The choice was once oat straw or wheat in the kennel, not beanbag or memory foam. Our gundogs can certainly rest easy, finds David Tomlinson
From cheap and cheerful to uber luxurious, the choice of dog beds has never been larger. But which suit our working companions best, asks David Tomlinson.
Should gundogs stay inside as one of the family or be kennelled outdoors? It’s a great and ongoing debate between professionals and amateurs – read should your gundog live in or out?
How many beds does a dog need? This was a question I was forced to ask myself last year, when a house move led to all the dogs’ beds, and other paraphernalia, being packed up into cardboard boxes. Over the years I have experimented with a variety of dog beds of different designs and components. Some have been better than others but few have ever been disposed of.
If only dogs could talk I’m sure that they would be delighted to tell you which beds they like best, though I suspect that they might be quite hesitant in choosing which one it is. As a rule, they’re not fussy. Beds are chosen for location as much as comfort. A bit of old vet bed in front of the Aga is likely to prove far more popular than the most sumptuous of designer dog beds tucked away where the dog can’t see what is going on.
Vet bed itself is a product with a great deal of merit. Just as Hoover has become a generic name for vacuum cleaners, so vet bed has become the name for a certain type of synthetic, fleece-like bedding. The original product, called Vetbed (a registered name), has never been bettered. British-made, it is tough, durable and warm, machine-washable and quick drying. It is also inexpensive and can easily be cut to fit. It’s no wonder that it lives up to its name by being widely used by the veterinary profession. If your dog has nothing better than this to sleep on it is likely to be perfectly happy and certainly has no grounds for complaint.
When I acquired my first springer spaniel, nearly 40 years ago, I bought her a beanbag bed. It was a great success, and my dogs have had beanbags ever since. The merits of the beanbag include good insulation, plus the fact that the outer cover is easy to remove so it can be washed. A beanbag is also light and easy to move around. Dogs like them as they can mould them to their own shape. Over time the beans – in reality polystyrene beads – crush down, but they are cheap to replace. The only drawback is that they are virtually weightless, so tend to float in the air rather than pour. Refilling can be a tricky business.
My dogs are always keen to sample new beds. During the year we have a number of short-stay canine visitors who invariably bring their beds with them. My English springer, Rowan, is a full-size spaniel but she has shown herself to be remarkably good at squeezing into a bed made for nothing bigger than a cavalier. What is more, as soon as the visitor’s bed arrives, she is keen to try it out. As a result, visiting dogs can look quite forlorn until they are brave enough to get into Rowan’s bed. She never minds.
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL
Every pet store sells dog beds: many are cheap, though not necessarily nasty. However, if you want one that is both well designed and long lasting, as well as comfortable for its occupant, it’s best to spend more. Outdoor-clothing specialist Orvis offers what is probably the biggest range of quality dog beds in the UK. Orvis marketed its first dog bed in 1976, since when it has sold close to a million of them, so it can claim some expertise. Over the years it has introduced a number of game changers, ranging from ToughChew (self-explicit) to its most recent innovation, ComfortFill-Eco. I suspect that Greta Thunberg’s dog sleeps on one of these, as they are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
The Orvis catalogue of beds is a delight to look at, as all the beds featured (and there are a lot of them) have a slumbering dog on top. Every one of these dogs is of a sporting breed, ranging from springers to golden retrievers, with not a French bulldog in sight. Orvis dogs are my sort of dogs, while there isn’t one that doesn’t look blissfully comfortable. They should do, too, for Orvis beds range from £89 (for very small dogs) to the top-of-the-range foam bolster bed suitable for a wolfhound, or perhaps a couple of labradors, at a formidable £399. Pricey they may be but they are designed to keep dogs comfortable and are made to last.
However comfy the bed, there are always some dogs that circle round several times before settling down. This is inbuilt behaviour, some do it, some don’t, and I’m sure that those that do don’t know why they do it. Bed sharing is also a subject that intrigues me. Some dogs will happily share their bed, others won’t, while I have found that my bitches will happily get into bed with their mothers but rarely the other way round.
Dogs, like all top predators, spend a lot of time asleep, so it’s only fair to provide them with a bed that they like to sleep in. Modern dogs have never had it so good: 70 years ago the debate on dog bedding centred around whether to use oat straw rather than wheat in the kennel. In contrast, a friend with a £5,000 bed shares it with her spaniel, Dexter. Sadly, I don’t think Dexter really appreciates how lucky he is.