It can be frustrating for dog owners when a dog won’t use its doghouse even if the weather is terrible. Some dogs can seem incredibly stubborn (and miserable) as they’re crying at the back door to come in when they have a perfectly good shelter of their own outdoors.
Below you’ll find a list of several reasons why a dog will not use their doghouse. These can range from issues with the house itself to lack of familiarity. You’ll also get some tips on how to get your dog used to a doghouse. With just a little training, you can get your dog into the doghouse in no time!
Dogs Won’t Use Doghouses If They’re Afraid of Them
Some dogs, especially those that are skittish or fearful, may become frightened by unfamiliar objects that randomly show up in their territory. This is usually caused by the dog not being adequately socialized around strange objects and people as a puppy, which leads to irrational phobias towards strange stimuli when the dog becomes an adult.
You might think it’s silly for a dog to be scared of a doghouse, but here are a few reasons why dogs can find doghouses scary:
- They smell strange: Brand new doghouses may smell strongly of paint, plastic, or other artificial materials that are oppressive to a dog’s sensitive nose. If you just bought a new doghouse, make sure the house has sufficient time to air out before expecting the dog to use it.
- They only have one exit: Animals are naturally leery of entering a space where they can be cornered in the event of a conflict. These are things that people may not necessarily think of (except maybe as a passing sense of claustrophobia), but animals instinctively avoid unfamiliar places where they could become trapped.
- They are confining: Doghouses are designed to be just large enough for the dog to turn around in, and just like people, some dogs may be nervous about entering a confined space. Dogs tend to feel safer in an open area where they can flee if they feel threatened.
There are several ways that a dog owner can make their dog feel less afraid of the doghouse if they suspect that fear is the cause of the dog not using it. Physically confining the dog inside the dog house for a short amount of time can teach the dog that there is nothing to be afraid of in it, similar to how dogs are trained to get used to the crate by shutting them in.
Here are a few other ways to make dogs less afraid of their doghouse:
- Throw in a few pieces of dirty laundry that smell like you. Dogs associate the smell of their owners with safety and comfort, and these kinds of “blankies” can help dogs see the doghouse as a comfortable place and not a scary one.
- Throw in some treats. This can help the dog learn to associate the doghouse with food and other positive things. By venturing into the doghouse to get the treats, they learn that there is nothing dangerous about it.
Dogs Won’t Use Doghouses If They Think They’re Being Punished
Another issue that you might run into if your dog doesn’t want to use their doghouse is if the dog gets the idea that they are being punished or banished in some way by being asked to use the doghouse as a shelter. If the dog has been moved from indoors to outdoors, it can be even harder on the dog because they don’t understand why they can’t go back into the house.
If a doghouse is located too far away from the house and family activities, the dog will associate it with loneliness and separation anxiety. This will cause the dog to avoid it, which makes sense—you wouldn’t willingly go in a room that made you feel bad either, would you?
Dogs may dislike the doghouse and won’t use it if they were previously punished by being placed in their training crate due to bad behavior. If a crate has ever been used against a dog as a punishment, they will associate other small spaces with punishment. This is the primary reason why dogs should never be sent to their crate or doghouse as a punishment.
Here are a few things you can do to help your dog form a more positive association with their doghouse:
- Never throw your dog outdoors to punish it. It’s fine to place a dog outdoors if you have guests or need the dog out of the house for some reason, but don’t ever yell at the dog before putting it out. This can reinforce the idea in the dog’s head that going outside means they were a bad dog, and they will view the doghouse in a negative light.
- Praise your dog and give treats any time they willingly go into the doghouse. If your dog won’t go into the doghouse, give them positive attention whenever they go near the doghouse. Reward the dog for getting closer and closer to the doghouse and encourage them to enter it by throwing treats inside.
- Move the doghouse closer to the back door. If a doghouse is placed far out on the edge of your yard or property, it can make your dog feel lonely and separated from their “pack” of humans. If your dog has to be kept separated from the family by staying outdoors, ensure that the doghouse is close enough that they still feel included, not banished.
