History of the Dog House
Believe it or not but dog houses have been around in one form or
another for thousands of years.
Archaeological evidence shows that dogs were quite prevalent in
ancient Egypt (going back to 4500 BC or so) and were often held in high
esteem as pets and hunting partners. Some dogs were even considered to
be messengers of the gods. Egyptian nobility kept their hounds in
mud-brick kennels, where the dogs were trained and cared for by
professional dog trainers. These are some of the earliest known dog
houses in the historical record.
Dogs were also an accepted part of ancient Chinese, Greek and Roman
societies and were often viewed as status symbols. Small dogs were
popular as "companion dogs", spending much of their time living and
sleeping under the same roof as their owner. The master's home was their
home. Such was the life of the privileged pooch throughout the ages.
But, for every dog that lived the life of leisure, there have been
many more homeless ones, relegated to scrounging for an existence in the
streets on the edges of human society. For example, during the Middle
Ages, packs of feral hounds roamed many a hamlet, scavenging for a
living, sleeping wherever they could find cover, and basically
terrorizing the locals.
Hunting became a very popular sport among the nobility during the
Middle Ages and noblemen often maintained sizable dog kennels. Hunting
dogs were considered valuable pieces of property and their owners were
willing to spend large sums to properly feed and house them. Reportedly,
King Henry I of England had a kennel containing several hundred dogs.
(Unfortunately, I have thus far been unable to find any details on
exactly how these kennels were constructed.)
Not surprisingly, the "common" dogs owned by peasants had much less
elaborate sleeping quarters than the dogs of the elite. Few peasants
could afford to spare precious building materials for dog houses so
their dogs lived on or under porches, in barns, or even inside with
Dog breeding came into its own in the 1800's, especially among the
aristocratic members of society in America and industrialized Europe.
This was an era of elite kennels with private registries that only dealt
with canines sired in equally illustrious kennels. Pinkies extended
please... The classic pitched roof dog house was apparently in vogue by
this time. Evidence for this includes Victorian era mausoleums in the
shape of doghouses.
The pitched roof dog house was good enough for presidential dogs of
the 1800's. This photo, taken between 1889-93 by Library of Congress
photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, shows the dog house digs for
First Lady Caroline Harrison's pet collie Dash. (trivia: The Harrisons
also owned two opossums named Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection.)
In combination with a heightened interest in dog breeding, dog shows
became very popular in the 1800's, among both the nobility as well as
the middle class. It wasn't uncommon to see show dogs being shipped on
rail cars inside feces-filled wooden crates. These crates were
effectively their homes for a good chunk of their lives. Now, that's a
During World War II, The U.S. military used German Shepherds, Belgian
Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies, and several other breeds
as messengers, sentries, trackers, and mine sniffers. They were
vented wooden boxes, which also doubled as houses on the
battlefield. These animals were well cared for, and the ones that
survived, were returned to their civilian homes when their tour of duty
was over. In more recent wars, dogs have been transported in wood,
aluminum and steel dog boxes.
Historically, most dog houses have been hand-made from whatever
materials could be scraped together. This has changed over the last
century, especially since World War II, such that most dog houses today
are commercially mass produced in factories. Contributing factors here
include reduced costs and greater availability of plywood, framing
lumber, and roofing materials as well as the introduction of new
materials such as foam sheet insulation, pressure-treated lumber, and
weather resistant plastics and wood finishes. Advances in machinery and
manufacturing techniques have also played a role.
Of course, the underlying driver in the growth of the dog house
industry has been the huge increase in pet ownership. Results from the
APPMA 2005-2006 National
Pet Owners Survey showed pet ownership at its highest level ever, with
63 percent of all U.S. households owning a pet. About half of all
households own a cat, dog, or both.
Wood has been the preferred material for dog houses over the years
due to it's ready availability, low cost, ease of working, insulating
properties, and structural integrity. The demand for wood dog houses has
been accommodated over the last quarter century or so by the emergence
of a number of medium-to-large sized companies that specialize in wooden
houses. Some of the big names in the business today include Merry
Products, Ware Manufacturing and Blythe Woodworks. Some companies - such
as Merry Products - leave the actual construction to Chinese
manufacturing plants and focus solely on marketing, distribution and
customer service. Don't be too surprised to see this overseas
manufacturing trend increase in the future.
Plastic dog houses were introduced in the 1960's and have steadily
grown their market share since. In some cases, the companies producing
plastic dog houses got their start building wooden ones. Doskocil, the
leading U.S. manufacturer of both plastic portable kennels and
doghouses, started business in 1962 when Ben Doskocil landed a contract
to supply wooden travel kennels to Delta Airlines. By 1968, his company
was producing plastic kennels which soon became the industry standard
for pet transport.
Doskocil pioneered other advances including dog houses made from
structural foam plastic. In 1986, the company launched the Petmate brand
to better distinguish its pet products in the marketplace. About 10
years later, they merged with the California-based Dogloo, Inc., maker
of the popular igloo-shaped doghouse.
Lots of people like to build their own dog houses. I can't back this
up with solid evidence, but I have a strong hunch that the number of
hand-crafted dog houses has grown considerably since the early 1990's
thanks to the greater availability of dog house plans on the Internet in
combination with the growth of woodworking as a hobby. I look for this
trend to continue.
What does the future hold for dog houses? I predict there will be
more houses built from composite wood/plastic lumber, reduced use of
pressure treated lumber, greater use of laminated panels, perhaps with
integrated insulation layers, and maybe even some innovative new designs
that don't resemble today's dog houses. But don't expect the basic
wooden snoopy dog house to go away anytime soon...
Thurston, Mary Elizabeth.
The Lost History of the Canine Race. Our 15,000 Year Love Affair
with Dogs. Kansas City: Andrew and McMeel, 1996.
Walller, Anna M. World
War II and Korean War Dog History. Study on the history of War dog
training and utilization during and after World War II. Department of
the Army, Office of the Quartermaster General, 1958