How to Build a Doghouse

Give your pup a comfortable place to rest, sheltered from wind, rain, and sun.

Whether it's the company on long walks, high-energy activities like fetch or frisbee, or simply the constant companionship, you love having a dog—and probably consider your pet part of the family. Building a doghouse is a great way to show your affection for your pup, but these outdoor structures also provide shelter from the hot sun, pouring rain, blowing winds, and other elements your dog may encounter while outside.

Before you throw together a basic structure from some leftover construction materials around the home, take note: If a doghouse is not built properly, it can pose a serious safety risk to your pet. Make sure to purchase new, reliable construction material and follow these steps to learn how to build a doghouse that's safe for your dog.

DIY doghouse with plywood walls
Hassan Merheb / EyeEm / Getty Images

Plan Your Doghouse

Before attempting to build a doghouse, you must make a detailed plan with measurements for the framework, roof, walls, and overall size based on the size of your dog. If your dog is still growing, you will want to adjust the measurements to account for their eventual full size so that they can use the doghouse even once they're past their puppy years.

Typically, the length of a doghouse should measure about 6 inches to 1 foot longer than your dog, providing ample space for them to rest. Similarly, the height of the doghouse should be the same as the length, and the width of the doghouse should be about 6 inches less than the length.

For example, if your dog is about 2 feet in length, then the length of the doghouse should be 36 inches. The height of the doghouse should also be 36 inches, and the width of the doghouse should be 30 inches. Cut an opening for the dog that is at least 6 inches above the dog's height and 6 inches wider than the dog, so that there is enough of an opening for the dog to enter and exit without issue. For a dog that stands about 1½ feet tall and is about 1 foot wide, the opening should measure at least 24 inches tall by 18 inches wide.

If you are building a doghouse with a sloped gabled roof, you will need to take several additional measurements to determine the length of the 2x4s needed to construct the sloped A-frame. Determine half the width of the doghouse and the height from the top of the wall to the peak of the roof. For the doghouse in the example above, half the width would be 15 inches, while the height of the peak from the top of the wall would be about 6 inches, though you can increase or decrease the height to increase or decrease the angle of the sloped roof.

Use these measurements to find the length of the sloped sides of the A-frame with the Pythagorean theorem (a² + b² = c²). In the example given, the calculation would be 15² + 6² = 16.2. It's a good idea to add about 1 inch to the length so that the roof extends out over the side of the wall to create an overhang, so this can be rounded up to 17 inches.

You should also consider the structural integrity, ventilation, and insulation requirements for your doghouse. While some designs use 2x2s, you should rely on a sturdier 2x4 framework to help prevent the doghouse from collapsing in bad weather conditions. Other than the opening in the front of the doghouse, additional openings at the top of the walls and under the roof overhang can help improve ventilation. In colder climates, you can add insulation to the floor, walls, and roof to reduce heat loss and improve comfort in the winter.

Check with local regulations to find out if you need a building permit for the doghouse. Most cities and towns won't require a permit for a small doghouse on your property, but it's always better to verify whether you need a permit ahead of time. If you don't, you may have to pay a fine or tear down the doghouse because you constructed it without a permit.

While you're checking regulations, pay close attention to your region's laws regarding leaving dogs outside. While a dog house can be a comfortable spot for a pup to rest, it should not be your dog's permanent home: PETA says that dogs shouldn't be left outside in extreme heat (or other extreme weather), and the American Kennel Club points out that many municipalities have laws governing the conditions in which you're allowed to keep your dog outside—and when you're not. Treat your pet humanely and ensure that you're abiding by all regulations and guidelines if you're leaving your dog outside for an extended period of time.

How to Build a Doghouse

Sketch out a basic layout for the doghouse to accompany your written plan. This will help you visualize the dimensions better while you are building. Before you purchase materials, take some time to finalize your plans: Decide on yard placement and whether you will be installing a flat roof or a sloped gable roof.

What You'll Need

  • 2x4s
  • Plywood
  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Roofing nails
  • Shingles
  • Tar paper
  • Paintbrush
  • Primer
  • Paint

Step 1: Purchase the Necessary Wood, Screws, and Other Materials

With your plan ready to go, you should have a basic idea of the materials you need to purchase, which should include 2x4s, plywood, 3-inch screws, 1½-inch screws, roofing nails, and shingles. The number of 2x4s, sheets of plywood, screws, nails, and shingles required for the project depends on the size of the doghouse. Refer to the measurements in your plan to determine exactly what you need to build the doghouse. If in doubt, it's always better to have more than you need, rather than risk running out midway through the build.

Step 2: Measure, Cut, and Build the Base

Once you have determined the size of the doghouse, you can start working on the base. Measure and cut two long 2x4s equal to the planned length of the doghouse. Also measure and cut three shorter 2x4s, equal to the planned width of the doghouse. The long pieces will be used to construct the length of the base, while the short pieces will form the width of the base.

Position the 2x4s so that they are sitting flat on a 2-inch side, then line them up to create a rectangle by placing two short 2x4s opposite each other and the two long 2x4s opposite each other. Put the remaining shorter piece into the center to provide additional support in the middle of the floor.

