call the puppies and use the bait to have them give us ears. It works well. If the weather is warm enough that the dogs will be left outside for hours at a time, then the metal water buckets are brought out to the runs and filled from gallon water bottles. The buckets are designed with one flat side so they can be clipped to the fence.
Once the dogs are put outside, the inside cleaning commences. We have a large, four wheeled medical cart which is enormously helpful in transporting dishes from the kennel room into the kitchen. Water bowls are collected and chew-bones and beds are removed from each crate. We use heavy crocks for water as they have less tendency of being turned over. If the bedding is dry (we use bathmats, washable carpets and large towels) it is placed over the open crate door; if it is wet or dirty it is placed in the laundry pile. For the adult dogs, we use either newspaper or rubber matting in the bottom of the crate covered by a piece of linoleum cut to fit the crate floor. On top of this is laid the bedding.
Water bowls are wheeled into the kitchen and the water is dumped into the sink and the bowls are all hand washed using soap and water. They are piled on a drying rack to dry. We then collect all the clean, reusable bedding and take it out the front kennel door and shake out each item. This helps to keep the bedding as clean as possible and removes excess hair, etc. The bedding is then replaced on each crate door. Any crates with newspapers are checked and it is removed if wet or dirty. We then fill a large bucket with hot water and add to it a cleaning solution. My favorite and the cheapest solution is simply Clorox added to the water with a very small amount of dish soap. This solution must be used immediately as soap will deactivate Clorox if left mixed together for very long. Alternatively, we may use something like Mr. Clean in the washing water. A rag mop which has a self-wringer is then used to wash out every crate. Once the crates are washed, the cleaning solution can be used to mop the floor areas. Be sure to use rubber gloves if your hands come in contact with the cleaning solution. Be careful about mixing Clorox with anything other than dish soap you might create a very toxic and dangerous concoction!
During times of heavy shedding, we have a high powered shop vacuum which we use to sweep out the crates and the areas around and under the crates. Then we will commence with the crate washing and floor mopping as normal.
Once the crates are washed, the water bowls are placed on the cart and taken into the kennel room and placed in the crates. We then use water from gallon bottles to fill the bowls. We use a water purifier with replaceable filter on the kitchen sink which is used for drinking water. Although we have city water and it has been tested by the water department, I found an alarming coincidence between giardia in both puppies and adults and the use of tap water. In fact, prior to using filtered water, every litter of puppies suffered from giardia (microscopic intestine parasite). Since using the water filters, we have never had a problem. Therefore, all water used for consumption comes through the water purifier first. We also, by the way, use the same rule in the house for ourselves and house pets!
Once the crates are dry, bedding is put into the crates. Some young dogs are notorious chewers of the linoleum flooring and we use newspapers instead in those crates with the bedding placed on top. A good source of newspapers is your local recycling center chat with the supervisor first, and they are usually happy to accommodate you it always helps if you bring them a nice load of recyclable goods as well! Look for well bagged, clean papers if you worry about roaches bag the papers in a trash bag securely fastened for several days that should solve the issue. Dont use colored newspapers as the ink will come off Wallstreet Journals are the cleanest. About half the papers we collect are returned to the recycling center as unusable (ads, colored pages, magazines, etc).
We have taken to feeding in the morning, with puppies fed again in late afternoon. For adults, they are given a large dog biscuit in the afternoon for a treat. Once the crates are cleaned, we use the cart to hold the food pans. All food pans are stackable metal pans for easy cleaning. We use plastic storage bins to hold the dry dog food a storage bin will hold one 35-40 pound bag of food.
We have changed dry food over the years depending on results. I believe some foods start out very well but as they gain popularity either quality is not managed or companies begin short-changing the quality to reduce cost. You must be certain to feed a high quality dog food and definitely not all foods are the same! We currently are using a brand called Exclusive which is made by a subsidiary of Purina Mills (called PMI on the package neither the word Purina nor the checkerboard insignia are used). We also used this brand originally for our show cats but began having severe stool blockage issues and discontinued its use in cats. Look for solid, well filled out frames in your dogs if they dont look the peak of condition, investigate and find another food immediately!
In addition to a quality kibble, we also add cooked chicken. We place a whole chicken in a crock pot, add water and allow this to cook for approximately 36-48 hours on the high setting. By then the chicken is thoroughly cooked, bones are soft and the whole chicken is then put through a food processor to make a paste which is added to the food. We normally cook a chicken about every 3 days when feeding approximately 10-12 dogs.
The kibble, chicken, and filtered warm water is mixed and we are now ready to feed to the dogs! And are they ever ready! In warm weather we will feed the dogs outside but in colder weather the dogs are brought in and fed in their crates.
After the dogs have been outside for at least 30 minutes (or when they are brought in to eat), we then pick up the stools in the runs. We collect stools into a large paper grocery bag which has been placed into a plastic grocery bag. The bag is then tied up and placed into a large garbage bag and put out with our normal weekly garbage for pickup. Cement runs require additional cleaning and we use several large buckets full of hot water mixed with Clorox and soap to douse the runs. This is left to stand for at least 10 minutes and the runs can then be hosed down. It is good to remember the 10 minute rule when cleaning always leave the surface wet with the cleaning solution for at least 10 minutes for effective disinfecting. Also remember the Clorox rule nothing removes the smell of urine better than Clorox your kennel should have NO odor if it is properly cleaned! Additionally, in warm weather, we use a pesticide sprayer attachment to the hose and fill it with Clorox. This is sprayed in the rock runs about once a week to help keep disease and germs down.
After the dogs have eaten, food bowls are collected and washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and placed on the drying rack. Morning chores are about done!
Once a month we treat each dog with diluted Ivermectin. This not only prevents heartworm but is a pretty decent wormer. We worm all dogs about once every three months with Panacur. We have found consistent cleaning, regular worming and use of purified water all work to ensure the health of the dogs.
If the weather is too cold to leave the dogs outside, we will let them out again at about 3 p.m. for as long as is comfortable. If they had a very brief outing in the morning, we will let them out at 1 p.m. for another brief outing, and again about every 3 hours. We have a large thermometer attached to an outside run so we can accurately determine the outside temperature. Corgis do pretty well in weather above 40 degrees F. (4.5 degrees C.) although we never leave dogs out to get damp. Shorter coated dogs, like Bull terriers and Whippets have no tolerance or liking for cool weather and must be carefully managed accordingly.
At 5 p.m. we feed any puppies (up to about 10 months of age they are fed twice a day) and dole out the dog biscuits. We have a toothless Bull terrier who gets half her rations in the morning and half in the afternoon so she doesnt miss out on snack time.
Any time we leave the premises, all dogs are put in the kennel building. We never leave dogs outside if no one is home. We also have an electronic security monitoring service we use, both to protect the kennel from intruders but especially because it also provides a 24 hour smoke detection service. Any time we leave the property, the kennel building doors are locked and the security system is turned on. The security system is also turned on when we leave the kennel at night.
Depending on weather, dogs will be put outside for all of or part of the evening. If very cold weather, we use more frequent, very short exercise periods. If the weather is good, dogs can be left out for hours at a time. We normally put the dogs to bed by 9:30 p.m., although it is not unusual to put dogs to bed at 11 p.m. if the weather is good.
When dogs are brought in for the night, the water pails are collected, emptied, washed, rinsed and put on the drain board to dry. This allows us to get water out to the dogs immediately in the morning (although they always have clean water available to them in their crates). You will notice everything is washed on a daily basis!
We are also fortunate to have two large fenced pastures which we utilize for dog exercising. A small pack of Corgis love to scamper over the acres and it provides a great deal of pleasure to allow them out to enjoy the spacious outdoors. It also reminds me of the importance of breeding for good sociable temperaments so we can have five or six Corgis loose together with no cross words.
I hope someone contemplating a kennel arrangement will consider the time, responsibility and expense of properly maintaining a kennel. If you want a small, easily managed breeding program, surely 3 or 4 housedogs is the best alternative solution. I would allow for 1 hour (at minimum) kennel work in the morning and a couple more hours all total through the day. My mother usually spends an excess of three hours in the kennel every morning, but not every crook and cranny needs to be scrubbed daily, as she does! Add to this the time it takes for grooming, training and just playing with the dogs and it is soon realized the hobby of breeding show-dogs is a lifetime commitment of the highest order.