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A home of their own: Dogs needs a safe haven

FRESNO, Calif. - For one man's best friend, her doghouse looks strikingly similar to the house standing next to it. "I thought, if I'm going to have a doghouse, it should look like this one," says Guy Chick, 74, nodding to his 3,000-square-foot l...

FRESNO, Calif. - For one man's best friend, her doghouse looks strikingly similar to the house standing next to it.

"I thought, if I'm going to have a doghouse, it should look like this one," says Guy Chick, 74, nodding to his 3,000-square-foot log home.

About 5 feet by 6 feet, the Canadian-built doghouse is made of Douglas fir logs and features a green metal roof.

Chick put down hay on the inside. The large canine shelter sits between Chick's house and his Clovis, Calif., workshop in a corralled area that's just for his 5-year-old black Great Dane, Colonel.

"When I'm gone, she goes in there," says Chick of Colonel, who spends most of her time indoors with him. "Every dog has to have a doghouse."

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Well, actually, not all dogs need a doghouse, but they do like to have a place where they can feel warm and safe. Some pet owners provide that haven with outside doghouses. From custom-built doghouses like Colonel's to a basic shelter, there are numerous kinds of homes you can get for your four-legged friend.

Whether you keep your dogs indoors or out, the animals like having a cozy place of their own, a couple of local animal experts say.

"Dogs are den animals by nature," says Jo Amenda, a dog trainer for 42 years and owner of Academy Dog Training in Fresno. "Providing a shelter is really, really important. Normally, they'd den together. That helps to keep them warm. In the real world, a dog wouldn't spend time by itself. They're pack animals."

Preferably, the dog would be at least sleeping inside your home, either in a special area of its own or in a crate that recreates the feeling of a den, she says. "They like the safety (aspect)," she says. "It has one way in, and that makes them feel secure."

She knows not all pet owners do that, though.

"People put them outdoors because they don't want them to destroy the inside," she says. "Some people have (pet) allergies. Another reason is because of protection, which really is a fallacy. Bad guys come through the front door, and the dogs can't do anything for you out back."

She discourages dog owners from leaving some kinds of dogs outdoors, especially small, short-haired varieties. "They're not bred to stay outside," she says.

Whatever your reasons, if you want to give your dogs a house of their own in your yard, you have options.

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Many doghouses are made out of either wood or plastic."Plastic heats up, and it's not a good insulator, but it's durable and dogs are less apt to eat it," Amenda says. "Wood is a better insulator, but you have a better chance of a dog eating it."

You also might find a few doghouses made of tin or some other metal. Amenda doesn't recommend them.

"There's no protection," she says. "It's not very warm, and it's terrible in the summertime. It's too hot."

Wood and plastic doghouses come in a variety of shapes. Some are boxy; others look like miniature homes. If you prefer plastic, a popular one looks like an igloo with a dome-shaped top and a slightly extended entrance.

Ron Inman, who raises and shows English Springer spaniels and golden retrievers, likes the plastic igloos.

"I use the igloos in my kennel and some plastic square crates," says Inman, who also is a dog behaviorist and owns Promise Plus, which trains people to work with their dogs and rehabilitates dogs. "The best doghouse is an igloo. It's round and has an opening that is like an arch." Inman says these igloos keep the dogs warm in winter. He also uses warming mats or overhead heating lamps that he clips to the igloo's opening.

Doghouses also come in various sizes. Just keep in mind that a doghouse has to be big enough for the dog to can stand in and turn around comfortably, Amenda says.

However, it shouldn't be overly large either, Inman says. If it is too big, "they may start peeing and pooping in there," he says, adding the dogs will think they have enough space between their bathroom area and their sleeping spot.

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The cost of doghouses varies. Wood ones can start at $99.99 and plastic igloos can start at $70.

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