Pet Talk: Building the Ideal Dog House

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For many centuries dogs have been referred to as “man’s best friend”. Many of us consider our dogs a part of the family and would do anything to protect them. Whether your dog stays primarily outside or takes regular naps on your bed, a dog house is essential for your pet’s protection outdoors.

Providing a safe outdoor place for your dog is important, especially if they live outside or are going to spend long periods of time outdoors. Portability, durability, and size are all factors to consider when purchasing or building an outdoor shelter for Fido. An effective dog house will protect your dog from extreme temperatures, wind, rain, snow, and even potential predators.

Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains why a dog house is essential for Texas dog owners. “Dogs dissipate heat by convection (fan or wind blowing), radiation (through their skin), conduction (laying on something cool) and evaporation (panting). On a summer day in central Texas when the temperature is 100 plus degrees, 60 percent humidity and 5 mph wind, the dog can only dissipate heat effectively by evaporation. The dog needs a shelter to help him stay cool,” she said.

So how might an owner choose the most ideal dog house for their pet? The easiest way is to know your dog. For instance, breeds with thicker coats and shorter snouts are more susceptible to heat exhaustion. A dog house that will provide enough shade and air flow will work best for these breeds. You should also consider the adult size of your dog’s breed and provide just enough room for your dog to make a complete turn on the inside. For owners who prefer a portable shelter for their pet, a plastic dog house is a great option that also features easy clean-up. Owners can also purchase portable tents and pop-up play pens for dogs that only spend limited time outside.

Choosing the material and location of the dog house is another important factor to consider. If your dog is more susceptible to heat exhaustion, a dog house that is made of wood rather than plastic or metal will keep your dog cooler in the summer heat. “Wood can be painted with enamel or epoxy paints to make it easier to clean and more durable,” said Griffin. “The roof can be made of wood too but covering it with metal or fiberglass shingles will make it more durable.” Owners should also move the dog house to the driest and shadiest part of the yard to avoid an uncomfortable living environment. Keeping your dog house shaded from the sun and bad weather will also preserve the materials. If you plan on building your own dog house, you should consider lifting the floor of the house off the ground to prevent the shelter from sitting in mud, rain or snow. This will also promote more air flow, keeping your dog cooler in the summer and drier in the winter. Lastly, a slanted and hinged roof is ideal for an easy clean-up. Choose metal or fiberglass shingles to protect your pet and preserve your dog’s house through any bad weather storm.

While many of us prefer to leave a safety light on in our house during the night, this is not necessary for our dogs. In fact, it is estimated that dogs can see in light that is five times dimmer than what the human eye can see. “Dogs’ eyes are made differently than people’s eyes.  The dog’s retina is made of more rods which need much less illumination to detect the gray spectrum,” explained Griffin. “The rods are also sensitive to motion, allowing dogs to detect smaller movements and quickly sense a stranger or predator.”  Griffin adds that she does not recommend providing a steady light for dogs at night. Instead, a motion sensor light placed away from the dog house may be a better option for owners who still desire some outdoor lighting at night.

Whether your dog is a bed hog or an outdoor explorer, providing a dog house for your dog is important. Remember to consider your dog’s needs when building or purchasing a dog house.

If your dog lives or spends long periods of time outside, shelter is essential for their health and protection outdoors.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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