How To Build And Operate A Home Dog Kennel
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I’m going to show you how to build and operate a home dog kennel.
Many well meaning pet owners do not properly manage their dogs when left outside or alone. If I wanted to, I could drive around any city in the US, or outside the US, and find dogs left in dangerous and inhumane conditions. In addition, kennels are often used for the wrong reasons. A kennel will not solve ANY behavioral problems. Behavioral problems (escapes, anxiety, barking, aggression, peeing and pooping in the house, chewing, etc) require behavior modification, not a kennel. Using a kennel for behavioral problems will just make the problems worse, create even more behavioral problems, or even cause the dog’s health to deteriorate. A kennel is just a safe place for your dog while you are away. Period.
For temporary, supervised containment a fenced yard, or an electronic “hidden fence”, is adequate and sometimes necessary. I have recommended “hidden fence” systems, and/or fenced back yards, to many customers over the years to prevent escapes from the property. But for regular unsupervised confinement, you should build and use a dog kennel if your dog can’t be left in the home. It is dangerous, and often illegal, to tie your dog out in a yard (tethered or chained dogs feel trapped and cornered, so are more likely to attack; they can also become entangled and die a horrible death; and they can’t protect themselves from intruders and they “know” it). It is also dangerous to leave your dog in a yard unsupervised for hours and hours, even if it is fenced or has a “hidden fence” system. Unsupervised dogs need proper housing and shelter from the weather, comfort, security from escape or from animal abusers, protection from poisonous plants, access to food and water, and so on.
Dog kennels have to be well managed. Too many people are focused upon the physical facility and not on how to properly manage the feelings and behaviors of the dogs in the facilities. Improper use of a kennel can harm or even kill a dog. Overuse can cause behavioral and medical problems. If you are building a kennel, and not consulting with a professional behaviorist on how to manage your dogs in that kennel, and having that professional periodically coming by to evaluate how you are doing, then you are wasting your money, and possibly abusing your dogs. If you are having employees manage your kennel, then you need to hire a professional behaviorist to periodically audit their work and your dogs, including the installation of cameras so that you can instantly verify everything going on in your kennel. People tend to get lazy and abusive with dogs that are not their own, and impatient, poorly managed, poorly compensated, or tired people tend to use more force instead of kindness and proper behavioral techniques to manage dogs.
As pet professionals, it is our job to educate the public, and governmental officials, about the importance of building a proper kennel if a dog is to be left outside. In many communities, local regulations make it impossible to build a proper dog kennel. These laws need to be changed! It is inhumane for the law to prevent dog owners from building safe, comfortable and secure housing for household pets. Think on this: what is better, forcing pet owners to leave dogs unsupervised in back yards (to possibly eat something harmful in the yard, or to escape and attack some innocent animal or person), or to change the laws to allow people to build proper home kennels on their properties?
In addition, not all dogs can be left in the home unsupervised, so a proper dog kennel should be constructed to house the dog while the owner can’t be with the dog.
Over the years, besides managing my own dogs, I have visited numerous breeders, animal shelters, zoos, and pet owners and seen how they house their animals. Here is a checklist of some of the best ideas I have seen, or read about, concerning how to construct and manage a home kennel. If you have a kennel, or are considering building one, try to include as many of these ideas as your budget will allow. It could mean the difference between life and death for your pet.
I should mention that these dog kennel ideas are for healthy, well socialized, active, trained, mentally stimulated, well adjusted family pets that live in the home when you are home. Specific alterations to your lifestyle and kennel need to be made for dogs that don’t fit this profile. For example, these plans need to be modified if you are creating a breeding kennel. That is a much more complex operation and requires a lot more thought. This is also not appropriate for young puppies. Young puppies can be harmed by too much isolation and can be permanently harmed.
In addition, what is left out of this article is how to enrich the environment for your dog. All dogs require a certain amount of stimulation in order to be mentally and medically healthy. Dogs left in isolation develop unhealthy stereotypical behaviors which can physically and mentally destroy a dog. In some cases, you can end up with a dead dog. Stereotypical behaviors are repeating patterns of behavior that have no apparent function: excessive licking, sucking on flanks, destructive chewing, barking, digging, pacing, tail chasing, swallowing objects, rubbing on things, banging into walls, excessive marking, and so forth. Some conditions, such as separation anxiety, increased aggressiveness, escapes, dog fighting, crazy and unruly behaviors when not kenneled, over territoriality, and such can also be a result of an unhealthy psychological environment in your kennel. These are all DANGER signs… you are doing something harmful to your dog. You SHOULD NOT put any dog in a kennel without first hiring a professional behaviorist to assist you in coming up with a mental stimulation plan for your dogs. I have developed a Manners Lesson for kenneled dogs, and any good behaviorist should also have such a lesson available, too. It is NOT NORMAL for a dog to live in a box, so you must find creative ways to allow dogs to regularly engage in innate behaviors, while supervised and when alone.
1.) Pets should be viewed as family members. Dogs are NOT wild animals. They are domesticated animals, and thus, require human care to survive. Humane treatment includes hours of direct, personal daily socialization and activities with us, and proper confinement when we can’t supervise them.
It is important to ask if the housing you are providing is both functionally and aesthetically successful. Obviously, the kennel needs to be well made and well managed. In addition, you should consider the impression your kennel will have on your family, friends, neighbors, neighborhood, animal control officers, the police, the local prosecutor, and animal rights extremists. You don’t want to become a target. You don’t want your dog kennel to become a front page story or the subject of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution.
From a functional standpoint, I recommend and like crates for short term, indoor confinement, yet I don’t believe you should leave a dog in a crate, during the day, for longer than 3 to 4 hours, or no longer than they can hold their urine or poop. I think it is OK to leave a dog in a crate overnight, so long as someone is home to let the dog out if it has to potty. Some adult dogs, over 2 years old, can be left alone in the home PROVIDED that they are a.) housetrained, b.) not destructive or suffer from separation anxiety, and c.) not prone to escape. For dogs that must be left alone for more than 4 hours, or for periods that are longer than they can hold their potty indoors, or for periods longer than 8 hours, then you NEED to construct a proper kennel. Kennels can be constructed outdoors or in a garage. A good kennel doesn’t have to cost a fortune to build, but remember: it will cost you a fortune if your dog escapes and gets injured, or kills another animal or attacks someone. Think of a proper dog kennel as insurance against risks of leaving a dog unsupervised. I’d rather have a healthy dog in a safe environment than take my chances that something could go seriously wrong. Some people have a problem with using crates or kennels, thinking that it must somehow be cruel. But the bigger cruelty is to allow a disaster to happen while you are away because you didn’t properly confine your dog. To me, a crate or kennel is like a playpen for an infant. If you have an infant, and you are going to have to take a shower, then you will put the infant in a playpen. You would be negligent to just leave them on the floor unattended while you left the room for 20 minutes. To me, if you leave a dog alone unsupervised, then you need to have a “playpen” for them, too. For short term confinement, use a crate. For longer term confinement, over 4 hours during the day, then you need to use a kennel. IT ALSO ISN’T ANY FUN to come home and find your belongings all torn up, the food on your counter now all over the floor, and poop all over the house. It disgusts your guests to see that you have such a messy home, and it is a pain to have to clean up every time you come home. If your dog tears up your place and belongings when you are gone, you should build a kennel for your dogs.
There are a number of very vulnerable breeds that should only be kenneled if the kennel is of the highest quality and managed to a professional level. If you are looking to build a cheap kennel, then you probably shouldn’t be using a kennel at all. Go put your dog in daily doggie daycare. It will be cheaper, more humane, and safer over the long run. If you just don’t like that dog in your home, then maybe you are someone that shouldn’t have a dog. Accept that, and then do the right thing and find the dog a new home. You aren’t going to solve relationship problems with your spouse, significant other, kids or anyone else just by putting your dog in a kennel. You’ll just be trading one problem for another. Trust me on this.
