by Gary Koehler, Senior Editor, Ducks Unlimited Magazine
Every couple of years, either on television, in a national magazine, or on the Internet, someone comes up with a story focusing on a glitzy house constructed for a celebrity's dog. You have likely seen this overkill more than once. Air conditioners and heating systems are sometimes part of the pomp and circumstance. Curtains and carpets push this customized high-end "kennel" way over the top.
The average retriever owner seldom sees the need for such canine indulgence. Personally, I'm of the opinion that dogs that live inside the home with their owners are generally better adjusted. But everyone can't keep a dog inside, especially if they own more than one. Hence, an outdoor kennel is often a necessity. Kits are readily available from a number of sources. Or you may opt to design your own. Whatever the case, you don't have to be a master carpenter to succeed in building a comfortable, functional kennel for your retriever. If you need technical assistance, ask a friend or family member to help out.
Before heading off to the lumberyard or home improvement store, make a rough sketch of the kennel you intend to build. Then stop at your city clerk's office and ask if any special permits are required to build a structure of this nature. Depending on where you live, there may be specific codes and municipal regulations that apply. Check this out before pouring cement, erecting posts, or installing fencing. If you don't, and the kennel is ruled not up to spec, you could be forced to tear it down and start over.
Think in advance about the best place to build a kennel. As with all real estate—large and small—it's all about location. The ideal kennel site will provide a mix of shade and sunlight. The shade will keep the dog cool during hot summer days, and nearby trees and hedges may reduce wind and cold during winter. Sunlight will help dry out the kennel floor following wet weather.
Select a spot that you can easily see from your house. This will allow you to keep an eye on your dog to make sure he is feeling well and not being disturbed by intruding animals or people. The dog will also appreciate not being visually separated from its owner. There is no need to make the dog feel like it has been banished. The control provided by the kennel is nice, but don't forget the importance of regular interaction with your dog.
Consider the neighbors, too. Do you really want to put the kennel right up against the property line? Fences may make for good neighbors, but barking dogs can create disharmony, to say nothing of ill will. Let's face it, besides the noise, there is also an odor factor involved here, so a bit of consideration could keep you in the good graces of the people next door.
The size of your dog should determine the size of the kennel. The larger the dog, the more kennel space should be allotted. Retrievers that are confined to too-small areas will do everything in their power to get out, including trying to jump over or dig under the kennel fence. Make sure the dog has room to walk around; a larger kennel allows for more exercise. In terms of the doghouse within the kennel, build it big enough that the dog can stand up and turn around, but don't make it excessively large, because the structure will be harder to keep warm in the winter.
Think in advance about the best place to build a kennel. As with all real estate—large and small—it's all about location.
Resist the temptation to install a stake inside the kennel run. Some dog owners do this to prevent the dog from trying to escape the kennel. Unfortunately, when tethered to a stake, dogs have died after becoming hung up on the fence. If you are concerned about your dog going over the fence, install a roof system of some sort. A tarp stretched tautly across the top of the kennel will sometimes be all that's required.
Consider drainage. The dog's house should be elevated an inch or two above the kennel floor. This keeps the dog drier and makes it easier for you to hose out the waste and keep the kennel clean. The floor, assuming it amounts to a roughly finished (as opposed to smooth) concrete pad, should be disinfected on a regular basis. Remove the dog before doing this as the chemicals may be caustic.
Untreated lumber (exterior grade plywood) may be the best choice for kennel construction. While it may not last as long as treated lumber, the chemicals in treated wood can be toxic if your dog decides to chew on its house. Make sure the roof is pitched, as opposed to flat, to ensure rain and snow will easily run off. Chain-link fencing is likely the most popular method of kennel enclosure.
Keep these tips in mind as you craft your kennel-building strategy. Your dog's safety and comfort are in your hands.
While packaged kennel kits are available for purchase, free kennel plans can also be found online. Building a kennel to your specifications will likely cost less overall.