12 Types of Dog Houses and Their Differences

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dog house

To many people, the term “dog house” refers to the classic “Snoopy” — a house with a peaked roof (that Snoopy somehow slept on top of) and an arched doorway centered on one end of the house.

But once you start looking, you quickly realize that dog houses come in many different shapes and styles and are made from a variety of materials including wood, plastic, aluminum, and steel. 

Dog houses also vary by their intended use. Some houses are designed to sit stationary in your back yard. This is what most people consider to be a true dog house. However, there are also portable dog houses. This category includes dog boxes, dog tents, crates, and various types of carriers. You can think of these as temporary dog homes.

To help you make sense of things, here is a summary of the most common types of dog houses on the market. But first, a quick aside about the term “kennel”…

Caution About Dog Kennels – An Overused Term

You’ll frequently encounter the term “kennel” when shopping for dog houses. If you look up its definition, there are two basic meanings, one general and one more specific: 1) any kind of a dog shelter, and 2) a place where dogs are bred, trained, and boarded.  It seems that marketers have liberally adopted the first definition of kennel so that the word now refers to a broad range of pet containment products such as pet carriers, crates, exercise pens, and good old fashioned outdoor dog houses.

So, when you see the term “kennel” used for some of the products described here, don’t get too hung up on the terminology. Just think dog shelter or dog container.

The 12 Types of Dog Houses:

1. Wood Dog Houses

Wooden dog house
Wooden Dog House, Credit: Precision Pet, Amazon

Wood has traditionally been the material of choice for building dog houses and it is still very popular today. Some reasons for wood’s popularity are that it is plentiful, relatively inexpensive, easy to work with, and it just looks nice – when properly maintained. The best wooden dog houses are made from decay-resistant woods such as cedar and redwood.

If one were to group wooden dog houses by roof style, there are three basic designs:

Pitched Roof – This is the classic Snoopy peaked roof formed by two angled panels joined at the center of the house. A very popular and attractive design that results in a house resembling a miniature version of a human home

Single Panel Flat Roof – A simpler design consisting of a single flat panel that usually has a gentle tilt going from the front to the back of the house. Many dogs love to lounge on top of houses with such a roof.

Loft Roof – Some of the fancier houses have a loft or sun deck above the house. In some cases, the loft is built above a conventional pitched or slanted roof. Some loft roof dog houses look like they would make good playhouses for kids…

2. Plastic Dog Houses

Plastic Dog House
Plastic Dog House, Credit: Confidence Pet, Amazon

Plastic dog houses have come on strong in recent years. They are competitively priced, light-weight, and low maintenance. Some are ready to go right out of the box; others require snapping together a few panels. No-fuss, no muss — that’s the value proposition. Some of the most popular plastic dog house styles are the igloo, the barn (gambrel roof), and the conventional dog house with a pitched roof.

Despite what the sales literature may say about the virtues of “structural foam construction with nitrogen insulation”, a properly insulated wooden house will generally keep a dog cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than a plastic one will. Keep this in mind if you live in an area with hot or cold weather extremes.

3. Metal Dog Houses

Metal Dog House
Metal Dog Houses, Credit: Lucky Dog, Amazon

You don’t see them very often but there are metal dog houses on the market. These are typically rectangular-shaped, made from stainless steel or aluminum, and heavily insulated. They are fairly indestructible because dogs can’t chew apart the metal and they won’t rot. They’re not for everybody — you’ll mostly see these sold by vendors that specialize in hunting dog supplies.

Note: A distinction is made here between metal dog houses and metal dog boxes. Metal dog houses are often designed for stationary use whereas a dog box is generally designed for mobile use. One sits in your back yard, the other goes in your truck.

4. Barrel Dog Houses

Oak wine barrel dog house
Barrel Dog House, Credit: Oak Wine, Amazon

Pretty much in a class by itself is the barrel dog house. These can be made from old wooden wine barrels, plastic barrels, or metal barrels. The thinking behind this design is that dogs naturally prefer to sleep in shallow, curved holes and so a barrel – lined with lots of wood chips – can be used to emulate this natural environment.