- Save a special toy or treat just for the doghouse. If your dog needs to go outside, bring out a special toy or treat that your dog loves. That way, they will associate being let outdoors to go in their doghouse with a special reward, not punishment.
- Feed your dog inside the doghouse. This is an easy way to set up a positive association with the doghouse for your dog. You may be able to get them to go into the doghouse for their regular food, but if they are stubborn about it, try raising the stakes with some deboned rotisserie chicken or similar high-value reward food.
Dogs Won’t Use Uncomfortable Doghouses
In some cases, a dog won’t use a doghouse because they find it uncomfortable. Here are a few things about a doghouse that can make it uncomfortable for a dog to sleep in (Source: The Nest):
- The doghouse is too cold: Doghouses that are poorly insulated, are placed in a windy area, or don’t have enough bedding may be chilly, and this can deter dogs from trying to sleep in them.
- The doghouse is too hot: In warmer climates, a doghouse that is poorly ventilated may build up heat or humidity in warm rainy weather, and this can be stifling to the dog. They may prefer getting wet to feeling hot or smothered.
- The doghouse bottom is hard: If the bottom of the doghouse isn’t comfortable to lie down on, this can cause the dog to avoid it, especially if the alternative is lying on the soft grass. No matter what kind of doghouse you get, it needs soft bedding in the bottom to make it a comfortable den for your dog to sleep in.
It might be hard to tell if your dog is avoiding its doghouse for reasons of discomfort or some other reason, but the best way to rule it out as a possible cause is to set up the doghouse in a way that makes it as comfortable as possible for your dog.
Here are a few methods you can use to make your dog’s house more comfortable and tempting to sleep in:
- Add plenty of soft bedding. Hay is warm, has a neutral scent, and is generally considered the best bedding for dogs (not straw or wood shavings, which can harbor bacteria). (Source: K-9 Kondo) Cedar shavings, in particular, are popular as dog bedding, but these shavings can give off strong aromatic scents that dogs can find repellent (even if humans think they smell nice).
- Add some of the dog’s favorite toys and blankets and some of your personal items. These things smell familiar to your dog and help them feel like the doghouse belongs to them and is part of their territory. This can make them feel much more comfortable inside it.
Dogs Won’t Use Doghouses That Aren’t the Right Size
Size is an integral part of choosing a doghouse your dog will use—if you choose a doghouse that is either too small or too large, your dog may avoid it. Since dogs will usually only use their doghouse when it’s cold or rainy, they need a house that is relatively small to conserve their body heat and keep the space warm.
However, dogs need a doghouse big enough for them to stand up and turn around easily. Some dogs may feel uncomfortable in small, confined spaces. If your dog flat-out refuses to get into a smaller doghouse, you may want to consider upgrading to a larger model to see if the size is an issue.
Doghouses should be roughly 25% longer and wider than the length of the dog from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. Here’s how to figure out the size you should aim for when buying a doghouse (Source: Hayneedle):
- Get a measuring tape and measure your dog from the nose to the base of the tail. It may be helpful to get another person to hold the dog steady if they are hyper or excited by the process of being measured.
- Take the number you get from measuring your dog and multiply it by 1.25. This represents a 25% increase from the size of your dog.
- The resulting number is the width and length you should aim for when looking at doghouse sizes. For example, if your dog’s size measures 48 inches and your recommended doghouse size is 60 inches (a 25% increase from 48), you should look for a doghouse 60 inches wide and 60 inches long.
Knowing the recommended size for your dog’s doghouse before you get one is a great way to help you narrow down your search. Don’t buy a doghouse without measuring your dog unless you want to go through the trouble of having to try to return it or sell it to someone else.
