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Choosing the right dog house for your four-legged friend can be a challenge, especially if you're a first-time buyer. If your dog loves to spend time in the yard, an outdoor dog house will provide him shade in the summer and shelter from the elements in the winter.
If you're considering an indoor dog house, your requirements may differ slightly. An indoor house doesn’t provide shelter, but it offers a secure, attractive bed or “chill out” spot for your pup.
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If you'd like to learn more about dog houses and how to choose the right one, please read on.
When you’re ready to make a purchase, you’ll find some of the best dog houses on the market in our product matrix, above.
The market offers dog houses in numerous shapes, sizes, and styles. As mentioned above, these products fall into two general categories: outdoor dog houses and indoor dog houses. We consulted Professional Pet Trainer Nicole Ellis to learn more about dog houses and how they can benefit you and your best furry friend.
This is probably the most common type — and what most people think of when they hear the term “dog house.” Outdoor dog houses tend to be a little tougher than their indoor counterparts. After all, there’s more to consider; outdoor houses must be weatherproof and highly durable. The best ones have good drainage and insulation, too. Even though a house is made for outdoor use, Nicole says it still might need some maintenance over time to make it last. For example, wood houses may need to be re-waterproofed after a few years.
These are somewhat less common and are basically souped-up dog beds. Some owners prefer an indoor dog house to a crate because the former is more attractive. (The Merry Wood Room With a View, for example, is undeniably adorable.) Some choose an indoor house because they want something den-like and snug (like a crate), but they don’t want to shut their dog in.
For obvious reasons, indoor dog houses don’t need to be as tough or durable as their outdoor counterparts. Nicole says, "An indoor house doesn’t provide shelter, but it offers a secure, attractive bed or 'chill out' spot for your pup."
The market also offers a handful of metal outdoor dog houses, but we wouldn't recommend these, as they get too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter — even with insulation.
Nicole has been training animals for over 15 years, from bears and tigers to household dogs. A member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, she has been certified by the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen evaluator and she focuses on positive reinforcement methods so that training is always fun. Every year, Nicole attends SuperZoo, the largest pet product showcase, to research new pet products from cat litter to electric dog toys and she loves sharing what she finds with other pet parents.
This is an important question to ask yourself before you go any further.
For outside dog houses especially, it’s important to check them and make sure the materials are withstanding the elements. A broken piece of plastic or splintered wood could be dangerous to your pet.
A dog house can be a fairly large purchase, so you want to make sure you buy one that’s perfect for your dog.
Keep these considerations in mind when making your choice:
Two common materials for dog houses are plastic and wood. Each offers its own pros and cons.
Some indoor dog houses are made of fabric. Fabric houses aren’t generally very durable, but they’re good for occasional use while traveling.
The size of dog house you need depends on the size of your dog. It needs to be big enough for your dog to lie out flat with his legs and head fully extended.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, though — especially if you want a house that helps your friend feel secure. Dogs generally take comfort in fairly tight spaces. Remember, this isn't where your dog is living; it's just a bed or a spot for him to lie down. It doesn't have to be huge.
It’s important to get a dog house big enough for your pup. If it’s too small or too large they may feel uncomfortable and never want to use it.
The market offers a great variety of dog house styles, and this is where your own personal taste comes into play. There’s no right or wrong here, so choose what appeals to you!
Some dog houses, like the Suncast DH250 recommended in the matrix above, are made to look like a little house in a classic, Snoopy-esque fashion. Others, like the Petmate Indigo Igloo, boast a more unusual or contemporary design.
Indoor dog house styles can be even more creative, as they don't have to be weatherproof. For instance, the Merry Wood Room With a View features a “house” portion below with steps that lead to a raised, open bed.
While you should pick a dog house that appeals to you aesthetically, it's important not to choose style over substance. Whatever you select, make sure it’s of good quality!
On an outdoor dog house, an offset door — preferably with a baffle pattern — can help keep snow out, and also cold winds from whistling in. A door flap also works just as well. Make sure your dog can still move around without any issues, though.
