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Kennel Construction Basics

Waste Disposal
Kennel Doors
Kennel Fencing
Kennel Drainage
Food Storage

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Building a Kennel

One of the most important considerations in building a kennel is that it be easy to clean and maintain.  Wood flooring or walls should be avoided because of splinters, and because wood floors are almost impossible to thoroughly clean and disinfect.  The floors inside the pens should be hard-surfaced so they can be easily washed.

Pot holes and mud puddles in dirt runs can be a problem, and it's virtually impossible to disinfect dirt.  So, dirt runs are not recommended.

Where to put it?

Your first project is to check with local zoning and building code inspectors prior to construction.  Local codes may dictate certain setbacks and modifications to location and material requirements.  In orientation of a kennel consider prevailing winds.  Will the location act as a snow trap in the winter or will the wind constantly blow on the dog house door?  Next, consider overhead screening for summer shade. Sidewall screening should be considered so the dog cannot see everything going on in the neighborhood.  Naturally a dog will be less likely to bark at every movement if he cannot see what's going on.  The last and most important factor is site selection.  The location must be convenient for your access so general daily feeding and cleaning chores are hassle free.


Advantages and disadvantages of each...

Concrete makes an excellent run flooring, but it must be well designed and well maintained to avoid cracks, depressions and rough places that are hiding places for insects, rodents and parasite eggs.  For efficiency in cleaning and maintenance, concrete is generally recommended.   Concrete kennel runs make for a durable and economical kennel structure.  Dogs will usually chew on wood, unless it is specially protected, and this not only creates an unfavorable appearance, but provides hiding places for bacteria and parasites. Wood absorbs more urine and urine odors than concrete, and wet wood deteriorates rapidly. The higher initial cost of a concrete is offset by lower maintenance costs, ease of cleaning and general appearance.

hint: Make sure you have plenty of slope on your concrete run.  4 to 6" of slope over a 10' run is not too much.  You'll be glad you did when it comes time to hose it off.

If gravel runs are used, droppings should be picked up at least once a day, several times a day if several dogs are kept in a small area.

Dogs sometimes dig holes or wear paths in the gravel as they run back and forth in the pen.  Such holes should be raked full so water (a breeding ground for mosquitoes) and insects won't accumulate in them.

Floor Maintenance
Many northern states have very tough winters.  Sometimes five or six months of really cold weather.  This makes maintenance of a kennel concrete floor very difficult because the floor cannot be washed.  The wastes have a tendency to stick to the concrete with the ice and snow.  There are a couple of fixes to this problem.  You could build a shelter over the kennel runs and eliminate the snow and ice, but you'd still have the frozen stools and urine.  The solution is to purchase a good ice scraper.  It should be a sharp, thin scraper with a heavy duty handle.  It'll make winter cleanup a lot easier.  Remember, a clean kennel floor makes for a healthy dog and a lot less work come spring.

 Waste disposal
A septic tank system, constructed in the same manner as used for residential homes, may be used effectively for a kennel operation.  These systems should be installed following the same building codes and regulations in effect for residential property.  The septic system's capacity will depend on kennel size and number of dogs maintained.

Another waste disposal method consists of manually picking up and disposing of droppings and then hosing down the runs so that waste drainage enters a small septic system or is flushed into a regular sewer line.  In areas where a septic system, sewer line or lagoon cannot be used, the surface material used for kennel runs becomes an important consideration.  In these cases, the kennel operator should consider run surfaces such as gravel.  Parasite eggs and urine can filter through the gravel layers and be washed away. Solid material should be picked up daily.

A few words on sanitation
This is a topic most people have no idea of how to deal with.  Solid waste is usually not much of a problem, but the elimination of liquid waste is another story.  Kennel runs that are not designed properly will begin to show signs of their failings over time.  There are various methods of disposing of the liquid waste and water.  Except for commercial kennels, with licenses to dispose into public sewers, the only way to eliminate the liquids, is by leaching them into the soil, or filling your septic tank.  The later is not recommended. A separate leach bed can take care of just about any size kennel if designed properly.

Under ideal circumstances, the bed should be located away from the kennel.  Drains, and underground pipes can take the liquid to the leach bed system.  There are many books and articles on the design and installation of leach beds and it's recommended that you study-up on the subject as much as possible before proceeding.

A septic and leach system combination, for the kennel only, is the best solution.  Soil and perk testing should be done to locate the bed in the proper place on your property.  If this has not already been done, you will want to take this step, prior to installing the kennel.  Some properties will not perk out to allow installation of a leach system.  You will want to know this before spending a lot of time, money, and energy building the kennel.  For those that do not install a leach system, they have to contend with contaminated soil.  This usually presents itself first with a pungent odor.  Many try to deal with this odor by applying lime, or other products to the soil.  Unfortunately, once the odor is prevalent, the problem is usually deeper than the surface or a few inches down.  Depending on soil conditions, the contamination can be a few feet down, and these topical treatments are not effective at those depths, due to dilution.  There are two methods that help, but are still not complete cures.  After applying the treatment of choice, roto-till the product into the soil.  This can get the chemicals about 12" inches down -- (sometimes still not enough).  The other method is to percolate the soil with a rod, driven into the ground as far as possible.  This is time consuming and difficult, as the holes need to be only a few inches apart.  After making the holes, apply the chemical and flush into the holes.  These methods, along with letting the sun get to the areas to dry them out, is a stop gap measure at best.  Treatment of this type is not recommended for the following reasons:

