Most compassionate owners want to ensure that their dog remains warm and comfortable, even when temperatures plummet. But while this is easy to accomplish for dogs that hang out indoors, it can be tricky for those with dogs that spend most of their time in a dog house.
Accordingly, owners of outdoor-dwelling dogs must take steps to keep their pooch adequately cozy.
There are a number of ways to keep your dog’s outdoor house heated and cozy.
You could, for example, upgrade to a super-warm dog house. Alternatively, you could add a heater or heated bed to the house. In fact, there are a number of ways to wire up a dog house to keep it toasty at night.
But electricity isn’t a great option for all owners, dogs, and situations. Some dogs exhibit problematic chewing behaviors, which may put them at risk for suffering a nasty (and potentially fatal) shock. And some owners simply lack the know-how or desire to run wiring out to their dog’s house.
Fortunately, there are a few electricity-free ways to keep your dog’s house warm. Few of them will heat your dog’s home quite as well as 120 volts of current will, but you can use more than one of these solutions simultaneously, to help keep your canine cozy in cold weather.
Method 1: Retaining the Heat Already Present
Your dog’s body is about 101 to 102 degrees at all times, so one of the best ways to heat his house is by capturing and containing the heat radiating from your pooch’s body. This is exactly how a blanket works.
Admittedly, these strategies shouldn’t technically be considered “heating” your dog’s house, but they’re still helpful for achieving our end goal of a warm-and-cozy pooch.
First thing’s first: Cover any holes in your dog’s house that aren’t there for a reason, such as ventilation grates, latch mechanisms, or cord ports.
You’ll have to match the material to the application, but some of the best choices include wood or plastic sheeting. Just make sure everything you use is non-toxic.
Insulate the House
Basic insulation will help keep your dog’s home much warmer. Foil-backed foam boards are probably the best choice for your dog’s house, as they are easy to install and very effective.
You don’t want your dog to chew up this stuff, so be sure to use it inside the walls of your dog’s home or cover the panels with a “false wall” to eliminate access to the boards.
If your dog has a crate within the dog house, you could also consider adding an insulated crate cover for additional warmth inside the crate area.
Add a Bedding
The ground beneath your dog’s house can get quite cold, so it is also important to insulate your pet from below.
We’ve written before about the best beddings to use in your dog’s house, but in short: An outdoor bed is still your best bet, but pine and cedar shavings are pretty good alternatives. Just be sure to stay away from pines and straws.
Clothe Your Dog
Some dogs can’t be trusted to wear clothes, as they’ll just rip them off, chew them up, and leave the resulting carcass at your feet.
But, dog winter jackets are perhaps the most elegant solution for keeping your little wagger warm, and some dogs don’t mind them at all. They’re always worth a shot — just be sure to supervise them the first few times you put clothes on them.
Add a Door
Most of the heat your dog pumps into his house goes flowing right out the front door, so slap a door flap (or some other type of dog-accessible door) on his casa ASAP. And while you’re at it, make sure that your dog’s door isn’t facing in the direction from which the prevailing winds blow.
Stuff the House
You want your dog to have a sufficiently roomy house, but excess space will only serve to keep the average temperature lower. This is great if you’re trying to give your dog a cool place to sleep in the summer, but it is exactly the opposite of what you want for a warm-and-cozy winter home.
There aren’t any plug-and-play methods for reducing the space in your dog’s house, but you could try to use things like dog blankets, sealed water jugs, or big pillows to help reduce the open space inside the home. Note that your dog may also appreciate this reduction in space, as it will make the home more den-like.
Raise the Floor
Along the same lines as providing a bedding, raising the house off the ground may help keep it warmer.
This isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry issue; you’ll have to take a number of things into account when figuring out whether this is a good way to raise the temperature of your dog’s house.
If the ground removes heat from your dog’s house faster than the surrounding air does, it is wise to raise the house off the ground. Conversely, the ground may serve as a nice, warm surface relative to really cold air temperatures.
If you’re not sure whether this is a good strategy for your local climate, call your electricity or gas provider – they’ll probably be able to steer you in the right direction.
Increase the Thermal Mass
Anyone who’s ever laid on a warm rock after sunset has experienced the importance and wonder of thermal mass. A rock heats up relatively slowly, but it retains heat well and radiates it slowly, which means that it helps to keep the surrounding area a bit warmer and more thermally stable.
You can leverage this principle in your dog’s house, but you don’t have to use rocks. Water is a fantastic material to use for thermal mass, but cinder blocks and bricks will work too. Anything dense and safe will.
