Once again, we are at the beginning of another long Yukon winter.

For new dog owners, it may also mean that it’s time to get a doghouse ready for the colder weather.

There are several options when a canine shelter is needed.

Buying a doghouse is the easiest way to go and there are several places in Whitehorse that supply both ready-made, insulated houses and kits for the do-it-yourselfer.

One option that is especially handy for very large or multiple dog families is to build a structure out of straw bales. Straw being the golden coloured bales available from some of the local farms or feed stores.

The average bale of straw is 2x2x4 feet and this is the size you will need for a sturdy shelter, the smaller bales I find to be too shaky, they tend to fall over easily and it takes a lot more of them to build the house.

Using the bales is like playing with Lego, how big a house you need will dictate how many bales you need. For the average, say, shepherd-sized dog or smaller, eight bales is all you need, but ten will make a smaller door and a sturdier roof.

Choose a flat area for your structure, it can be set against the wall of a building for greater stability, although it usually isn’t needed. Just be sure to keep it a good distance from a fence or your dog might use the flat top as a stool to get out of the yard.

Set the bales on their edges, meaning the sides with no strings. Form an open-ended rectangle with the first three bales, how you overlap the end bale will depend on how large you need the house.

Once they are set, make sure they are stable before putting the next three on top in the same manner, again, on their edge. Make sure that they are stable enough that they won’t fall.

For the roof, some people prefer to put down a piece of plywood or a few 2x4s for added strength before placing the last two or three bales flat on the top. Fill the space with a thick bed of loose straw and you will have a simple, warm house.

If your dog is athletic enough, you can place a bale down flat (strings on ground) in front of the door, This will cut extra wind and create a nest-like effect that dogs love.

The straw will eventually decay and will have to be replaced, but it will last for at least one winter, providing that your dog doesn’t figure out how to cut the strings and spread them all over the yard.

Securing a tarp over the bales will add to the life of the straw, but it will more than likely be destroyed by the dog’s nails if the dog likes to climb on top of his bed.

Stay warm everyone.