8 Ways Dog Houses Are Cruel + 6 Tips (Make Them Safe!)

Dog houses can be a bit of a taboo subject. Some people think making a dog use a dog house is bridging on cruelty. Others think it’s a safe place for their dog to relax while outside. What’s the truth? Are dog houses cruel to use?

Having your dog use a dog house is not cruel if it’s used in moderation and in a humane way. Dog houses become cruel when they are used as the sole means of shelter for a dog and aren’t maintained or properly insulated/ventilated.

In this post we’re going to dive deep on the ways dog houses can be used cruelly (to avoid them), who should get their dog a dog house, some tips on making a dog house safe and much much more.

Let’s dive right in.

8 Ways a Dog House Can Be Cruel

#1. Forcing Them To Be Used Even In Extreme Weather

Whether it’s in the peak of winter or the heat of summer, forcing a dog to stay outside and use a dog house as their only means of shelter is inhumane.

When it comes to summer and getting overheated, dogs have a hard time cooling themselves down. They don’t sweat like humans do and retain heat much more than us.

This means they need adequate shade, water and environmental temperature regulation to keep them from, in worst case scenarios, having a heatstroke.

For extreme cold weather conditions dogs need to come inside once the temperature gets to 20° F or lower. If a dog is left with only their dog house to rely on when the temperature drops to these levels they have a high likelihood of getting frostbite or hypothermia.

Forcing a dog to use a dog house as their sole means of shelter from any and all weather conditions is one way that a dog house can be cruel.

#2. Never Maintained

Dog houses require frequent maintenance to ensure it’s serving its purpose for your dog.

If a dog house isn’t maintained it will get dirty inside, get holes in it which stop it from protecting a dog from the outside elements, as well as pests and other wildlife might inhabit the dog house.

If a dog has an accident in their dog house that isn’t cleaned it’s unhealthy for a dog to continue to use it. There’s not much room in a dog house which means they will likely have to lie in it.

A dog house that isn’t maintained would likely get holes that go unpatched. This would mean that cold air would easily make its way into the dog house instead of blocking it and keeping a dog warm.

Lastly, other animals or pests might decide the dog house is their new home if it’s never disinfected or properly cleaned. It goes without saying that this would be a terrible situation for a dog to have to live in.

Just like our homes, a dog house needs to be properly maintained in order for it to remain habitable.

#3. When a Dog Is Kept In a Dog House Indefinitely

Dogs are social animals and if they’re forced to stay in a dog house, away from their pack/family, they won’t be happy and could even become dangerous towards people.

Think about it, the worst punishment in prison is solitary confinement! 

This is because people are also social creatures and isolation from any and all other people makes them mentally unwell.

Similarly to if you were to force a dog to use a dog house indefinitely. Without love and interaction a dog would likely start to develop mental and emotional problems.

Not only is this emotionally cruel but also physically as we discussed in the extreme weather section. A dog that has to use a dog house indefinitely would encounter harsh weather in both extremes, hot and cold.

#4. Tying/Chaining a Dog To a Dog House

If a dog house is used as something to pin a dog down to, this is a cruel use for a dog house.

Dog’s need to be able to move in order to burn off excess energy. If a dog is limited to a small area because they’re chained to a dog house they could become aggressive.

Not only this, but they could develop destructive behaviors, gain weight and become excessively vocal in an attempt to be freed.

If a dog house is used to chain a dog to it for long periods of time this would be considered a cruel use of a dog house.

#5. It’s Too Small

Similarly to a dog crate, a dog house must not be too small or else it will be a terrible experience for your dog.

A dog will never want to use a dog house, unless forced, if they’re too tightly crammed when inside.

A dog should be able to stand up, turn around, or sit inside a dog house without touching the roof or the sides. If your dog isn’t able to do any of these things their dog house is too small.

If there’s no extra room inside the dog house your dog will feel trapped as well as anxious while inside.

A good general rule of thumb when it comes to dog house sizing from the people over at Breeding Business is; your dog’s length X 2 (head to bum), your dog’s width X 3, your dog’s height X 1.75, and the doorway being your dog’s height.

#6. Using One Dog House For 2 Or Multiple Dogs

Dogs need their own space. Similarly to a dog crate, two dogs should never be forced to use one dog house.

Forcing two dogs to stay in one dog house will never end well. Dog’s can be territorial and need their own personal space. There’s a good chance the dogs would injure one another or show aggression when in too close proximity.

If two dogs are forced to use one dog house it can make them feel combative. And the only way to defend what they feel is ‘their’ space is to lash out at the other dog.

One dog will either get hurt or be forced out of the house due to the other dog being dominant.

The more humane thing to do is to get one dog house per dog.

#7. Not Insulating a Dog House For The Winter

Leaving a dog house as bare bones when there are ways to help keep it warmer isn’t fair or safe for your dog.

There are many ways to heat a dog house without using electricity enabling you to keep your dog safe and warm in the colder months.

For example, using some form of bedding to help retain their body heat, rice filled socks that are warmed up, fixing/plugging holes, and adding a door are a few examples of what can be done.

Further Reading: How to Heat a Dog House Without Electricity

#8. No Ventilation

A dog house needs proper ventilation in order to be humane in summer months.

While you’d want to fill any holes in the winter, in the summer having adequate ventilation is a must.

If air isn’t able to circulate through the dog house it will become a hot box that will be unbearable for your dog to rest in.

Similar to what happens when a dog is left in a car on a hot day. In the most extreme scenarios this could result in a dog having a heatstroke or even death.