Some chemicals are harmful to animals, especially over time.  Some chemicals change composition with moisture present, and become harmful, then are absorbed through pads.  Some chemicals are dangerous when airborne, and inhalation is harmful to both humans and animals.  The chemicals, usually only mask the odor, and do not eliminate the cause, which is bacteria.  If you notice that you are having to apply the products more often as time goes on, the reasons are obvious -- the ground is not able to absorb and eliminate any more, (saturation point) and the chemicals are not able to mask the odor as effectively, since it has not been killing the bacteria.

  Kennel Doors
more coming soon

 Kennel Fencing
more coming soon

 Kennel Drainage
Proper drainage of water and waste material in a kennel is necessary for good sanitation, general cleanliness of the dogs, and as an aid in bacteria and parasite control.  The type of septic system presented is intended for a concrete run with a gutter leading to a container and is not effective for gravel or sand runs. Be sure to check local building codes before beginning this construction project.

Drainage from the outside run goes into a gutter across the end of the run. The gutter slopes so the waste is carried to a large garbage can. One-half inch holes are drilled down the can and the bottom is cut out. A 6x4" inlet hole is cut on the top edge to allow access of waste from the kennel floor. The can is installed approximately two inches higher than ground level.

Final treatment of the waste water is completed in the drainfield trench. The trench is constructed by making a level excavation six inches wide, ten feet long, and three feet deep. A trencher works well for this job.

Next, clean rock is placed around the tank and in the bottom 18 inches of the trench. A four-inch perforated sewer pipe is placed on the rock and butted up to the outside of the sewer tank, two inches of rock over the top of the pipe, a layer of newspaper, and the soil back fill completes the project.

This system will not function in the winter in northern states if the ground freezes. To avoid frequent clean-out of tank, use a large aluminum shovel and garden hoe to pick up surplus stool. Sweep only hair and by-product in system.

Helpful Hints

  • Make a pre-construction sketch of your kennel plans.
  • Check local zoning and building code requirements prior to construction; and
  • In orientation of kennel, consider prevailing winds, visual screening with trees and shrubs, neighborhood noise and convenience in access.
  • All runs should slope away from buildings.
  • An outside doghouse should be raised off the ground to avoid moisture.
  • Avoid a drafty doghouse no matter what the temperature and install a dog door.
  • Cover or arrange the kennel so the outside has summer shade.
  • Paint all wood surfaces with a non-toxic paint in a light color so it doesn't absorb the sun's heat.

 Food storage

There are many different types and sizes of containers for dry food storage.  Most breeders that store larger amounts find through trial and error that they have specific needs for storage.  Leaving the food in the original bags is not a good idea -- unless the bags are stored in a climate controlled, rodent and water proof area.

Plastic containers are good, such as large trash cans with lockable lids. Things to watch out for are: rodents can still chew through the plastic, and have a romp in your dog food.  Certain plastics can leach chemicals into the food, causing unknown problems.  (This is also a potential problem for water bowls and containers.  Certain rubber-type buckets have been know to contain chemicals that effect pigment)

Unless you are set to spend the money on metal containers, specifically designed to hold food (and they are available), your best bet is to store in plastic lined galvanized trash containers, with lockable lids.  The metal will prevent rodent intrusion and the plastic liner will prevent moisture contamination, and keep the galvanization away from the food.  Do not place the food in direct contact with galvanized metal, unless the surfaces have been cleaned with chemicals designed to remove the galvanized residue.

If your budget allows, stainless steel bins are perfect, need no lining (if lids seal tight), and will never rust, or contaminate.

In all cases, store the food where your dogs cannot get to it.  Keep it out of range of their noses if possible.

The quantity of food you store is as important as how you store it.  Never store more than you can use in a reasonable amount of time, before in becomes stale, or reaches the expiration date on the bag.  Always rotate your stock, both the bags, and the contents of the containers. Use the food down to the bottom of the container every time, and clean the containers out before dumping new food in.  Check the expiration dates on the bags before you purchase.  Check for water marks on the bags, and small holes or tears.

  A few excellent links with tons of great info.:

Complete Kennel System

How to Make a Sanitary Kennel With A Septic System

Kennel Floor Maintenance


Submitted by Harry Warnick of Rising Sun Kennels...

My kennel is on concrete.  It has a drain trough in the front and a french drain on the end. The clean up is easy and odor is at a minimal. The runs should sit off the concrete 2" for easy wash out.

kennel construction

Send us your tips on kennels -- their construction and/or upkeep -- pictures or information about your kennel here.  Include what you like, dislike and what you'd do differently if you were to build again.  It'll help other folks in building or updating their kennels.

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