Dogs Won’t Use A Doghouse That Smells Like Strange Dogs
If your dog won’t use a doghouse that you’ve received secondhand, it may be related to the smell. It’s sometimes hard for humans to imagine, but smell is a dog’s primary sense. This means that dogs “see” with their nose and smells that humans would never be able to detect are blatantly obvious to a dog. (Source: Psychology Today)
So, if you get a doghouse from another dog owner without cleaning the smell of the previous dog out, your dog might not ever want to go inside the house since they will consider it part of another dog’s territory. Even if you clean the doghouse out, there may be enough residual scent of other dogs in the doghouse that your dog will be reluctant to enter.
Here are a few methods you can try to encourage your dog to use a doghouse that has previously been used by another dog:
- Make sure the doghouse is thoroughly cleaned out. You might be tempted to bleach the inside of the doghouse, but the smell of bleach can be just as much of a repellent to dogs as the smell of other dogs. Instead, try scrubbing the doghouse out with natural deodorizing cleaners like white vinegar and baking soda.
- Introduce your dog’s scent to the doghouse. Once the doghouse has been deodorized inside and out and has been left to air out, reintroduce your dog’s scent to the doghouse by taking some of their favorite blankets or fabric-based toys and placing them inside the doghouse. Rubbing your dog’s dirty blanket around on the inside of the doghouse can also help.
- Introduce your scent to the doghouse. Rubbing the inside of the doghouse with items that contain your scent (like dirty laundry or pillowcases) can help dogs trust a secondhand doghouse by establishing it as part of their pack’s territory.
If you try these methods and the dog still won’t use the doghouse, you may have to look at other possible causes for your dog avoiding the doghouse. In extreme cases, you may need to break down and buy a new doghouse rather than a used one if your dog is especially sensitive to the smell of other dogs.
Dogs Won’t Use A Doghouse If They’re Used to Staying Indoors
If a dog has been raised indoors and is being moved outdoors where they’ll need to use a doghouse, they may throw the equivalent of a child’s tantrum if they’re asked to stay outdoors in inclement weather rather than being allowed to come inside.
In this case, a dog may not be afraid of their doghouse, and it might be perfectly comfortable; they just think if they beg long and hard enough, they will be allowed inside the house. In this case, the only way to get the dog to use the doghouse is to stand firm and require the dog to stay outside as long as the temperature stays above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here are some ways to help get your dog accustomed to staying outdoors even if they’re used to staying inside:
- Make sure the dog gets plenty of social interaction and exercise – both mental and physical. Dogs that don’t get enough time with their humans will be desperate to stay as close to their people as possible, even if they are bored or frustrated from being ignored. Don’t leave your dog alone to rest in their doghouse unless they have been given adequate exercise and attention.
- Ignore your dog’s whining or crying. Unless it is freezing outside, your dog will not die of heartbreak or exposure if they get a little wet from being left outside in the rain. Reiterate to your dog that they should seek shelter in their doghouse if they are standing by the back door; otherwise, don’t acknowledge requests to come inside.
- Reward your dog whenever they stop trying to come inside. This can teach your dog that it’s a good thing when they’re placed outdoors. As the dog becomes more used to staying outdoors without crying, you can wean them off food rewards for their good behavior by substituting praise instead.
It can be hard to train a dog to stay outside if they are used to staying indoors, as this abrupt separation can make the dog feel like they’ve done something wrong. But turning it into a positive experience with plenty of treats and praise (and ignoring the dog when they beg to come in) can help them get used to staying in their doghouse more quickly.
Dogs Won’t Use A Doghouse If They’re Scared of the Door
One issue that might spook some dogs into not using their doghouses is the door or flap on the doghouse. Since a flap on a doghouse requires that the dog push their way into a confined space that they can’t see into clearly, this can make them nervous to the point of being unwilling to try to go inside.
This can be a puzzle for dog owners who live in colder climates. A door flap on doghouses in these climates is necessary to help keep as much heat inside the doghouse as possible. Many dog owners may not consider the flap as part of why their dog won’t use the doghouse. As a result, they never take the time to help their dog get over their fear of the flap.
