How To Heat a Dog House

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If you live in an area with frigid winters, the temperature may get so cold at times that your dog’s body heat is not sufficient to keep her warm in the dog house.

This is most likely to be the case with older dogs since their metabolism and general fitness isn’t what it used to be. The same applies to sick dogs or dogs who are recovering from an illness. In these situations, a heated dog house can make a difference.

A heated dog house is also recommended if the house will be used for whelping.

What about dogs with short hair?  The general “wisdom” is that short-haired breeds such as Daschunds, Dobermans, Greyhounds, and German Short-Haired Pointers need an external heat source to stay warm. However, many veterinarians disagree. They say that short-haired dogs have the same ability to keep warm as long-haired dogs because even though their hair is shorter, the hair structure is different. For example, the hair on a Doberman is hollow inside and the air pockets in this hollow space provide excellent insulation.

Whether your dog has short hair or not, if he is used to being inside and is abruptly placed outside (not that you would do that), a heated dog house will make the transition easier for him.

Pets Imperial
Insulated Dog House, Credit: Pets Imperial, Amazon

Proper Cold Weather Construction

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of heating a dog house, it’s worth pointing out that a properly constructed dog house will go a long way towards keeping your pet comfy warm during the winter. Ideally, a cold-weather dog house has the following features:

1) The dog house floor is insulated and elevated above the ground. A cement floor is nice and cool in the winter but bitter cold in the winter. It soaks the heat right out of living things. Insulated wood is best. In a pinch, you could place the dog house on top of a wooden pallet.

2) The house is large enough for your dog to comfortably turn around and to stretch out but not so large that its own body heat can not keep the house warm.

3) The floor, walls, and roof of the house are insulated.

4) The doorway has some kind of door. A flap of clear vinyl or carpet will suffice.

5) The house has an interior windbreak wall so your dog is better protected from the elements.

8 Ways to Heat a Dog House:

Onto the main event… In terms of heating a dog house, here are some suggestions arranged in order of increasing expense and complexity.

1. Heated Kennel Mat

Heated Pad
Heated Kennel Mat, Credit: K&H Pet Products, Amazon

The simplest and lowest cost approach to heating a dog house is to use a heated kennel mat or heating pad. You just put it on the floor of the dog house and plug it in. Alternatively, the mat could be hung on a wall of the house so the dog could lie against rather than on top of it.

A heated mat is an effective way to warm your pet – especially if the house is insulated – although some owners may be a bit nervous about their dog sleeping directly on an electric device with a cord running from it.  This is mostly a concern if your dog is a chewer. Note that most mats have a metal safety coil around the cord so if you can

run the unprotected part of the cord out of the dog’s reach, you’re in business. Otherwise, you might consider encasing the rest of the cord with PVC pipe.

If you think your dog will chew through the hard plastic cover on the pad

itself, you should probably consider other heating options.

Some dog house owners opt to place the pad under the house rather than inside it. That way the house never becomes too warm but the floor of the house never gets cold. It also prevents the dog from chewing on the pad. If you have an un-insulated dog house sitting directly on concrete, this approach may be worth investigating. Personally, I would be nervous about having an electric pad directly exposed to outside moisture…

A heated dog mat is appropriate for both wood, metal, and plastic dog houses. Most other heating sources are designed for wood or metal houses only. A heated mat will set you back about 40 to 80 bucks.

2. Heated Dog Bed

Homello Pet Heated Pag Pet Heated Pag
Heated Dog Bed, Credit: Homello, Amazon

Heated dog beds are similar in some respects to heated kennel mats with the main difference being that they are designed for indoor use only. They provide radiant heating from a heating strip buried inside the padded bed that keeps the surface of the bed about 12° to 15° above the ambient air temperature. The outer covers are usually removable and washable. If you have a drafty house or perhaps an older dog with poor circulation, a heated dog bed is a low-cost way to keep your dog warm and snug.  Energy consumption is minimal – about the same as that for a 10-watt light bulb.

3. Heater Box

Akoma Heater Box
Heater Box, Credit: Akoma, Amazon

A dog house heater box is basically a metal box with a light bulb or ceramic emitter inside. The box mounts in an upper corner of the dog house to not impinge on your pet’s sleeping space and heats the house in much the same way an egg incubator does.

Currently, there are only a few models of heater boxes on the market. Perhaps the best known is the Hound Heater. According to the manufacturer, the heating unit will maintain a comfortable temperature when the outside temperature is below freezing. For example, when it is 0° F outside, the heater will keep the house around 40° F. A separate thermostat can be purchased if greater temperature control is required.

