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A Complete Kennel System!
By Carl Altenbernd

Whether you are going to build a new kennel or just thinking about remodeling your old unit, I have included an easy to follow lay out that will allow your dog to live in a safe and healthy environment and make your daily dog care maintenance hassle free. We'll look at where to site the kennel, layout of the floor, construction of the kennel walls, an outside or workbench dog house, and finally how to build a kennel drainage system.

Siting Your Kennel

Our first project is to check with local zoning and building code inspectors prior to construction. Local codes may dictate certain setbacks and modifications to location and material requirements.

In orientation of a kennel, first consider prevailing winds. Will the location act as a snow trap in the winter or will the wind constantly blow on the dog house door? Next, consider overhead screening for summer shade. Sidewall screening should be considered so the dog cannot see everything going on in the neighborhood. Naturally a dog will be less likely to bark at every movement if he cannot see what's going on. The last and most important factor is site selection. The location must be convenient for your access so general daily feeding and cleaning chores are hassle free.


Figures 1-4    Click here for larger (220k) print version of this diagram.
(It appears in a new window, print window, then close window to return here.)

The Floor

Now that we have picked the ideal location, lets overview the size and surface of the structure floor as illustrated in Figure 1. For the retriever breeds, I feel a 4x12' kennel is a good size to start with. A dog will have plenty of room to walk, yet the area is not so large that shoveling snow and general cleaning will be difficult. Lets remember that a kennel is not an exercise run; it's an area where your dog can get fresh air and use a corner for a bathroom. If you allow your dog to exercise outside the kennel twice a day, your dog should condition itself to use the facility outside and not mess up the kennel floor. For the smaller run, you should use a smooth concrete floor. If you are going to own the high test breeds;shorthairs, Brittanys, etc. where the dogs have a tendency to pace, a larger run should be laid out. It is not uncommon to use 6x12' or 6x24' layouts which may help stool stomping problems that occur with the more active breeds. With larger floor areas, a light broom concrete surface is important to eliminate injury from dogs slipping on a smooth surface. If the surface is too rough, it can cause irritation or even cut the pads on a dog's feet.

The concrete is reinforced with rebar or mesh and is poured four inches thick with a one quarter inch slope for each foot of run to the front entrance. A two inch by six inch gutter is formed at the base of the entrance to allow for a septic system drain. A three-foot side walk is built at the entrance. An added feature to the floor is the construction of concrete blocks for a kennel wall base. The blocks make for easy kennel cleaning and also saves wear and tear on the kennel walls. The blocks are laid directly on the concrete slab. Upon completion, each block is filled three-quarters full of sand, then concrete is smoothed over the remaining void. Each end block is left open for final placement of the kennel walls.

Kennel Walls

The kennel wall fabric should be 9 gauge in 6x12' or 6x24' length walls which can be purchased from the local lumber yard or fence company. If you are a do-it yourself kind of guy, most fence companies will sell you the components with easy installation instructions. Be sure to purchase 11 gauge fabric for a top cover. This is a must for keeping dogs away from your female in heat or stopping the male jumper.

As Figure 2 illustrates, the kennel entrance door is designed with a full swing opening for easy snow removal. A one foot chain hooped with a bolt snap or padlock can be used for added security.

The end wall against the building can be covered by 1x2" welded wire. Note you never want to leave a building wall exposed to a dog due to the simple fact that the surface will become a chew toy for most animals.

The Doghouse

Is the doghouse going to be free standing or built in a garage or building? I think the biggest advantage of the doghouse constructed in a building is having access to your dog during poor weather and the added warmth or cooling effect of a double-walled structure.