2.) Pets must remain safe and healthy when confined. I highly recommend going to your local library and checking out a couple of books on Dog Kennels and Kennel Management. For long term confinement, you need to use a kennel. Read about the way professionals like veterinarians and professional kennel operators confine dogs for long periods of time. If it is good enough for a veterinarian, then it should be good enough for you and your dog. A proper kennel keeps the dog safe from itself and safe from harm by others. A proper kennel should be constructed to ensure that your dog is safe and healthy when left alone. Just putting your dog in a chain link pen isn’t the same thing as having a proper kennel. It is also ILLEGAL for you to neglect your dogs needs while you are away. You can be arrested for not providing for your dogs welfare when you are away! That’s because IT IS NOT SAFE TO LEAVE A DOG UNATTENDED IN A BACK YARD. I know of dogs that have been poisoned, dogs that have escaped, dogs that ate rocks and dirt and died, dogs that destroyed decks and siding, dogs that dug up and destroyed entire sprinkler systems, and dogs that have attacked people who entered the yard while the dog was alone and were killed. In addition, it is UNSAFE to leave your dog outside once temperatures drop below 45 degrees. For some short muzzled breeds, it is unsafe for them to be in direct sunlight when temperatures are above 70 degrees. Shade is a different situation. Depending upon humidity, most dogs will be OK in shade, even on a hot day, provided they have access to water. There are breeders all over the US in southern climates, housing dogs in kennels that are not air conditioned, and the dogs are fine. The breeders of all my dogs didn’t have air conditioned kennels, had the dogs housed outdoors in outdoor kennels, and they all lived in climates where the temperatures have gone over 100 degrees, and the dogs were fine. You have to know your dog and the situation. If the dog is relaxed and not panting or showing other signs of heat stress at a given temperature, then the temperature is probably OK. I have two rules. First, even if the dog is in shade, no dog should be left in temperatures over 95 degrees without direct human supervision. Second, if the average person isn’t comfortable sitting in the same heat, next to the dog, then the temperature is too warm. With direct sunlight, you have to know your dog and the situation. Working dogs, such as police dogs, search and rescue, herding dogs, and sport dogs often have to perform in hot weather. They aren’t left alone in the direct sunlight, unsupervised, however. Dogs can also suffer heat stroke by playing unsupervised in hot weather, and they won’t have the sense to stop, rest and cool down. Dogs that are left to play unsupervised, or even supervised, with other dogs on a hot day can work up so much internal heat that they can die in the midst of play, and it can happen so fast you won’t be able to save them from heatstroke and death. You have to know your dog and use some common sense. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Consider this. After the 9/11 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, search and rescue dogs were sent in to find trapped victims. The temperatures during early September run about 80 degrees. Add to that the ground was very hot, from the heat of the collapsed buildings. These dogs worked in the heat for days and days and didn’t die. After the Katrina hurricane, during September of 2005, search and rescue dogs were sent in to look for trapped victims. The temperatures were in the 90’s during that time. No dogs died, working in the direct sunlight and heat. Police dogs are deployed at all hours and in all climates. They mostly ride around in cars all day and night. The air conditioning is left running when the dogs are left unattended in the sunlight. But, don’t you think that that if the car is sitting in the shade, and the K9 dog is in the back, that the windows can be down and the dog is OK? And the police dogs are housed in kennels during off hours, frequently in conditions where there isn’t any air conditioning. Herding dogs, all over the world, work in hot climates, year round. Think of the herding dogs in Australia, for example, rounding up sheep and cattle all day in the direct sunlight. On the other hand, some breeds don’t do well in the heat at all. My Bouvier, Kate, was pretty hot on an 80 degree day, and you couldn’t work her in the direct sunlight. But, she was OK in the shade up to 100 degrees so long as she could comfortably lay down and had access to plenty of fresh water. And what about wild canines? The live in hot climates all over the world, including Africa, South America, Asia and the US. My veterinarian recommends that no dog should be in the heat when the air temperatures around the dog go past 105 degrees. I agree. On the other hand, you must not leave a dog locked in a car with the windows up, in direct sunlight. The windows have to be down, and the surrounding air shouldn’t be any more than 95 degrees for most dogs. You risk that your car might be stolen with the windows down. So, install an ignition cutout switch to prevent unauthorized start ups. Again, if you are comfortable in the same situation as your dog, then your dog is probably OK. Not all dogs, however, are adapted to being left outside in the cold or heat, and will die. Dogs are naturally denning animals, digging holes to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Since we don’t let dogs learn to dig 6 foot deep dens in our back yards, we need to provide them with a substitute den when left outside: a properly constructed kennel. Most breeds can’t be left outdoors in extreme cold, or heat, without getting sick or dying. You need to plan for hot and cold weather extremes. You need to maintain a temperature in the kennel that allows your dog to maintain its normal body temperature without needing to exercise to stay warm, or excessively drink water/ pant/ hide to cool off. Depending on the breed, when building your kennel, you will find that most dogs need to be in effective temperatures, factoring in wind chill and humidity, greater than 45 degrees F, but not more than 80 degrees F. Probably 75 degrees F is ideal, but you should check with your veterinarian for specific medical advice. In very hot climates, you need to have an indoor/ outdoor type of design, with an indoor room that is air conditioned or designed to be cool in the shade. You also need to plan in areas, such as in the southwest (Arizona, Southern California, etc.) where there is the potential for flash flooding, so your kennel doesn’t flood and your dog drown. IF YOU LIVE IN A PLACE WITH TEMPERATURE OR WEATHER EXTREMES: you should have your kennel plans reviewed and approved by an architect, construction engineer, and a heating/ air conditioning, and electrician. If your pets die as a result of your negligence in providing for their basic needs and welfare, you will be criminally liable. This is even true if you just leave your pets alone in your home. It is also a good idea to install a thermometer in each kennel to see the actual temperatures your dog will experience during the day and night. If you go to a regular pet store, you can find some stick on thermometers in the reptile supply section. Buy them and stick them on the outside of your kennel and on your crates (in places where the dogs can’t get to them). I have one on the outside of the crate in my vehicle. It has a function which records the highest and lowest temperatures during any period you program. This kind of device is useful to determine if your heating and cooling plans are working properly, even when you are gone. If you determine the temperature swings are too hot or cold for your dog, you can make adjustments to your kennel management. These types of thermometers are great because you can’t rely on the outside temperature to be the same as the temperature inside your vehicle, house or kennel. You need an on-the-spot thermometer to determine the actual temperatures where you house your dogs.
3.) It is inhumane to chain out a dog as a way of confining them when you are away. If you do a search on dog attacks, you will find that approximately 50% of them occur when a dog is left tied out and unsupervised in a yard, day after day. A tied out dog feels vulnerable (afraid / worried), and it heightens the dogs need to protect itself. A dog that is worried or afraid would normally remove itself to a safer place. A dog that is chained out can’t do that: they are cornered. So they are much more likely to attack someone that enters into the radius of the tie out chain or cable. You are setting up some child to be mauled to death, or for your dog to be attacked by some hostile neighbor or a strange dog, or even stolen. Plus, a dog that is tied out is NOT protected properly from the weather, parasites, and other outdoor hazards. It is usually ILLEGAL to leave your dog tied out in your yard unsupervised. Animal control can come in and seize your dog, and arrest you for abuse/ neglect. A responsible dog owner, one who loves their pet, won’t leave their dog tied out unsupervised in their yard, or anywhere else. The humane solution is to build and use a kennel.
