Regular readers know that I am very much of the belief that the best doghouse is something along the lines of a three-bedroom home with a couple of bathrooms and maybe a rec room in the basement – in other words, the best doghouse is your house, which you share with your dogs. In Can Dogs Live Outdoors Full Time I came firmly down on the “no” side.
Sometimes, though, your dog might have to be outdoors for a while. Perhaps you’re having renovations done, or something else is going on that makes it impractical for your best buddy to be indoors all day. When that happens, the best alternative is for your dog to have access to a fenced-in yard, and some type of shelter (in other words, a doghouse).
Last summer, I decided it was time to give the house a bit of a facelift. I’m not the handiest person in the whole world, but I can wield a paintbrush and I didn’t want Janice and Leroy to have to be breathing paint fumes. So I figured doghouses would make a good temporary solution. Well, the ones that were on offer at local stores were just ridiculously expensive, and not really what I wanted for them anyway. I started looking around online, and I found plans for the nicest A-frame doghouses! They looked so easy, I figured any idiot could build them – and believe me, I’m not just any idiot!
You can make one of these dog houses in about half a day, and you really don’t need any special skills. You can get this done in just 13 easy steps.
As to tools, you’re going to need an electric drill with a countersink and a 1 3/8 inch spade bit, circular saw, framing square and straight edge, a hand stapler, utility knife with shingle blade, and a brush. That’s it.
For materials, you need a 2x2x6 foot board (fir or cedar is best), a 2x4x8 foot pressure treated board, a ¾ inch sheet of exterior grade plywood, some roofing shingles and nails or rolled roofing and adhesive, and some 3 inch and 1 ¼ inch wood screws.
You also need a set of plans, which you can get here.
Now you’re good to go.
Take a look at the plans, because they’re customized to fit dogs that weigh up to about 50 pounds. If your dog is bigger, you might need to explore other sites to find plans for bigger doghouses. You’ll still find the basic instructions useful, though, as you learn how to create a place for your dog to get out of the elements when he needs to be in the yard.
The main parts of the doghouse will be cut from the sheet of plywood. Try to choose a sheet that is free of splinters – after all, you don’t want your dog to get hurt. Also, don’t choose pressure treated plywood. I mentioned pressure treated board above, but that’s just for the floor of the doghouse – you don’t want to use pressure treated wood anywhere that your dog might chew, because the chemicals used to treat the wood can be toxic. Keep this in mind too when you’re ready to paint or stain the doghouse, and only use paints or stains that are non-toxic.
Take the 2x4x8 and cut it into four pieces – two that are 22.5 inches long, and two that are 23 inches long.
Now, cut the 2x2x6, and cut it into eight pieces – four that are 15 inches long, and four that are 13 inches long. These will form the framing for the roof of your doghouse.
Once you have downloaded and printed off your pattern, you need to transfer it to the plywood. Use your framing square and straight edge to duplicate the plan diagram on the plywood. Make sure to leave a bit of space between elements so that when you cut the dimensions are not affected – if you don’t, you’re going to end up with a pretty funny-looking, lopsided doghouse.
For the doorway, make it about 13 inches high and 10 inches wide, and also leave a 3-inch lip at the base of the doorway. Ideally, the doorway should be about 75% of the height of your dog – it doesn’t need to be overly tall, as your dog’s natural tendency will be to crouch to enter the house. After all, it’s supposed to be a cozy little den, right? A smaller door will also help to keep the doghouse warm in winter and cool in summer. If you like the idea of an arched doorway, use a round object like a Frisbee or dinner plate to help you draw the arch.
Use your circular saw to cut out all the parts. It doesn’t much matter whether you want to cut inside the lines, or outside, or attempt to cut directly on the lines. What does matter, though, is that you do it the same way for each piece. If you don’t, the parts will not fit together properly.
To cut the roof panels, cut the long edges with the blade set at 45 degrees. This ensures that the roof will fit tightly at the peak. Also, when you’re cutting, watch the blade, not the cutting guide, to ensure accuracy. Once you’re done cutting the width, one roof panel will be wider than the other. This is fine. Now, before cutting the width, readjust the saw to the 90 degree position.
