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Dog House Fundamentals – Dog House Basics

Knowing the dog house basics is important before you sink money into a new dog house or design a build. I cover all the basic information you need to know before getting a dog house. This article covers design concepts and principles, dog house function and dog house sizing. Read on for more my friend…

What is a Dog House?

A doghouse or dog house is defined as a shelter or small shelter for a dog by most modern dictionary sources.[1]  It is often also considered to be a kennel. This is where we draw the line in definitions. Here’s how we think it should be defined:


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Doghouse – noun, aka dog house – dog·​house – \ ˈdȯg-ˌhau̇s \


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A place of shelter for a Canis lupus familiaris, as constructed by a human.

Kennel – noun – ken·​nel | \ ˈke-nᵊl \

A boarding facility for Canis lupus familiaris. Or,

A place of confinement for Canis lupus familiaris, as constructed by a human.

Here’s the main difference:  Dog houses have a free to enter/exit doorway.  Kennels do not. Kennels are often just a cage for a dog, typically constructed from metal.  Kennel also refers to a boarding facility for dogs. A dog house does not refer to a boarding facility, nor do dog houses generally have locked doors.  A dog house is a place of shelter.  

A kennel is a place of confinement.  It’s like calling a jail cell and living room the same thing, it isn’t.  Dog houses are also usually modeled as miniature houses, often built of wood, unlike a cage or kennel.

Slang Confusion

The definition gets blended due to the urban use of the slang term ‘being in the dog house’.  This refers to being in trouble with someone you care about. For example, I could leave my dirty dishes lying around for my wife to get mad at me.  If I were to intentionally do this, I would ‘be in the doghouse’ with my wife. The negative connotation of the slang term is synonymous with the act of locking a dog in a kennel when the dog is being disciplined.  And hence, kennel and dog house terms blended together.

Let us make the distinction, here and now, that a kennel is similar but not a dog house and vice versa.  Now that we’ve got our definitions straight, let’s move forward with more dog house basics.

Dog House Size, Shape, And Function

A wood dog house is shown in this photo.
Wooden Dog House

Dog House Size

Getting the right size dog house is important.  It’s indeed one of the dog house basics that you need to pay attention to. If your dog’s house is too small, the dog will spend most of its time outside of the dog house.  If the doghouse is too big, it won’t add the feeling of security for your dog. But what size do you need?  There are a few questions you need to ask about size.

  1. What Breed of Dog Or Dogs Do You Have?
  2. How Many Dogs Will Use The Dog House?
  3. What Climate Will The Dog House Be In?

Breed Of Dog

Every breed of dog grows to its own height.  Some breeds are small, some medium, and some are considered large breeds.  But like people, there is variation and each breed is unique. For this reason, I’ve gone to the effort of building a database for 440 recognized breeds dog house size requirements.  See these requirements via the link at the end of this article.

Dog House Shape

The shape of your dog house is flexible. The shape isn’t really one of the dog house basics we really need to be overly concerned with.  The typical dog house is shaped like a rectangle.  However, there is no reason why you can’t make your dog house shaped like a square, or L shape.  You can make it a dome, or any shape that you can imagine and potentially build. I do have some recommendations when it comes to width, depth, and basic square footage.  Again, at the end of this article is the chart where I have calculated the required size based upon breed. See the links at the end of this article.

The only main considerations for dog house shape should be as follows.  

  • The accessibility of the dog house for cleaning purposes.
  • The ability for airflow to control heating or cooling.
  • The ability of the dog or dogs to be able to comfortably turn around and lie down within the dog house floor plan.

Dog House Function

The purpose of the dog house should have some bearing upon the overall size.  This part of the dog house basics is important to keep in mind. The reason is that in a colder environment, I recommend using the minimum size recommendations.  In a hot or warmer environment, I would recommend expanding the size slightly to accommodate a greater interior air mass.  


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If the intent of the dog house is to keep the dog in for great lengths of time, then you want the dog house to be as functional and comfortable as possible for your dog.

Don’t Forget About HVAC

Getting back to air conditioning for a moment, whether it is heating or cooling, consider a dog house door to maintain the interior temperature.  Keep in mind, however, that if it is a hot environment and you have any kind of air conditioning, then you will definitely want to leave the dog house doorway clear to maintain airflow.

Dog House Design Principles

Design – Aesthetics

The aesthetic aspect of the design of your dog house is really 100% up to your imagination.  I’ve seen some really interesting designs based on architectural styles. There are also some very interesting designs based on themes.  I’ve always been a fan of western-style themed design. Log cabin or antique weathered wood design will always rank high in my book. But it’s totally up to you.  Consider some of the materials you will use and this can help you choose an overall design.

Dog House Design – Function

When we talk about dog house design relating to function, there are a few things that immediately come to mind.  

Floor Elevation

Keeping the floor of the dog house elevated, off the ground is good for stopping rotting, keeping the floor warmer and preventing morning condensation buildup.

Drinking/Feeding Station

If your dog will be outside for extended periods, incorporating a water dish and food dish are both good ideas.  You’ll want to keep these off the ground as well to prevent bugs from getting into the food and water.

Temperature Control

If you are going to automate the temperature control, you will want to consider this as a part of your design.  This is especially true when it comes to the door design. And that’s why it’s important to consider this as one of your dog house basics. If you are using an air conditioning unit to keep the dog house cool, having an open doorway won’t work as you will be cooling the outdoors.  You will also want to keep in mind insulation as well as having a door like a PVC strip curtain to help maintain indoor temperature. This sort of door will also allow the dog to enter and exit easily enough. 


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Incorporating a heater into your design can help get your dog through those colder times outside.  Make sure whatever type you choose is not going to overheat your dog or cause a fire. I’ve got some great heater ideas in my article on heaters you can find at the end of this article.


Adding a cooling system can be really great to help your dog feel comfortable.  This is especially true if you live in a hot climate or have a very hot summer season. Remember that your dog has a fur coat on.  They can overheat and die just as easily as a child locked in a hot car. A small doghouse in the hot sun can heat up like an oven if you don’t have it insulated and air-conditioned.

Dog Houses For Multiple Dogs

Three dogs walk down a set of stairs set in a forest in this photo.
Three dogs on a stair set in the forest on a hiking trail.

When you’re going to build a dog house for more than one dog, you have to take extra care when considering the size of the dog house.  If you make the dog house too small, the dominant dog will take over the dog house and the other dog will be forced to stay outside.  

Remember that dogs’ origins are those of pack hunters with their ancestors being wolves.  Whenever you have more than one dog, typically one will take more of a dominant role between the two.  The same is true if it is multiple dogs, being more than two that is. One will typically become the dominant dog in a group.

Dog House Layout And Floor Space

Considering the layout and floor space when multiple dogs are to be housed in a single structure is vital in the planning and design stage, being a part of the dog house basics principles.  If you have multiple dogs, I like to take the recommended floor space for each dog (breed dependent), add them together and multiply by 1.2. This gives a little extra room for the dogs to have some personal space.  These are minimum recommendations remember. Giving your dogs a bit more is not a bad thing for the comfort of your dogs until the size becomes excessive.


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