6 Tips To Make a Dog House Safe

#1. Frequent Upkeep

Since a dog house stays outside for all it’s days, it’s going to require maintenance in order for it to stay a great place for your dog to use.

It’ll get weathered from storms, dirty from being used and possibly an accident or two.

It’s important to repair any damages that disrupt the integrity of the dog house making it inhabitable for your pup.

This means repairing holes, disinfecting it’s inside, replacing bedding, and in some cases even replacing the dog house with a new one if it gets too bad.

#2. Used Often – Not 100% Of The Time

It’s inhumane to force a dog to use a dog house 100% of the time.

A dog house can be a dog’s happy place when out in the yard accompanied by their family. But when a dog is forced to stay in a dog house their entire life, not only are they going to experience extreme weather, but the isolation will emotionally harm them.

A dog house is safest when it’s used in moderation. A choice for a dog to use, not a requirement 100% of the time.

#3. Properly Ventilated

If you live in an area where you have warm summer months, it’s important that your dog house is properly ventilated.

Without proper ventilation a dog will easily overheat while lying in their dog house.

Allowing air to circulate to and through the dog house will keep it a safe environment for your dog. They’ll be able to relax in the shade, away from the sun, while enjoying a breeze.

#4. Always Have Fresh Water & Food Available

If your dog enjoys spending time in their dog house they may lose track of time since they last ate or drank.

Having an additional bowl of water and food inside their dog house will ensure they stay nourished.

However, in terms of food, you’ll want to bring their bowl inside overnight so you don’t find yourself with critters or pests living in your dog’s house.

#5. Properly Insulated

If you live in an area where it gets very cold during the winter, if you want to have your dog continue to use their dog house it will need help staying warm.

Patching holes, putting bedding like blankets, pillows or even a dog bed inside, warming a sock full of rice to put inside while your dog lays in their dog house, etc. These are all ways to help keep it warmer during those frigidly cold winter days.

#6. One Dog Per Dog House

Just like people, dog’s need their own space.

Two dogs should never be forced to use one dog house. This will more often than not result in fighting between the two dogs and one or both are likely to get hurt.

If you have two dogs, ensure that they both have their own dog house to enjoy. This will ensure that they both have their own personal space and won’t lash out because they feel confined or combative.

Is It Cruel For Dogs To Sleep Outside?

Forcing a dog to sleep outside can be cruel physically as well as emotionally. Let’s take a look at physically first.

There are many factors that come into play to know whether your dog will be able to comfortably sleep outside.

Things like their coat type, coat color, size, weight, conditioning, as well as age and overall health.

It goes without saying that some dogs are much better equipped to sleep outside than others.

An in shape 4 year old husky with it’s double layered coat that is used to being out in cold temperatures likely won’t have a problem sleeping outside.

Whereas a 10 year old frail greyhound with hardly any coat that likes to sleep next to a heater will hate sleeping outside (if not freeze).

So in terms of being physically cruel it depends on your dog.

However, making any dog sleep outside could be considered emotionally cruel.

Given that dogs are very social animals, forcing them to be separate from their pack at night would be hard on them.

By ostracizing them from their pack at night this can lead to negatively impacting their emotional and mental state.

Where’s The Best Place To Put a Dog House In a Yard?

There’s a few things you need to think about before finding the perfect spot in your yard for a dog house.

First is sun and shade.

You don’t want to put the dog house in a spot where it’s going to be in direct sunlight for too long. If your furry friend were to lie in it on a super warm day and it’s sitting in direct sunlight they could overheat.

Not to mention it’ll also make the dog house last longer if it’s placed in a shady area.

Take a day on the weekend when it’s sunny out and see which areas get the most amount of sun and which areas get the least. Spots where there’s only a couple hours of direct sunlight will be ideal places for a dog house.

Second is elevation.

If your backyard is mostly natural, meaning grass/plants/flowers and not concrete, you’ll want to pay attention to low vs. high ground.

This is because you don’t want to place a dog house in low lying ground. If there was a day of heavy rainfall all the water would pool in/around the dog house.

It goes without saying that this would be inhabitable for your dog to rest in a dog house that now has a big puddle in it.

Again, it would be a good idea to take a look at your yard after a rainy day and see where the water collects. These are the areas where you wouldn’t want to place a dog house.

Third is what direction to place the dog house.

Something else to think about is what direction most of the storms travel in where you live.

For example, if most storms traveled from the east to the west, you’d want to place the dog house away from the east. An east facing dog house in this example would have rain and wind blow into the house making it an unideal shelter.

Placing the dog house west-facing would ensure that minimal wind, rain, snow, etc. get in the house during a storm.

Finding the perfect spot for a dog house isn’t easy. But if you take these three things into consideration you have the best chance at placing your dog house in a wonderful spot.

Final Thoughts

Dog houses that are used in moderation and are often maintained to ensure it’s a safe place for a dog to rest in are safe. It’s when dog houses are misused and become a dog’s sole shelter regardless of condition or the weather that they become cruel.

Always follow the best practices when providing your dog with a dog house to ensure they stay happy and healthy.

Other posts you might find interesting:

9 Ways To Heat a Dog House Without Electricity + Tips For Winter

Complete (Honest) Petmate Igloo Dog House Review + Pros & Cons

What to Put in a Dog House for Bedding?



How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog?

Alone Time for Dogs: How Much Is Too Much?

8 Signs Your Dog Isn’t Getting Enough Exercise


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Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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