Step 1: Plan the size
For sound guidance and tips for building first-class outdoor dog kennels, we contacted Lisa Peterson, director of communications for the American Kennel Club. She gave us design advice and also mentioned some of the most common mistakes.
We were hoping to get a sizing formula. But it turns out there’s no such thing. Kennel sizing is based on how much time your dog will be spending in the kennel and how much room you have to spare. If your dog is going to be outside all day, he needs a larger kennel so he can run and exercise. If you make it too small, he’ll take every opportunity to “get even” with you and your neighbors with nonstop barking and other bad behaviors. So larger is better.
Figure A: Outdoor Dog Kennels
Outfit your outdoor kennel with the proper flooring and drainage, a shady area and a windbreak. Pick up all the materials at your local home center.
Step 2: Choose fencing materials
For walls and doors, chain link fencing is your best bet (4 ft. tall minimum, and taller if you have a larger dog). It’s affordable and easy to assemble, and you can buy premade wall and door sections at any home center. Buy a spring-loaded “snap clip” to secure the swing-down latch (some dogs can figure out how to open those latches and escape).
If your dog is a digger, you’ll have to embed a “direct burial” treated 2×12 below the fence. Or bury the fence itself about 1 ft. into the soil (see Figure A). Those methods aren’t foolproof, but they’ll usually prevent a “great escape.” Screen off any sides that face streets or sidewalks by sliding privacy slats through the fencing. That’ll cut down on barking and overall stress.
Step 3: Choose the flooring
When it comes to flooring material, concrete may seem like the best choice because you can slope it for drainage and it’s easy to clean. But it’s actually a mistake. The hard floor will, over time, cause calluses, worn pads, splayed toes and painful joints. Instead, Lisa recommends either large pea gravel (some dogs eat smaller gravel) or large flat stones (flagstone). The irregular shapes actually help your dog develop stronger paws. But before you throw down gravel or set the stones, take the time to install a sand base for drainage at least 6 in. deep if you’re building on clay. Then lay down landscaping fabric to prevent weed growth. You’ll probably scoop out gravel along with the poop, so it’ll need replenishing every year. If you have enough space, the ultimate dog oasis is a grassy area within the kennel.
Several companies offer composite flooring materials for dog kennels. It definitely looks better than gravel and is easy to clean. But if your dog likes to chew things, it’s not a good choice—unless, of course, your vet does free surgery. Plan on a surfaced path to the kennel. If you just have grass, you’ll soon have a muddy path. All that mud will get tracked into the house.
Step 4: Plan for a doghouse or shading
Finally, dogs need protection from the elements. A doghouse isn’t mandatory, but if you don’t provide one, you should at least install a small roof and a windbreak. Dogs can withstand cold, but not cold and wind or rain. An elevated cot will get them off a freezing cold or searing hot floor. Even if you include a doghouse, provide other shaded areas in the kennel (landscape fabric stretched across the top works well).
When placing a doghouse, avoid the common DIY mistake of setting it in a corner (the roof is a perfect launching pad for a jump-over). Instead, locate it outside the kennel with an entrance hole cut through the fence. Or place it in the center of the kennel. If you’re stuck with a corner location, make the fence higher in that area to prevent jump-outs.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Adjustable wrench
- Circular saw
- Lineman's pliers
- Posthole digger
- Tape measure
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- Chain link fencing and gate
- Landscape fabric
- Pea gravel
- Privacy slats
- Sunscreen and/or dog house
- Treated 2x12s