What to Use in a Dog Pen for Bedding


When keeping your dog in an outdoor pen, the right bedding not only promotes good rest but prevents dampness, pests, and infections.

Natural Options

Cost-Effective Natural Bedding

Cedar and pine shavings contain essential oils that prevent fleas and ticks while leaving a pleasant smell that covers pet odors. Spread large wood shavings in the pen just as they are, or stuff small shavings into a pet bed cover to make a more comfortable and contained bed. Change cedar chips at least monthly, as their effectiveness against pests declines over time.

Pelletized pine designed for horse bedding also works for dogs. The pellets' greater density acts to absorb more odors and moisture. Pour pine pellets into your dog's bed box and mist the surface with water to dampen slightly. Over the first few weeks, the pellets will get three to four times fluffier as they expand. The moisture causes the pellets to expand and soften to create a comfortable bed for your dog. Pelletized pine produces less dust, making it a good alternative for dogs with respiratory issues. Kiln drying makes the pellets free from bacteria and mold

Hay and straw retain moisture that leads to mold and mildew. Hay and straw provide an ideal environment for fleas, ticks and mange mites. The straw can also harbor parasites and bacteria that could negatively effect the health of your dog. Should you choose to use these materials as bedding, check daily for moisture, mold smells or pests.


  • Don't use bedding made from wood products in the whelping box or when newborn puppies are present. Klebsiella bacteria can enter a mother's bloodstream through nipples or vulva as well as a puppy's umbilicus.

Synthetic Options

If wood shavings are not for you and you want a more permanent solution, you can buy a pre-made outdoor bed or build your own. Look for a bed with a waterproof covering that doesn't allow moisture to penetrate to prevent mold and bacterial growth.

Hammock Beds - Beds elevated above the ground can help keep your dog cool in the summer. Breathable mesh hammocks strap onto lightweight frames, allowing the breeze to pass underneath your dog. Elevated beds can prevent ground insects such as scorpions from gaining access to your dog while he sleeps. In winter, add a waterproof mat to the top of the bed to provide warmth while keeping your dog off the cold ground.

Canopies - Enhance your dog's protection from the sun or rain by getting an outdoor bed with a canopy cover. Canopies range from models that set up similar to a tent's rain fly with poles that cross over the top to awnings that clamp on or insert into the pet bed's legs.

Build Your Own - PVC pipe is easily connected with PVC fittings to build a bed frame with or without a canopy structure. If you don't sew, you can attach the waterproof hammock to the frame with screws. You can clean the bed by spraying it down. The Columbus Dog Connection demonstrates the procedure in the video below.


  • Make sure your dog is properly protected from the elements while outside. Situate your dog's pen where it has shade and is out of direct wind.

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