How To Build A Dog House and Improve Your Retirement

What does a dog house have to do with retirement?

I can hear the punchline to that question now, something about the husband being banned to sleep there.  Why is it always the guy who gets relegated to sleeping in the dog’s house, anyway?  Hmmm.  But we digress…

I recently learned how to build a dog house, but I learned something more important along the way.  That, in short, is what today’s post is about.  First, however, the story of the dog house…

Many of you have told me you enjoy it when I mix in occasional “project” articles, such as landscaping with railroad ties and customizing an enclosed trailer.  Well, for the past four months I’ve been busy with my latest project, perhaps my biggest to date.  Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about hobbies and retirement when I thought I was “only” learning how to build a dog house.  I discovered how hobbies can be critical in achieving a great retirement, and that’s a lesson we can all benefit from.

What does learning how to build a dog house have to do with retirement? A lot, as it turns out. Click To Tweet

Many people dream of getting into woodworking as a retirement hobby.  I’m a member of that group.  Rather than just dream about it, I decided to take action.  I had no idea what I was getting into…

The project?  Learning how to build a dog house, and capturing everything I learned in the process. In addition to learning how to do woodworking from a master builder, I learned how hobbies can improve your life in retirement. It was a fun journey, which I’m excited to share with you today.  

First, I’ll share the lessons I learned about how to build a dog house.  I put a lot of work into capturing those lessons and will share everything I created in the process.  Contained below is everything you need to build an amazing dog house, from cutting the very first board to installing the final piece of trim.

More importantly, I’ll conclude by sharing the lessons I learned about how hobbies can improve your life in retirement.  If you don’t care about how to build a dog house, I encourage you to jump to “The Benefits of Hobbies in Retirement” to read why hobbies should be an essential element in your retirement.

The dog house I built as my first woodworking project

How To Build A Dog House

It started simply, as many things seem to do.  A friend at the gym asked if we had any blueprints or videos to help volunteers learn how to build a dog house to donate to my wife’s charity, Freedom For Fido (we build free fences and dog houses for low-income families who keep their dogs on a chain.  I’ve written about her charity before in this post. I’m proud of what she’s accomplished).  

The answer to that question was, unfortunately, “No”.

I decided to turn it into a “Yes”.

What followed was an interesting process of learning that extended far beyond the woodworking skills I gained.  As the process evolved, I found myself challenged to learn things I never saw coming, which I’ll share below. 


A key element to a successful retirement is to continually strive to learn new things.  By making that simple decision to turn a “No” into a “Yes”, I launched into a process of learning that extended far beyond my expectations.  I love to learn new things, and I learned a lot as I sought to answer the question of how to build a dog house.

Creation of a YouTube Video

My initial thought was to create a YouTube video that outlined every step in the dog house building process.  I approached our master dog house builder, Tim with a proposition.  Would he be willing to teach me how to build a dog house while I videotaped every step in the process, with the goal being a final edited video we could share with volunteers who wanted to help us build dog houses for Freedom For Fido?

Fortunately, Tim said yes.

By simply watching a video, anyone can now learn how to build a dog house.  It turned into my biggest “production” video to date, a glorious 16:42 Oscar-worthy production (wink) that outlined every step in the process of how to build a dog house.  I invested ~100 hours into this production, and I’m pleased with the final result:

(You DID catch that blooper reel at the end, didn’t you?  Hint hint).

YouTube video, complete.

But it didn’t stop there…

Complete Dog House Blueprints

As Tim and I cut the first board to build the foundation, I quickly realized I should also be capturing the plans which resided only in Tim’s head and put them to paper.  I needed to create a dog house blueprint.

One problem:  I’d never drawn a blueprint.

Rather than accept defeat, I decided to figure it out.  I took a lot of photographs as Tim laid the boards out on his workbench, and captured all of the measurements in my notebook.  When I returned home to my office, I figured out how to draw a blueprint.

I opened a new Google Sheet (similar to Microsoft’s Excel) and started to lay out some lines.  The first step, building the foundation, took me forever to draw.  My first blueprint drawing is shown below:

As work progressed each week in Tim’s (amazing) woodshop, I continued to photograph, measure, and document every step in the process.  My drawings became more detailed, and the blueprints began taking shape.  Here’s another picture from the process to give you a sense of the work, all completed in Google Sheets:

The Final Result?  A 28-page blueprint that includes detailed drawings for each of the 19 steps required to build a dog house.  I edited the video to include the blueprint drawings prior to each section where we completed that particular step. 

The blueprints are a masterpiece (wink), and I’m proud of the first set of blueprints I’ve ever created.  Want to see the entire set of blueprints for yourself?

Click the picture below to view the completed blueprint as a .pdf file (please have a look, I invested many hours creating these plans!).  Also, feel free to share with anyone you know who may be interested in how to build a dog house:

Click the picture above to view the complete Blueprints on how to build a dog house.

