Building a Doghouse Step by Step
Take time to build the perfect pad for your pet.
composite illustration by Nate Skow; dog photo by Alexander Abolinsh
After our faithful golden retriever, Chance, died at the grand old age of 15, I knew I’d need to do two things. First, head back to his breeder: Anybody who could produce a sweet-tempered dog that lived that long deserved repeat business. Second, build a doghouse to replace the one I’d made for Chance when he was a puppy. The old house had held up well, but it was beginning to show its age. Besides, every new dog deserves new digs.
My design for our new pal, Chase, incorporates a porch and extended “saltbox” roof attached to the basic doghouse design.
The basic house is simple to build, and if you want to add extras, as I did, you’ll see that the underlying structure is easy to adapt.
Size the house to fit the dog: It’s tempting to make a really roomy doghouse, but your dog won’t appreciate it. During cold months, your dog’s body heat keeps him or her warm. If the house is too big, the dog can’t generate enough heat to warm it. How big should a doghouse be? There’s no exact formula, but a good rule of thumb is to build it so your full-grown dog can walk in, turn around inside and stretch out completely.
Vent it well: In hot weather, good airflow will keep your dog from overheating. And in damp weather or cold weather, when the dog’s moist breath is steaming up the house, proper ventilation prevents mold from forming. Vents in the peaks of the roof will do the job as long as you leave the doorway open or just loosely cover it with a flap so there’s an adequate updraft.
Build it off the ground: This keeps the dog out of contact with damp soil. It also prevents the wood from rotting and extends the life of the doghouse.
Make it safe from the elements: Be sure water, wind and rain can’t enter. Generally, this means overhangs for doorways and vents, and tight seams everywhere.
Use dog-friendly materials: Anything that comes into contact with your pet must be safe for animals. That means you’ll make the floor, frame and walls from untreated softwood and plywood, rather than pressure-treated wood.
Customize to suit: Once the basics were covered, I looked at ways to improve on my previous design. First, I added a sheltered porch so our new dog could stay out of the sun and rain. I moved the doorway from the gable end to the porch side, for easy access. (I made the door pup-size for now. It can be enlarged later.) I also added insulation under the floor (to keep out cold in winter) and under the roof (to reduce heat in summer and retain it in winter). Finally, and this was a big improvement, I added a large clean-out door at the back of the house so I could easily tidy up inside. The result is a house with the flavor of a New England saltbox home. It’s based on the following basic design.
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