Our current home came with a fenced yard and dog kennel with an additional enclosed dog run. Problem was, the “fenced yard” had huge gaps in the fence, the dog run was ready to fall down and the kennel was a poorly designed, rotting box tacked inside a equally decrepit storage shed. This was clearly not going to work for our large dog, especially since the dog kennel was made for a dog the size of a small chihuahua, a breed already on the tiny side. We had a much larger dog of an indeterminate breed.
We considered these options: hire someone to build a new dog kennel for us, buy one pre-made or build it ourself. We chose to build it ourself. While I’ll provide directions, you should always adapt any dog kennel instructions to the needs of your specific dog. In our case, we used an existing dog run, added a new storage shed and built a dog kennel with an entrance in and out of the shed. This was a good combination of exercise area and protection for our dog. For the purposes of this article, the term “dog kennel” will describe a dog house which was adapted to fit in a storage shed and includes a dog run. You can adapt our directions to your needs.
Here are some general questions to ask before building a dog kennel:
1. What are the characteristics of your dog? Whether you have a Heinz 57 (mixed breed dog) or a dog registered with the American Kennel Club as a specific breed, your dog will have specific traits. Some dogs, like Siberian Huskies, can stand cold weather and other dogs are really meant to be protected from extremes of heat or cold. Clearly, you’ll want to adapt your dog kennel to the size, shape and adaptability of your dog.
2. What is the weather like? If you live in a moderate climate, you can build a basic dog kennel. We have winter here so we didn’t expect our dog to stay outside year round. The local news stations actually inform viewers when weather will be dangerous for pets and we heeded those warnings. We also made sure there was plenty of padding and insulation for chilly weather.
3. Is your dog primarily an inside or outside dog? Many owners have invisible fences or expect their dogs to remain outside a good part of the day. Others let their dogs go outside for only part of the day. Adapt your dog kennel for the expected use. Our dog kennel was meant only for temporary use, not as a place for our dog to spend most nights. It was meant primarily for safety and security when our dog needed to be outside but not right by our side.
How to Build a Dog Kennel – Materials:
While many people simply start with scrap wood and build a kennel or dog house, we wanted to be sure we had nontoxic materials made without carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals or ingredients) , if possible. The materials we bought were exterior grade plywood and exterior grade chipboard as well as making sure we used salvaged wood that was termite-free. We were able to salvage some of the wood from the old storage shed and had it inspected by a professional dog breeder, a friend. We did this to make sure it was safe for dogs. We also had these items on hand: woodscrews, nails, a regular and electric saw, hooks and paint.
Important tip: Be sure to read the section on measuring your dog, below, to buy the appropriate amount of wood.
For flooring, we bought material from this source www.yourfencestore.com/dogs/instantkf.htm at Your Fence Store online. While not inexpensive, you can order flooring material to size and the flooring can be used in a dog run as well. It provides extra padding and warmth. Of course, you can always add your own nontoxic blankets and fabric but this is less sanitary and will need to be washed frequently.
As a basic guideline, you’ll need wood for these areas: exterior and interior walls, roof and floor. You may also want to build a door. If you are putting your kennel in the garage, you may be able to use part of a garage floor but you’ll still want to have something on the floor for temperature control, perhaps padding or some other material.
How to Determine the Size of Dog Kennel or House Walls
Our goal was to build a dog kennel large enough for our dog to be able to move but also small enough to keep him warm or cool. We did go ahead and put it inside a new storage shed so that he had the option of extra room and could come out and eat, play with toys, etc. The kennel itself, however, was small enough so that our dog’s body heat could keep him comfortable and he had a place to sleep. Again, we hired someone to patch the fence on the dog run to make a dog kennel with attached house.
For height, we measured our dog as he was standing and sitting and then added an extra 6 inches to the largest measurement to get the height of the dog kennel or house. We also measured our dog’s length and width and added extra inches to those so the sides of the dog kennel would be adequate. We now had working measurements for the sides of our dog kennel. Since we aren’t expert DIYers, we decided to go with a basic flat roof.
Important tips: If you are planning to have your dog outside much of the time, you need to focus on heat retention. The kennel should not be too large! To get an idea of how to measure and size a kennel, look at this site for tips: www.cedarwoodfurniture.com/sizechart.html Please note that this information is only for deciding how large to build your dog house. It does not tell you how to build it (although you can order kits from that site).
How To Make the Kennel
Once you have determined the proper length, width and height for your dog kennel, cut out the floor, sides, and roof from the wood you have. We used nails to hold together the sides and top of our dog house and we also cut a hole for a doorway. We simply adapted a simple awning or outdoor curtain for the doorway, making sure we could tie it back, if desired. Our dog could easily push this aside to get out but it provided some insulation as well.
Because we were using the dog kennel inside a larger shed, we did not make a door that would lock our dog into the kennel itself. The shed doors contained our dog within the shed itself, if desired. Our dog could then opt to go in the kennel. We did make the roof detachable by using hooks that could be opened from the outside of the house, allowing us to remove the roof if we wanted. Our hardware specialist explained how to do this but it is easy to figure out, a basic hook and eye arrangement.
Important tip: Make sure all nails and screws are countersunk or do not leave rough edges or ends sticking out. You do not want your dog to get hurt by a nail or screw head that sticks out! Also, be sure you end up with an item that can be easily opened and cleaned. You’ll appreciate that part when it comes time to do the daily or weekly maintenance needed.
Painting or staining the Dog Kennel
You’ll want to protect your finished product so be sure you use a strong exterior grade paint or stain that is pet and child friendly. Remember, your dog may chew on the kennel so be sure to use products that are nontoxic. Leave plenty of time for the paint to dry and cure before putting your pet in the kennel.
Keeping the Dog Kennel Clean and Sanitary
Cleanliness is just as important as building a dog kennel. As you build it, think ahead to this part. If you decide not to buy the flooring we used (link above) I’d suggest cedar shavings as an alternative. They can be changed regularly. Cloth and other materials can harbor fleas and spread disease. Cedar shavings are far better. Use a strong but nontoxic disinfectant every few days and be sure to rinse all dishes in soap and hot water. Any droppings should be removed immediately and we’d always go over the interior of the dog kennel with a stiff brush and good cleanser. We weren’t about to take chances when it came to our pet’s health!
Important tip: make sure the dog kennel is thoroughly clean and dry before putting your dog inside.
With a little common sense and some basic information, anyone can build a safe and sturdy dog kennel or house and add it to an existing shed. For sources of dog runs to make a kennel with dog run, check your local hardware store or do a search or enclosed dog runs. Often you can get one from Freecycle or Craig’s List if you are willing to come out and tear apart the old run. This can be a savings!