Here’s a great way for dog owners to get their dog used to the flap on the doghouse so they won’t be afraid to walk through it:
- Show your dog the doghouse flap before you attach it to the doghouse. If you’re assembling the doghouse yourself, the flap will usually come as a separate piece to be attached after the house is set up. Showing this piece to your dog and letting them smell it while you praise them can help them see it as something good rather than something scary.
- Gently push your dog through the flap on the doghouse. Some dogs may not be aware that they can walk through the dog flap, and physically demonstrating to them that the flap moves as soon as you push against it can quickly teach dogs the concept.
If your dog continues to act afraid of the flap even after being shown how it works, you might need to look at the material. A clear flap may be less stressful to the dog than an opaque one since the dog can see into the doghouse through it. Some dogs don’t want to walk into a room or enclosed space they can’t see into.
Qualities to Look for in A Good Doghouse
To get a doghouse that your dog will use, there are a few common qualities to seek out. Doghouses vary significantly in price and design, so it’s good to do some thorough comparison shopping and read through user reviews to see how other dogs received the doghouses.
Here are some of the qualities you should look for in a good doghouse your dog will use:
- Raised floors. Raised floors help keep doghouses warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and they also prevent debris from the threshold of the doghouse from getting dragged inside. Doghouses that are set directly on the ground can absorb moisture, causing the bottom of the doghouse to become clammy and uncomfortable.
- Waterproof roof: Doghouses aren’t just for keeping your dog warm when it gets chilly outside—they also need to protect your dog from the rain. Your doghouse must be watertight because if water leaks inside the doghouse, the wet bedding can become moldy and cold.
- Weather-resistant design: Many modern doghouses are constructed from a heavy-duty resin that can withstand bad weather and debris such as fallen branches or hail.
- Strong insulation: An insulated doghouse will protect a dog from extreme temperatures during the summer and the winter. If your doghouse doesn’t come with strong insulation, it’s a good idea to add panels of an insulating material such as carpet to help increase your dog’s comfort.
- Ventilation: Ensuring that the doghouse is ventilated can keep heat from building up in it during the summer. Most doghouses that have ventilation have the option to close vents during colder weather to help trap the dog’s body heat inside.
- Removable roof: A removable roof on your doghouse allows you to clean the doghouse easily and replace the bedding as necessary.
- Easy assembly: When looking for a doghouse that you have to put together and install yourself, look for characteristics that will make it easier for you to put the doghouse together, such as pre-drilled holes and comprehensive instructions for assembly.
- High-quality construction materials: Most types of metal and plastic conduct heat and cold way too easily to make suitable construction materials for doghouses, so you should look at either resin doghouses or wooden doghouses. Remember that doghouses constructed of higher-quality materials will be more durable and last much longer than a cheap doghouse.
- Windows: Fancy doghouses designed for warmer climates may come complete with windows that can provide light and extra ventilation to the doghouse. Owners in colder climates will probably want to forego windows in the doghouse to help keep as much heat inside as possible since windows can potentially be a source of drafts and leaks.
Half of the battle in getting a dog to use their doghouse is making sure you get a comfortable doghouse for them to use. Without a few creature comforts and a little encouragement, a dog might be reluctant to try their doghouse out.
Ensuring that you get a well-designed doghouse can make it much easier to coax your dog into enjoying the time they have to spend inside it. Rewarding the dog for interacting with the doghouse after finding one that is comfortable for them can help seal the deal.
Getting A Dog to Use Its Doghouse Means Training the Dog to Like It
Many dog owners may set up a doghouse in their backyard without formally introducing their dog to the doghouse, then act surprised when the dog doesn’t want anything to do with it. Dog owners should remember that dogs are suspicious of any new object in their territory. To succeed in getting a dog to use its doghouse, you’ll need to make it a positive experience.
If you are introducing your dog to a doghouse and outside living after they have lived inside your home for a significant amount of time, you must be patient. It can be harder for “inside dogs” to make the transition to doghouse living.