Guidelines for Buying a Dog House
You, the aspiring dog house owner are faced with a number of
decisions when shopping for a dog house.
Some of the biggies are: how much to spend, what size house to get, and
what style or type of house. But there are lots of other secondary
questions to be answered: Do you want wood, plastic, or metal? If you
opt for wood, do you want a peaked or flat roof? Asphalt or wood
shingles? Centered or off-set doorway? Painted or stained? Insulated and
heated? What's the best way to heat?
Perhaps, you're thinking this is not as simple as you first
thought... Well, we're here to hug you to our bosom and lead you down
the path to dog house enlightenment. So hold on, and learn...
Wood, Plastic, or Metal?
A basic decision to be made up front is whether to get a plastic, a
wood, or a metal dog house. (Yes, there are metal dog houses). First,
the scoop on plastic. Dog houses made from plastic are generally
lighter and less expensive than wood ones. They're easy to transport,
don't have splinters, don't rot, and don't require refinishing.
They are also easy to clean and don't have pores for fleas and tics to
Wood dog houses tend to be more substantial than plastic ones, they
offer more design add-on possibilities, and they will provide your dog
better protection against the elements. Wood is a much better insulator
than plastic so your dog is less likely to overheat inside a wood house.
And, wood is well... "wood". It tends to conjure up warmer, fuzzier
feelings than plastic ever will. And many people prefer the natural look
of wood to plastic. Tics and fleas can be a problem with wood houses but
this can be mitigated by buying a cedar wood house and using cedar
shavings for bedding.
Metal is also used for dog houses. Such structures are typically
known as dog "boxes" and are often used to transport dogs and provide
temporary housing for shows and sporting events. However, some
owners undoubtedly use them as year-round houses. Metal dog boxes are
made from aluminum or stainless steel and are often insulated because
metal by itself is a poor insulator. Most dog boxes don't come cheap but
they tend to be very solidly built and will likely outlive your dog (and
Choosing the proper house size for your pet can be one of the more
confusing aspects of dog house shopping. That's probably because there
are all kinds of formulas and guidelines floating around out there.
Without getting overly technical, here are a few guidelines to help you
wade through the muck:
- The doghouse should be big enough so that your dog can turn around
in it and lie down completely stretched out inside.
- Bigger is not better. Dogs feel more secure in small spaces.
Also, an oversized dog house is harder to keep warm during cold
- If your dog is still a puppy, research what her average
adult size and weight will be and choose a house accordingly.
- Before spending big $$ on a dog house, consider making a cardboard
mock-up that has the same dimensions as the house. Coax your dog
inside and see if he can easily turn around and lie down comfortably.
If you really want to get the low down on sizing a dog house
including learning about the various sizing formulas out there, check
out this article:
How to size a dog house
Doorway and Door
Perhaps the first consideration for a proper sized doghouse is the
doorway. It has to be big enough for your dog to easily get in and out
of the house but not so big that it results in excessive heat loss and
over-exposure to the elements. Remember that, unlike people, dogs
require smaller doors than what their total height is. They have no
issues with having to duck to enter a house.
Exactly how big should a doorway be? Well, there are least two rules
of thumb used to determine this. The first one says that the door height
opening should be no less than 3/4 of the dog's shoulder to ground
height. The second rule says that the opening should be at least 1"
greater than the distance from the top of the dog's shoulder to the
bottom of his chest. Regardless of formula used, these are minimum
doorway heights; you can get a house with a taller doorway, just keep in
mind that heat retention and coziness could suffer.
The width of a dog house doorway needs to be just slightly larger
than the girth of your pet. You might want to measure him after a full
The location of the doorway can also be important. The classic style
dog house has the doorway centered in the middle of the house. This
looks fine but may not be optimal depending on the severity of your
weather and your dog's need for privacy.
A dog house doorway that is located off center minimizes direct
exposure to the outdoor elements and provides extra privacy space inside
the house for your dog to hang out. An off center doorway also provides
extra space to insert an interior wind deflection panel which further
improves the warmth and coziness of the house.
Look for a dog house that comes with a door. This will provide an
extra level of protection against the sun, cold, and rain (especially in
a house with a centered doorway). The big thing in dog house doors these
days seems to be a flap of vinyl with vertical slits cut into it. This
enables the dog to see what's going on outside but still stay warm and
dry inside. And the slits allow him to easily push through the "door".
Some doors are designed to be removable. This is good as far as
improving air flow during the hot summer as long as you don't mind a
little rain getting in now and then.