Beyond aesthetics, the type of roof on an indoor dog house is rather inconsequential. But an outdoor dog house needs a slanted roof so that rain will run off. Some outdoor houses have a classic pitched roof; others feature a roof that slants slightly from front to back. Both of these designs prevent water from pooling on the roof — a critical feature.
Check the dimensions of the doorway before buying, and measure your dog to make sure he'll fit through those dimensions. Taking this step before you order will help avoid the hassle of unnecessary returns.
If the roof of your dog house is peaked, a, insulated wallboard sheet can be a good idea for extra warmth, especially if keeping it outside. A shingled roof is an added advantage to protect the roof from weathering.
Of course, you want your dog house to be fully watertight. But if water does seep in, it should be able to get out. Many dog houses feature flooring that's slightly higher at the back than the front, allowing moisture to drain as needed.
The floor of an outdoor dog house should ideally be raised off the ground a bit. This prevents cold from transferring from the ground to your pet during winter months.
If using an indoor fabric dog house, Nicole recommends placing a pet heating pad inside its floor to create a warm cozy place to rest. "Both cats and dogs love a warm place to curl up on," she says.
Proper insulation helps keep the interior of the house warm when it’s cold outside, and it helps keep things cool during hot weather.
A fully insulated model like the Petmate Indigo Igloo Dog Kennel will help keep your dog comfortable all year round.
If the pet house is for outside use, look for one with a slightly slanted roof. This helps with any rain or snow to run off and prevent damage.
It's helpful to know the average cost of a dog house, to make sure you're paying the right amount.
Price generally depends on make, model, and size. A cheap indoor dog house for a small dog could be as little as $30, whereas a top-of-the-line outdoor dog house for a large breed could cost $400+.
In our experience, you don't need to go to the highest end of the market to get a quality product. You can get a dog house that's comfortable, durable, and high-quality for less than $150.
Placing a soft dog bed and familiar smelling blanket inside your new dog house will make it more comfortable and more welcoming.
A quality dog house should last you 5 to 10 years — and potentially longer if you look after it properly.
Plastic dog houses are good because they are low-maintenance, don't hold odors, and can be durable. That said, Nicole cautions that they can become brittle after long exposure to ice and heat. Also, plastic's temperature fluctuates a lot in high and low temperatures. "It may not be something your pet wants to go in on a hot day to escape the sun," Nicole says.
Wooden dog houses can last an extremely long time and protect well against the elements, but only if you look after them. Much like a garden fence or shed, you must occasionally treat the wood with a waterproof stain, varnish, or seal. Any product you use must be dog-friendly and non-toxic. Generally, if a product is child-safe, it should be dog-safe, too.
Q. Why should I buy my dog a dog house?
A. A dog house isn't essential for all pets. But for some furry friends, it’s ideal. If your pup likes to spend lots of time outdoors in all kinds of weather, an outdoor dog house provides shelter. If your dog is anxious or feels more secure in small spaces, an indoor dog house could be the perfect sleeping spot for him.
Q. Is this dog house for indoor or outdoor use?
A. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a particular house is designed for indoor or outdoor use. Of course, there's no rule against using an outdoor dog house indoors (although it might be overkill), but an indoor dog house won't be durable enough for outdoor use.
Outdoor dog houses tend to be waterproof, insulated, and raised off the ground. Most are made of wood or plastic. Indoor dog houses don't really need to be raised, waterproofed, or insulated. In addition to wood and plastic, you'll find some fabric indoor dog houses.
Q. Should a dog live outside in a dog house?
A. No, absolutely not. While some working dogs live outside in fully secure kennels with other canines, the right place for a family pet to live is in the home, with the rest of the family. Dogs love to be with the rest of their "pack" and will feel isolated and unhappy living outside. Not to mention, there are all sorts of dangers for a dog outside alone. Dog houses are designed as a shelter and a pleasant place for a dog to hang out while they're out in the yard, not as a full-time home or overnight sleeping place for a dog.
Q. What size dog house do I need?
A. This depends on the size of your dog. Most dog houses are marketed as small, medium, large, extra-large, and so on. Some manufacturers suggest which size is suitable for which breeds. However, to be absolutely sure your dog will fit, measure the height and length of your dog and compare his dimensions to those of the house.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.