An age old argument regarding not only rabbit dogs but working dogs of all types is where to keep them. We are all well aware of the basic needs of a dog, those being food, water, shelter, and medical care. The question that remains, however, is how far to take the shelter part. Many people swear by housing dogs outdoors in doghouses bedded with straw, claiming that it toughens them up and makes them better able to face the outdoor trials that await them while hunting. Alternately, others allow them the luxury of an indoor lifestyle, letting them live in the house, sleeping in a plush dog bed or possibly even sharing the family bed. If you ask the dogs what their preference is, you might get just as conflicting responses as when you ask dog owners, as some are more comfortable in one place versus the other, making this a debate that rages on and on.
Photo: Graybeard Outdoors
Regardless of where and how you choose to house your dogs, there are some basic considerations that should remain the same:
1. Proper conditioning is essential to any animal that lives or works in the great outdoors. There will be hot days and cold days to which they must be able to acclimate, and the key to this is exposure. If your rabbit dogs live inside your comfortable, climate controlled house, spending their time relaxing by a roaring fire or laying across an air conditioning vent, having to go to work outside might come as a bit of a shock. Instead of letting them acclimate completely to the conditions inside a home where the temperature is kept cozy all year round, make sure they spend time outside facing the reality of temperatures for your area. If it gets cold, don't shield your dogs from it and instead bring them outside and let them experience it. Likewise, bring dogs outside on hot days as well. One of the most important aspects of a hunting animal is tolerance of the extremes with which it might be faced, so get those dogs outside on both hot and cold days.
Photo: Catron's Kennels
2. The level of fitness your dogs possess will directly affect their performance in the field. A chubby, out-of-shape dog will not work as well as a trim and fit dog. Achieving the perfect balance of flesh can be tough regardless of how you house your dogs. Dogs kept outdoors in small pens may not be able to achieve the same activity level as a dog with running room. The same can be said for house kept dogs. Because of this, alternative means of exercise need to be provided to keep dogs in peak condition as well as keeping them from getting bored.
3. Training is essential to the performance of any dog regardless of where he lays his head. Successfully training a pup is one thing, but that training needs to be reinforced as the dog ages. Most dogs are naturally driven to hunt, but some have wandering minds and need a little extra time and effort. Boredom and easy distraction are also possibilities. Keep play and training sessions frequent enough to keep dogs engaged and on their toes so their job will remain exciting and their drive will not wane.
Photo: Our Southern Roots
If you do not have room at your residence to give your dogs proper exercise and hunting stimulus, consider joining a trial club in your area. By gaining access to rabbit pens, you can work on fine-tuning your dogs' training as well as getting them the exercise they need and keeping their drive strong. At the end of the day, it should not matter whether your dogs live inside with you or get to experience life in the great outdoors. A dog that is fit, in touch with training, and properly conditioned to tolerate weather fluctuations should be able to perform whether he sleeps in a dog house or on the couch.
What are your thoughts? Do you keep your dogs inside or outside? Can you share pros/cons or benefits?