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How To Build A Dog House: Cost & Best Tips

If you are looking for tips on how to build a dog house, check our guide on materials, all costs involved and practical tips.

A dog can be a delight to just about every family and you will want them near you indoors, but most dogs will enjoy spending some or most of their time outdoors. Don’t you owe it to them to provide a lovely comfy outdoor shelter, warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Some dogs live all their lives outside, especially working dogs, and never experience the delights of a comfy sofa to snuggle in. In this short article I will be explaining how to build your favourite animal an outdoor shelter. If you prefer cats then reduce the dimensions accordingly and it would be suitable for an outdoor cat as well.

The purpose

The main and possibly only requirement of a dog house (or kennel) is to keep your pet dry and out of the wind and to help it stay dry, anything else is optional. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you like but remember your dog won’t care what it looks like so it’s worth putting the effort into making a simple house properly. All you have to consider when building your pet’s private space is:

  • Proper size
  • Design
  • Building materials
  • How to keep the inside dry
  • Method of construction
  • Location
  • Type of bedding
  • Proper size

Don’t make the mistake of making the inside large and roomy. A dog prefers to be in a small space; he feels secure and is able to warm the interior with his own body heat. On the other hand if you have a puppy, remember that he will grow and needs a doghouse big enough for when he is an adult.

Next time your dog curls up and settles down to sleep, notice how much room he takes up. Measure a rectangle around him about three inches longer on each side. That will be the area of the kennel. When he stands up measure the distance from the ground to his shoulders and add on about six inches. He won’t mind ducking his head a little bit if you aren’t exact but he will want to be able to look out of the doorway when he is standing, sitting and lying down. If you stick to these dimensions your dog will be cosy and warm without feeling too cramped. If you have a ready-made dog bed you are going to put inside then make sure it fits into the kennel footprint. If not then old blankets or a duvet will do just fine. Dogs love to make nests.

Design

A plan is essential otherwise your proposed kennel will be a disaster. You must draw a plan view together with side views and label each view with the correct dimension.

An essential is to raise the floor a little bit. If the floor comes in contact with the ground, it will conduct heat away from the inside as well as allow damp to seep through. In my experience it is possible to make a good raised base by using an old wooden pallet, the type used to carry freight in trucks. If you build your dog house onto this then it is easily moved around without too much upheaval depending on the season of the year or the prevailing wind.

The roof sometimes causes a few problems with DIY builders. There is no need to build a pitched roof with gabled ends; just a simple sloping roof with one pitch is all you need. As long as the rain can run off then that is all that is required. In fact your dog will probably thank you because this design will give him a top storey to sit on when the weather is warm so he can see further and better guard his property.

To help make cleaning inside easier it is a good idea to design the roof so it can be lifted off completely.

The doorway should not be any larger than absolutely necessary so as to reduce too much draught. As a rough guideline, for a 70 pound dog the door should be about 12 inches wide and 14 inches high. At the bottom of the door have a lip about 6 inches higher than the floor to stop the bedding and any newly born puppies from ending up outside. Put the door on the opposite side to the prevailing winds so that wind and rain runoff does not enter the kennel. When designing the roof make sure that the roof panel overhangs the walls by about 3 or 4 inches.

It is a good idea to provide a lean-to porch over the door opening to prevent rain or sun from entering.

If you cannot get started with the design there are many free plans available on the internet. Just do a search for dog house plans.

Building materials

You will need a building material that is easily cleaned and disinfected and will not harm your dog if he gets bored and decides to chew. You can add insulation if you wish but make sure that it is not fibrous like fibreglass; rigid polystyrene slabs are better, and make sure the insulation is completely enclosed so it can’t be chewed. If your local area is very cold then build a doghouse with a two skin wall with an air space in between, but it isn’t really necessary as a dog has enough built in insulation with its fur, even short haired varieties are able to keep warm as long as they are out of the rain and wind.

Use ½ inch thick plywood to construct the sides, floor and roof panels and use rustproof galvanised nails or screws to join the wood together. Make sure the nails are of such a length as to prevent the sharp points from projecting through the wood and into the living space within. When joining wood liberally apply silicon sealant (the waterproof type used to seal around bathroom fittings) as glue before fixing with nails or screws.

Keeping the inside dry

Keeping the inside dry is essential. Not only impervious to rain and damp seeping in from outside but also by providing enough ventilation to prevent condensation from building up and making the bedding wet. In normal conditions just the open doorway will be enough to keep the inside ventilated but in excessively humid conditions consider using vents to increase the airflow. Small holes bored through the plywood walls under the eaves should be ample.