Although I haven’t included it in the tools you’ll need, to cut the doorway you may find it more effective to use a jigsaw. This is a smaller saw with a vertically-installed blade that allows you to cut shapes more easily.
You don’t want your dog to be overly warm in the summer, so you need to ventilate the doghouse. To do this, use your spade bit to drill a few evenly-spaced holes in the rear wall close to the roof peak.
Take a look at the pieces you have cut out, and if there are any splinters or rough spots, sand them off.
Refer to the plans you have downloaded to assemble the base. The purpose of the base is to elevate the floor and keep it dry. It also helps with insulation because of the air space beneath the floor. Because you are cutting pressure treated lumber, you should wear a mask so as not to inhale toxins.
The 23-inch pieces of the base will be placed inside the 22.5-inch back and front pieces. Use a countersink drill bit to create holes for the wood screws, and place two 3-inch screws in each end.
Now, put the bottom panel on the base and ensure that the base is square and the edges flush. Fasten the base and bottom together using the 1 ¼ inch wood screws. Make sure that the heads of the screws are a bit below the surface – you don’t want your dog hurting himself on protruding screw heads.
Take the framing members that you cut from the 2x2x6 lumber, and fasten a 15 inch corner member to the edges of each of the side panels. Make sure that they’re flush with the edge and even with the top. You should have a gap of one inch between the bottom sides and corners. Now, use three of the 1 ¼ inch wood screws to secure the framing. Place the side panels on the base, and secure them with screws every four or five inches.
Once the sides are attached to the base, turn the doghouse on its end in order to secure the back panel to the frame, using the 1 ¼ inch wood screws every four inches. The side panels should be flush with both the back and front of the base.Now, flip the doghouse the other way and repeat the procedure for the front panel.
The 13 inch framing members that you cut need to be positioned flush with the edges of the roofline. What you have now is essentially a box, and you’re making a lid. So, put each framing member halfway between the bottom and top of your angled roofline, and secure it using the 1 ¼ inch wood screws. Check to be sure that the peak is tight and the overhangs at the front and back are even.
If you’re going with rolled roofing, just unroll it and start attaching it using adhesive. You can nail it as well, but that’s not essential. Staples are recommended, though. If you’re using shingles, you should use an underlay of tar paper – it works to ensure that the inside of the doghouse stays dry.
At this point, if you’re shingling, you’ll need to add roofing nails to your list of supplies. Make sure that they’re not so long that they protrude into the interior roof of the doghouse, though – I probably don’t need to tell you the type of injuries that this could cause to your dog. Shingling starts off a bit counter-intuitive, with a “starter row” placed upside down and the tabs facing upward. Place the “starter” shingles all around the roof edges and massage them into place so that they lay flat. Then work upward from the outer edges with shingles placed right-side up. For this particular design, you’ll need three rows of shingles for each side.
Once you’re done shingling, trim off any excess using your utility knife, and cap the ridge. You’ll do this by cutting shingles width-wise between the tabs and along the splits, and folding each tab so that it fits over the peak. Then nail it down.
This is always the most fun part of the project – decide whether you are going to paint or stain your doghouse. If you’re painting, you’ll want to use a good exterior grade latex, and they come in a huge array of colors, so you can choose whatever best fits the rest of your outdoor décor. Stain is no longer boring, either – you can choose traditional wood tones, or go with something like a sunny blue, country rose, green, or just about any other color you can imagine. The advantage to stain is that it won’t peel or chip the way paint eventually will.
For that matter, you could also go with a ranch wall or even vinyl siding for your doghouse. I know people who have even added shutters, window boxes and other ornamental enhancements to their doghouses. A doghouse can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
A word of caution, though – if you’re painting or staining, please let it dry for a day or two before you let your dog investigate his new “home away from home.” You don’t want him to get sick from the fumes.
Your dog will probably be very interested in his new home and will want to investigate it. If he seems a bit reluctant, put a few toys and treats inside. And of course reassure him that he’s not being banished to the yard – it’s just another place to go and hang out from time to time.
So, if you’ve downloaded the plans, got your materials and gotten to work, now you have a very attractive A-frame doghouse. Even if you’re not all that handy, this is a manageable project, and you can take that from a person whose birdhouse made in shop class got a failing grade and a comment from the teacher to the effect that no self-respecting bird would ever live in such a dump.