Dog House Sizing Guide: The Details You Need To Know

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One of the most important attributes of a dog house is that it be the appropriate size for your pet.

If the house is too small, it will be uncomfortable and your dog won’t want to stay in it. If the house is too large, it will be harder for your dog to retain body heat in order to stay comfy and warm. Also, dogs feel more secure in a snug-fitting abode.

So, you ask: how do you determine the proper size for a dog house?

Well, there’s more than one answer to that seemingly simple question, depending on who you ask. The “standard” answer is that a dog house should be large enough to allow the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably inside the house. This guideline is supported by The Humane Society of the United States as well as a number of other animal organizations.

In researching this topic, I contacted the local animal control center, several pet clinics, and a dog trainer at a pet boarding facility. They all supported this guideline as well. You’ll also find quite a few web sites for veterinarians, humane societies, and dog house vendors going with this “stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably” guideline. That’s why I refer to it as the standard guideline.

There’s just one problem with this guideline: it assumes you can physically test out the dog house with your dog. If you’re buying a dog house online, you’re SOL (somewhat outta luck).

Types of dog houses and their differences

Dog House Sizing Formulas

Fortunately, there are a number of sizing formulas for determining the recommended dimensions of a dog house given the dimensions of your pet. Unfortunately, because there is no single “golden rule” sizing formula, you have to decide which formula or variation of a formula works for you. As you’ll see, the formulas are all similar but different.

Some dog house vendors provide sizing formulas for their specific products. In this situation (assuming you trust the vendor), it’s a simple matter to find a dog house that fits. If the vendor doesn’t provide decent sizing guidance or you’re planning to build a dog house from scratch, then your job is a little more involved.

So, without further ado, here is a round-up of the dog house sizing formulas that I’m aware of:

Asheville NC Humane Society – They offer plans for a dog house with an offset doorway and a slanted single panel roof. Their sizing formula is:

Depth = dog’s length + 12″

Width = dog’s length + 18″

Height = dog’s height + 3″ (low side), height + 9″ (high side)

Ontario Humane Society – They offer rather detailed sizing recommendations for Ontario’s outdoor dogs:

Size of Sleeping Area Floor Space – With each inch of your dog’s height (measured from top of shoulder to ground) allow 36 square inches of floor space. For example, a dog 12 inches tall needs 432 square inches of floor space, or a floor area of 16″ by 27″ = 432 square inches.

Height of Sleeping Area – Add 1 or 2 inches to your dog’s measurement when in a sitting position (from top of head to ground), in order to determine the ceiling height. For example, a dog 12 inches tall will have a sitting height of about 14 inches and the doghouse ceiling should be 15 or 16 inches high.

Overall Doghouse Dimensions – For example, a Dalmatian (20″ tall, sitting height 23″) doghouse should measure: sleeping area – 20″x36″; hall area – 12″x20″; ceiling height – 25″; doorways – 10″ square; roof – 36″x72″.

WOOD Magazine, issue #80 (Aug 95) – The editors provide the following rules of thumb for creating a Pooch Palace:

  1. The depth should be 1-1/2 times the length of your dog.
  2. The width should be 2/3 the length of your dog.
  3. The height should measure 1 1/5 times your dog’s height measured from the ground to the top of the dog’s head.

In case you’re interested, this issue contains a plan for an insulated dog house with an entry deck and an internal removable divider.

Blythe Wood Works A-B-C method – Blythe has developed a copyrighted formula to assist customers of their western red cedar dog houses. With their permission, the formula is given below:

A. The door opening height needs to be at least one inch taller than the shoulder to chest measurement. Also, it is recommended that the house be elevated off the ground by half of the “A” measurement.

B: The width and depth of the house should be at least the “B” measurement (the distance from the dog’s nose to its flank, excluding tail).

C: The “C” measurement is utilized to determine the correct dog house height at the peak. The minimal house height should be 1.25 x the “C” measurement (the distance from the top of the dog’s head to his toes).

Blythe provides an online calculator to simplify using their formula. – This online dog house vendor makes the general recommendation that the dog house needs to be just big enough for the dog to enter and become settled. Their specific sizing formula is:

  1. The height of the door should be at least three fourths (3/4) of the dog’s shoulder to ground measurement. The door height does not need to be as tall as the dog or larger either. The dog will lower its head when entering the dog house.
  2. The next measurement is from the dog’s nose to its flank. The house should be no shorter or no more than 30% longer than this measurement.
  3. The last measurement should be the height of the dog from the top of its head straight down to the ground. Keep its head high and flat. The house should be no more than 45% taller than this height.

Merry Pet/Ware Mfg Formula – A number of online dog house vendors featuring products from Merry Pet and Ware Manufacturing provide the following sizing guidelines.

  1. The door height should be at least 3/4 of your pet’s shoulder height.
  2. The length and width of the house should be at least equal to but not more than 25 percent larger than the distance between the nose and the base of the tail.
  3. The height of the house should be at least 25 percent (but no more than 50 percent) taller than the height from the top of the dog’s head to his toes.

Drs. Foster & Smith’s (, Purina ONE) – These vets suggest that with your dog lying down, you draw a rectangle around him that is 3″ larger on all sides (12″ if the house is to be used for whelping). This provides the width and depth of the house. For the height, they suggest four to six inches taller than the dog’s shoulders. He will not mind lowering his head.


Are you confused yet? As promised above, these formulas are similar but different (some more so than others.) Depending on which formula you select, the length of the dog house should be somewhere between 1 to 1-1/2 times the dog’s length, the width 2/3 to 1-1/4 times the dog’s length, the height 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 times the dog’s height, and the doorway about 3/4 the dog’s shoulder height.

If I were to condense the essence of these formulas into plain-speak, it would be something like:

The height of the doorway should be a little less than the dog’s shoulder height. The length and width of the house should be a little more than the dog’s length. The height should be slightly more than the dog’s standing height.

You can work out the exact scaling factors yourself – within the bounds given above. If your winters are very cold, it would make sense to keep the house as small as possible to help retain the dog’s body heat. If your winters are mild, a larger dog house would be acceptable.

One final tip: Before spending your hard-earned money on a dog house, make a cardboard mock-up. Coax your dog inside and see if he can easily turn around and lie down comfortably. Tweak the dimensions of the mock-up until he can do so.

How to heat a dog house – Click here

Featured image credit: angel6000, Pixabay