4.) Dogs act differently when alone than when they are with you. Proper confinement makes all the difference. Risks include, escape, sickness, temperature related problems, pest infestation, injuries, poisoning, chewing, attacks by other animals, development of behavioral problems, etc. The major risks can only be minimized by proper confinement in a kennel or crate. You can’t assume that just because your dog does well when you are with them that they will be fine when left alone. Your main insurance against a tragedy is to place them in your kennel if you can’t supervise them. Social contact is REQUIRED for a dog. Your dog will experience considerable, and potentially life threatening stress, if you don’t balance out the dog kennel time with personal time. Your dog needs you as a companion. Your dog also needs to have a relaxed home environment. If your dog is out of control at home, and family members don’t like your dog and/ or are regularly yelling at or ignoring your dog, then your dog will have problems being kenneled. A lot of that can be solved by training your dog, so your dog is well behaved at home, and not a nuisance that nobody wants to be around. But a dog can’t train itself. You need to do it with them. The kennel should also NEVER be used as a punishment area. That will make the dog dread being in there and can cause a multitude of behavioral, and sometimes abnormal health, side effects. It is also important to avoid sudden lifestyle changes for dogs that are kenneled. Sudden lifestyle changes are very stressful for most dogs, and those stresses will make it harder for your dog when left alone. If a stranger or a dog walker is going to help you with your dog while you are gone, make sure the person likes your dog, and that your dog knows and has become friends with them before you have these people take over the care of your dog while you are gone. Finally, there are ways to make the dog less bored in the kennel: safe toys, different height perches so the dog can find different ways to look out, maybe a bird feeder off at a distance for the dog to see some activity, regular exercise and play each day, and lots of personal time with you when you are home. It is also extremely important that you keep your dog healthy. Make sure you are taking your dog to the veterinarian at the first sign of any injury or illness, and for regular checkups and vaccinations. If your dog is adapting well, and you are managing your kennel properly, your dogs should look settled in, relaxed and happy.
It is important to understand the effects of isolation on a dog. Dogs that are isolated too much develop abnormal behaviors. Isolated dogs can progressively become more and more territorial, and more and more defensively aggressive, and then attack when they are taken into the home or in public. Some of the most dangerous dogs I’ve met have spent too many months or years alone in the back yard. Dogs left alone can become more and more obsessive about guarding the premises, beyond what is considered normal or desirable. When multiple dogs are isolated for too long, the stress intensifies to the point, they can attack one another. If some innocent person enters the yard… maybe even you, a family member or a grandkid… they could be mauled. If there are multiple dogs that have been socially neglected this way, then someone can be killed. If any of the dogs has puppies, then the puppies won’t be properly socialized and will grow up to be unstable and dangerous, and the parents will become even more dangerous about intruders, even if it is their human family. We see these stories in the news every week, and never realize the cause is too much social isolation and misery in a “prison” environment. If the dog escapes with all of this pent up aggression, they can attack the first animal or person they see. Isolated dogs can develop a wide range of problems, ranging from hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive disorders, stress related illnesses, destructive tendencies, tendency to get in fights with the other dogs in the home, and enhanced drive to kill prey animals in the yard. Kenneling should be used to provide safe and comfortable housing, not to leave a dog in solitary confinement. Many people build kennels because they don’t want the dogs in the home. Yet, once they build the kennels, the dogs don’t get sufficient socialization, and acceptable ways of discharging their drives to play, hunt, copulate, explore, bond, and socialized. The kennel becomes a prison. There is a reason why none of us wants to go to prison… it is a miserable, dangerous, crazy place to be. That’s what too much kenneling feels like to your dog.
I therefore believe that it is better for a dog to have at least one other companion dog than to be isolated and alone. It should be a dog of similar size, preferably opposite sex, and of a temperament that will be make for a good friendship. They should have enough varied places so that they can have some privacy from one another, enough space so they aren’t feeling crowded, varied sleeping places, and so forth. If you get a second dog, always try to get a calmer and more confident dog than the one you already have, one that barks less, is less rattled by noises or stress, is more sociable with people and other dogs, is good at playing and not too rough, and is well trained. I highly recommend getting an adult dog from a shelter for this purpose. Puppies are unpredictable and vulnerable. With an adult, you already know what you are getting, and you can more easily evaluate if the dogs are going to get along with one another.
5.) The most difficult problem is the escapee; the dog that continually tries to escape confinement. The need to escape danger is the most powerful motivation that a dog can experience. Sometimes, there is no way to prevent escapes unless you address what is going on with a professional dog behaviorist. That is a different matter from the idea of having a dog kennel that is secure. A properly constructed kennel can prevent your dog getting loose. If a dog is properly bred and socialized, comfortable in its kennel, and has a good home life when the owner is around, then they are much less likely to run away. I also highly recommend having your dog microchipped by your veterinarian, so if your dog ever does get away, animal control will find you and you will get your dog back. When dogs aren’t claimed from animal control, they are either killed or given to someone else. Dogs of certain breeds, such as pit bulls, are likely to be killed by animal control if they don’t locate you within a day or two. You also have to be aware that some people will try to steal your dog from your yard or vehicle if left unsupervised, or if it escapes from your property. Be sure to have a sturdy gate door, with a proper latch installed about waist height. Also, remember that the greater the stress, the more likely your dog will try to escape. Isolated dogs build up an abnormal desire to hunt, explore, and guard territory. Dogs often escape before, during, or right after a big storm, or holiday with firecrackers or fireworks. Dogs will also escape if driven to by thirst, hunger, desire to mate, desire to socialize, need for stimulation, or fear.
6.) Big problem is sanitation and waste disposal. You need to check with your local authorities on how to dispose of large volumes of dung if you house multiple dogs. Most people just throw it in the garbage or flush it down the toilet. Dirt and dog poop will clog up a septic system, so beware! In addition, you need to regularly disinfect (most kennel operators use a diluted bleach solution) and hose down your kennel. Check with your veterinarian as to what they use to clean up THEIR kennels. These things change over time, so get the latest recommendations from your veterinarian. Generally, you clean out a home kennel with a scrub broom and a bucket of appropriate detergents and disinfectants. Power spraying can also be used. A wet/ dry vacuum can also be very useful to clean up particles of food and dirt. Feces should be removed on a daily basis.
In addition, you need a regular clean up schedule, with a printed task list. Each morning, and every time before the dogs are put back in the kennel, it should be given an inspection. Look for items that need repair, trimmed, painted, washed, pruned or removed. Bad housekeeping isn’t acceptable in a home or in a home kennel. The grounds should be tidy, and if you have to hire help, then that’s what you do. Your kennel should be immaculate, or don’t even bother building or using them. All wastes… food, unclean water, worn parts, urine and excrement, dirt and such should be removed. I think personal attire also matters. You want to give the neighbors no excuse for complaining about your home. If you live like a slob, then you make silent enemies that will some day not be so silent. You should police your kennel as you would if it was professionally run, and that means giving diligent and prompt attention to every detail.
7.) Need to be tall enough for you to enter and clean up; too low makes you have to bend over and have a sore back. Most professional kennels are surrounded by 6-foot-high, heavy gauge chain link fencing with an escape proof roof (usually also made of chain link). If you make it uncomfortable for you to clean the kennel, then you will let it get dirty. Make it easy on yourself. It is also a good idea to have a concrete walkway in front of the gate. If it is just dirt, then it will get muddy over time, then you’ll have to start wiping off your feet and your dogs feet before entering the house.
8.) Need heavy duty, premium quality fencing material. Most professional kennels use heavy gauge chain link. Most designs I have found recommend 9 gauge wire. Don’t use the cheap kind. Get good quality materials. Many dogs can bend the cheap links and escape. Be sure to run a cable through the lowest links to reinforce their strength, and at the top and bottom of the fencing should be solid fence piping, for rigidity and to make the top and bottom less flexible/ bendable. Even stronger materials and designs might be necessary for some “escape artists.” Some dogs can chew through any kind of chain fencing. Note that in secure facilities, they don’t use chain link fencing. The indoor portion of the kennel should be placed inside, or made into, some kind of enclosed structure. On the inside is the kennel itself. The kennel should then be inside some kind of building, even if it resembles a large shed, to retain heat, block wind and snow and rain, etc. If you can’t build a shed of some sort around the kennel, use materials for the roof, plants or fencing around the sides, and other physical barriers to keep the dog safe from the weather extremes. A neat trick is to put the kennel inside a building that allows you to drive your truck inside, and then close the garage doors while you load up the dog(s). That way, you stay warm and dry in the winter without having the dogs escaping as you load them up. This could be especially important if you tend to get your dogs in and out during the night. It can be pretty much impossible to see most runaway dogs in the dark. But, they can’t escape from a kennel, located inside a lighted, enclosed barn or shed! Professional kennels don’t use chain link for the kennel itself. Instead they use narrow, vertical, solid bars of metal, which are almost impossible to climb or chew through. Concrete blocks can also be used to construct kennel walls. You see this at many large professional and humane operations. However, concrete blocks absorb water over time, and can be a medium for the growth of molds and mildew. If you do use concrete blocks, be sure to coat the surfaces of the blocks with an impenetrable, non-toxic, pet safe, easy-to-wash paint. Separating walls, if you have multiple runs, really should be made of solid concrete and coated with something you can repeatedly wash. They should also be high enough so that one dog can’t pester the other dog in the adjacent kennel. If you use solid walls, the line where the wall meets the floor should be rounded instead of a sharp 90 degree angle. Rounded corners are less likely to cause injury, easier to clean solid debris that can accumulate in corners and at the base of the walls, and wash down easier. In addition, if the kennel walls and separators are concrete, then the fencing materials won’t be wet after being washed down after each use, and will be less likely to rust over time. You should consult with a professional contractor and/or architect about building any structure. There are different building and safety issues in different locations. Some soils are better than others for drainage, some climates create problems with extreme temperature changes, etc. Don’t forget ventilation, either. In hot weather, you need air to circulate. You also need proper ventilation for wet seasons to prevent the buildup of moisture.
