Does My Dog Need a Dog House?

By PetMD Editorial on Nov. 12, 2018

Image via

By Diana Bocco

While dog houses can bring about images of sad doggies living outside and away from their families, the truth is that, used properly, modern dog houses serve a completely different purpose.

Outdoor dog houses are great to have if your house has a yard, as they can provide protection from the elements while your dog is temporarily outdoors—and before he comes back in to relax on your couch for the night.

An outside dog house can also be a safe haven for a fearful dog who would like to take some time to decompress or feel safe while outside, according to Diane Orenchuk, a certified professional dog trainer and behaviorist and owner of Beyond the Walk Doggie Daycare and Boarding.

“However, I would suggest also doing training sessions with your fearful dog outside, staying out with him, using positive reinforcement, and taking safety precautions to ensure if he becomes spooked he cannot run away, jump a fence, or slip out of his collar,” Orenchuk says. In short, your outdoor dog house should not replace training, interaction or other things that can help solve underlying issues; it can simply be a safe place to hide when the world feels a little overwhelming.

Summer Benefits of Outdoor Dog Houses

While air-conditioned dog houses can be good options for resting between fetch games on hot summer days to help prevent heatstroke in dogs, Dr. Mark Williamson, DVM at Dunedin Animal Medical Center (DAMC) in Florida, says that if the conditions outdoors are too severe for you to be comfortable, then you should not have your pet outside during these times, either. 

A dog house should serve the purpose of a safe and comfortable place for your dog to rest when outdoors temporarily, says Dr. Williamson, who has a background in emergency and critical care veterinary medicine.  “Being able to avoid constant direct sunlight in the heat of the summer is very important for a dog,” Dr. Williamson adds.

A nice, cool dog house can also help keep your garden in top shape. “During the hotter months of the summer, a dog will seek a cool place to lay down—if there are not many shaded areas in the yard, you may find your dog digging holes to attempt to have cooler ground to lay down on,” Dr. Williamson says. And should an unexpected thunderstorm pop up, your dog will appreciate having somewhere to take cover.

Winter Benefits of Outside Dog Houses

In winter, a dog house can help prevent hypothermia in dogs and provide protection from rain, snow, wind, and extreme temperatures, says Orenchuk, who adds that these structures are not meant to be permanent shelters. “I would suggest monitoring your dog’s outdoor time and allowing them back indoors [in inclement weather],” Orenchuk adds.   

Having a warm place to cuddle up in during the brisk winter days can also provide the comfort any dog deserves for when he is out exercising in the yard, according to Williamson. A dog house can serve as a safety net for those times when changing weather conditions take you by surprise.

However, insulated dog houses can also become a magnet for wildlife, so this is something to keep in mind. “If the dog house is meant to provide warmth and protection for bitter cold days and nights of winter, you may find that it attracts a variety of wildlife desperately seeking adequate shelter to stay alive,” Dr. Williamson says. “Some of these animals carry serious diseases, and your pet may end up with some serious injuries from attempting to ward off these critters, which may include: skunks, raccoons, opossums or possibly even coyotes.”

Picking the Right Dog House

Different materials have pros and cons, so choosing what’s best for your dog can be a little tricky. Dr. Williamson feels that dog houses made of composite plastic material—similar to what’s used on most outdoor decks—are better, as they’re less likely to be chewed up compared to one made of wood. “They’re also much easier to clean and disinfect, and less likely to attract insects,” says Dr. Williamson.  

Wood, on the other hand, is usually warmer and a better choice for winter, but Orenchuk points out that wooden dog houses, unless the wood has been sealed, are hard to sanitize due to their porous surface. “Routinely sanitizing a dog house is a painstaking task: all interior walls would need to be sprayed with water, all organic matter (grass, dirt, feces) completely removed, and every surface, nook and cranny then scrubbed with a brush or towel, fully rinsed and completely dried,” says Orenchuk.

If you want this chore to go as quickly as possible, a plastic dog house such as the Aspen Pet Petbarn 3 dog house might be a better choice.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health