5 Doghouses Crafted in Classic American Architecture
Beautiful houses get miniaturized for Man's Best Friend
From the popular magazine feature "A Doghouse Like Your House"
Alfie with his English-style Tudor doghouse
A Doghouse Like Your House
No, we are not barking up the wrong tree with this story (and, yes, that's just the first of a whole bunch of really bad wordplay you'll find in the next handful of pages). Frankly, we think doghouses are right at home in This Old House. From our point of view, the five canine cribs that follow make perfect sense given the love affair that most Americans—and certainly our readers—have with their pets. But we also think these doggie domiciles are a pretty good way of putting the fine-craftsmanship cornerstone of TOH on display.
Our dog's-eye view takes in centuries' worth of classic house styles, from a stately brick Georgian to a storybook Craftsman cottage. Not least of all, it makes sense because doghouses figure in so many of our earliest memories—and we don't just mean the ones involving a certain biplane-flying beagle. A lot of those memories involve some fledgling attempts at carpentry. Somewhere between bending nails with a choked-up grip on the hammer (age 2, say) and building a secret fort with scavenged scraps (perhaps age 12), there was the doghouse. Maybe yours was simple: just four walls and a flat tar-paper roof thrown up on a hot Saturday afternoon. Maybe you got ambitious and put on a peaked roof. Or maybe you even built something like what we've got here, in which case, congratulations and we've got a kitchen remodel we could use some help on.
Keep reading for all the information you'll need to create a beautiful, durable doghouse for your pet.
Emma with her Greek Revival miniature
Parts of a Pooch Palace
Just like any well-built house for humans, a custom abode for your canine companion should have good bones—a structure strong enough to withstand the occasional errant soccer ball, a load of wet snow, or the weight of a big Labrador leaning heavily against one wall. Carpenters Mark and Dale Jolliffe of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, constructed just such a shell for each of the doghouses featured here.
A project of this diminutive scale isn't like a full-blown building job. On the frame, ¾ inch pine stock stands in for heavy 2x4s. A brad nailer substitutes for a nail gun. A platform of plywood and pressure-treated 2x4s serves as the foundation. And the small size of the basic components allows the assembly to follow a different course, one that's simpler and faster than regular framing. Here are the basic steps the Jolliffes followed:
Walls - Lay two sheets of ½-inch plywood on top of each other so you can cut out two identical walls in one pass. Stand up all four walls, overlap the corners, and tack them together with 6d nails.
Framing - Cut ¾-by-1 ½-inch pine to length for cleats, studs, and rakes, then glue and nail them to the walls, as shown in the illustration above. Space the studs evenly, about 12 inches on center.
Platform - Screw together a framework of pressure-treated 2x4s. (Make sure to miter the outside corners to hide the end grain.) Check for square by measuring diagonally to opposite corners; when the measurements are equal, the platform is square. Then nail on the ½-inch plywood floor. The platform should be 1/8 inch smaller than the interior length and width of the doghouse shell. Thatway, the shell will slip easily over the platform. The bottom cleeats rest on the platform and hold the strcture 2 inches off the ground. Once the shell is in place, fasten the walls to the platform with 1 5/8-inch galvanized deck screws.
Roof - Glue and screw the ridge beam between the peaks of the gable ends. Glue and toenail the rafters to the beam and to the top cleats on the walls. Tie adjoining rafters to each other just below the ridge beam with strips of plywood. Finally, sheathe the roof in ½ inch plywood so the edges overlap at the peak. "I could stand on this roof and it wouldn't sag," Mark says. After the shell is complete, take your time adding the trim, the "windows," and the siding and roofing. The Jolliffes took no shortcuts here; everything was done the same as a real house, only in miniature. "You'll get 30 years out of this house, no problem," Dale says.
Designer and carpenter Mark Jolliffe's dog, Gumpy, got this storybook Arts and Crafts bungalow
What You'll Need
You'll want to use quality materials if you're going to build a doghouse that stands the test of time and a mixed-breed's rambunctiousness, but we don't expect you to mill tiny moldings and other architectural details. Our builders used many stock materials, readily available at building supply stores, hardware stores, and craft shops. Here are some of our favorite prefab parts:
Roofing - Adhesive asphalt sheeting: Ideal for weatherproofing the roof, and it can be cut into strips and laid to give the look of shingles. Paint it gray and—voila!—you've got faux slate.
Siding - Lauan, or Philippine, mahogany is perfect for making mini-clapboards. The ¼-inch-thick sheets, which come smooth and paint-ready on both sides, can be scored with a utility knife and snapped.
Walls - Birch plywood: Unblemished and paint-ready, birch ply makes sturdy walls. To build the turret roof on our Queen Anne, we used bendable plywood, available at any good lumberyard or by special order.
Floor - Pressure-treated plywood: Strong and weather-resistant, it makes a tough, durable floor.
Windows - Lattice strips: ¼-by- ½ inch solid wood lattice makes perfect panes.
Fasteners - Galvanized deck screws: essential for the base of the doghouse, which will endure the most contact with water. Standard steel brad nails are sufficient for siding, moldings, and roofing.
Paint and Caulk - Exterior latex paint: Three coats will protect against the elements. Also, exterior paintable caulk is good for sealing around windows.
Duke with his Victorian-era style doghouse
We know that most dogs wouldn't give up their indoor digs to live in a doghouse, unless perhaps it was made of liver snaps. But if you are building a doghouse for your buddy to use as shelter, there are a number of things to take into consideration.
Size - A doghouse needs to be big enough inside for the occupant to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Measure your dog's seated height from the top of its head to the ground. Ceiling height should be 1 to 2 inches above the dog's head. Unlike some human homes, bigger isn't necessarily better, because it won't hold in the dog's body heat.
Structure - The house should sit on a platform raised an inch or two above the ground. That will not only keep the floor from getting too cold, it will also keep the structure away from pooling water, since your doghouse probably won't have flood insurance. The roof should be pitched to shed rain and be protected with several coats of exterior porch paint.
Interior appointments - Include some kind of nesting material—straw, hay, shredded paper, pine shavings, anything that will keep your pooch warm but won't freeze, like blankets or carpet. In the chilly months, a doggy door in the form of a burlap or canvas flap will work. Just make sure it doesn't seal too tightly for air to get in.
Tanner with his Colonial-era brick Georgian doghouse
Doggie Digs Through the Ages
Dogs have been making their own houses for a lot longer than we've been doing it for them. Alaskan Huskies, for example, dug snow caves to escape the harsh winter weather. According to Captain Arthur Haggerty, a dog trainer and canine historian, dogs are programmed to seek shelter. "How many times have you seen your dog sleeping under a chair or a table, or under the bed?" he says. "They select overhead cover naturally."
But Man has always tried his best to keep a roof over woofer, too. During World War II, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois served in the American military as trackers and bomb-sniffers. They were transported in vented wooden crates, which conveniently doubled as houses on the battlefield. There have been doggie digs on the White House lawn, too, for presidential weimaraner Heidi Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson's collie and four beagles. Of course, we don't recommend getting as carried away as Marie Antoinette, who insisted that her Papillon's doghouse in Versailles be lined with turquoise silk. That kind of pampering sometimes isn't a good thing: Legend has it the queen so loved her dog, she carried it with her to the guillotine.
See photo galleries of each doghouse and learn more about how they were made: