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Homebuilding and Floor Coverings

by Tracy Warncke

HOMEBUILDING: To begin, you must think about temperature. Just how cold or hot does it get? If it gets very hot, think about adding a porch so your Newf can take advantage of the summer breeze. Real cold - an insulated dog house is answer.

Now for the size. A dog house should be high enough for a dog to stand up without bumping its head. Length and width should be slightly longer than the dog from nose to rump. Basically, a 4 ft. high x 4 ft. long x 4 ft. wide structure is just fine for a Newf. These figures make it easy when planning for building materials and minimize leftovers. BE FOREWARNED AND PLAN AHEAD!!!! If you've decided Newfs are the breed for you and plan to get another in the future, consider building a double-occupancy house. A "fake" wall is easily added which can be removed later.

Plywood and 2 x 4s are the basic building materials required. Pressure-treated lumber is fine for fence posts but should not be used for dog houses as it is treated with poisons. Many people use "Texture 1-11", a plywood with grooves every 6 inches or so running the length of the sheet. This dresses up the outside eliminating the need for exterior finishes (shingles or clapboard) and helps the water run off the roof.

Cinder blocks work well as a foundation, which may or may not be placed in a shallow trench. A foundation helps to prevent insect and water damage and helps to prevent settling and digging. If you are insulating your dog house make sure that there is no way your dog can get to the insulation. If ingested, insulation can do major damage to a dogs internal organs. Plywood over the insulation on the inside does the trick. Check the inside and outside of the house to make sure there are no nails sticking out.

Many people recommend lift-off or hinged roofs for easy cleaning. Door shape is up to your own individual tastes but must be large enough for the dog to enter with a slight duck of the head. Too big an opening allows rain, snow and wind to enter negating the purpose of the house in the first place.

Last but perhaps the most important is the placement of the finished dog house. The dog house should never be placed on the outside of any fence or run. This will allow stray dogs to use the house as a springboard to enter the run. Your dog house shouldn't be placed against the fence because believe it or not, Newfoundlands can and do jump or climb! The safest place is in the center of the run. This also adds something for the dog to run around for enjoyment. Many times I see my own dogs playing sneak-a-peek around the dog house. Placing a dog house in the center of a run also affords shade at varying locations throughout the day.

FLOOR COVERINGS: Make no mistake, that lovely grass that surrounds your dogs house will be beaten into a muddy mess in just a few short months. Once this happens you must decide how to keep your dog clean. The most economical floor covering is what New Englanders call washed pea stone. This is a washed (smooth no sharp edges) stone, in varying colors, slightly bigger than a pea but not larger than a grape. These are the rocks that are removed from the screening process when grading sand. Depending on your current type of soil, 1 cubic yard (1-1/4 ton) will cover a 10 ft. x 10 ft. area about 3 inches deep. FAIR WARNING! You will have to replace the stone as it will disappear into the ground. Its a never-ending battle and we often wonder just where it all goes! You may want to line the outside of the run with telephone poles or garden timbers to keep the stone inside the run.

Materials to avoid are: pine bark (most are treated with chemicals to prevent decomposition), gravel (usually has sharp edges), and stone dust (sticks to everything).

Any dog would appreciate something nice and soft to sleep on inside his house. Old blankets, straw or carpet samples (those 2 ft. x 3 ft. pieces from the discontinued carpet books) will do just fine. Indoor/outdoor and stain resistant carpets should be avoided as they are treated with chemicals that, if urinated on, will emit toxic gasses.

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