By Dave Fisher
About a year or so ago, I put together an article dealing with a new kennel I had built. Some of my editorial friends said this story was about as exciting as watching a brace dog in “action”, until the story came out. Then a funny thing happened, guys were calling me for plans, asking suggestions, and other options to suit their needs. One guy from Ohio that I was talking to about a dog, mentioned a kennel he had seen in the S P O magazine, and that he had laid out the pages and was going to build something similar. He was surprised when I told him I wrote it, and he went immediately and brought the pages back to the phone! Obviously, we never did get to talk very much about the dog!
What this tells me is really something I knew all along .... when we’re not running or hunting our dogs, we’re fooling with them in some way, whether it be, building new kennels, boxes, transport boxes, flea dipping, doctoring, and all that .... in some way we’re fooling with these hounds!
After years of throwing pens together that were only a temporary means of housing, I am finally getting my dogs and the effort it takes to care for them, down to something of a more permanent nature. Recently, I installed a automatic propane heater in my main barn kennel to keep medicine, water, and the like from freezing, and to take the chill off on those windy below zero nights. It was not easy scraping together the $300 I spent on the heater and gas tank, but I wish I would have done it much sooner. There is a lot of comfort lying in bed knowing that the dogs are snug and comfy, and that you’re not going to have stuff ruined or froze to the floor the next morning.
I don’t think any of us that raise and keep more than a few dogs ever have enough room, and males always present a special problem. No matter how buddy - buddy they are with their fellow running mates they are going to fight each other sooner or later. Unlike females, that can be housed sometimes several together, a male usually requires his own separate run. Some of my pens have been up for over ten years, and I also needed extra runs for those pesky males. You know you need both kinds to carry on any type of breeding program!
The following pictures describe the set-up that I came up with for a free standing kennel, primarily built to house male dogs. It was built with treated lumber, and heavy metal grating in the floor. This particular one has been in use for about four years now. You may want to take some of these ideas and work them in what you have in mind for your own dogs.
** Special Note on Flooring *** It has been learned that the expanded metal flooring works very well for female dogs, but not very well for male dogs. Despite coating it heavily with primer and Rustoleum paint it still rusted through in just a few years. Male dogs pee on everything and it runs down into all the cracks and dividers, and just about anywhere rust can develop. Females pee straight down through the wire and their pens look like new, even though their pens are older.
Recently, I replaced the floor in the male kennel with plastic floor panels available locally in farm and feed stores. These panels come in 2 foot by 4 foot sections that snap and bolt together and fit well into my 8 foot by 8 foot design. Although the holes in the plastic are only about 3/4 of an inch ... they can be opened up here and there (as I did) with a saber saw for easier cleaning. So far it has worked out pretty well. I also found out I had to bolt them together with stove bolts to hold them in place before setting the dividers. The whole operation for replacing the floor was done in a single “long” day!
This may be more than you had in mind for a simple kennel, but most of this was built for our convenience, not necessarily the dogs. Also you may have an even more ambitious project in mind. A kennel will reflect the builders own personal taste, and how he perceives the job of caring for the hounds. Everyone has their own ideas. Since many of us own and care for dogs the year-round, it is far more than just a passing hobby to us.
The basic kennel is kept exactly 8' X 8' or slightly smaller so that most of the lumber is standard 8 foot stuff. It's just a simple square laid out on posts as high as you like it. The main frame can be 2" x 6"s and the rest 2" x 4s. Gates and wall dividers can be made from ripping 2 x4s on a table saw to 2 x 2s to save space. For metal wall dividers I bought a prefab "kennel panel" from the farm store and split it in half making it 3' high, by 8 feet long. It was simply slid in place .... a couple dry wall screws at each end and a few wires through the floor hold it in place and it can be removed easily if you want to open the kennel up into larger spaces.
Another view of floor and divider being slid into place.
Two large gates were fashioned across the entire rear of the kennel to accommodate medium size dog houses. The gates as well as all the main structure is treated lumber. The gates can be locked as well as the small front gates. It keeps strangers from messing with the dogs if you're away.
Here the dog houses have been slid into place ... and the center wall dividers have been installed. The outside walls can be built on the ground to fit the openings and wire can be installed also on the ground. Once built they can be slid into place and tacked to the floor and the posts. The four posts are left long (or high) until the height you want is determined. I made my actual runs three feet high and about 33 inches wide. This breaks the eight foot kennel into three spaces. Yes, it does help if you're kind-of "handy" or at least an amateur carpenter, but it is nothing real hard. The hardest part is getting the post set nice and square and where they are needed. this can be helped by using some of the framing lumber held in place by a friend or helper. Once the posts are set ... it's just a matter of filling in the frame and leaving openings where you want them. The small gates on the front of the kennel for access to dogs are about 18 to 20 inches wide and about two feet high. This is personal taste, and there is only so much room there anyway. You can also see the end of the metal flooring sticking out a little. This grating comes in 4' by 8 ' sheets if you decide to use it, it needs coated heavily with fiber roof coating or a couple layers of paint.
Do yourself and the dogs a real favor and roof the entire kennel. It keeps the dogs dry and cool all year, plus it also keeps feed pans, lumber, everything like new. The entire ceiling of the kennel is wired with a light wire and the roof is placed over this. I even ran a couple electric wires for lights and bucket heaters before I put the plywood on. This is a "Mansour" type roof (I made it to match my barn very nearby and I knew how to build it!), you may want to build a simple pitched roof or whatever, but a roof, no matter what type, is almost a necessary. If you look closely you can see that each run now has a small sitting bench up off the floor. The dogs really love these and later a couple were even added above the dog houses creating a three level area for the dogs to romp and see out. The dogs really love to climb and will try to get up on the boxes if they have nothing else.
The finished kennel with paint, trim and even a side walk. You can get as extensive as you want. If you notice there are now three posts on each side. The middle ones were just dug into the ground a few inches just for additional support. They were actually the remaining tops of the corner posts that we cut off. That's Boswer sitting in the doorway. The eight foot by eight foot kennel contains three runs. In a pinch it can easily hold two dogs in each run .... as long as they get along!! This setup really does work well. It has electric outlets on the corners for heaters if I need them and also has lights mounted down the sides just outside the wire. It makes for a nice secure pen, and easy maintenance and care for my wife and I. This is not a weekend project, however. It takes quite awhile to gather all the materials and a couple weeks working off and on to get everything up, but this kennel will last for many years ... hopefully!!
One last look at Dave's finished work. WOW, what a great, off-the-ground Beagle kennel. This is a kennel that anyone would be proud to own and just ask Dave, the Beagles' "Love It."