5. Fiberglass Cave Dog House

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, this fiberglass cave dog house comes along… It’s made of 100% heavy-duty fiberglass that should never rot or leak and is designed to hold two large dogs comfortably. This look may not appeal to everyone but it sure it sure makes for a unique dwelling for your pet.

6. Dog Tents

Tent Dog House
Dog Tent, Credit: OLizee, Amazon

A dog tent is a soft-sided portable shelter. Made from waterproof materials, most dog tents are easy to assemble and break down in minutes. They are lightweight and easy to transport which makes them popular for camping, traveling, and other outdoor pursuits. Some dog tents are quite elaborate, sporting features like ventilated side panels, elevated floors, hold open door flaps, and zippered closures. Dog tents are not for diggers, chewers, aggressive dogs or dogs that experience anxiety while contained.

7. Soft Dog Crate

Soft Dog House
Soft Dog Crate, Credit: AmazonBasics, Amazon

A soft dog crate is basically a rectangular dog tent. It resembles a conventional dog crate except that it is soft-sided with nylon mesh instead of metal or plastic grating. A soft dog crate is also lighter than a conventional crate which makes it more convenient for transporting a dog. However, soft crates are not suitable for diggers, chewers, aggressive dogs or dogs that “freak out” while crated.

8. Inflatable Dog Houses

Egads, what will they think of next? The Kodiak is an inflatable dog house made from materials normally used for high-end outdoor camping and sporting gear. The manufacturer claims that it provides 10X the insulating qualities of plastic dog houses, making it a viable temporary shelter for cold weather situations. If your dog is a chewer, this may not be the most appropriate dog house for him…

9. Dog Crates (Hard Sided)

dog crate
Hard-Sided Dog Crate, Credit: SportPet, Amazon

Dog crates are a multi-purpose enclosures made from metal or molded plastic. They are used for housebreaking, travel, protection of household items, and to provide your dog with a secure haven of his own. Once a dog gets used to his crate, he will look forward to using it because he feels safe and secure there. A crate takes advantage of a dog’s natural instinct to be in an enclosed place when resting. Note that many models come with divider panels to accommodate growing puppies. As the dog grows, you just widen the living area by moving the divider.


10. Hard Plastic Pet Carriers / Kennels

AmazonBasics Hard Plastic Pet Carrier
Hard Plastic Pet Carrier, Credit: AmazonBasics, Amazon


As the name implies, hard plastic pet carriers (also called “kennels”) are used to carry and transport pets. Unlike soft crates and tents, many carriers are approved for airline travel. They can also be used as an everyday crate but note that they typically don’t come with divider panels so they aren’t the best choice for growing puppies. Dog carriers usually have a metal grate locking door, a handle on top, and ample ventilation slots on the top and sides.

11. Soft-Sided Pet Carriers

soft-sided pet carrier
Soft-sided Pet Carrier, Credit: Amazonbasics, Amazon

Soft-sided pet carriers or travel bags are designed to transport a small dog – say under 25 lbs.  They are handy for containing your pet in a vehicle and many are also approved for airline travel. They are lighter and more compact than other types of dog carriers or containers. When not in use, many compress into a flat bundle to conserve storage space. Note that a soft pet carrier should not be used as a dog crate.

12. Dog Boxes

A close relative of the aforementioned metal dog house is the dog box. These are typically used as temporary shelters for transporting dogs and are often seen in the back of a pick-up truck or on a trailer. Many dog boxes are made from aluminum although steel, plastic, and wood are also used. Dog boxes can be quite elaborate. For example, some models are built as a stand-alone trailer with wheels. Others are custom-built to fit snugly in the back of pickup trucks. Some incorporate cages into the design. Many are just simple rectangular boxes that can be carried by one or two people.