Dog House Info

How to Get Your Dog to Like His Dog House

So you're feeling all warm and fuzzy about yourself because you took your hard-earned money and bought a fancy new doghouse for Bowser. 

Unfortunately, that warm and fuzzy feeling quickly dissipates once it becomes apparent that your pet wants nothing to do with the dog house. Argh... you think... What to do?

This is a scenario that happens all too often with new dog houses. If it's any consolation, don't feel too bad because you're not alone. And, more importantly, there are some things you can do.

If you peruse some of the Internet message boards frequented by pet owners, one of the most common responses to the "how do I get my dog to like the dog house?" question is along the lines of: "if you truly love your pet, you would bring him inside to be with the rest of the pack". Now, this kind of advice is undoubtedly well-intentioned, made by people who believe pets should be afforded the same treatment and respect as humans. I say kudos to them. We need more people like this in the world.

However, for those of you who have just spent $400 on an insulated cedar dog house with a personalized door plate, this isn't really the answer you were looking for. Chances are your thinking runs more along the lines of: sometimes it's OK for dogs to be indoors but at other times, they love to be outdoors and should be outdoors, even for sleeping.  After all, dogs and their wolf ancestors happily lived outdoors for thousands of years. Sometimes, it's ok for a dog to be a dog you think.

If you find yourself aligned with this school of thought, then hang tight and continue reading...

Some Dogs Respond to Living in a Dog House Better than Others

Realize that some dogs are more inclined to use a dog house than others because of their upbringing. For example, dogs that were whelped and raised by their mom in a dog house are patterned to it from day one and are therefore quite comfortable with living in a dog house. To such dogs, their house is their home and it represents security and good times with mom.

This isn't to say that a dog house-raised pet will readily adopt a new dog house but it will be a much easier task to get her to accept the new house compared to a pet who has never used a house. And there are some things you can do to make the new house more familiar to your pet. More on that below.

There is also anecdotal evidence to support the belief that certain breeds take more naturally to a dog house than others. Many Lab owners are convinced that labs are people-oriented dogs that really want to be inside with their families, not outdoors in a dog house.  Of course, the situation gets murky  because the dog's upbringing is always part of the equation. I've heard of labs that like hanging out in a dog house during the day and sleeping inside at night.  Much of it depends on how the dog has been raised.

Tips for getting the pooch to like the house

Alright, onto some specific suggestions for getting the dog to like the dog house. Some of these ideas are just common sense but they still bear telling.

Don't make your pet feel like she's being banished to Siberia. Perhaps the worst thing to do with a new dog house is to put it in a remote area of the yard that is away from the familiar smells, sights, and sounds to which your dog has become accustomed. At least initially, give some consideration to placing the dog house closer to the area where her human buddies are coming and going.

Timing is everything. Choosing an appropriate time of the year to put your dog outside can also be important. If you've been keeping your beloved pet indoors and then suddenly expect him to happily accept being stuck outdoors by himself in the dead of winter, don't you think there might be a little push back? Dogs require time to build up a tolerance for heat or cold so you're asking for trouble if you attempt to abruptly change the ambient temperature of their living environment.

Give your dog time to adjust to the new house. Keep your expectations realistic. If you've been keeping the dog indoors at night, don't expect it to readily accept sleeping outside in a strange enclosure.  If the dog is already an outdoors dog but has never used a dog house, or has an existing dog house that you wish to replace, it will probably take some time and persuasion to get him to adopt the new house. Patience grasshopper, patience...

Make the house intro a positive experience. When you first introduce your dog to the house, spend some quality time with him. Maybe sit next to the house for a couple hours with your dog. If the house is big enough, you could even crawl into it yourself. (Yes, some owners have success with this technique). The dog will be intrigued by this funny looking new object that his master seems to like so much. Also try using treats and familiar objects to lure the dog inside the house (see next tip). Introducing your pet to the doghouse while you are around helps to reassure her that all is well when she is put  there and that she has not been banished from the house or otherwise exiled.

Place familiar objects in the house. To make the new dog house feel like a home, place something that belongs to your dog in the house. You know, something that he likes. This can be a favorite toy, a well-worn bone, a blanket with the dog's scent, his food bowl, your expensive shoes that he chewed apart, that dog face door mat from Aunt Matilda. Use your imagination. Get wild. You might even try placing some old clothes with your scent in the house. Although don't be offended if your dog drags them out - that's not unheard of.

Feed the dog in the house for awhile. Some dog owners have had success introducing a new dog house by feeding the dog in the house.  You could start by placing the dog's bowl just inside the doorway of the house so the dog can easily find it. Then, gradually move it further into the house so the dog is forced to go inside the house to chow down. You might even try hiding some dog bones inside the house. Eventually your pet will form a pleasant association between the dog house and eating and will decide that it's not such a bad place to hang out after all.

Make sure the house fits the dog.  If the dog house is too big, it won't feel like a cozy den to your pet. Furthermore, if the house is not heated, the dog must be able to heat the inside of the house with his own body heat. An overly large house defeats the purpose. Of course, if the house is too small for your pet to fit comfortably inside, that can cause problems. During the winter, make sure the house has plenty of clean, dry bedding into which your pet can burrow to stay warm and dry. You might even consider a heated pad as a further enticement to keep him in the house.

Give the dog a companion. We all know that dogs are pack animals and like hanging out with others of their kind. If you have the desire and resources to acquire another dog, consider putting both of them in the same house - at least for awhile - to make it seem more like a snug pack den where they can keep each other warm.  Having a companion will also help your dog feel like she hasn't been banished to the outdoors - she now has two "families" to hang with - an indoor one and an outdoor one.


I Tried All That But Nothing Works!

Sometimes you try many different dog house introduction techniques and the dog still doesn't seem to like the house. What do you do then? Well, try to determine if the dog is suffering by not going inside the house. Many dog owners have observed that their pet will use the house only under extreme weather conditions -- on days when it is extremely rainy, snowy, windy or hot. Dogs, like almost any other living creature, will seek out a safe comfortable place when the situation requires. The important thing is to make the house available to your pet so he can use it when he wants. Dogs innately know how to make the best out of being outdoors.

If your dog doesn't use the house even under severe weather conditions and is obviously suffering (not that you would let that happen), then clearly a change of course is warranted. Perhaps its time to give the dog house to a friend and bring Fido back inside the house with the humans. Just follow your instincts - they're usually spot on.


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