9.) The indoor/ outdoor kennel design is the most efficient, but not always practical. The indoor/ outdoor kennel abuts the home or a building, and a passageway is cut in the wall. Go visit the local zoo and see how they house the animals outside. There is the fenced outdoor part, then a passageway with a door that leads into a small room indoors. The indoor room is heated in the winter and ventilated or air conditioned in the summer. Mimic what the professionals do. If you can’t do the indoor/ outdoor design, then you need a proper dog house that will keep the dog warm inside. Most dog houses sold a pet stores are NOT properly made and don’t keep the dog warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Again, you will find better designs in the books at the library about kennels and kennel management. Another good place to look is in the back of hunting dog magazines. They sell prefabricated dogs houses that are really good quality. It is also a good idea to consider the landscaping in and around the kennel. If your kennel has any portion that is dirt or grass or bark, you need to consider whether the dogs will eat it or dig down into it. In addition, it isn’t healthy for a dog to lay on wet or frozen ground, hour after hour. If you have trees or bushes in the kennel, you might have to surround them with a tough metal bars or fencing material (like the kind you see surrounding trees in the downtown areas of most cities). Some dogs will eat at plants. Some dogs can climb trees to go after small animals, or even climb trees to escape! Some plants are poisonous, or are messy when they drop their leaves, leak sticky sap, or drop other plant materials such as pods, leaves and pollen during certain seasons, making clean up of the dogs and kennel a mess. In hot summertime, trees can provide needed shade. In very hot climates, if your dog doesn’t have sufficient shade, your dog will overheat and die. (I have seen some kennel owners put a small kiddie pool in the kennel during the hottest months, filled with a few inches of water. The dogs either lay in it or stand in there to cool off. I have also seen kiddie pools used at obedience trials during hot summer days to cool off the dogs while waiting for their turn to perform.) You also have to figure that any grass you plant inside the kennel will be destroyed in just a few months as the dogs run around in in, turning the kennel into a mud pit over time. And I have found that there is no good way to get rid of the urine smell in dirt. At a certain point, the area needs to be left alone, letting the rains fall on it, for the urine to eventually be broken down by natural processes. That is why I feel it is more sanitary, in the long run, if you are going to use a kennel on a daily basis, to use cement or brick flooring that can be hosed down into a drainage system. You could even investigate having Terrazzo or epoxy-covered floors and walls that can easily be cleaned and rinsed off.
10.) Dogs can’t be trusted unsupervised; without proper supervision and containment, you risk that your dog will engage in self destructive behaviors and/or destroy your property. I NEVER leave a dog unsupervised in my home unless I am 100% sure that they are ready to be left alone. Some dogs are NEVER trustworthy alone. You also have to check up on them even if you leave them in a crate or kennel. The better your kennel is designed, managed and supervised, the less risk you have of an accident when you are gone. I have observed seven general types of dogs. The first type is the one that is relaxed and calm when alone. These adapt well to confinement, and eventually can be left alone inside your home as adults. The second type is the dog that resents being left alone. They are resentful and angry that you are not around. These dogs will bark, whine and even beat/ dig at the kennel, dig at or jump up on your fencing, eat into or dig away at the siding on your house, or dig in your yard, to get out. When left alone in the home, regardless of the age of the dog, they will tear the place up out of frustration. You will sense a bit of aggression in the destructiveness, not towards you, but frustration (or “anger” for lack of a better term) that is taken out on your things. The frustration can range from intense to mild, and you will hear them growling, and sometimes defensively barking, as they thrash away. These types of dogs can’t be left alone unsupervised in the home. Some can be left alone in a kennel or crate, but some are so determined to get out, they will hurt themselves and destroy your home in the process. It takes extra care to build a proper, destruction proof, safe kennel for these types of dogs. Some of these dogs are incorrectly diagnosed as having separation anxiety. I have found that frustration aggression in these cases is inversely related to the amount of exercise and mental stimulation the dog gets every day. The well exercised and worked dog is much less likely to become frustrated and aggressive towards the kennel or other resident dogs. Training can help these dogs, so long as you keep the dogs working throughout their lives, and exercise them thoroughly each day. Third, are the dogs that are worried when separated from their pack leader, whether human or animal. These dogs also make desperate attempts to escape your home, kennel or back yard, and can be quite loud and destructive. These dogs need a companion to be calm. They are dependent and submissive dogs, who feel lost when they don’t have a superior pack mate to boss them around and make all the decisions in life. These dogs are also often misdiagnosed as having separation anxiety. These dogs are the types that have done well for years when left alone with another dog that they are bonded with and submitted to. Then, that other dog dies, and the remaining very submissive dog falls apart emotionally. It can look like separation anxiety, but it is not. Fourth, are the dogs with true separation anxiety. They exhibit some or all the hallmark behaviors and feelings of such a condition. They will make desperate attempts to escape any enclosure, and are panicked when left alone. These dogs can be quite destructive, and can injure or kill themselves in their attempts to escape. Unless treated successfully, these dogs can never be left alone. Fifth, are the dogs that want out because they are seeking the adventure of escaping and taking off to hunt and forage. These dogs can also be quite destructive. These dogs can be left alone in an escape proof kennel. But they will dart out, climb out, or dig out if they have an opportunity. These dogs can also try the same thing when left in the home. These dogs need a reason to stick around when you are gone, otherwise they will try to find a way out. Sixth, are the dogs with other motivations for leaving, such as the protective dog that tries to get out to challenge and attack intruders. These dogs do well when left alone, but are quite bothered if they feel their territories invaded. These types can hurt themselves against the fencing material as they try to get out and go after the intruders they see or hear. I even heard of a dog that dug out of the garage, broke into the neighbor’s home to attack the dog next door. These types can’t be housed alone in the home, and instead need a proper and secure kennel. And seventh, I have observed the bored and playful dog, that will try to escape, and can be quite destructive, when left alone. They will make it a game to tear up your place, and to try to escape, just as a way to have something to do, and/or to get your attention. You need to evaluate your dog to determine how best to design and manage your kennel.
11.) When dogs are first housed, they need extra supervision and observation to determine how they are adapting and what they are doing. You have to assist some dogs when you first put them into a kennel or crate. If your dog isn’t adapting well, you need to hire a professional dog trainer to help you work out a solution.
12.) A closed circuit TV or web camera is ideal to do off site supervision and monitoring. With modern technology, you can use the internet to monitor your dog while you are away, at work, or in the home.
