You want to build your dog his own house, but wonder just how elaborate it needs to be. Heat? Air conditioning? Cable hookup so he can watch reruns of "Rin Tin Tin"?
The first step to building a doghouse is to decide if he even needs one. If your dog spends his time primarily indoors, he's not going to want to move outdoors. Dogs are social animals, and they want to be near the members of the pack. The weather also plays a role – temperature extremes can put your dog at risk. If your dog is used to indoor living, it's best to keep him there.
That isn't to say all dogs must live indoors all the time. Many doghouses are simple structures for temporary stays (a few hours a day). Other dogs, such as guard dogs, may live in doghouses. These structures are usually much sturdier and more comfortable – many have fans and air conditioning built in.
Whether your dog spends only few hours outside or lives in his house, always check on him regularly. Inspect his doghouse to make sure he is not eating something dangerous, and that his area is clean and safe.
Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to a doghouse, 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 won't 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.
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 doghouse 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 can't get to it.
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 doghouse 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 doghouse – you don't 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 Doghouses
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 doghouse isn't well ventilated and/or cooled by air conditioning.