As a valued member of the family, your dog deserves a safe, warm, and dry space to escape from the elements when outside. While your dog should always be kept indoors during severe heat and cold, building a dog house is a great way to give your four-legged best friend a shady place to relax in moderate weather. This project can be completed by one person, but it's also a fun job for families to design the dog house together and teach children some basic skills. You'll need common building materials and tools that are available at most hardware stores.
Here, learn how to build a dog house in just a day or two.
Before You Begin
Dogs come in various sizes, and their houses should, too. First, obtain a rough sense of your dog's height and length to determine the size of dog house you need. Height is measured from the floor to the top of the head while the dog is standing. Length is measured from the tips of your dog's front paws to the back (including the tail) when the dog is lying prone and straight, not curled up or on its side. Medium-size dogs like boxers and collies tend to measure 20 to 30 inches high and 25 to 35 inches long. Extra-large dogs like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands typically measure about 38 inches high and 40 inches long.
Equipment / Tools
- Circular saw
- Carpenter's pencil
- Carpenter's square or a Speed Square
- Straight edge
- Caulking gun
- Eye and hearing protection
- 7 1/2-inch exterior grade plywood sheets, each 4 feet by 4 feet
- 6 Two-by-fours, each 8 feet long
- 1 1/2-inch nails
- Roofing nails
- Roofing materials (either three-tab composite shingles or rolled roofing)
- Exterior latex paint
Mark the Front Panel
With its pitched roof, shingles, and symmetrical front and rear panels, this dog house emulates a classic Colonial-style home. Most home improvement centers sell plywood in convenient 4-foot by 4-foot sizes, perfect for even the largest dog house you might want to build.
Begin by marking and cutting the front and rear panels in the height and width of your choice (save the angled roof cuts for later). For a rectangular shape, where the dog house is taller than it is wide, cut off a 1-foot strip from two of the plywood panels so that a 3-foot by 4-foot section remains from each.
These panels will define the overall size and shape of the dog house. The two side panels, the floor panel, and the roof will correspond to the front and rear panel sizes that you first establish.
Cut the Door in the Front Panel
Situate one of the panels so that a short side is facing you. For the height measurement, most dogs will learn to duck their heads to get through the door.
If you make the door too low, the dog may be reluctant to enter. Yet if you make the door too high, you risk running out of board space to cut the roof's peak. 24 inches high is an average height for the door, but adjust this as needed. Next, draw two parallel vertical lines that define the door's width. 20 inches is the average door width. Cut the door out with the jigsaw.
Cut the Peak in the Front Panel
In the front panel, mark the triangular peak that will form the roof. Begin by making a mark mid-point (18 inches) at the top of the panel. This is the top of the peak. Rest the straight edge on the board, with one end on that midpoint mark and the other end 20 inches down the side of the board.
If you wish, you can move that second measurement higher—as far as another 8 inches—for a flatter roof. Do not move it downward at all, or you will run into the door opening. Repeat your mark on the other side to form an inverted V-shape. Cut with the circular saw.
Cut the Rear Panel
Use another sheet of plywood to create the rear panel. Lay the front panel on the top as a template, then draw all of the shapes except for the door. Remove the template and cut the rear panel with the circular saw.
Cut the Side Panels
Take two more new plywood sheets to create the two side panels. Cut each one at 20 inches to produce sheets that are 20 inches by 48 inches. The 48-inch side represents the length of the dog house. Based on your dog, cut the length where you wish. However, a standard length that works for most dogs is 40 inches.
Create Nailing Surfaces on the Front and Rear Panels
Because you cannot nail or screw into the side of the plywood, you need to create nailing surfaces that follow the perimeter of both the front and rear panels. Cut four two-by-fours at 20 inches long each. Place these flat on the sides of panels and nail them into place from the other side.
The roof peaks also need nailing surfaces. For this, cut four boards at 15 inches each, then nail them along the roofline on the same side as the other nailing surfaces.
Finally, the floor area will need nailing surfaces. Cut two 2-by-4s at 29 inches each, then nail them along the bottoms of the front and rear panels.
Create Nailing Surfaces on the Side Panels
The two side panels need nailing surfaces on the tops and bottoms. For a dog house that is 40 inches long, cut four two-by-fours each at 36 inches long. Nail two per side panel, each running horizontal along the top edges and the bottom edges. Be careful to center each board, as they will work in conjunction with the nailing surfaces that you earlier built on the front and rear panels.
Nail the Front, Rear, and Side Panels Together
Place the front and rear panels together with the two side panels to form a rectangle. Note that there is still no roof at this point. Hammer the nails to attach each panel together with the 1 1/2-inch nails.
Cut and Join the Floor
Set the dog house on top of another plywood sheet. Make sure that the dog house is squared up and the panels are level. Mark the footprint of the dog house on the sheet, then cut with the circular saw. Nail the product to the bottom of the dog house to form the floor.
Measure, Mark, and Cut the Roof Panels
Lay one plywood sheet on top of the dog house along one side of the roofline. Try different configurations to find an overhang that seems suitable, then mark the board to that size and cut with the circular saw. Duplicate the measurements on a second plywood board. Nail the boards to the top of the dog house on the two-by-four nailing surfaces.
Caulk the Dog House
While reasonably efficient at protecting your dog from the elements, the dog house will have some narrow gaps. Fill those gaps with caulk. Be especially careful to caulk the roof's ridge line for a watertight seal.
Add Shingles to the Dog House
For a homey and classic look, nail three-tab composite shingles at the top of the dog house. To save on costs, use rolled roofing instead of composite shingles.
Paint the Dog House
Using the color of your choice, paint the plywood to finish the dog house. Because exterior-grade plywood is especially wet and porous, it is necessary to prime before painting. Allowing the dog house lumber to dry out for several days before finishing will make your painting job easier. Because the area is small enough, you only need to use paintbrushes. There is no need to use a roller or paint sprayer, unless you choose to do so.
How Often to Reseal a Dog House
With a coat of primer and exterior paint, your dog house should remain waterproof for several years. However, outdoor wood surfaces need to be resealed eventually due to deterioration from the weather. If you live in a region that experiences regular heavy rain, it's best to add another coat of exterior paint to your dog house at least once every three years. In dry regions, your dog house may not need to be sealed again for about five years.
Keep in mind that direct sun also wears down wood surfaces over time, so the location of the dog house in your yard may have an impact. For dog houses that are exposed to full sun every day, it's best to add new coats of paint about every two years.