Don’t misunderstand: Chucking a big rock in your dog’s house won’t turn it into a sauna. But, it will help retain whatever heat you supply. Think of it as an additional strategy; it won’t really work much on its own.
Method 2: Leveraging the Sun’s Natural Warmth
Although the sun’s rays aren’t as warm in the winter, the sun still represents a great way to keep your canine from catching a chill. The following strategies can help maximize the warmth provided by the sun, to keep your dog as warm as is possible.
And unlike the ideas explained earlier, these techniques do, in fact, add heat to your dog’s house.
Placing the House in the Sun’s Path
Although it is almost too painfully obvious to mention, moving your dog’s house into the sun can drastically increase its internal temperature.
In fact, you should be sure to monitor the temperatures after moving it to ensure that it hasn’t become too hot – especially if you live in a sunny location and are only trying to warm your dog’s house a few degrees.
In addition to placing the house in the sun’s path, you’ll want to orient the largest, flattest sides toward the sun to absorb as much light as possible.
Paint the House a Dark Color
Dark objects tend to warm more quickly when baked by the sun, so break out the paintbrush and get to work.
You don’t have to paint your dog’s house black (although he won’t care one way or the other); anything from forest green to navy blue will heat up faster than the off-white or khaki color of most dog houses.
Method 3: Physically Adding Heat To The Dog House
Even though we’re limiting the strategies to those which do not require electricity, there are still a few ways to physically add heat to your dog’s house.
Clever readers may argue that these strategies do technically require electricity, but they don’t require you to run electricity to your dog’s house, so we’ll consider that in keeping with the spirit of electricity-free dog house warming.
Pipe in Warm Air
When you talk about heating your dog’s house, you really mean you want to heat the air. So, why not just siphon off some of the warm air from your house and pipe it into your dog’s house?
You’ll have to be creative to do so, but you won’t have to run wires or anything to your dog’s house. You just need to find a safe place to withdraw warm air from your house and corral it toward your dog’s house via a flexible dryer duct (or something similar).
A fan will help force the air through the duct work, but warm air from your home will still make its way toward the cold air in your dog’s house on its own, albeit slowly.
Although this is a bit of a short-term solution, it does work and is stunningly simple: Chuck a bunch of uncooked rice in an old sock, tie it off and toss it in your microwave for a minute or five (just check it frequently until you figure out the right timing). You want the surface of the sock to be nice and warm, but not hot – you should be able to hold it in your hand indefinitely.
Take the warm sock out of the microwave and put it in your dog’s house. It won’t stay warm for days, but it will keep your dog a bit warmer for several hours, as the rice will retain the heat very effectively.
Note that water bottles will work in a similar fashion. Just heat it up, transfer it to a suitable vessel and move it to your dog’s house.
There are a number of microwaveable cushions on the market, which essentially work like a rice-filled sock does.
They’re a bit more convenient to use, and some will retain heat for longer than the alternative, so they’re worth checking out. The Snuggle Safe Microwaveable Pet Bed is a clear category-leader, so give it a look.
If you want to really spoil your pup with a toasty retreat without using electricity, and you aren’t afraid of an elaborate project, you can plumb warm water into your dog’s house.
This is clearly a very involved project, which is not appropriate for all dog owners, but it is one of the most effective ways to turn your dog’s house into a cozy cottage.
The specifics of the endeavor will depend upon a million factors, but essentially, you’ll need to tap into your home’s hot water lines and run pipes out to your dog’s house and back. The warm water will heat the pipes passing through the house, which will in turn heat the air. Just be sure your dog can’t contact the pipes directly to prevent burns.
In most cases, you’ll want to contact a plumber and have him or her carry out the task, so this will cost you a bit of money. However, it will absolutely warm your pup’s dog house and keep your pooch comfy.
Placing the House Against Your House
If you have a featureless exterior wall, you can slide your dog’s house up against it to help elevate the temperatures a bit. This will help increase the temperatures in two ways:
- It will insulate the doghouse and shield it from the wind on one side.
- Your house will warm your dog’s house as heat is conducted through the walls.
This won’t drastically raise the temperature of your dog’s house, but it is easy to do, won’t cost anything and it will work with most of the other strategies detailed above, so you can use it in conjunction with another method.
Monitoring the Temperature of Your Dog’s House
If you are really concerned about the temperatures in your dog’s house, consider purchasing an indoor-outdoor thermometer with a remote temperature probe, such as the ThermoPro TP65. They’re pretty inexpensive and they’ll help give you a little peace of mind.
