A dog crate is somewhat of a necessity when you decide to take the plunge into dog ownership. They’re incredibly useful and dogs really love their crates. But they’re so… ugly.
It’s ok to admit it! Dog crates are generally something we want to hide — or at least integrate — into our home decor. There’s a lot of nice dog crate furniture out there, but you could also go the built-in route.
In this post, I’m going to show you how I planned and designed a built-in dog crate, as well as things to consider when you tackle this project.
I’m presenting the keys to the kingdom…
No, literally, this is the key to open up the tunnel.
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The Search For The Perfect Dog Crate
Let’s back up a bit. We got two puppies less than a month after we moved into our new build home. Not our smartest move ever, but we were acting with our hearts, not our heads. They have proven to be a giant handful: rather destructive (RIP vintage runner) and all-around pains in the butt. But they are also very sweet and part of the family so oh well.
That aside, they needed a place to sleep and call their own. We have a big fenced-in yard so getting a dog door was a no-brainer. The head-scratcher was finding a spot for the door that:
- was somewhat inconspicuous, and
- led to the front porch.
The side and the back of the house have a steep drop-off, so the door could only go in the front. At first, we thought the powder room might work, but what if somebody was using it and there was a dog frantically scratching at the door? Sounds… relaxing.
Also, these maniacs quickly proved that they needed to be crated if nobody was watching them so they somehow needed access to the door from the crate. Hmmm.
We left the issue for a bit since I work from home and could bring them out as needed but we quickly grew sick of having a random dog crate in the middle of an empty room.
And one day…
The Perfect Dog Crate Appears In A Vision (Spoiler: It’s a Built-In)
That’s a lie. I thought of it in the shower, ha.
We were planning to do a built-in in the empty crate room anyway, so what if we built around a secret dog den?
The plan was already to make the center cabinet a crate, so why not make the cabinets to the right “fakes”? The doors could conceal a tunnel that led to a dog door…
We grew excited… this could work! And isn’t it every kid’s dream to have a bookcase with a secret tunnel behind it? Just me?
I sketched up the overall idea and showed it to our woodworker, Nick Sousa of NS Woodworking, and he was on board.
He installed the dog door ASAP, then a couple months later built the bookshelves and cabinets around it. We went with a premium dog door because a.) Franklin is a brute and b.) we have very cold winters and needed the best insulation possible so our fur babies wouldn’t freeze. If you live in a more temperate climate with normal dogs, there are much cheaper options. I put a few other great options we considered below.
I labeled where the dog door is in these two shots so you can get a better sense of how this works. And work it does. The dogs LOVE their den. They go there to rest, they go there to play.
highly-rated dog doors
Making a Built-In Dog Crate Pretty AND Functional
Speaking of play, Franklin (the big guy) was playing a little too enthusiastically and broke the door in half one day. You see, we didn’t initially think through how the doors would function, so one had to be open at all times aside from when they were locked in. It was awkward to maneuver around and it was just a matter of time before it snapped. Because, #bullterriers.
This actually proved to be fortunate in the long run because we came up with a much better solution. We realized it made sense to have one door fixed at all times (we can unlatch it if needed) and have the other one recess into the den. Now it functions like this:
It’s important to consider how your dogs will use the crate:
- how they’ll enter
- from what direction
- are they destructive
- are they fearful
- how often will it need to be open and closed
- how will it lock
- will the doors obstruct pathways or usable space
Now for the fun stuff: making it pretty! I designed and installed this wallpaper to add some fun to their bachelor pad.
For comfort and thermal insulation, I put carpet tiles along the entire floor of the kennel. I used cheaper ones for the tunnel part that you can’t see, and fancier ones for the parts that are usually on display.
Obviously, this is a lair for dogs so it can get stinky if not cleaned on the reg. Clearly, the doors along the tunnel add much-needed access for cleaning, but they needed to not be opened by sneaky puppies. So, much like with human babies, we child-proofed with these handy magnetic cabinet locks.
Here’s what it looks like all opened up:
Why yes, I did accidentally order the wrong scale pattern for the remainder of the tunnel! Luckily only the dogs see that part and they don’t care.
Things To Consider If You Take On A Similar Project
- Remember function first. How do you want it to work? What problem will it solve? Start there.
- Consider the non-negotiables. What are the things that can’t be changed? What do you have to work with? Location? Limitations? Budget?
- Infuse your style. What can you add to make this a feature to be proud of and not something to be hidden?
The Dogs’ Eye View Of The Crate
Here is the dogs’ point of view as they enter their bed:
And here is what it looks like in the tunnel:
And finally, this is where it leads:
It’s a feat of modern engineering and cute to boot. And most importantly — it contains the dogs!! They’re sweet, but they sure are a handful.
Not ready for a full-scale dog palace? Try these smaller options:
I hope you found this post helpful, or at the very least entertaining! A built-in dog crate can certainly seem very extra to the outside observer, but if you have dogs, you get why this is a fantastic investment into the function and beauty of your home.
Get even more design inspiration and advice here!