13.) Dogs need exercise every day. It is inhumane to neglect the social interaction and physical exercise needs of your dog. A kennel is not a babysitter. When you get home, it is important that you have your dog with you as many hours as possible. It is also important to keep them in good physical shape through play and exercise. Just like we need exercise to be healthy, so do dogs. A dog will not exercise itself in a kennel. You need to take the time to make sure your dog has a good day every day, and be sure your dog is healthy and fit. otherwise, don’t get a dog! The average dog owner in the US and Europe walks their dog 45 minutes, twice per day. If you don’t have an exercise plan for your dog, then your kenneling plans will not work out regardless of how well it is constructed. Most professional kennels have a large exercise yard, broken up into several areas: large dogs, small dogs, shy dogs, etc. The dogs are rotated into the yard throughout the day. This is not such a great idea for the home kennel, because you can think that if you let the dogs roam around your yard that they are going to get sufficient exercise… but, they won’t. Even dogs at professional kennels don’t get enough exercise. The only exception would be for the larger doggie daycares where a rotation of new dogs come in, stimulating new greetings and play throughout the day. That keeps the dogs active. So, for the home kennel, the dogs need to be taken off the premises. Plus, they need ongoing stimulation and socialization outside the home to remain calm, and to prevent the buildup of aggression in some breeds.
14.) You need to get a dog first aid book, read it, and make up a first aid kit for the home. Being a good owner means knowing how to care for your dog, even in emergencies. Whether you ever kennel your dog or not, you should get a first aid book and read it thoroughly. You should also know how to get a hold of a veterinarian at any time of the day or night. Know the location and phone number of the nearest emergency veterinarian clinic. It is also a good idea to get to know your veterinarian. They want your dog to be well, and they want to help you. All you have to do is ask.
15.) Ideal dimensions and features are as follows. Try to include as many of these features as your budget will allow: (Here is a link to the Purina web page; they have a lot of great ideas, plus you can download free plans)
a.) 6 X 12 feet (if you have a giant breed, you might need the kennel to be wider than 6 feet so that the dog doesn’t rub its tail raw on the fencing as it turns around throughout the day). Most dogs will try to avoid stepping in their own feces, effectively making the runs narrower. I have seen most dogs defecate either at the end of the run, away from the dog house, or along one side of the fence/ walls. If the dung is along the side of the run, it effectively narrows the width of the run. When a dog is in a narrow run, they are are more likely to whack the ends of their tails against the fencing material, when excited to see you, or when barking, causing sores or even injuries. It is very difficult to get a dog’s tail to heal once it is damaged, and you can’t leave them alone unsupervised with an injury like that, they will lick and chew at it, infecting the site and making the injury worse. Longer runs are even better. If you have the room, then lengthen them between 18 to 24 feet. This will give the dogs more room to exercise. The smaller the run, the less likely the dog will get up and walk around.
b.) A roof: your dog should have the ability to shelter itself from rain, snow, wind, and direct sunlight. You want to a design that allows in natural light, but gives the dog a way to escape weather extremes. You need different types of roofing materials in different parts of the country. A roof overhang can provide extra shade during the summer, and some additional protection from rain and snow during the winter. In addition, some dogs are great climbers and jumpers. A roof prevents the dog from getting out, and can protect your dog from other dogs, or even wild animals (coyotes, wolves, foxes, etc.), from getting in! I can’t imagine, if you are a breeder, allowing a stray male dog to damage your breeding program by giving them free access to climb into your kennel and mate with your females in heat. And if you live in a rural area, I can’t imagine allowing your dogs to be easy prey for wild animals! You’ve got to have a roof! A coyote can easily scale a 6 foot block wall, for example. Bobcats, cougar, owls, eagles, hawks, and other predators can and do kill and maim dogs in unprotected kennels or yards. I’ve seen many home kennels without a roof. I remember some poor dog I saw in Seattle with no shelter from the rain. The kennel was just a cement slab with chain link fencing around it. That dog was soaked all day, every day it rained… and it rains half the year in Seattle. I saw another dog in Phoenix with the same kind of kennel, but this dog had no shade from the sun… and it can get 115 degrees here in the summer. I told the owner, but he didn’t do anything about it… and I dropped him as a student.
c.) Sloped surface, 3 inches for every 12 feet of length, or even better, 1 inch for every 12 inches of length: It is much easier to clean a kennel if the floor has a slope for run off. You will regret it if you don’t have a slope to the flooring!!! In an ideal situation, you would use the greater slope recommended, because it not only drains better, the dog will get some exercise going up and down the run during the day. If you live in an area where the runs will get iced over, then use the lesser slope, so the dogs, or you, don’t slip and fall down.
d.) Proper drainage is a necessity; usually you need a drain pipe of at least 3 inches in diameter, or an outside cement trench to catch the waste as you hose off the insides and floor of the kennel. A typical drainage trench would be located outside the far end of the kennel, so that when you hose down the kennel, the urine and feces are washed away from the entrance door, and out an opening at the back. An open trench system is less sanitary than using a runoff pipe that leads away from the kennel. The runoff from the kennel should drain into a leach bed, or proper public sewer or septic system, that is away from the kennel. You can find books and articles on the construction of a proper leach bed to prevent the pungent odor and contamination of the soil. It is insufficient to just hose the kennel off, without planning for the disposal of the urine. Be sure to provide enough slope for gravity runoff, either from the drain pipe or along the drainage trench, to let the feces run along to a collection area, so you can scoop them up with a shovel. The trench should also be wide enough to fit a standard sized, flat ended shovel inside to do the scooping. You can also find grating material to place over the trench, so that the wind doesn’t blow leaves in it to clog it up. Be careful where the waste water drains. Concentrated urine will kill plants over time. I’ve seen kennels with flat, level concrete surfaces, with the urine puddling in there, and the dog walking back and forth through it and the feces. Your dog doesn’t want to live in filth.
e.) Dog house should be 4 X 6 feet, with roof sloped away from the entry doorway; for most dogs this is sufficient in size for them to get inside, and for their body heat to warm up the inside of the dog house (large breed dogs will obviously need a larger dog house, and miniature dogs should have a smaller dog house); you also need a ventilation system that can be opened up for summer to allow the dog to cool off in the dog house. Most dog good dog houses have a flap door to keep out the wind. Cheap plastic dog houses are pretty much worthless and don’t do much to safeguard your dog in any kind of weather. If the dog house is near the door, the dog will most likely defecate at the back end of the kennel. So, if you slope the kennel downward, away from the door, then you can hose off the run towards the back, and clean up the wastes at the other end. If the dog defecates near the door, then the dog is likely to step in it, or splash up and down in the excrement, just as you are opening the door, getting the urine and dung splattered on you and the dog. A good dog house has a floor plan that is kind of like a maze. Imagine a rectangular dog house, with the long side facing you. At the far left or right is a doorway with a flap. Once the dog enters, the dog has to take a sharp turn down a hallway towards the opposite end, and then another turn to get into the back of the dog house. It is like having a doorway, with a hallway, leading to a back room. This old time design has been known to keep dogs warm in the winter. Most kennel books will show plans on how to construct dog houses like this. The interior dimensions of the back room should be about the same size that you would use if you were to put a dog in a properly selected airline crate. It should be reasonably big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. In cold weather, it needs to be small enough so that the dogs body heat will gradually warm up the interior. The roof should be sloped away from the entrance to the dog house, and with a small overhang, so water won’t drain inside if it rains or snows. The floor of the dog house should be raised about 3 inches off the ground, and surrounded by a small concrete lip, so the dog house can never stand in water, the dog house is not easily moved around, and because air is an insulator from the cold ground.
f.) Dog house walls should be covered with a chew proof surface, such as glazed tile or aluminum sheeting, from floor to ceiling. Bare wood or plastic can be dangerous if the dog decides to munch away at the walls while you are away. A good option is to build a house out of cinder blocks or concrete, and cover it with a chew proof surface. Or, you can tack the aluminum sheeting around the edges and corners, so the dog can’t chew the wood. If you paint the dog house white, it will be better able to reflect heat during the summer. Conversely, if you live in cold climates, paint the dog house black to absorb heat during winter months.
g.) Should be at least 6 feet high for easy clean up, and to prevent escapes. Some dogs can still get over a 6 foot fence, so a 12 to 18 inch smooth overhang at 45 degrees, can stop most dogs. Even better, the entire kennel should be surrounded by a second guard fence, so if the dog gets out of the kennel, there is a second barrier for the dog to have to get around.
h.) Regularly cleaned with a hose and detergent, and then dried.
