When winter hits the area, pet owners are often faced with a dilemma about what to do with their dogs. Many people have mentioned that it would be nice to find a happy medium between leaving a dog inside the house all day or having to leave it out in the cold. Outdoor shelters are one solution, but a warm and dry pen or dog house of adequate size and quality can be expensive and, in some cases, large and unsightly.

One solution worth considering is to install a pet door that leads into the garage instead of into the house, and to then construct an enclosure within the garage that keeps the dog safely and comfortably contained. Construction is simple, and quite inexpensive when compared to a quality dog house.

Begin the project with a careful plan. Look for an area that’s large enough to comfortably contain whatever size dog or dogs you have. It doesn’t have to be large – 2 by 3 feet will work for a small dog, and maybe 3 by 4or 5 feet for a larger one. At least one side of the enclosure needs to be on an exterior wall to allow for installation of the pet door. Ideally, if you can find a corner location that’s under a set of shelves you’ll have two of the enclosure walls (the two corner walls of the garage) and the enclosure roof (the shelf) already constructed.

Install the pet door first, before constructing the enclosure, to make sure there are no obstructions in the wall to prevent the door from being put in. Pet doors are actually simple but rather ingenious devices, consisting of two flaps of overlapping, heavy-duty vinyl suspended from the top of a metal frame. When pushed from the inside, both vinyl flaps open out together. Pushed from the outside, only one flap will move, opening inward while the second flaps remains sealed in place. Thanks to the overlapping of the flaps and the built-in magnetic strips, the flaps operate very easily in each direction to admit the pet, then seal tightly closed against the weather, keeping the garage warm.

Installation of the door requires that a hole be cut through the siding on the outside, and through the drywall or other interior wallcovering on the inside. A 2×4 frame is then built inside the wall to the correct size for the door, giving the door frame a solid surface to anchor to. Detailed instructions are provided with the pet door kit that gives you exact dimensions and illustrations.

For most installations, you’ll find it easier to open up a larger area of drywall inside the garage at the door location. This allows you to examine the wall cavities for wiring or other obstructions, and allows you to complete your framing from the inside. You can then use a reciprocating saw to cut an exact size hole through the siding. This leaves you with only a drywall patch to do on the inside, and eliminates any patching of the siding.

With the door installation complete, build the top and the additional two or three walls of the enclosure. These can be built from solid plywood, 2×4 framing covered with drywall or paneling, or whatever material best suits your installation. Solid walls about three to four feet high seem to work best, giving the dog ample head room while keeping the space small, enclosed, and easy to keep warm.

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