Use exterior grade wood as much as possible but be aware that dogs like to chew things so ensure that any preservative or paint is non-toxic to dogs.
Waterproof the kennel with heavy duty bitumen impregnated roofing felt fixed with 3/8 inch galvanised clout nails. Seal all the overlapped joins with silicon sealant. If you can afford it cover the roofing felt with sheet aluminium, it is waterproof, doesn’t rust, doesn’t need painting, proof against chewing dogs and will help keep the wind out too.

Even if you decide not to insulate the walls, it might be beneficial to include a layer of polystyrene insulation under the floor and inside the roof. This will help reduce condensation as well.

Any joints in the plywood or roofing paper should be sealed with silicone sealant.

Method of Construction

  • On your sheet or sheets of plywood draw the four wall panels, roof panel and floor panel.
  • Draw the doorway to be cut out on the tallest panel leaving a lip of about 6 inches from the bottom edge.
  • Ensure the wall panel with the doorway is slightly higher than the opposite wall (about 3 inches higher). This will give enough of a slope on the roof to allow rain to run off.
  • Ensure the other two wall panels have a sloped top edge to carry the sloping roof panel.
  • Cut out all the panels and doorway using a wood saw.
  • Glue (with silicon sealant) and nail the four walls together ensuring the angles between the walls are 90 degrees.
  • Run the silicon sealant along the bottom edge of the walls and join to the top side of the pallet base.
  • Fix the walls to the pallet base using screws and if necessary some metal corner brackets.
  • Cut a slab of rigid expanded polystyrene to fit inside the four walls and push down to the floor against the pallet base.
  • Run a bead of silicone sealant on the polystyrene slab and drop the floor panel inside the four walls to cover the insulation slab.
  • Cut another polystyrene slab large enough to fit inside the walls and to fit against the roof panel.
  • Glue this polystyrene slab to the underside of the roof panel using silicon sealant.
  • Cover both sides of the roof panel with bitumen impregnated roofing felt ensuring the galvanised fixing nails do not push through the plywood panel.
  • Check that the roof panel fits snugly onto the walls and that the polystyrene slab fits between the wall panels.
  • Remove the roof and set to one side.
  • Cover the outside surfaces of the walls with bitumen roofing felt making sure that all joins are sealed with silicon sealant. Ensure there is enough felt at the bottom of the walls to carry on and cover the pallet base thus sealing the base as well.
  • Take care with folding the felt around the doorway.
  • Return the roof to its position.

Costs

The cost of building a house for your dog will vary depending on the size of the dog, whether he will be living in the house full time or whether it is just a shelter for him when he is in the garden. Your design can range from a simple no-frills dog house up to a fully centrally heated cedar log cabin with veranda and dining room!

Typical costs for build-from-scratch are as follows:

ItemCost
No frills dog house (materials only)$50 to $100
1 sheet polystyrene Insulation boardAbout $20
Dog mansionUp to $2000 or more

Typical costs of DIY kits are as follows:

ItemCost
Wooden dog house kit$80 to $300
Non- insulated plastic dog house$60 to $150
Insulated plastic dog house$150 to $250 and more

Tools required for building and assembling kits are the normal tools owned by anyone who does DIY.

  1. Saw
  2. Hammer
  3. Screwdrivers
  4. Tape measure
  5. Set square
  6. Craft knife
  7. Paint brushes

Tips for Building a Dog House

1. Dogs need to know they are being good, it is important they understand they have your permission to enter their new dog house.
2. Build the house to accommodate the dog’s potential adult size.
3. Ensure there is enough room inside for the dog to enter, turn around and lie down.
4. Raise the doghouse a few inches above ground level to allow for free circulation of air and to prevent damp and possibly flooding.
5. Damp encourages pests so provide enough ventilation to prevent condensation forming. A few coin sized holes along the eaves in addition to the doorway should be enough.
6. If you regularly have bad weather, it might be useful to have a windbreak inside the door so the dog can either rest in the entrance area or within the snug behind the false wall.
7. To avoid rain pooling in the doorway, make the floor slightly tilted towards the door and provide drain holes along the edge.
8. Add an overhanging porch to protect the doorway from rain and sun.
9. Slope the roof away from the doorway to prevent rain running into the living area.
10. Do not paint the inside where the dog might chew.
11. Hinge the roof so it can be opened easily for cleaning.
12. Position the doghouse so the open doorway is out of the prevailing wind.
13. If possible position the doghouse in the shelter of another larger building or wall.
14. Lining the floor with an old rug will add a bit of luxury.

To Finish

Giving your dog its own house is a good idea. It allows the dog to be in the garden and yet still have a place to shelter from the weather. Building a house is easy if you can do a bit of DIY and it doesn’t matter if it is simple. Being snug and dry are the only requirements. All you have to worry about is that the children don’t start playing in the dog house. Why not build one larger for them?

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