i.) Best to feed after exercise (and cool down) and before confinement. By exercising your dog, s/he will be more likely to sleep when you are gone, less likely to have to defecate or urinate, and will be hungry and ready to eat (making the stay in the kennel a more pleasant activity). You NEVER want to exercise your dog on a full stomach. It can kill your dog (look up Bloat and Torsion).
j.) Ultraviolet lamps help minimize cross infection from one adjacent kennel to another. Similarly, if you install a radiant heater in your kennel, it also disinfects the areas it shines on. If one dog gets sick in an adjacent kennel, you can help prevent your other dogs from getting sick by using these methods.
k.) The fencing should not allow a dog to catch a paw in, over or under the fencing materials. It is a good idea to plan for the size of your dogs paws and head when selecting fencing materials, and how far they should be spaced from the flooring. You want sufficient clearance so the dog can’t reach a paw through a hole and get it stuck, then again, you don’t want openings in the fencing or drains where a dog might try to escape. Generally, for most breeds, you want about a 1 inch gap between the bottom of the fencing and the concrete floor. That gives enough room to hose out wastes, yet keeps the dogs from going under and out.
l.) Metal posts set in concrete. It is best to use metal posts when constructing a kennel, and to set them in concrete. Treated wood has dangerous chemicals which can kill your dog if they chew on the posts. Strong dogs can move a kennel around if it isn’t solidly attached to the ground.
m.) Smaller exit doors are harder for a dog to escape past you when you open them.
n.) Double doors are preferred; one inside door, a holding area, and a second outside door
o.) Use heavier gauge chain link. Some dogs will tear open light gauge chain link with their teeth. Even better, use welded steel bars, if you can afford it.
p.) Use chain link over top of kennel since some dogs can climb chain link and get out. I have seen dogs do it. Never underestimate what a dog is capable of doing it if wants something bad enough!
q.) Surround kennel with a visual barrier; cuts down on barking; makes the dog less of an attractive target for someone to see and harass your dog. It can also be designed to minimize windy drafts.
16.) Have your plans reviewed by a local dog trainer, groomer and your veterinarian. Get opinions from all three. Then you’ll have something that will work well for your situation. This article is only a checklist of ideas, but every person’s situation is unique. Get advice from professionals. There is no one perfect way of building a kennel. Every location, city, climate, type of dog, etc. has differing requirements.
17.) Review local laws about installing a permanent kennel. In some places, you can install a portable structure which can be dismantled and removed fairly easily. However, a light gauge portable pen isn’t sufficient to be used as a permanent kennel, since many dogs can escape from them, and they are easily broken into by strangers. You need to review local building code and zoning before constructing anything on your property.
18.) Use professional help to install the pieces properly.
19.) Kennel doors need to have locks, to prevent dogs from figuring out a way to open them, and to prevent theft of the dog. At the very least, be sure to use child proof latches. Dogs have been known to attack the neighbor’s child if they enter a kennel unsupervised.
20.) Careful on use of treated wood and paints¦ some are toxic. Always investigate the materials you are using.
22.) Dogs WILL eat through dry wall. You can’t use drywall for the walls of your kennel.
23.) Surfaces: concrete or brick is most secure. Make sure that if you use concrete, that you have it properly trowel finished so that it doesn’t rough up the dogs paws. Most kennel books will recommend a light broom finish brushed towards the drain. Slick concrete can cause you or the dogs to slip and fall. Brushed concrete gives the feet more traction. It is also a good idea to waterproof the floors with a resin epoxy. You should discuss with your contractor they types of concrete you should use (i.e. vibrated, or some of the new high tech self-consolidating concretes, with the goal of producing less dust and thus allergic reactions). I highly recommend installing rubberized mats over the flooring to provide a softer surface for your dog to lay on, and to help insulate surface better for extreme cold. If you get rubberized mats, you have to get ones that are pretty much indestructible since some dogs will chew up cheap mats. You can find good interlocking mats by going to a horse tack shop and getting the same kinds of mats they use for horses in their stalls. The good ones are close to two inches thick or more. They are a necessity for dogs that will be housed outside when temperatures go below freezing, since they provide additional needed insulation from the cold. I also recommend, for comfort, using flat, raised dog cots or the plastic (PVC coated) beds which are designed to elevate the dog off the cold floors. Shop around for different designs and find the best ones you can. Many dogs won’t tear up a dog bed, and if your dog won’t tear out the stuffing and swallow it, then by all means put in some good bedding for comfort. And be sure to wash the bed(s) regularly.
24.) Multiple dogs require special arrangements. If you have 2 or more dogs that have a tendency to fight if left together in a kennel, then they each need their own separate kennel, and there should be a visual barrier between kennels. Some dogs will fence-fight with one another when in separate pens. It is best if they can’t see one another. If you are going to put more than one dog in the kennel at a time, then make sure that these are dogs that get along well together. The more dogs you put in a fixed space, and the more crowded you make them, the more likely they are to fight with one another. This is even true in your own home. The more dogs that live in your home, the more likely you will have dog fights, urine marking, and house training problems. So be careful so as to not overcrowd your kennel(s) or your home. Sometimes the wiser and kinder decision is to not take in another dog if the extra dog will set up serious pack order issues and cause harm to your other pets. In addition, some dogs fight because they were never taught proper MANNERS when playing with other dogs. It isn’t sufficient to blame the dogs. It could be that you have raised dogs that don’t now know how to play nicely.
25.) Runs only need to be sufficient in size to accommodate the dog. Oversized pens aren’t necessarily better, neither are pens that are too small.
26.) Dogs generally eat and sleep when the owner is away, regardless of whether they are in a kennel or in the home. That is why you need to make sure that when you get home, you get your dogs out of the kennel and let them spend the rest of the day with you. It is also why you need to purposefully plan an exercise program for any dog that is housed in a kennel during the day. Some dogs won’t eat unless you are present. So for those dogs, you need to make time for them.
27.) Dogs need about 45 minutes of tiring exercise, twice per day. It is also best if they get a mentally challenging dog training lesson each day. Kenneled dogs need more outings, preferably to natural areas such as parks, wilderness, beaches, trails and such. You need to stimulate all their senses for them to remain well adjusted when alone.
28.) Be a good steward of your pets. Keep informed about the status of your pets. Supervision is the key for managing children and pets. Cleanliness prevents disease (and besides, who wants a filthy dog?) Design your kennel to be easy to use. Proper planning up front will pay off for years to come. You must make sure your kennel is properly maintained, the equipment is in good condition, and that nothing is allowed to deteriorate. Always think: SAFETY. If you hire someone to manage your dog while you are gone, I highly recommend using only professional help. Never assume that the neighbor’s kid will treat your dog properly. Manage your kennel like it was a business: keep a maintenance schedule for the kennel and for your dog. Have compassion for your dog. If it is unsafe or unwise to leave your dog in your home when you are gone, then build a proper kennel. And it is NEVER safe to leave a dog unattended in your yard! Never! Lastly, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE A KENNEL DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN GET BY WITH NEGLECTING YOUR DOG’S NEED TO BE PART OF YOUR LIFE! A dog that is never let in the home is going to be less likely to obey you, is more likely to ignore you, and is more likely to turn out shy or even vicious. Dogs need the regular, daily companionship of people because they are pack oriented animals. They don’t do well alone in life. I haven’t given you all these great ideas about kenneling your dog, just so you can be an irresponsible, neglectful dog owner.