Butt the length pieces up to the width pieces and use your drill to screw in two 3-inch screws at each of the four corners. Also drill through the center of each length piece into each end of the center width piece to secure the piece of wood with two 3-inch screws at either end.

Step 3: Install the Insulated Floor

The floor of the doghouse will be made of plywood. Measure and cut a piece of plywood to fit over the base frame. If you are insulating the doghouse, cut foam insulation board to fit between the floor joists and secure it to the plywood with weather-resistant outdoor adhesive. Position the plywood insulation-side down on the base and use 1½-inch screws to secure the plywood floor to the floor framing.

Step 4: Construct the Framework

The next step in the process is to measure, cut, and build the framework for the sides, back, and front of the doghouse. Measure and cut four 2x4s that can serve as the corner posts for the doghouse. Check the measurements on your plan and cut these four 2x4s to the height of the walls. You will also need to cut four more 2x4s pieces that match the dimensions of the base.

Position the corner posts vertically in each of the four corners and drill two 3-inch screws through each corner post to secure these posts to the base. Build the rectangular roof base with the remaining four 2x4s that match the floor base. Secure the top of each corner post to the roof base. If you are building a doghouse with a flat roof, it's cut a third short piece that can be installed in the center of the roof base, identical to the support beam in the floor base.

If you are building a sloped gable roof, then you need to measure and cut six additional pieces to make the A-frame walls at either end of the roof and center support that runs the length of the peak. Check your measurements based on the Pythagorean theorem formula above and cut two angled 2x4 pieces for each front and back of the doghouse. Position the two pieces at the front to create a triangular frame, with the roof base serving as the bottom of the triangle. Secure the pieces together at the center and fasten them to the roof base with 1½-inch screws. Repeat this process for the back of the doghouse.

Measure and cut two 2x4s to run the length of the roof peak. Attach the two pieces together by drilling 3-inch screws through the 4-inch side of one 2x4 and into the 2-inch side of the second 2x4 to make a triangular support beam. Position the support beam at the top between the two triangular frames to form a triangular center support beam for the roof. Secure the support beam to the triangular frame with two 3-inch screws at each end.

Step 5: Attach Plywood Walls and Roof

After building the frame, test the durability of the structure by shaking, shifting, and applying weight to the frame. If it holds up, you can begin to secure the plywood walls and roof. Measure and cut two rectangular plywood panels for the side of the doghouse and fasten them to the frame with 1½-inch screws. Next, measure, cut, and secure the back of the doghouse, paying careful attention to the angled measurements at the top of the structure for a doghouse with a gabled roof.

Repeat this process with the front of the doghouse, but make sure to cut the entrance into the plywood before securing it to the framework. The entrance opening should be big enough to give your dog plenty of room to enter or exit the doghouse.

Top off the doghouse by measuring and cutting the plywood panels for the roof. If you're building a doghouse with flat roof, the plywood panel should be slightly larger than the panel used for the floor, so that the edge of the roof extends beyond the sides of the doghouse. If you're building a doghouse with a sloped gable roof, you will need to measure and cut two rectangular panels. Make sure that the panels are large enough to extend over the sides of the structure to create an overhang. Secure the panels to the roof joists with 1½-inch screws.

Step 6: Add Shingles to Prevent Leaks (Optional)

Shingles are not necessary, but if you want to make your doghouse as durable as possible, adding a few roofing shingles to the plywood roof is a good idea. Apply tar paper as a waterproof base over the plywood roof, then use roofing nails to secure the shingles to the plywood. Pay careful attention to shingle alignment to ensure that the shingles overlap enough to prevent water from seeping in through gaps or cracks in the construction.

Step 7: Prime and Paint (Optional)

Just as with shingles, primer and paint isn't required for a doghouse, though adding primer and an attractive paint color both improves the overall look of the doghouse and creates a weatherproof layer over the wood that can significantly extend the life of the doghouse. Additional insulation can also be attached to the inside of the walls and roof with an outdoor, weather-resistant adhesive.

Safety Considerations

A doghouse is intended to provide comfort and shelter for your pet when they are outdoors, but if the structure is not built properly, it can become a safety hazard. To prevent this, invest in quality construction materials and carefully plan the exact measurements for the doghouse so you can feel confident that it won't blow over or collapse in high winds, pouring rain, or heavy snow. Remember also that your dog shouldn't be left outdoors during these periods of extreme weather.

Position the doghouse in a shaded space that is relatively sheltered from the sun, wind, and rain. This careful positioning helps to protect your dog from high summer temperatures, heavy rainfall, and blowing winds. Additionally, you can install insulation to reduce heat transfer through the floor, walls, and ceiling, keeping dogs warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Before you let your dog use the new doghouse, make sure to check the inside of the doghouse when you are done with the project to ensure that there aren't any screws or nails that are protruding into the open space.

By following these steps and working carefully, you can craft a durable, comfortable space for your dog to rest during their outdoor hours.

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