How to Build an Open Air Doghouse:The Doggy Retreat




About: I like to build, create, and invent new things to use in life. Sometimes I like to share them with others, that's why I joined Instructables. :-)

First a note, if you like this instructable please give me a + plus and let me know by leaving a comment and don't forget to vote for me in the Pets Month contest. Thanks, now on to the fun stuff.

In this Instructable I will show you how I made a custom "Doggy Retreat" out of 2 x 4 studs which I milled to smaller sizes. I am betting you have never seen anything like it. I will provide instructions and a lot of pics so you can make one for your pets as well. I used Google Sketchup to plan it out. Pretty darn good software for free! You can see my concept cad work in the pics below.

We all need our own space sometimes, even pets, it sounds weird but it's true. When you look at the pics below you may think this is a dog house, but it is not, you may say this is lattice work but it is not, or you may call it a trellis, which it is not. What it is though, is a combination of all three of those with a twist. The idea is to create an open air retreat that I can get vines to grow on to help the dogs feel like they are in there own element.

You may be wondering "Why an open air retreat?" Well here in Arizona it gets hot in the summer and the air need to circulate and flow. The plants that will grown on the "retreat" will also help to keep it cool inside. The dirt floor is another way to help the dogs keep cool and gives them a place to dig and scratch with out tearing up anything else.

You should know that this particular corner of my yard NEVER sees the sun, it is always shaded. Plus the dogs have a doggy door to get in whenever they want, so I don't keep them locked out in the heat.

My biggest dog is an Australian cattle dog and German Sheppard mix. If you know a lot about dogs then you may know that Australian cattle dogs have Dingo DNA. My dog looks a Dingo she even has the high back claws on her back legs. Sorry I don't know what they are called I just know other dogs don't have them.

Dingos like to burrow and my dog is a digger like I have never seen before. She destroyed my tomato garden The Mator Patch. So I let her have her way with the rest of it this winter, but now winter is over, at least here in AZ. However, I love my dogs and I decided they needed a space, so I gave up some of my garden area to them.

So to sum it up I made a Doggy Retreat for both dogs that I love.

Both dogs come from the county pound. My small dog is a Jack Russell Beagle mix.

The video is set to music, the song playing in the background is called Set You Free . i think the song really goes with the theme of this contest?

Step 1: My Insperation

Here are a few pics of what I used to come up with my creation.
You will see how they all come together in my ible.

Step 2: Safety, Tools, and Materials

Remember ear protection, eye protection, hand protection and idiot protection. Be aware of the hazards of the tools, materials and the environment you are working in.
I performed a lot of rip cuts with my table saw in this ible, which are dangerous if you are not watching what you are doing. Some people have a hissy fit when they see you do this, just remember to respect the tools, as soon as you don't you will get hurt.

10 Inch Ryobi table saw with 40 tooth blade. Ryobi Saw Ok this one is nicer than mine but both are 10 inches.
Ryobi 18 volt drill (Home Depot $159) Ryobi Buy the combo kit 18 + 1 You will love it
Ryobi 14 volt drill
Drill Bits
Pneumatic Staple/nail gun (Harbor freight $19.95) 18 GAUGE 2-IN-1 NAILER/STAPLER
Air Compressor (Harbor Freight $199) Compressor
Oh yeah and my brain (Home Grown)

2 x 4 x 8.5 Studs (Home Depot $2.60 ea.)
2.5 inch drywall screws (Home depot $4.74 a box) Screws
Some Staples for the pneumatic staple gun (Home Depot $14.79/Box of 5000 ) Staples
Redwood oil stain (Home Depot $7.98 per gallon) Stain
Paint brushes

Step 3: Measure, Measure, and Cut

I, like others, like to have as little waste as possible, to the point I have some OCD about it, but I mean for the entire project. So I design then measure, measure, and cut once.

Grab you studs, find your measurements first and then make your cuts.

Make all of your cross cuts first and then start your rip cuts.

Here are the Cross cuts of the studs

(4) 3'3" cuts for the roof rails

(2) 3' cut for rear posts

(3) 2'8" for posts

(1) 2'2" for rails

(2) 2'11" for rear rails

(1) 1'8" for side rails

Rip cuts
Here is how I measured them. I wanted to keep the measurements very easy but maximize the use of materials. A 2" x 4" piece of lumber actually measures 1.5" x 3.5" so here is what I did:

I set my fence to 1.5 inches and then ripped the full length of my cross cut boards. This gave me a 1.5" x 1.5" piece. Just what I wanted. It also gave me a 1.5" x 1.85" so I ripped that piece again and I got another 1.5" x 1.5" piece plus a .25" piece of lattice to use later.

Note- the saw blade itself is about 1/8th of an inch thick so you loose material when cutting, don't for get this or else you cuts may be off. In my case (2) 1/8th inch cuts removed a total of 1.4" inch of material (approximately). That is why every thing worked out for me for the .25 inch piece of lattice, which I will use later.

OK move on to the next step

Step 4: Build the Frame

Now that all of the materials are cut to size let's build the frame.

I used the measurements off of my Sketch up drawing for placement of the fasteners. Then I measured them out on the actual wood. I had 2.5 inch screws so I had to drill some recessed screw holes and pilot holes into the rear and front posts to get the screws to seat in to the receiving parts properly. Remember the post are 1.5 inches thick (See the pictures below).

I started with the front and rear left post and connected the rails from there.

Next I just worked my way around one piece a time and got it together. Of course I checked my measurements and made the recessed screw holes for each piece as I went along. See the pics below.

Step 5: Give It Some Color

The white pine color just doesn't match the yard and is not the color I wanted anyway. So let's grab our stain and start staining the frame. Let's see if I can enlist some help of some young ones, and hope they don't make a mess.