29.) Think SAFETY: for yourself (non slip surfaces, clean up, proper illumination), for your neighbors, and for the dog. Consider…
a.) Electrical safety. Make sure that you use professionals to install any specialized equipment or outlets. Keep cables away from the reach of your dog, and even better, run them through proper metal conduits to shield them from a curious or destructive dog.
b.) Kennel safety: read books on kennels and ask professionals to review your plans before you install the kennel.
c.) Chemicals: be careful with any chemicals. Some are toxic to dogs, some will trigger allergic reactions. Ask your veterinarian before using any chemicals around your dog. And keep them put away when you are gone!
d.) Health safety: That means cleanliness (sterilization of kennel/ bowls/ toys/ tools), watching for potential diseases, exercising your dog on a daily basis, daily grooming and inspections, and providing comfort for your dog in all climates. IN ARIZONA, or if you live in the southern states, you need to hire a pest control company to review your kennel plans, to keep out rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widow spiders, hawks and owls and other birds of prey, poisonous toads, Gila Monsters, ticks, and other hazards that could kill your dog. I recommend covering outdoor kennels with a mesh type of screening to keep out these types of pests. You should be providing new food every day, and fresh water every day. You shouldn’t leave metal collars (chain or prong collars) on any dog that is unattended, whether in a crate, kennel or even in your home. If you leave a buckle collar on a dog, then it should be comfortably tight. You should only be able to slide about 2 fingers under the collar. The rule of thumb is that it should be snug enough so that the dog can’t get a paw caught in it while scratching (I saw this once, and it can be really dangerous… the dog will either get the paw caught and severely injure the paw trying to get it loose from the collar, or the dog will strangle itself trying to get the paw or leg loose from the collar), but loose enough so that it doesn’t make the skin raw, cause irritation, or choke the dog. The buckle collar should have an identifying tag on it in case the dog escapes, the finder can call you and let you know they have your dog. If you have 2 or more dogs housed together, you oftentimes can’t leave collars on them at all, because one dog will pull off the collar of another. I know of dogs that have swallowed collars WHOLE. I generally take collars off ALL dogs when they are unsupervised, and making sure they are either microchipped, tattooed, or both in case of escape.
e.) Security for the dog. Is your kennel escape proof? Can a child open the door and get in without your permission? Do you have warning signs posted (Dog On Premises and No Trespassing)? Have you installed a visual barrier so that strangers can’t see your dog from the street and get the idea that it would be OK to steal, poison or tease your dog? Have you posted information on the outside of the kennel for someone to know how to contact you and your veterinarian in case of emergency? Is your dog microchipped in case your dog runs away? Do you have photos of your dog in case you have to make up fliers? I ALSO DON’T BELIEVE THAT KENNELS SHOULD BE VISIBLE TO PEDESTRIANS FROM OUTSIDE THE PROPERTY. Your dog is much less likely to be harassed, poisoned, injured, stolen or killed by some wacko if passersby can’t see that you have a dog. I am also not opposed to using a citronella collar on dogs to limit barking while you are away. A barking dog can result in a serious neighbor dispute or fine from animal control. I do not advocate electric or sonic bark collars. This must be a dog that won’t get the collar off and chew on it; it can’t be a situation where a second dog can harm the collar or itself; and it can’t be a situation where the collar can somehow get snagged on the kennel or things inside the kennel. Neighbors are likely to poison a barking dog… so BEWARE!!!
f.) Security for the public: Make sure that your dog can’t get out and bite someone. Be sure to place warning signs around the kennel to warn people to leave your pet alone.
g.) Weather: Have you considered the type of weather your dog will encounter outside all year long? How about flooding? How about sunlight… which way does the sun shine and how are you shading the dogs from the heat of the day? How about wind storms? What about dust or sand storms? How about extreme cold and hot? Have you considered the direction the winds flow? Wind direction should be factored into the way you lay out your kennel. For example, if you live in an area where it snows a lot, you don’t want the wind to blow the snow into the kennel and fill it up! You should also know the risks of flooding, and other types of weather hazards. In very cold weather, the urine and poop will freeze to the floor. You can aim a radiant heater at the frozen floor to melt the wastes, then shovel them off. It would be dangerous to use chemical de-icers on the flooring of your kennel. Most of these are probably toxic to your dog. You can’t use salt to melt the ice either, because salt will destroy your cement floors over time. Some kennels have heated floors, but they are very expensive to install, and use a lot of energy (and cost a lot) to keep heated during the cold weather months. If you live in hot climates, it is extremely important to note the direction the wind blows, so you can establish a good cross draft inside the kennel to get rid of any excess heat, using properly placed doors, windows, and draft openings. The good side of keeping your dogs outside is that they will adapt to living in the hot and cold climates, and are then better prepared to work outdoors. The downside is that many breeds can’t handle those weather extremes, and the more time you leave the dog outside, the less time you are likely to spend with the dog inside every day. I highly recommend installing a backup generator for your kennel, in case the power fails while you are away. This is a MUST if you live in an area with weather extremes, or a potential for power blackouts.
h.) Food: It is best to feed your dog before you put him or her in the kennel, and after you let your dog out. That way, since there is no food in the kennel, there is less chance that rodents and other pests will invade your kennel and bring in disease and parasites. And there is less chance your dog could make a mess of your kennel while you are gone. Be sure to always leave abundant, clean water for your dog in tip proof stainless steel bowls or buckets. A three gallon stainless steel water bucket, secured to the side of the kennel, is ideal for each dog’s watering needs. You can find such buckets for sale by vendors at the larger dog shows, and at some specialty online dog supply stores. If you elevate the water bowls to standing height, male dogs are less able to urinate in them. If you have a dog that likes to dunk itself in the water, then you need a stainless steel (or other acceptable material) water trough bolted to the side of a wall, otherwise the dog will tip the water out and have nothing to drink while you are away. Water needs shade in the summer heat, or it either evaporates or becomes too hot to drink. Dogs that don’t drink enough in hot weather can eventually die from organ failure. Food needs to be stored in a manner that will preserve its freshness and keep it free from rodents, insects, mold, etc. Food preparation surfaces, utensils, storage bins, cups, bowls, and such should be kept as clean as you would a human kitchen.
i.) Toys: Are your toys safe for your dog? I prefer to only use Nylabones and Kongs for unattended dogs. I would never leave squeaky toys, fuzzy toys, ropes, real bones, pig ears, raw hides, cow hooves, tendons, tennis balls, or household items (old shoes, clothes, etc.) with any unsupervised dog, whether it was in a kennel, crate or in the home alone. With multiple dogs, some dogs will fight to possess certain types of toys. So, you have to know your dogs to make good decisions on what toys to put in your kennel, and which ones shouldn’t be in there. Because dogs can’t sufficiently play in a kennel, they need to vent their playing instincts daily, with you, outside the kennel.
j.) Housing: Build or buy a proper dog house. The cheap ones are a waste of money and can’t protect your dog in harsh weather. In addition, make sure your ENTIRE property is safe for your dog, not just the kennel. Do you have standing water where bugs can procreate? Are you picking up and disposing of the feces regularly so that flies don’t multiply? Is your property clear of hazards? Is your home safe for your dog? Is your kennel safe from vandals? Can a burglar break into your home through the kennel? You need to consider the entire environment around your kennel, not just the kennel itself.
k.) Well adjusted dogs do better in confinement. It is important to get a well bred dog, socialize your dog as a puppy and adult, play with and exercise your dog, and spend sufficient time with your dog when you do get home.
l.) Fireproof and smoke alarms: If your home catches on fire, or if somehow your kennel equipment fails and starts a fire, you want to prevent your pet’s death. Investigate fire proofing methods.
m.) Soundproofing: Some dogs bark a lot. If your dog pesters your neighbors too much, they will poison your dog, or you will get into a big legal battle with your neighbors. For some dogs, you need to consider building the kennel inside your garage to muffle the barking sounds. However, garages do not have good ventilation or temperature control… you can come home to a dead dog if you don’t consider the risks of using a garage that hasn’t been properly modified to house a dog. Thoughtful use of landscaping can block the dogs views of the outside, and reduce barking considerably.
These suggestions are in no way everything you should consider, but if you combine them with your library research, and by consulting with a trainer, groomer and veterinarian before you build and use your kennel, you will be on your way to having a very safe and good place for your dog while you are away.
30.) Basic Exercise Plan: All kenneled dogs need a daily exercise plan. Exercise should meet two needs: physical fitness and satisfaction of the need to play. People think that if they leave a dog in the back yard, that the dog will get exercise. Wrong. Dogs don’t exercise when alone. Exercise is necessary for physical health and mental well being. Dogs also have a need for daily play. Dogs that don’t get an opportunity to play regularly develop behavioral problems. Every dog needs at least 45 minutes of exercise and play per day to remain healthy and well adjusted. This a major problem for professional kennels, and is the main reason I don’t recommend students house their dogs at professional kennels.
