by Margaret-Ann Irving of Fur Fettish Farm
I have dealt with numerous dog houses built by numerous people over the years and each one has had good, and not so good, construction issues. The number one mistake when building a dog house is the door. Most people cut it flush with the floor, this is entirely non functional when it comes to keeping bedding in or drafts out. The door needs to be at least 4 to 8 inches above floor level so the bedding is not continually being dragged out and the draft can’t blow directly onto the floor of the dog house.
Another feature that is very rarely added is a window. Once inclement weather arrives and a door flap of some sort is added the dog is in a dark dungeon, with no source of outside light. Even the sun shining into a small window helps to heat up the dogs living space in winter. The window should be made of plexiglass, not breakable glass and can be made to open for ventilation in the summer; but even a window that doesn’t open would be a welcome addition for most dogs.
The dog house should, in this country, be insulated with a thin insulation so the walls can remain thin, with 2×2 construction. This ensures the dog house stays light and doesn’t take a fork lift to move it. What I have found to be the best is the insulation with one side aluminum that they put on under the siding when they wrap an old house that was poorly insulated with proper material to start with (usually because it was not available in that era). Building the dog house to accommodate a porch is the ultimate way to go, designed so the dog can go around a corner to enter the sleeping area, hence pretty much eliminating the problem of a draft in the sleeping area. Holes to let moisture out should be drilled at both eaves or, if the house has a slant roof, they should be at the highest points. Even three 1/2 inch holes will let out a lot of moisture. Without these, the moisture collects and forms a build up of frost which drops directly into the dogs bed when there is a warm spell, leaving the dog to sleep in a wet and frozen bed.
I realize that most people who live in town don’t want to use straw for their dog house, but on that note town dogs rarely are outside 24/7 like farm dogs. Straw is the best dog bedding money can buy. It can be pulled out every few weeks and replaced at a fairly minimal cost. If the dog’s owner insists on blankets for bedding then they should be prepared to pull it out at least once a week and replace it with a clean dry blanket. Shavings are also an option but they pack down or are scooted off to the sides as the dog makes it’s customary circles to lay down and they wind up sleeping on the bare floor.
If you are going to tie your dog to the house make sure the ring is a few inches off the ground and the chain has at least two swivels in it. This prevents the chain from kinking up. Take into consideration what size of a dog you are putting at the end of the chain. It has amazed me for years that the weight of the dog and the circumference of the chain are often way out of proportion. Also consider the length of the chain. I know of way too many incidences where a dog has jumped over a fence or even onto the dog house and been hung up, sometimes with a not so happy ending. For this reason a fairly steep pitch for a roof is the safest and a slippery surface such as tin for the covering thus pretty much making it impossible for the dog to perch on the roof. Tin is also the most functional on the sides. The dog houses I have that were built with leftover vinyl siding (to match the house the owner lives in) do not stay pretty for long. I made this mistake myself! Once the dog gets bored and decides to chew on a corner the results are not pretty. Tin is the very best surface for outside walls and the roof and the ultimate dog house has a roof that either has a hinged opening or the roof lifts off so you can tend to wet bedding and air it out periodically.
Last, take into consideration the size of the dog that will be residing in this dog house. It should be big enough that the dog will have room to stretch out full length when it is hot but small enough that when it gets cold it can curl up and it’s body heat will keep the chill off. It should be high enough that the dog can stand up without hunching over but not so tall that all the heat goes into the attic. Most importantly, it should be draft free, dry and well vented. For some strange reason people think they are doing their dog a favour in the winter by bringing it into the heated porch or house for the night and putting it out during the day. This makes no sense to me; the dog overheats at night and then shivers all day. It is much more sensible to provide proper accommodation for an outside dog, or keep an inside dog in, when the weather is too hot or too cold.
Wild canines, coyotes, and wolves, know everything I have just written. By instinct, they have pups underground where it is warm, dry and draft free. Our poor domesticated canines have now had to rely on us to give them these comforts, so hopefully this article will help next time someone gets the urge to built their best friend a house.