By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 7 January 2009)
Dogs that spend time outdoors should have a shelter where they can escape the elements. Building a dog house is a fun project, and homemade kennels can be customized to the unique needs of individual dogs and the aesthetic requirements of their owners.
Dog House Planning
When choosing dog house plans or creating them from scratch, builders should ensure that the kennel will have sufficient room for the dog to turn around and lie down comfortably. However, it should not be so large that the dog’s body heat will disperse. The Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society provides required dog house dimensions for various dog breeds. There are many free dog house plans available online, but in some cases they will need to be adapted to ensure the correct fit (scroll down to the bottom of this article for free dog house plans).
Dog House Features
An ideal dog house will have the following features:
- Insulation – A dog house can be insulated with sheets of Styrofoam overlaid with wooden paneling or another material.
- Bedding – Straw or cedar shavings are a better choice for outdoor bedding, as blankets can get wet and freeze. Bedding should be changed every one to two weeks.
- Covered doorway – Dog house doorways should be covered with waterproof burlap, carpet, or heavy plastic to keep the wind out.
- Platform – A raised platform keeps the dog well above the cold ground.
- Ramp – Installing a ramp makes it easier for a dog to climb into a raised dog house. This is particularly important for older dogs that may suffer from arthritis.
- Closable air vents – These allow fresh air to circulate, but can be shut in cold weather.
Dog House Materials
For dog house construction, wood is superior to plastic because it tends to be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Dog houses should be built from durable, rot-resistant, insect-resistant wood such as cedar. To prevent poisoning, builders should avoid using pressure-treated wood on any area of the dog house that the dog can access, as it contains toxic chemicals that a dog could ingest if he chews on the structure. Other required materials, which are listed in dog house plans, will vary depending on the type of dog house being built.
Dog House Heating Options
Throughout the year, dogs should have opportunities to spend time indoors among their human companions, and during very cold weather, they should be kept indoors when they are not being walked, particularly short-haired breeds that don’t tolerate the cold as well. (For information on cold weather dangers, see Keeping Pets Safe During Winter.)
If a dog can’t be kept indoors full-time during the cold months, owners should look into heating options to ensure that their pets have a warm place to stay. There are a number of ways to keep dog houses warm in the wintertime, including electric blankets and beds, heater boxes, and heater/AC units. However, some of these devices may present safety risks, such as dogs chewing on electrical cords. If using an electrical heating system, cords should be enclosed in cord concealers or PVC pipe to prevent accidents. There are also safer options, such as installing environmentally friendly solar panels.
For an in-depth discussion of dog house heating options, as well as dog house plans, buyers’ guides, and other information on kennel building and purchasing, see All-About-Dog-Houses.com.
For free dog house plans and instructions, click on the following link: DOG HOUSE PLANS.
More Building Projects for Pets
See How to Make Cat Trees, Beds, and Scratch Posts for information on money-saving projects for cats.