How to Select a Backyard Kennel

Good owner that you are, you had the yard fenced in after bringing home that beagle from the shelter. Every day, you let your beagle buddy out so he can exercise his exuberance in safety.

With the atomic energy inherent in a beagle, however, your backyard looks like a test site for missiles. Worse still, it's populated with landmines. What's an owner to do?

First thing, of course, clean your yard. Then perhaps look into building a backyard kennel. Kennels are simply chain-link fences designed to keep your dog restricted to an area of the yard. There are many types that range from a few hundred dollars (the Motel 6 version, for only temporary stays) to thousands (where the dog will primarily live).

Kennels can be assembled from a kit, which includes everything you need to put the panels of fence together. They can be very elaborate, complete with a concrete slab raised above the ground, a sturdy roof and a doghouse within the enclosure.

The size of a kennel depends on its purpose and, of course, the size of the dog. The average size is 8 feet by 16 feet. A larger dog may need a 16-foot by 16-foot enclosure. How the wire mesh is designed is just as important. You want to learn the relative sturdiness of the chain link (the gauge) and the distance between the mesh (mesh size). A light chain link will not be as sturdy and can be knocked down by a strong dog. If the mesh size is too wide, your dog could get his paw stuck in the fence.

Manufacturers rate kennels the following ways:

In selecting a kennel, keep in mind the height your dog is able to jump, as well as his size. A smaller dog may be fine in a 4-foot high kennel, unless he is exceptionally athletic. You also don't want him to get stuck on top of the fence while trying to leap over.

Some dogs, believe it or not, are surprisingly adept at climbing fences. You'll want to extend the mesh high enough to prevent this, or cover the top with a roof, which will also provide him with shade.

No matter which grade of kennel you choose, be sure to buy a dog-proof kennel latch. These latches take two motions to open (usually by lifting straight up and then flipping open). It should also be secure enough to prevent thieves (or neighborhood kids) from opening the gate.

For the Outdoor Dog

If your dog will be spending most or all of his time outdoors, spare no expense. Your kennel should be built upon a concrete slab that is above the ground. Should it rain, this prevents illness by keeping your dog away from wet ground.

The posts of the kennel should be set in the concrete to provide good support to the rails. The posts and the rails form the frame upon which the chain link mesh is fastened. Follow the directions of the manufacturer. If you are inexperienced at laying concrete, find someone who can do it properly. Otherwise, cracks may appear in the concrete and the drainage could be insufficient. Precise measurements are very important, otherwise your dog could be exposed to the elements.

Your dog should have a house within the kennel that can protect him from inclement weather. Depending on where you live, this could include a heating and/or air-conditioning duct running from the house. Even though the kennel has a roof and a doghouse, try to keep the kennel in the shade to make it even cooler in the summer months. This has an added advantage: if the dog house is air conditioned, you'll save on electric bills.

For the Indoor Dog

If your dog is only spending part of time in the kennel, a concrete slab is not necessary, although your dog may appreciate having something to lie on that's above the ground. He should also have a shaded area to retreat from the sun.

These kinds of kennels are easy to assemble – if you're handy with a wrench, it may take no longer than 20 minutes to put together a 10-foot by 10-foot by 6-foot high kennel. You can turn the kennel into a dog run simply by adding panels.

A kennel does not mean you can turn your back on your dog. A frisky dog can still tunnel underneath and escape or get caught underneath. You should also keep fresh water available at all times, and mind the weather. If it is too hot or cold, keep your dog inside.