Some dogs like to sleep in the dark. If a light bulb is used as the heat source for a heater box, the light could be an issue. In this case, you could use a ceramic emitter instead. A ceramic emitter resembles a flattened light bulb with a ridged face. It gives off no light and should last the life of your dog (which is a good thing since they cost $35 a pop).

You can expect to pay about $50 to $60 for a heater box. By the time you add in a temperature control switch, some infrared bulbs or perhaps a ceramic emitter, you’re looking at around $100.

There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests a metal heater box will outlive heated kennel mats (some dogs like to chew on mats) so you may want to factor that into your buying decision.

I’ve heard of people making their own heater boxes by placing a light bulb inside a metal duct or a chicken wire cage. Just make sure you safeguard against broken bulbs. If the house has straw bedding, the hot pieces from a broken bulb could fall into the bedding causing it to smolder and possibly ignite.

4. PETCool Heater / AC Unit

AC Unit for Dog House, Credit: ECO, Amazon

The Cadillac approach to heating your dog’s humble abode is to install a  standalone heater/AC unit such as the PETCool Therm-ASSURE system. (Actually, this is the ONLY heater/AC unit designed specifically for dog houses as far as I know).

Depending on options, the PetCool system will set you back $400-$500. For some pet owners, the system is well worth the cost because it automatically maintains a comfortable and safe year-round temperature for your pet. It also doubles as a dehumidifier to keep mold and mildew at bay. And if you don’t have a shady spot for locating the dog house, the cooling provided by the PetCool is invaluable.

You can buy dog houses already configured for the PetCool or retrofit an existing one. It mainly involves cutting two holes in the wall of the dog house and connecting hoses from the unit to each hole. The unit itself needs to be placed on a flat surface about 1-2 feet from the dog house. You’ll also want to attach a vinyl flap door to the house (one is included in the kit) to better maintain the temperature of the house.

The PetCool comes with a 6-foot power cord. If your dog is a chewer, you should find a way to protect the cord.  PVC pipe or metal conduit are both viable options. The manufacturer estimates that it costs about $0.90 a day for cooling and slightly more for heating – IF you operate the unit around the clock. However, chances are that you won’t be using the unit 24/7 throughout the year.

A dog in front of its house
Credit: PublicDomainPictures

And here are a few less conventional approaches to heating a dog house…

5. Dog house inside garage

Put the doghouse in the garage and give him his private entrance. This involves cutting a hole in the garage wall between two studs and building an overhang or tiny porch on the outside (to match the rest of your house of course). Position the doorway of the dog house towards the cut-out with either a vinyl flap or an electronic door to keep out the elements.

6. Dog house next to house with heat via dryer hose

If you’re able to position the dog house next to your home, you can heat it using a dryer hose. Cut a piece of plywood so that it fits in the window of the room closest to the dog house. Then, cut a hole in the plywood to the diameter of the hose, attach one end of the dryer hose to the plywood and the other to the roof or wall of the dog house. Use a small fan to blow air from the house into the canine house. You might want to use one of those outside dryer duct flaps to keep critters from crawling inside when the fan is not in use.

Ceramic Heater
Ceramic Heater. Credit: Home Choice, Amazon

7. Dog box heated by 12 Volt ceramic heater

Here’s an idea for heating a dog box that I came across in a newsgroup. The idea is to use one of those small 12 Volt ceramic heaters with a built-in fan that plug into the cigarette lighter of your car or truck. You can find them at most auto parts stores or online for $10 to $30. Mount the heater on the roof of the dog box and connect it to a 12 Volt gel cell battery hooked up to a continuous charger. (A gel cell battery is a more expensive type of lead-acid battery that contains a semi-solid electrolyte to prevent spillage). This keeps high voltages away from chewing dogs and enables the heater to work for a few hours after a power outage. You could also wire in a thermostat that allows the heater to automatically come on at say 30 to 40 degrees. Just make sure all electrical components are out of reach of your pet.

8. Solar heated dog house

Here is a solar dog house that features an insulated cedar living den fronted by a solar unit made from polycarbonate panels. The solar unit is essentially a miniature greenhouse with a circular doorway. As the sun shines down on it, the solar unit heats up and channels some of the heat into the adjoining living quarters of the dog. At night-time, the dog must rely on his own body heat and whatever residual heat remains from the solar heating.