If you find a house that you like but it doesn't come with a door,
don't sweat it. You can pick up some vinyl from Home Depot and make your
own. Or you could simply order a
vinyl door flap online. Other materials used for doors include
tractor tire inner tubes, mud flaps, canvas, and even old carpet. Just
keep in mind that your dog may chew apart certain materials...
If you're in the market for a wooden dog house, you'll have to decide
what type of roof you prefer. This is both a style and function
decision. Wooden dog houses generally come with either: 1) the
classic pitched roof (aka, the Snoopy) made from two panels joined
together to form a peak, or 2) the single panel roof, typically with a
gentle slope from the front to the back of the house. A third type of
roof is the loft or sun deck style roof, which is usually a single or
double panel roof with an attached wooden platform on top.
You also need to decide on the type of protective covering on the
roof. The main choices here are asphalt shingles, wood (shingles,
plywood, boards), metal, or plain old tar paper. There are pros and cons
Click here to learn more about dog house
ideally, a dog house should have an insulated floor that is elevated a
few inches above the ground. This so called "dead air space" affords an
extra measure of insulation, keeps moisture away from the house and your
beloved pet, and provides extra protection against flea infestation from
hatching eggs in the soil. A raised floor also prevents the wood from
rotting thereby extending the life of the doghouse.
Some dog houses are made with skid plates or extended corner posts to
elevate the house above the ground. The same effect can be achieved by
placing the house atop bricks, stones, or 4x4 blocks of wood.
Even with a raised floor, the wood on the underside of the
floor may be subject to rotting over time - especially wood in direct
contact with the ground. To minimize rotting, look for a dog house that
uses decay resistant woods such as cedar or redwood. Pressure-treated
wood should be OK also as long as it is only used on the base frame of
the floor so that your pet does not come in direct contact with it. Just
be prepared to cover the pressure-treated wood with plywood strips if
you find your dog chewing on it.
Not all types of dog house bedding are created equal. You'll often
come across suggestions to use blankets, towels, carpet, hay, straw, old
newspapers, pretty much whatever you can get your hands on. The problem
with most of these materials is that they attract and retain fleas,
tics, and other creatures. They are also susceptible to mold and mildew.
A better option is to use cedar shavings for bedding because the oils
in the cedar will repel fleas and tics. However, be aware that the cedar
oils cause contact allergies in a small percentage of dogs. To minimize
this possibility - and also to keep the house neater - you could get a
dog bed cover with a liner and stuff the liner with the wood chips.
moisture-proof foam pad also works well for dog bedding because it
stays dry and fleas can't penetrate it. If your dog tries to chew the
mat, you could cover it with a layer of cedar shavings.
Porch or Awning
Your dog will really be your buddy if you get him a house with a
porch, an awning or some other type of protective overhang. Such a
structure provides extra shade during the hot summer and helps to keep
rain and snow away from the interior of the house (especially if you
remove the door flap to improve air flow inside the house during the
Some houses have a combination porch / sun deck in which the dog can
climb topside to hang out and look around or lie underneath in the
covered area to play it cool.
If a dog house lacks adequate ventilation, the air will become hot
and stifling during the summer, creating an uncomfortable, and possibly
dangerous environment for your pet. During the winter, poor ventilation
may result in excessive moisture buildup from the dog's breathing. This
moisture will condense on the interior surfaces creating a clammy
environment and inviting bugs and mildew to take up residence. So,
proper ventilation is essential.
The doorway opening obviously provides a certain degree of
ventilation but if a door flap is used, the ventilation will be
restricted. This is more of an issue during the winter when door flaps
are used to keep the house warmer.
Just a few small quarter-sized holes near the top of a house will
often suffice for venting. Remember, hot air rises. Some houses have
slatted ventilation openings, often in the style of windows. These can
work quite well at improving air flow while keeping out rain and snow.
However, if the opening is too large, this can result in excessive heat
loss during the winter. Be prepared to partially cover up the openings
with something like vinyl door flap material.
To heat or not to heat. That is a question that dog house buyers
sometimes grapple with. There are really two questions to answer: 1)
Does your dog require additional heat to keep warm? 2) If so, what is
the best way to heat the house? This topic is worthy of a separate
Heating a Dog House
In a nutshell, heating a dog house makes sense if you live in a cold
environment, your dog is a warm-weather breed (i.e., short hair), your
dog is used to be being indoors, or your dog is old and/or sickly.
Heating options include a standalone heater/AC unit, metal light bulb
heaters, and heated kennel mats.