Cleaning your dog's pen may not be at the top of your list of fun summer activities, but it's a necessary chore. Outdoor kennels should be sterilized several times a year even if your pup's the only animal using it. Also, always sanitize pens that housed a sick dog.
Your dog may think he's your assistant, but he won't be much help cleaning the pen so get him out of the way when you tackle the job. You don't want him nosing around in the detergent bucket when you aren't looking. Remove all objects from the pen so you can clean and disinfect them according to their manufacturers' instructions. Some toys and bowls are dishwasher safe, but others are ruined if you clean them with corrosive chemicals. Wash blankets and fabric with laundry detergent. Replace blankets and other personal items if the pen housed a sick dog. Fabric traps germs and is tough to disinfect.
Call your vet or a local animal shelter for recommendations on cleaning supplies. A bleach and water solution diluted to a 1:32 ratio is effective as a general disinfectant, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Consult a disinfectant table if a canine diagnosed with a contagious illness has occupied the pen before, even if it was your pooch who was sick. This is particularly important for outdoor pens at shelters and in homes with multiple dogs. Some cleaners, like ammonia mixtures, aren't effective at disabling certain viral and fungal pathogens. Likewise, detergents that destroy parasitic fungi may not effectively remove a contagious bacteria.
Cleaning the Pen
Scoop up dog refuse and sweep chunks of debris out of the pen. Rinse the entire structure with a hose to remove layers of dirt covering the floor and grating surfaces. Scrub the pen with a bristled brush and detergent solution. A handled brush makes the job easier and keeps your face away from chemical fumes. Don't take any shortcuts when scrubbing. Use a stepping ladder to reach up high and get the brush into corners and other areas where dirt builds up. Once you've sanitized the pen, let it sit according to the manufacturer's instructions for your chosen cleaning solution.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse the pen from top to bottom with a steady blast from the hose. Use hot water if you can. Go over every inch of the pen several times to make sure there's no cleaning solution residue anywhere in the pen. Use a squeegee or towel to dry out the pen when you're finished. Let it air out for at least a few hours before replacing all of the toys, bowls and bedding.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.