Hot color for a house for a hotdog in Mexico by BNKR, designed for the Dogchitecture exhibit.

If you’re not sure about building an Accessory Dwelling Unit in your backyard, but are curious to see how an additional structure could add value to your property, why not start really small and build a doghouse? Mind you, we’re envisioning a shelter for Rover, or Myrtle, or whatever you call your dear sweet pooch, not for your mother-in-law or n’er do younger brother.

Just as dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so do doghouses. There’s the ubiquitous and utilitarian metal crate, which can be dressed up with an attractive fabric cover so Rover sleeps and you look at fabric you like. But beyond that basic, a world of doggie domicile designs is waiting.

And in this world, despite Portland being such a dog friendly city (we recently topped Estately.com's list of 17 dog-friendliest cities), we seem to be dragging our tail. Japan, Mexico and, closer to home, Austin and Seattle are leading.

Austin, the original Keep It Weird city, has been holding its annual Barkitecture contest since 2005, and the concept is catching on elsewhere. Theirs is a benefit for animal welfare groups, and has yielded some inventive and often sleekly modernist designs, not surprising for a town of progressive architects in a free-wheelin' town like Austin.

Seattle has held its own doghouse show the last few years (combining it with garden design, and skewing pretty high end, from what I’ve seen). Not surprisingly, doghouse design beyond the U.S. has been even more creative.

This Papillon is right at home in the doghouse Shigeru Ban designed for him as part of the Japanese Architecture for Dogs exhibit.

The 2012 Japanese contest Architecture for Dogs was especially high design. High profile architects were invited and assigned a breed for which to design a home. Kazuyo Sejima for Bichon Frises, for instance. Shigeru Ban for Papillons (yes, he did a curving structure of cardboard tubes), Kengo Kuma for Pugs (he’s also designing the addition to the Portland Japanese Garden). Some of the results could indeed be enlarged for a very interesting ADU for lil’ brother Billy.

The doghouses designed for the recent Dogchitecture exhibit are an interesting introduction to the excellent architecture happening in Mexico today. This doghouse is by Michel Rojkind.

Dogchitecture is a recent Mexican exhibit inspired by the Japanese effort. The bright colors of some of the designs certainly look like they come from a hot climate, but would perk up any northwest backyard. All of the projects are clear evidence of the tactile creativity of contemporary Mexican architecture. In scale, the doghouses are an interesting hybrid of building and model – mini-houses, mega-models.

Doghouse design by Laboratorio Arquitectura, for the Mexican Dogchitecture contest.

If you choose to construct your own doghouse, there are all-in-one DIY kits and online instructions to get you started. You can probably build a Rover-home for about $100-$150. Kits are closer to $200 or more. Our favorite is a simple board and batten, shed roofed “Ranch House” that would blend in with most Portland homes, from Bungalow style to ‘50s Rancher (good clear instructions are at Sunset). Materials are all available at a typical home supply store.

Sunset's DIY Ranch-style doghouse.

Hints on what to consider in a doghouse for your best friend, besides exquisite, innovative design:

  • Raised floor – to keep out water and keep dog warm, away from cold ground.
  • Not too big, not too small – big enough for Rover to turn around in, but cozy enough that his body heat won’t keep him warm enough. (Unlike people, most dogs don't feel the need to live in a home with ten times the space they  need; they get that in your house already, even if it's a studio apartment.)
  • Some dogs like to sit on top of their house – if Rover is one of these, keep roof to a simple shed of just exterior plywood (no roll roofing or shingles, which would get hot in summer), treated with a nontoxic preservative like linseed oil. Or design him a pent(dog)house!

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