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Underground dog house

 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Anyone know how mike oehler built his underground dog house? Or how anyone else has built one? I need one large enough for my two medium sized (60 and 80 lbs) dogs. It needs to block the wind and snow from coming in in the winter, be deep enough for it to stay warm when it's -30 degrees and windy, be big enough for them to move around easily, and above all, be absolutely safe and cave-in proof. I have heavy clay soil that doesn't drain well, so that is a consideration, but I am on a hill and my well is 185' deep, so groundwater isn't a concern. Any thoughts would be very welcome.
 
patrick canidae
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Digging into clay is going to create a damp root cellar effect. Your dogs aren't cabbages!

I have had dogs outside through plenty of -25 to -40 weather in the past, and have some customers with dogs where -60 F happens often.

Dry and out of wind and good coat development with good nutrition are key. I make a substantial portion of my income from and with dogs.

A cheap, easy dog house is a dead chest freezer. Remove lid, cut 1/3 of door off, move hinge from piece you cut off over to remaining door so it still functions. Lay it on the front side. Swing the top open and install a 1x10 plank along the front inside to hold in deep bedding when necessary. Only a few lag bolts or screws so you can remove the plank and spent bedding very quickly. Leave a 1/2" gap between bottom of the board and inside insulation/liner so melting snow and condensate can run out below it. Cut off, pull off or other wise remove the freezer seal on the front(now bottom) edge to allow drainage. Leave the seal around the back and sides in place.

Screw lid down with 2 or 3 long lags through lid into freezer. Put something over sawed of lid edge to prevent scraping dogs. 1x4 boards to frame it are good enough. Deck screws hold them in place just dandy. Add a semi truck mud flap or other wind resistant freezer strips for door covering.

Good luck!
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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patrick canidae wrote:Digging into clay is going to create a damp root cellar effect. Your dogs aren't cabbages!


Exactly why I want to build them an underground house rather than just digging a hole in the ground

patrick canidae wrote: I have had dogs outside through plenty of -25 to -40 weather in the past, and have some customers with dogs where -60 F happens often.

Dry and out of wind and good coat development with good nutrition are key. I make a substantial portion of my income from and with dogs.


That may very well be, but I have APBTs, and they don't have much of a coat. Their feet also freeze quickly and they begin to limp immediately when the weather is in the sub-zero range. They are generally outside all year until the weather gets below 10 degrees or so, and then I move them into the house. I would prefer them to be able to be outside during the day when I am at work so they can take advantage of the sun and the extra running area if/when it warms up during the day.

patrick canidae wrote: A cheap, easy dog house is a dead chest freezer. Remove lid, cut 1/3 of door off, move hinge from piece you cut off over to remaining door so it still functions. Lay it on the front side. Swing the top open and install a 1x10 plank along the front inside to hold in deep bedding when necessary. Only a few lag bolts or screws so you can remove the plank and spent bedding very quickly. Leave a 1/2" gap between bottom of the board and inside insulation/liner so melting snow and condensate can run out below it. Cut off, pull off or other wise remove the freezer seal on the front(now bottom) edge to allow drainage. Leave the seal around the back and sides in place.

Screw lid down with 2 or 3 long lags through lid into freezer. Put something over sawed of lid edge to prevent scraping dogs. 1x4 boards to frame it are good enough. Deck screws hold them in place just dandy. Add a semi truck mud flap or other wind resistant freezer strips for door covering.


This is a really great idea that I hadn't thought of. I would have to build some kind of L-shaped entrance for them to block the wind because they have a bad habit of eating anything I hang over the door, but it would be easy enough to come up with. The house they are in now has a U-shaped entrance into the house that works well, and the house is insulated pretty well, but as I said, these aren't exactly cold weather dogs. Whichever dogs I get next will be (or I'll be in a warmer area), but I moved from AZ with these guys and want them to be as comfortable as possible in this cold climate. Taking advantage of the constant 50 or so degrees underground was one idea I had, and would help them in the 90 degree/80 % humidity summers too.

Thanks for the ideas, I appreciate the time you took to answer.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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here's a somewhat random smattering of ideas:


Any dog, no matter the breed, will gain an undercoat and adapt to cold temperatures. Yes, some breeds will be better at this than others, and it may be true that yours do need more shelter than a simple house with bedding... an insulated 'cave' may be in order.

