Ok, it’s no Sepp Holzer, but for a first time build, at no cost in material, I’m happy with the first draft. Rustic is passable award, the construction took only an hour (after 15 min machine dig, pictured below). Logs were gathered, roof was scrap, and dirt sculpted beautifully into bunker. Why this shelter? Our LGD Kangal has been digging holes and establishing his spots on the landscape. K9s like to den up, have a place in the earth to retreat to for shelter, protection, and surprise. Gill has had a year and a half to stake out his territory, view all the vantages, and select a den spot. He chose this area, near a large cedar, next to the gate that’s closest to the barn, and on the high ground. How do we know this is the place? He’s dug in the most, lays there when napping a lot of the time, and we can see it from the house to have direct check in.
After the initial dig, Gill came in and marked the area, dug a bit himself, and spent a lot of time laying in the dirt pile. When I constructed the roof, I put an exaggerated overhang on the north and south sides of the structure, so Gill will have above ground dry space to enjoy when he’s not feeling a den up vibe. This initial roof design might fail in a big wind, so I’m calling this the first draft. I’m also unsure about water flow during a heavy rain event. When the wet weather return, there will be a few more adjustments in construction related to drainage. That’s adaptation! So far, the den is dry and the dog is lounging in the outside dry space. We’ll add straw and see if the additional insulation works to coax him in. But with temperature still in the 50s, Gill’s thick undercoat is more than enough insulation, which might be why he’s still outside the shelter.
Many dogs love a good den up space, underground, with good sight lines. Wild K9 species often dig dens, and need them to survive in bad weather. Though Gill does come into the barn when the weather is extreme, he prefers being out to free range in one of his large fenced paddocks. The trees there offer good summer cover, with shade and low branches to hide under, but in winter, we wanted to make sure Gill had additional hard shelter, and specifically a dug out space to insulate against both cold, heat, and rain. It’s fancy and fun, but practical and cost effective too. If Gill does not take to it, the young lambs next year might, and I know the ewes will explore the new shelter in Spring. We might have to construct additional design to keep sheep out, but allow dog in. Usually, that involved a sized door that is too narrow for the sheep.
If this shelter works for Gill, we’ll plan another in the back field too. Though in winter, the sheep are in the barn and Gill is close to the sheep. I think that’s another reason he’s laying on the north side of the shelter space- the sheep are just north of him in the barn and he can smell and hear them. As this shelter idea evolves, we’ll come back with report on success and added construction to improve on our concept. I think it’s going to be a great habitat for our 120lb four legged security friend. That piece of mind is worth the extra effort to offer above and beyond comfort and care.