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Building a Doghouse

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All Dogs Should Live Inside, But . . .

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) believes that all dogs should live indoors with their families. A dog requires more than just food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. As important as these basics is companionship. Being social animals, dogs not only prefer to be around people and other animals, they actually require this interaction to be healthy and well adjusted.

Despite these strong beliefs, The HSUS realizes that until all people are educated to become responsible pet owners, many dogs will be forced to live outside much of the time. For those who do not allow their dogs inside or insist on keeping them out some of the time, the doghouse plans provided here will help keep dogs comfortable while they are outside.

Please note: Dogs should never be tied to their houses. Tied-out dogs may become entangled and not be able to reach their shelter, food, or water. If a dog must be kept outside, he or she should be kept within a fence or other safe enclosure and not tied up.

We encourage everyone -- animal control officers, humane society workers, and private citizens-- to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of dogs who are forced to live outside and apart from their families. We provide these doghouse plans for those cases where all else fails.

A Well-Designed Space

Experts describe the type of shelter that dogs should have if it is necessary to keep them outside.

  • The doghouse should be well insulated, with the floor several inches above the ground, preferably on concrete blocks.
  • The roof should be slanted, so rain or snow won't collect.
  • The house should be wide enough for the dog to turn around in and long enough for him to stretch out without any part of his body touching the sides.
  • The shelter must not be too large, however, because it's the dog's own body warmth that heats the place. In too large a doghouse, or even in a garage or shed, the dog will be unable to keep warm.
  • The house should face away from the prevailing winds, and be placed so the sun can reach it a good part of the day during winter. In summer, it should be in the shade and well ventilated.
  • In winter, a piece of heavy carpet or burlap, fastened at the top of the doorway, should cover the entrance to keep out drafts, but this can be removed in the summer.
  • The house should have a hinged roof for easy cleaning and for spraying regularly with flea and tick spray to keep those insects from seeking shelter there themselves. You can tell by watching your dog whether such spraying is necessary; fleas sometimes do "winter over."

There are some good doghouses for sale, but you can build one yourself, if you prefer. The simple plans shown here make an excellent doghouse containing a partition to make a warm sleeping room, as well as a perch to provide a dry place for the dog to lie outside.

Keeping an Outdoor Dog Healthy

Bedding for the doghouse is important. A covering over the cold floor helps to keep the dog warm and comfortable. Straw or cedar chips are most suitable and usually can be obtained from your local feed store. Shredded newspaper may be used, but be aware that the newsprint can rub off and discolor the dog's fur. Also, some dogs are allergic to newsprint. Here is an important caution: Hay is not suitable because it gets moldy and can contain a fungus (Aspergillus) that causes a very serious condition in the dog's nasal passages, leading to severe nosebleeds.

Outdoor dogs should never be moved back and forth between heated indoor quarters and the cold outdoors. Such extreme temperature changes can cause severe and often fatal respiratory illness. However, a cool basement or similar shelter indoors on bitter cold nights would be welcome, and certainly dogs deserve that consideration. Outdoor dogs burn extra energy to maintain their body heat in cold weather. Studies have shown that the dog's normal amount of food should be increased by 25 percent in moderate winter weather, and much more than that in very cold weather.

All companion animals require fresh water daily, so if the water is frozen outdoors, drinkable water must be provided at least twice a day.

Copyright © 2004 The Humane Society of the United States All rights reserved.