How NOT to build a Kennel

Old kennels.

In 1995, our first “kennel” was really just a fenced-in area among the trees and across the driveway.  Mostly hidden, very large, sounds good?  Except you had to leash each dog and walk them across an unfenced area to get to the yard — which means the possibility of escapes went up.  And the likelihood of walking one dog was OK, but 5 was impossible.  And a wood’s dirt floor that quickly made for stinky dogs.  It was large enough, 30’x150′.  6′ 2×4 welded wire was nailed to trees, escapes underneath happened, so we hotwired the bottom, which continually shorted out.  And the extension cord ran over the gravel driveway and had to be replaced twice.  Gate was not pressure treated and rotted and was difficult to open when it sagged.

By 1997, the second kennel was 16’x40′ and came off the back porch steps and was attached to the side of the house.  It was smaller, but much better situated.  Much easier to get dogs in and out of the house.  Dirt floor, dogs still muddy.  No shade until the volunteer trees came up.  Large doghouse made of wooden pallets helped with shade.  But could not be disinfected.  Eventually rotted.  And nails would stick out and have to be pounded back in or removed.  And wire was only 5′ tall.  Wooden posts and t-posts and hotwire which never worked correctly.  No outside gate meant no escapes.  But you had to lift a lawnmower over the fence to knock down the weeds, which meant it didn’t happen as often as it should have.

The next year, 1998, it was time for something on a little grander scale.  The third kennel was a perimeter fence uphill of the house that included the second kennel and much more.  It was 100×100 and included 60-year-old pine trees, a long slope to run up and down, and 5′ welded perimeter wire.  We did not include the woods on the uphill side because of the difficulty of going between trees — something we have lived with ever since with regret — a little bit of woods would be great!  Top was hotwired, but on the bottom to prevent escapes, we used big staples and attached landscape timbers to the wire all the way around — no pushing the wire up and nosing out.  (After the fire we would replace the perimeter fence with 6′ tall 2×4 openings woven wire — much much more secure, heavier gauge wire, and beautiful.)  Before that, we split the yard crossways into 20×80 runs… still on grass and a slope. 

Fourth kennel was just cleaving off a portion of this kennel so the southern basement door had a kennel coming off it for isolation, rescue, etc.  (At this time, the rescues were mixed in with my own dogs — that ended as soon as I added Malamutes to my dogs and they formed a pack.)  This was a cob-job of a kennel, with a tarp over it, but carpentry was not something to be proud of.  This was torn down not long after this.  We finally started adding gravel with this kennel however.

In 1999, the fifth kennel was the first rescue-only kennels and was supposed to be a boarding kennel except that we added 11 Malamutes one weekend with the death of our mentor Billie Stewart.  We used an auger on a tractor to drill holes for PT landscape timbers every 8′ around the perimeter.  There were 4 runs of 8×32 so the perimeter was 32×32.  This was 5′ WOVEN metal wire with 2×4 openings and much better than the welded as it would stretch a little and could form around contours of the land.  Gravel as a floor, but it was an extreme slope, contour of the land, and gravel was stomped into mud or just disappeared into the ground.  Over the years as gravel was added, the fences started getting shorter. (We modified this kennel after the fire by adding concrete block as flooring — no more straw to go up like matchsticks.  Which because of the extreme slope icy weather was hazardous and I fell several times.  And with the addition of the gravel to level the area and the 4″ of concrete block we started having escapes of dogs going over the now 3 1/2′ tall fences in one place.)  Also the block was laid INSIDE the existing wire which was permanent.  Therefore there were gaps between the block of each kennel and cleaning was impossible.  Smell was an issue as well because the gaps collected waste, hair, etc.

By the end of 1999, I built the sixth kennel.  I laid down a 26×26 pad of concrete blocks (inexpertly and in a hurry) and then put kennel panels on top.  The kennel panels meant we could hose out underneath which was nice.  But we put the blocks down on the existing slope which was bad because it all tended to slide downhill over the years.  Also the uneven surface of the floor made for hazards walking and cleaning.  Rearranging the kennel panels was easy and in one afternoon I went from east-west kennels to north-south kennels — without help.  These runs were 4 ea 6×20.  Also they were directly behind the house so waste was washed towards the in-ground basement wall.  Not good.

(Meanwhile we enclosed a lower yard with 4′ tall woven field fencing so the rescues could get out and play.  And went back and added more wire so it was 6-7′ tall — LOVELY!)

In 2003, the seventh kennels we went whole hog.  Grader came in and leveled a spot inside our play yard.  Miscommunication and ignorance on our part added a retaining wall to-be-built on the east side, but the west side sloped sharply, but could be mowed.  We had to build a very short retaining wall on the southwest corner as well because our plans changed and we turned the kennels 90 degrees in our heads before construction began.  The grader people did what we told them, we’re the ones who suddenly wanted a floor that was 5′ wider than we’d asked for.  This floor is 45’x24′ and was a year-long project between first grading and the greenhouse mesh roof.  We learned about calculating the number of  blocks required and being wrong by 1000.  And the retaining wall is an ongoing project.  We learned that some Malamutes in 5×20 kennels will destroy chainlink out of stress or boredom and finally habit, so we researched and found and their fabulous Platinum series.  And we discovered their Silver series was great for 98% of Malamutes, but that last 2% could eat through the welded wires in 2 minutes.  Not the platinum, no one has even come close to damaging the platinum welded rods.  This was a HUGE project and involved a year with hours and hours of labor and many volunteers — shoveling gravel, hauling blocks, etc. etc. 

Eighth kennel was a quarantine kennel in the driveway yard, 10×10, simple, level surface to start with.  Finished in 3 days labor, 3 people to work.  Did run into an issue with putting the concrete block pad between two porch support posts.  And its up next to the house which means gunk collects between the basement wall and the concrete block pad.

Ninth kennel is this puppy kennel on these pages, 10×15, free standing, and we used all the lessons we have learned over the years to do it pretty much right.  This project took 3 people 3 days to finish but we had to pull up the block from one location and carry it to the other side of the house, and assemble all the tools and materials in that time frame.

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