Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In The Dog House

Thinking of building or buying a dog house?

Here are some guidelines for dog houses:


Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to a dog house, especially in colder climates. During the colder months, your dog generates the heat that keeps him warm. If the doghouse is too big, your dog may not be able to generate enough heat to warm it.

The house should be wide enough to allow the dog to turn around in and long enough for him to stretch out without his body touching any side. You should measure your dog when he is lounging in his most relaxed position. The width of the door should be large enough so he does not have to scrunch his shoulders to get in – so measure his width as well.

The Roof and the Floor

The floor should always be several inches above the ground, preferably on concrete blocks (if possible). This is to prevent water from running inside, which can lead to illness.

Straw can be used for bedding, but be sure to change it periodically to keep the environment clean. Do not use hay, which can get moldy and cause illness.

The roof should be slanted so snow and rain will not build up. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) suggests building a hinged roof to make cleaning easier and to spray regularly for fleas and ticks.

The Materials

You may be tempted to use pressure-treated wood, which stands up great against moisture and rot. However, it is very poisonous (containing, among other things, arsenic and heavy metals). It should not be used for any part of the dog house that comes in contact with your dog. This means the floor, ceiling and sides should be made from untreated wood.

Pressure-treated wood could be used for the base frame (which is then covered with untreated wood). Even so, inspect the house regularly to make sure he cannot get to the pressure-treated wood.

The Placement

The house should be placed to protect it and your dog from the prevailing wind, rain and snow. It should be placed so the sun can reach it during a good part of the day during winter. In the summer, the dog house should be in the shade and well ventilated.

If your dog will spend a lot of time in his house, you should consider running an air conditioning duct into it. A professional should help you do this. A duct should have a control on it to limit the amount of air running into the dog house – you do not want him to be too cold.

The threshold to the door should be upraised to block drafts. In colder months, a heavy tarp or blanket can be used to keep out the bad weather. It should be removed for warmer temperatures.

A Word About Breeds and Dog houses

Some dogs are just not built for the outdoors. A toy or shorthaired dog, for instance, should consider his house more of a playroom than a residence. Working dogs are usually better prepared for harsher climates and can live outdoors in cold weather. Akitas, malamutes and St. Bernards are a few examples. But you also have to consider the warmer months – these breeds have denser coats. They can overheat if the dog house is not well ventilated and/or cooled by air conditioning.

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