31. Place To Rest: All dogs need a comfortable place to rest, free from discomfort, clean, and dry. Thus, each dog needs proper bedding and a place to sleep. It isn’t healthy for dogs to lay regularly on hard surfaces. Dog cots can be used to keep dogs elevated off of damp floors, and elevated dog houses can also be used for the same purpose. Bedding also needs to be soft and durable. A sleeping box should be constructed about twice the size of the dog, with bedding placed inside.There are many ideas for ideal bedding, but there is no perfect solution because every breed has different needs and every climate has differing risks. Bedding choices to look into should include: commercially made dog beds, 4 or more inches of oat or wheat straw over burlap sheets; carpeting; etc. Probably the best solution for most kennels are washable blankets. Bedding should be inspected daily for pests (fleas, ticks, etc), and regularly (meaning at least once per week) machine washed. Feces should be removed at least once per day, and if the dog urinates in the bedding, then it needs changing so that it is cleaned and changed every day. Feces should be examined weekly for parasites, and a stool sample provided to the veterinarian for examination (ask your vet for how often you should bring in samples from each dog). Dogs should also be examined regularly to see that they like the bedding you provide and that they are not suffering any ill effects. The bed box and bedding should be sanitized once per week – NO EXCEPTIONS. And you need to consult with your veterinarian regarding how to use insecticides in the kennel to prevent infestation, and then follow their recommendations.
32. Sick Dogs: Sick dogs SHOULD NOT BE KENNELED. Take them to the veterinarian to be treated, and then to recuperate there. Sick or infested dogs should also not be housed with other dogs, otherwise disease can spread from dog to dog.
33. Human First Aid: A human first aid kit should be available next to the kennel, plus instructions printed and laminated in case of emergency. Everyone should be instructed in first aid.
34. Training: Kenneled dogs need mental stimulation. Captivity is stressful for all animals, including humans. It is essential to provide dogs with regular, properly implemented, enjoyable lessons several times per week. Without such interaction, you will see more misbehavior in the home and in public. Aggression can also increase if dogs aren’t regularly worked. Many a person has been attacked by dogs that have been housed for too many hours, for too many months or years, with nothing to do. Also, certain breeds will need specialized training and activities in order to be content when alone. Training is more than just teaching a dog to Sit. Some dogs benefit by being enrolled in agility, hunting, herding, Schutzhund, search and rescue, volunteer service dog work, etc.
35. Daily Health Check: Every kenneled dog needs a head to tail health check. No professional kennel would let dogs go home without such a check. They all do. That means looking in the mouth, eyes, ears, all the skin, coat, feet. That means a look at how the dog moves about and its behavior. And then a walk through of the empty kennel. You would be upset if you paid someone to care for your dog and they didn’t do this, yet when people kennel their own dogs they give little care. Professional kennel operators would FIRE YOU for being so negligent with their customer’s dogs. Dogs with health problems don’t do well in confinement. Their health will get worse, and so will their behavior. And your costs will increase.
36. Elderly Dogs: Many old dogs are not well enough to be kenneled. Consult your veterinarian regarding what is best for your dog, and do what they recommend. Kennels are also not a place to let a dog wither away and die, alone and neglected, near the end of life. If your dog is too old, suffering… talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia. I know of people who began to neglect their elderly dogs as they were in their last year or so, with the dogs suffering painful symptoms and not given proper medical care or social interaction. That is cruel!! Don’t do this to your dog!!!
37. Consider Liability And Property Damage: All kennel plans should be reviewed by your insurance agent. Make sure you have sufficient and appropriate insurance for your kennel. Dogs that escape can injure or kill a person or another animal. Dogs that escape can damage property or cause accidents. People and animals that enter the property can also be injured or suffer damages, too. A good evaluation of your kennel can help minimize your exposure. Insurance companies have risk management expertise, and you should inquire about their services. If a child can reach into your kennel and be injured by your dog, then you are at risk. If a child can climb into your kennel and be injured or killed, you are at risk… you could go to prison, and you could lose everything you own. If your kennel is a fire hazard, you are at risk. There are a at least a thousand more things you’ll never consider that might come back on you if you don’t do a thorough job. Don’t neglect this part of your planning!!!
38. SECURITY: There are evil people that will taunt, abuse, mutilate, sexually abuse, and/ or kill dogs. Or, criminals will enter the kennel as a way to get into your home to steal from you, or physically attack you. I believe you should install a professional quality security system for all home dog kennels. I have come to this conclusion over the years after seeing criminals harm dog owners, and unattended dogs attacked and/ or stolen by crazy neighbors, thieves, stalkers, and other criminals. The ideal situation is a building or yard that can’t be easily breached or destroyed. Electronic surveillance should also be installed, with a remote backup of data, automatic notification of the police, and the ability to see what is going on over the internet. Sprinklers should be installed in case of arson. Motion detection lighting should be installed, too. The design should consider how to prevent someone from poisoning your dog if they were to toss tainted food into the kennel. Install signs saying the place is security monitored, and if you are out of town, pay for a security person to come by and take a look at the premises periodically, and they (and a good friend or relative) should be a backup for you with keys in case the police need to come and rescue your dogs. Post information on how to contact you or your security company in case of emergency. Gates and doors should be spring loaded, and outside doors have quality locks. All of this might seem expensive, but it really isn’t. You should also consider moving if you have a crazy neighbor that has it out for you or your dog. Don’t provoke these people. Get away. Your guard dog won’t be able to defend you or himself from a gun.
39. Plan For National Emergencies And Disasters. During times of disaster (floods, hurricanes, terrorism, earthquakes, etc.), your dogs might have to survive for an extended number of days without running water or anyone to feed them. You might be asked to leave the area by the police, or you might have to flee and be prohibited from taking your dogs. FEMA has guides for national disasters. Get them, and just think “dog” in every place where they discuss what to do if you are trapped. The same principles apply. Imagine the horror for a hobby breeder that has to leave behind 10 prize dogs for more than a week. You need to store sufficient food and water. It might be wise to install a secure basement under the kennel where the dogs could be housed (or even hidden from looters). You should consider what would be the typical scenario if the property would flood; in that case, a basement would be a death trap. You should also have an escape plan: I would have a backup location where I could drop off my dogs, too, or where you’d meet up with others to get out of your city or state. I keep my vehicle gassed up these days after 9/11, for example. I can’t tell you all of what to plan for. But, I would read some guides and at least have some idea as to what you’d do. Think what a bungling mess was made during and after the Katrina hurricane. You need a plan.
40. Security And Escape Plan: Every kennel should have a security and escape plan. You need a plan to keep intruders out and keep your dogs in. Animals can fly, climb or burrow their way into a home kennel and kill your dog. People can also enter your kennel without your permission. What are you doing to do about that? Further, an escape plan should be devised in the event your dogs escape your kennel. Do you have any idea on how to get your dog back? Do you know how to capture a runaway dog? Do you know what to do when you discover you have a lost dog? Do you have a plan to protect your dog, and to protect the public from your dog? This is another area where it is useful to hire a professional for consulting advice. I have developed a lesson outline for home kennel operators to help them devise a plan for just such emergencies.
41. Air Filtration System: Animals can get respiratory diseases from one another and from micro-organisms in the air. Fungi, bacteria and viruses can accumulate in a kennel environment. For example, Valley Fever is a serious problem in Arizona and other parts of the Southwest. Molds are a serious problem in the rainy Northwest. Thus, you should install an air filtration system in your kennel, especially if you have multiple dogs, or if there are factors in the kennel environment that would make such a system necessary. Such systems are used in raising livestock, and they significantly reduce the risks of disease.
ALL KENNELED DOGS DO BETTER IF THEY HAVE COMPLETED BASIC OBEDIENCE. NOT ONLY DOES TRAINING HELP SORT OUT BEHAVIORAL ISSUES, IT ALSO GIVES THE DOG TASKS AND RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN WITH YOU, ALL OF WHICH REDUCE STRESS.
Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.