I used Oil-Latex Redwood stain. It was not my first choice in stain, but it was the cheapest. I didn't feel like spending $30 on stain alone, so I got this stuff for $7.98 from Home Depot.

It washes off of your hands pretty easily but I am not sure about concrete so put something down to catch the drips or move it into the grass.

I stained in steps of assembly, I could have stained all of the parts prior, but I wanted to get the frame built first.

You will see in picture 5 some unstained pieces which are new extra parts that I needed to make for stability and structure support. They fit in just fine.

You can see in pics 7 and 8 I enlisted the kids help, Holly lasted about 10 minutes, but Ryan stayed for a while.

In the next step I will install the freshly stained roof slats.

Step 6: Install the Roof Slats

In this step I will install the roof slats.

In this step I installed the roof slats. My slats are 1.5" x 1.5" wide I laid the slates next to each other to create a 1.5" spacing between them. I did this for all of them except the ends, which I secured first.

I drilled recessed holes into the slats because my screws were to short. The recessed holes are about 1.25" deep, I had some short screws to work with, but you can use what ever length you choose.

I had to put shims in over the door opening. The door opening angles back from the front, it's not square to the front, This created a small error for me. The slats on the left sat lower than the right because the support rail was back farther. As I said I just installed some shims and every thing was fine.

Install the rest of the slats and move on to the next step, "Installing the Lattice".

Step 7: Cut and Install the Lattice

Even though I got quite a bit of lattice strips when I milled the other parts, it just wasn't enough. So I milled some more at .25".

I measured out my lattice work and cut any new pieces to size that I needed. Then I stained them.

Next I installed the strips on to the outside of the "Retreat" and a lattice work began to form.

Using the nail gun I placed the horizontal lattice strips first. I did this so I could put the vertical pieces on the corners of the retreat. I hoped it gave it a more professional look.

Adding the lattice work provided a more rigid structure.

You are finished, that is it for the construction of the "Doggy Retreat" congratulations!

Now let's put it in its new home. On to the final step.

Step 8: Placement

Here in AZ the summers are very hot, like a sauna. So I chose the coolest corner in my yard to place the "Retreat". I chose a corner where the sun never hits and it is right next to the garden. The floor will be loose dirt so the dogs can dig and make themselves a bed. I also dug down six extra inches to help keep the bed area cooler, the lower in the ground the cooler it is.

That's it for building the "Doggy Retreat"

You will see in the pictures that I still have to move the pile of dirt. That is for another day real soon and not part of this ible. I have to put some new grass seed down so I will use this dirt as cover.

I also have to pull out all of the river rock and other dirt the dogs kicked in there. It is quite a mess back there, a little more work though and it will be good to go.

Now I just have to get the dogs to go in to it and get comfortable.

I plan on adding some vines so that they can grow and cover the "Retreat. This will give it a very nice look and help even further to reduce the heat. Plus it will help break up the bright red stain color against the stucco wall.

When I get the vines planted and they are growing I will add some more pics.

It just so happens I have another Instructable that goes along with this one It is the "Garden Fence" and it keeps the dogs out. You may see the fence, incomplete, in the pictures.

I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable, if you decide to make this yourself please send me some completed pics I would love to see them.

Good luck.

Second Prize in the
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    44 Discussions

    Thank you! The contest is over so the voting is over, I won a patch! However you can always click on the + plus sign if you like it. You will find the plus in the box to the right of the instructable. The box is labled -Info - They like it - Stats Then just click the plus sign. Thank you very much for the comments and the plus!

    AZAppleMr. Rig It

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm sorry, I couldn't find it. Is there additional info you can give me to help me give you a +? As a fellow Arizonan, I LOVE this idea. I am designing a glorified dog house/play gym (do you know of any inspirational links) and this idea will be incorporated for certain.
    Also, is there a way to follow the comments for individual inlets?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I love the instructable, but HOW COULD YOU LET THOSE DOGS SLEEP ON DIRT?!?!?! Unless you gave them a pillow.....then, im sorry

    15 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Some apartment dogs who don't have a yard and are only walked on leash to exercise and potty never discover the natural pleasure of digging in a shady spot to find the cool soil under the surface. But digging is natural, smart and so common that owners often contact behaviorists to learn how to curb the behavior because the dog is killing plants and drip systems, LOL! I recommend making a sand box for the dog so they have a "legal" place to exercise their inborn, instinctive behavior which, IMHO, I believe shouldn't be stifled. Thanks for reading. :-)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Mine are the same. They have comfy beds inside but on a hot day their favourite spot is digging in the dirt under the landing. Once it is rearranged to their liking, it is three turns round, lie down and off to sleep. The dirt is always cool.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    our ones like to stay in the sun,lie there like dead and bite each other when they want,its their game


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    thats what i first thought that too,now they are bored and bite me(lightly so no ow) and i fgive them thick sticks when they bite me


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I don't care how lightly it it, your dogs have some serious balls to bite they're owner.


    Your dogs are beautiful. Inside the house they love their beds or any thing I lay on the floor, outside they love their open air dog house.


    Thanks bro. My yellow lab (Oscar) is about 8 years old, and will probably have to become a permanent inside dog in a few years.

    gibsonlp96Mr. Rig It

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    sorry about my last comment, but my dog(black and white german short-hair pointer/ lab mix) and my old dog(pure-bred cocker spaniel(sadly died in '04:-[)) is and was always the queen of the house, but that's the way we love 'em. And I agree, labs are definitely(my opinion) the best dog.


    i have no idea why that is linked to something, what it's supposed to say is "...(sadly died in '04) is and was always the queen of the house..." and i was apologising to Mr.Rig It for the comment on the pillow/bed, oh, and btw, your dogs are the most adorable dogs i've seen in a while