Figure 3 illustrates an outside doghouse constructed with 2x4" or 2x6" framing with three inches or more styrofoam insulation. Stay away from fiberglass insulation for an outside doghouse unless you plan to vent the walls for removal of moisture. Once fiberglass gets wet, you lose all insulation qualities. One-half inch painted CDX plywood should be used on all inside and outside surfaces. Cover all chewable doghouse corners with galvanized sheet rock corner molding. An optional three-quarter-inch plywood winter insert can be added to create an area to retain your dog bedding. For the bedding, use pine shavings or marsh hay. Stay away from cedar chips, which can goof up a dog's nose, and straw which breaks down into fine pieces. You can now purchase reliable electric heat mats which eliminate the cleanup hassle of bedding, but, more importantly, provide an environment as comfortable as your living quarters. One often important feature needs to be considered in that you are providing a clean, dry bedding surface area and a well-insulated house. But, this is all in vain if you do not install a weather-proof dog door.

An inside-the-building doghouse has similar features to the outside unit as far as building materials go. It includes 2x4" or 2x6" framing, a half-foot painted CDX plywood and insulation as shown in Figure 4. For the dog's bed, lay a 2x4" on edge with a half-inch plywood covering and three inches of styrofoam nailed between the 2x4" for the floor insulation. A dog sleeping on plywood or an electric heat mat is much more healthy since carpet or other materials retain moisture, dirt and bacteria which can cause coat or other health problems.

Rather than building a removable roof on the inside doghouse, construct an inside door with three-quarter inch plywood with the grain of the wood running vertical to the floor. A 20x30" door hinged with two
standard cupboard hinges and latched with a three inch swivel safety clasp latch works great. To insulate the door, glue two inches of styrofoam onto the inside opening covered with half-inch plywood. Again, purchase a proven designed commercial door for the outside opening. A standard size door opening is 13"x18".

Figure 5

Kennel Drainage

Proper drainage of water and waste material in a kennel is necessary for good sanitation, general cleanliness of the dogs, and as an aid in bacteria and parasite control. The type of septic system presented is intended for a concrete run with a gutter leading to a container and is not effective for gravel or sand runs. Be sure to check local building codes before beginning this construction project.

Drainage from the outside run goes into a gutter across the end of the run. The gutter slopes so the waste is carried to a large metal garbage can as shown in Figure 5. One-half inch holes are drilled down the can and the bottom is cut out. A 6x4" inlet hole is cut on the top edge to allow access of waste from the kennel floor. The can is installed approximately two inches higher than ground level.
Final treatment of the waste water is completed in the drainfield trench. The trench is constructed by making a level excavation six inches wide, ten feet long, and three feet deep. A trencher works well for this job.

Next, clean rock is placed around the tank and in the bottom 18 inches of the trench. A four-inch perforated sewer pipe is placed on the rock and butted up to the outside of the sewer tank, two inches of rock over the top of the pipe, a layer of newspaper, and the soil back fill completes the project.

The key to this system functioning properly is the soils must have an absorption or percolation rate between 0.1 and 60 minutes per inch or in other words, sand or sandy loam soils. A simple soil textures test by your local soil conservation service will inform you of the local soil conditions. This system will not function in the winter in northern states if the ground freezes. To avoid frequent clean-out of tank, use a large aluminum shovel and garden hoe to pick up surplus stool. Sweep only hair and by-product in system.

Helpful Hints

• Make a pre-construction sketch of your kennel plans.
• Check local zoning and building code requirements prior
to construction; and
• In orientation of kennel, consider prevailing winds, visual screening with trees and shrubs, neighborhood noise and convenience in access.
• All runs should slope away from buildings.
• An outside doghouse should be raised off the ground to avoid moisture.
• Avoid a drafty doghouse no matter what the temperature and install a dog door.
• Cover or arrange the kennel so the outside has summer shade.
• Paint all wood surfaces with a non-toxic paint in a light color so it doesn't absorb the sun's heat.

The above article appeared in the June/July 1996 issue of Gun Dog Magazine.The author Carl Altenbernd has a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning. He has twenty plus years of professional planning and financial lending experience. Carl is the owner of Gun Dog Kennels and Gun Dog House Door® Company with 25 years experience training dogs, he also has been published in Gun Dog Magazine 18 times.


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