Wolves, foxes, and other canines tend to dig dens, so there is something instinctive that a dog may find comforting in going underground.

My current house plans involve a constructed berm against the rear (North) of the house. In this berm, I imagine building a proper-ish dog den. In the design of the den, I would make the tunnel angled slightly upwards(to drain water), and bend it so that wind could not come in. The main chamber would have a slightly smaller bed area that could be layered with blankets for the dog to nest down in, and could easily heat with his/her body. I don't have a dog at this time, but would like to have one, and, like you, want my dog to be happy and comfortable in serious winter, while I'm away at work.

We used to nail a wool blanket in the dog house for our husky/collie cross when I grew up in N.W. British Columbia. That was enough for him. When it wasn't absolutely miserable, he would just curl up outside in the snowbanks. But I'm not sure about your breed. By the sounds of it, you definitely should provide some kind of additional shelter/insulation. Old pillows/couch cushions might be something to consider in whatever shelter you build.

If you live in a wilderness area, as I do, I would consider building in an alternative entrance/exit/escape route, so that a predator could not get at the dog. This might not be necessary, as a larger dog will defend it's home fairly easily, considering the compromised position of an intruder coming up the tunnel, but you never know. Where I live, lynx, cougar, bears, wolverine, coyotes, and wolves, are all potential visitors. I"m not sure if I will build mine with an alternate entrance. This is more the method of rodents, not canines.

If your water table is quite far down, and you are used to digging in your clay and finding it dry, then you could just give it a try and see what happens. Clay is pretty strong stuff (in comparison to sand or silt).

The freezer idea could be utilized in the design (I like it), as the bedding chamber that you bury (In order to gain the useful temperature moderation of the Earth). I would incorporate a tunnel to it that breaks up the wind direction.


 
patrick canidae
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No problem Mr. Parr. I ran a line of slick coat Kelpie/APBT catch dogs for wild cattle work. They lived in these set ups just fine. Those dogs went down to about 25 below F many times in barrels with straw, but the freezers kept them down to 40 below just dandy. Several tricks to help those guys out.

1. Go to a small slaughter house and get beef fat, not even tallow, but just raw fat. Feed 1 to 2 table spoons per dog a day as weather under 20 degrees sets in. Increase slightly as it gets colder. Up to 1 or 2 ounces a day. Don't give them so much you cause intestinal distress. Use your eyes and nose and hands and make your own guidelines for your own dogs. Fat is 2 1/2 times more energy dense than corn or other cereals in many dog foods. Fat makes heat!

2. Tender paws can benefit from Musher's Wax.

3. Dead deep freezers can be had for free, or you can make a little money even. I run an ad in craigs list when I need more saying removal of dead chest freezers for $50. I get paid to pick up my next dog house, and cut out the compressor, lines, etc and put in my scrap bins destined for the recycler yards.

Best of luck and Merry Christmas!
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Thanks to you both for the replies.

Patrick, do you cook the fat or just throw it in with their food raw? My girlfriend is picking up 10 lbs of fat from the butcher for me today. The last couple days I have been upping their fat intake by feeding them scrambled eggs. I have chickens, so eggs are a convenient solution.
 
patrick canidae
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I use raw. Just start with very little and have a good way to measure. You can cut it off and use a gram scale or grind it and use volume measurements. Increase slowly. Watch their stool so you don't put it through them like a tin horn or have them vomit up big hunks of suet everywhere!
 
Michael Longfield
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I decided to build an earth integrated dog house to try out some of these concepts. Also, I want to know that my dog (and his dog friend), have a warm place to go even if I'm not home for an extended period of time in winter.

I'm taking a galvanized steal window well, laying it on its side covering the north end with wood, and then covering the south end with glazing and a dog door ( so the dogs can go in but not the chickens). I plan to cover the north, east, west, and top with dirt, let it dry, then a payer of newspaper-poly-newspaper, then another layer of dirt that will be planted in some kind of cover crop. I'm wondering if I need to cover the steel with a layer of poly or not.

I'm making it big enough that I can fit in it (so I can hang out), and so if he has a doggie sleep over there will be extra room.

I will try to update with photos as I construct
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I would love to see pictures of the build.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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