10 Things You Should Know About Building an Outdoor Doghouse
Building an outdoor doghouse doesn't require years of construction experience or a whole workshop full of tools. In fact, building a DIY doghouse is a project that asks for just basic building skills and a few hours (okay, maybe a weekend) of time. There are lots of style decisions you can make about your DIY doghouse—like building it out of pallets and plywood for an industrial chic look or giving it charming lap siding and cedar shingles. But there are some non-negotiables for your dog's health, comfort, and safety.
If you're already eyeing some doghouse building plans, take the time before you start swinging that hammer to consider these need-to-knows. Keeping these build-it-yourself doghouse details in mind will ensure you build a house that fits your dog to a T and gives him a safe space in the great outdoors.
Determine the Primary Purpose
The main factor for planning your doghouse is deciding on its purpose and how your dog will use it. "Most doghouses provide shelter for your pup when you're hanging outside together," says Lauren Novack, a certified dog behavior consultant with Behavior Vets of NYC. "An outdoor doghouse can give your pup a designated place to go and relax, and provide a designated place of shade in the summer," she says.
Also, consider your climate and how the house might be used in different seasons of the year. "Is the doghouse going to operate year-round, or just provide shade in the summer months?" says Novack, who is also a member of the Daily Paws Advisory Board. "This will drive your decisions about flooring, number of walls, and insulation."
Choose Quality Materials
You may want to style your dog's new digs to match your own home. Or make a design statement that says something about your dog's unique personality. But no matter what architectural style you're going for with the finished design, start with high-quality materials such as cedar and treated plywood, which will resist moisture and rotting.
"Anything you build should be built to last and provide the best protection," says carpenter John Hallstrom, who builds projects for Better Homes & Gardens and other sister brands of Daily Paws. Hallstrom also recommends roof shingles for durable overhead protection.
Don't be tempted to reuse leftover, years-old pressure-treated lumber or plywood. Prior to 2003, pressure-treated lumber and plywood for residential use was treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which includes arsenic. You don't want your pet (or your family) hanging out around materials that are treated with CCA. Newer pressure-treated products use EPA-approved preservatives. Or, you can choose wood species that are naturally resistant to pests like cedar and redwood.
Get the Size Right
A doghouse, like a dog crate, should be sized to fit the full-grown, adult size of your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably inside. Novak also says that in a properly sized house, your pup should be able to lay on his side. Therefore, to match your dog's measurements to a doghouse's interior dimensions, you'll need to measure the length and height of your dog.
For his length, measure from your dog's nose to tail. Add 2 to 4 inches to his overall length. For height, measure from the top of your dog's head to the ground when your dog is standing tall with his head lifted. If your dog has naturally erect ears, measure from the tip of his ears to the ground, again with his head lifted. Add 4 inches to the height measurement.
These two measurements will give you a minimum size for your doghouse. Example: Dog length of 24 inches + 4 = 28 inches for minimum doghouse width and length. Dog height (with ears) of 22 inches + 4 = 26 inches for minimum doghouse height.
"Beyond that," Novak says, "make it as big as you want!" However, if the house will be used during the winter, a larger or taller house is not as warm as a small, cozy den where your dog's body heat will help keep him snuggly warm. "You should also consider what amenities you want to include before you decide on a final size," she suggests.
Make It Mobile
A lot of people think of a doghouse as a fixed-in-place structure, but there are good reasons to plan a doghouse that can be easily moved. Depending on how the house is used and your location's climate, you may need to move the house with the seasons—taking advantage of warm sunshine and solar gain to heat the outdoor doghouse in the winter and moving it into heavy shade to help keep it cool in the summer.
"Some dogs love lying in the sun. Others are thrilled when it snows," Novak says. "What does your breed of dog, and your individual dog, prefer, and how can you make that happen for him?"
Insulate the Walls and Roof
To help your dog's house stay warm in winter and cool in summer, you'll want to include insulation in your building plans. You can use traditional home-building products like foam board or fiberglass insulation in rolls, or a more streamlined product like aluminum foil bubble insulation. Sandwich the insulation between the interior and exterior walls, just as you would in home construction, to keep your dog from having access to chew or ingest the insulation.
Don't forget, Novak adds, to "make sure all edges are sanded down and check for nails sticking out." Be certain both the interior and exterior of the doghouse don't have any sharp edges or fasteners that missed their mark and might cause a wound.
Elevate the Floor
Plan for your DIY doghouse to have legs, or build a simple stand to lift it a few inches above the ground. Just that little bit of space will go a long way for climate control. In the summer, having air movement beneath the floor will help the house stay cooler. And in winter, you can stuff the open space with natural insulation such as straw. (Note: Avoid using straw or hay inside the structure; it can house fleas and mites that you don't want setting up house on your dog.)
"Make sure that your pup can get in and out easily," Novak says about raised structures. "Think about long-term use, such as mobility issues with aging." For small or senior dogs, add a ramp to help them in and out of the elevated doghouse with ease.
Ventilation, and the ability to open and close it, is an important aspect of building an outdoor doghouse—especially one in a climate that experiences cold winters. In warm months, having cross breezes from the door, possibly a window, and open vents near the roof will help cool the doghouse and dissipate body heat. In the winter, you want the doghouse to retain heat, so closing those vents, covering the window, and attaching vinyl flaps inside the door will hold in heat—from your dog's body, a heated bed, or even a doghouse furnace.
Offset the Door
Give your dog a cozy spot out of the weather with one simple tweak to your doghouse building plans: Build the door off to one side rather than centered on the wall, like on this prefabricated design. Here's why: A centered doorway doesn't allow your pooch a space out of the direct sun, wind, and rain that come in through the doorway. If you build the door off-center, toward one end of a long wall, your dog has a protected corner to retreat to.
Your dog doesn't necessarily need a covered front porch on his doghouse, but consider the addition of a small overhang. Placed above the door opening, an overhang will help to protect the inside of the doghouse from getting wet in the rain or snow and will provide shade on super sunny days.
Give Yourself Access
Finally, consider that you will want access to the inside of the doghouse. Cleaning it out, retrieving a toy, closing those vents, or adding a new bed will be much easier if you don't have to squeeze yourself through the dog-sized doorway! A hinged roof is a wonderful solution that allows you easy access to the doghouse interior. For safety sake, use soft-close pneumatic toy box hinges so that the heavy roof will hold itself open while you are working.
Keep Your Dog Safe While You’re Building
DIY-related substances like glue and paint are among the top reasons that pet parents call the ASPCA animal poison control center. Don't give your pet a chance to accidentally ingest anything he shouldn't while you're building your new doghouse. Keep him far away until the structure is finished, any liquid adhesives and paints or stains have throughly dried, and you've removed all leftover building materials from the area.
With just a few simple tweaks to your doghouse building plans, you'll give your beloved pup the best build-it-yourself doghouse possible.