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Spring has sprung!  The daffodil, jonquils and tulips are in full bloom in many areas across the country.  But what does this have to do with a dog kennel?  I use these naturally occurring signs as a reminder to tackle certain tasks, which will make the hot summer months ahead easier and safer for me and my dogs.

When these early spring signs emerge, I know several things are about to happen.  First, I begin to hope that winter is really gone, and I hope that the snowy and freezing weather will stay away after I get my first chore done. I start this first chore when there is still a bit of a chill in the air.  I always try to get this chore done before temperatures reach 60 degrees.  I do this chore first and early in the spring because I don’t like snakes and I don’t want myself or the dogs to get a snake bite.  Most snakes begin to emerge in early spring and begin to mate as soon as it is warm enough for them to become active.

Proper Gear: As with any job, you will want to make sure you are wearing proper clothing for the job.  A pair of sturdy boots, long pants and long sleeves and a pair of sturdy gloves are good choices for this first chore of tidying up outside.

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Yard Work: Begin by picking up dead limbs and fallen branches and rake up all leaf litter from around the kennel, pens and the dog’s exercise yards.  Be sure to eliminate any food sources that might draw mice or other rodents.  Also make sure there are not any piles of wood, sawdust or wood shavings laying around, as these too are a favorite hiding place for most snake species.

Once I have all the downed limbs and branches picked up and any leaf litter raked away from the building and/or fences, out comes the mower.  Most of the time I use the mulch setting on my mower and chew up all the leaf litter.  You can also use a vacuum setting and collect all your leaf litter and grass cutting into a grass catcher if you like.

Weed Control: Next, I break out the weed eater and make sure all my edges are nicely trimmed and the place looks tidy.  After this first weed eating of the year, I always treat the fence lines, gravel areas and any areas that I do not want grass or weeds to grow on. By treating the edges and fence lines, it will reduce your weed eating time significantly during the coming summer months.  Depending on the product, you may have to re-treat during the season, so keep a close eye on these areas.  I always make sure the dogs are put away, and there is plenty of time for any chemicals to dry before using these products.  Be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s directions for your safety and that of your dogs.

Speaking of chemicals, if you have a sewage lagoon, now is a great time to add some fertilizer which contains an ammonium nitrate.  Most lagoons will “turn over” in the spring and fall.  This type of fertilizer will help give the algae a jump start and help rid the area of any foul odors.  Be sure and put a flapper or a snake net around the end of your sewer pipe into the lagoon. Again, you don’t want snakes!

Dog Shelters & Shade: After I have the outside yards and grassy areas looking spiffy, I start on the dog houses or shelters and shade cover in the exercise yards.  Make sure there is no soiled bedding that will attract unwanted spiders, fleas, ticks, or other unwanted guests.  I also want to make sure there are not any tarps that have rotted and become stringy over the winter, because these can quickly become any eye sore and a danger to the dogs.  When time and money allow, I always try to erect a permanent structure or shelter which will provide shade on a hot summer day.  If you have permanent structures, make sure they are clean, tidy and freshly sealed.

Caring for Concrete: Once I have the yards picked up, clean and safe, it is time to start on the concrete areas.  A hard winter always takes its toll on the fresh look of any concrete.  First, I make sure all my garden hoses are in good working order and give the complete kennel a good deep cleaning and scrub inside and out.  I like to use a “roofing broom,” sometimes called a “Lacrosse Brush,” and top-quality de-greasing soap.  I start scrubbing at the top of each kennel inside and out.  Don’t forget to get the drains, under any edges, and in cracks and crevasses with a hard brush.  Having a good stiff scrub brush with a long handle will go a long way in saving your back and knees while cutting down on the scrub time. Remember to reseal any concrete or treated wood or repaint any painted wood. This will help to prevent disease and help to keep your dogs healthier.

Disinfecting: After a good scrubbing, I use a disinfectant that is effective against parvo and other diseases, germs, bacteria, and microorganisms that are common in kennels.  Finally, I give all the cleaned surfaces a good rinse with clean water.  Again, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on any products or chemicals used in your home or kennel.  You want to make sure products are safe for you and your dogs.  Many people do not realize that common household cleaners like Pine-Sol and Lysol are phenol-based and can cause liver damage and are therefore not recommended for use with dogs.  When using disinfectant products like Clorox bleach be sure it has an EPA number on the packaging.

EPA number means the product should do what it says and not pose an unreasonable threat to your health when used properly.  There are many types of bleach, not all of them have an EPA number, so be sure and check your packaging before you purchase these cleaning items.  Please be sure you have good ventilation when using these products and follow the recommended dilution rates as many are very corrosive and can damage your lungs and your building materials.  Be sure to properly rinse and air dry and/or dry all surfaces before allowing any dogs to have contact with these surfaces.

Air Filters & Safety Check: Last and certainly not least, clean your air filters on your air conditioners and check them regularly throughout the summer.  Be sure and check all plug-ins and wiring and make sure all electrical cords, power strips and breaker boxes are safely out of reach of dogs and are never hot to the touch.

Have a safe spring clean-up and have a great summer!

Stacy Mason is a Senior Breeder Field Representative for the American Kennel Club.
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