To use one of these thermometers, you install the display unit in an easy-to-see part of your house (perhaps over the kitchen sink or near the back door), and then you place the remote temperature sensing probe in your dog’s house.
This allows you to see the temperature in your dog’s abode without having to physically walk outside and check.
The ThermoPro TP65 also allows you to check the humidity levels of your dog’s house, and it provides a 24-hour minimum/maximum function, so you can see just how low the temperatures drop overnight. Keep in mind that you may need to consider purchasing a heated dog water bowl if temps get low enough to where it freezes, as your dog should always have access to water.
The ThermoPro TP65 will actually work with up to three sensors at a time, which makes it a great option for those with multiple dog houses.
Have you ever tried to heat your dog’s house without electricity? What methods did you use?
We’d love to hear about your successes and failures, especially if they involve techniques or strategies not listed above. If you have a really creative solution, we may even add it to future updates.
January 6, 2022
I have a great tip….. KEEP YOUR DOGS INSIDE !!!!!
November 23, 2020
Another good idea is to feed your dogs in a place you want them to patrol and protect. In the morning, I feed my dogs on a pad next to my melon patch. The dogs gather there every morning at dawn to be feed. That way no wild animal dares to bother my garden (or my chicken coop for that matter). No deer, no raccoons or any other nocturnal marauder. At night, I feed them on the front porch. After dinner, I open the door and there they all are! Surprise! Works like a champ! I live in the middle of the National forest and with the dogs help, I feel safer here than I did when I lived in the city! Just like Fort Knox. By the way all my dogs are well trained intelligent and friendly. I never keep a dog that isn’t or can’t earn his keep.
November 23, 2020
We like DIY dog houses built for real working farm dogs. I plan to place a winter dog house under the 2nd story deck on the back of my pole barn garage/workshop inside the back side of the high thermal mass cinderblock stairs to the deck (which will also house a homestead tornado shelter). The exhaust pipe from the rocket stove inside the building will exit through the wall behind the dog house providing additional heat. We will place several other dog houses around the perimeter of our homestead. That way the dogs can have multiple options for shelter. Hay bales surrounding a upcycled pallet dog house and earth bag dog shelters covered with tarp covered leaves or adjacent to the concrete wall of our heat producing compost bin also work well.
November 24, 2020
Sounds like you’ve got things figured out, Eric! Thanks for sharing!
June 29, 2020
The picture of the tied up dog….please remove it ….might sound silly, but it’s upsetting. That’s what ‘no life’ looks like
June 30, 2020
Your concern doesn’t sound silly at all — we’re very sensitive to quality-of-life issues for dogs!
That said, I’m pretty sure that pooch is part of a sled-pulling team, so he or she likely enjoys plenty of time running through the snow with buddies.
Now, we’d still prefer if sled-pulling doggos were allowed to sleep inside with their people at night, but these types of outdoor accommodations are pretty common (example).
Thanks for reading, caring about pooches, and sharing your thoughts!
November 16, 2019
I want to build a room off my laundry room, that would be on my back porch. Has a concrete floor. I would like to put at least one trailer window in, storm door and doggie door in that. Inside the room I’d like to make something like a breeding box, with a rubber horse mat and bedding on top of that. I thought about running a natural gas line and mounting a small heater in the air on one of the walls. The door will open to a 6 ft fence enclosure. Is straw or wood shavings better for bedding….any suggestion suggestions…….13 month old lab
November 18, 2019
I’d recommend checking out our article about dog beddings first, but wood shavings are generally a better choice than hay. Hay can harbor sarcoptic mange mites, which will cause problems for your pooch!
Best of luck!
January 14, 2021
Hello Ben, I noticed that straw wasn’t recommended as bedding but everywhere I’ve read said to use straw as it doesn’t retain moisture and will be warmer. could you elaborate on why straw isn’t recommended?
November 15, 2019
Can I used wood shavings and an electric pad in an outside wooden dog house that is insulated with foam. I’ve been using just wood shavings but picked up an electric pad too. Have not put pad in yet since I’d have to use an extension cord to reach it. Which I read is not recommended but I don’t have any other choice at this time.
Any advice or suggestions would be great.
November 15, 2019
Hey, Sommer. It depends on the heating pad — some can be used in a substrate (such as wood chips), but others should not be used this way.
I’d check the literature that came with the pad or contact the manufacturer.
Best of luck!