As Tim and I worked on the dog house over the course of several months, I started to realize that, while we were answering the question of how to build a dog house for anyone who wanted to know, there were other things I was learning.  Capturing these lessons became as important as capturing the lessons of how to build a dog house, and I realized a final step would be required once the dog house was complete.  I needed to write a post about what I was learning.

The seed for this post was planted.

Today, the seed has sprouted.

“Capturing Everything I Learned Along The Way…”

When I first envisioned this project, I vowed to capture everything I learned along the way in my effort to learn how to build a dog house.  I never expected those learnings would apply to retirement.  And yet, as the weeks evolved, I started thinking about the benefits of hobbies in retirement.  I started thinking about the “bigger” issues I was learning, and how they could be applied by you, the reader, as a means of improving your life in retirement.

Below is the final step in my project.

Capturing the broader lessons I learned about how hobbies can improve our lives in retirement.

The Benefits of Hobbies In Retirement

This could be a post of its own, so I’ll keep it simple.  The following are some bullet points of the benefits I discovered while learning how to build a dog house.  While they’re related to my new “hobby” of woodworking, I suspect you can apply them to any hobby you’re interested in pursuing in retirement:

  • Challenge Yourself:  Retirement should be a time to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone.  Think of a hobby you’d like to tackle and challenge yourself to tackle it.
  • Have Fun:  There’s no reason to not “keep it fun” in retirement.  Tim and I enjoyed joking around during our woodworking, and I decided to add a blooper reel at the 16:00 mark of the video. 
  • Building Friendships:  Relationships are key to a successful retirement, and building a friendship while working together on a hobby is a great way to spend time with someone you like being with. 
  • Ask For Help:  Never be afraid to ask an expert for help.  Most people love to teach others what they know, and you’ll avoid the mistakes you’ll make if you try to figure everything out for yourself.
  • Sense of Achievement:  Finding a way to replace the sense of achievement you once received at work is critical in retirement, and achieving success in a new hobby is rewarding.
  • Helping Others / Charity Work:  Retirement is a time to give back. Focusing more on others (and less on self) brings true satisfaction to life.  Seeing those dogs running around the dog house Tim and I built was a benefit far exceeding the effort of learning how to build a dog house.


When I decided to tackle the project of providing detailed instructions on how to build a dog house, I entered the fascinating world of woodworking (and blueprint drawing, and video editing).  It all started with a simple decision to take the first step.  To turn a “No” into a “Yes”.

It ended with a stronger appreciation of the value of hobbies in retirement.  Continually seek ways to expand your knowledge and skills, never stop learning.  Find a way to enjoy a hobby with others and build friendships along the way.  You’ll get a sense of achievement as you learn new things, and you’ll strengthen new relationships in the process.

Your retirement, and your life, will be better as a result.

Your Turn:  Have you found hobbies to be a valuable pursuit in retirement?  What hobbies do you pursue and what benefits have you found?  Let’s chat in the comments…

PS – I mentioned earlier in this post that “I had no idea what I was getting into…”.  There’s another chapter to this story, and one I’ll be sharing in the coming months.  Stay tuned for big developments on our retirement homestead.  Hint:  A new woodworking shop at our retirement cabin in the mountains may be involved…


  1. Great video and information Fritz!

    I don’t think we’ll ever answer the question why it’s the guy who is regulated to the dog house! At least its insulated and looks downright comfortable.

    It’s so true that having a hobby is a big part of enjoying retired life. I also enjoy building things. My latest project is building a raised bed for blueberry bushes. It started off small and simple. That was a month ago, project creep set in and its become more complex. Now I’m into the design phase of how to net the entire area to prevent birds from feasting on my still to be planted crop.

  2. Love it! Later after the kids do school work etc. I’ll set a time to watch the YouTube video. My husband does woodworking and CNC and 3D you know trucks too. I love sewing and calligraphy too. We could retire years ago because of our love of hobbies. We have done some while at home with the kids. It has been very rewarding. Always learning!

  3. Fritz,
    Looks like you found a new hobby – I have been a longtime woodworker myself.
    One of my favorite retirement activities is spending time in my shop “Tinkering”, and seeing the project that was an idea in my head, take shape and become a reality.

    1. Sounds like a similar experience to writing a blog post. Tinker with the idea until it takes shape. I can relate. I’m looking forward to doing more woodworking in the near future, excited about the P.S. in the post…

  4. Fritz, thanks for the post. I agree that a hobby is essential to being fulfilled during retirement. My wife and I volunteer with our church to feed the hungry and homeless in LEX. The last couple of months have been really tough as the COVID19 virus has practially shut down our kitchen and the meals we provided have turned into a sanwhich and a drink. Hope this returns to normal soon. One question that I struggle with is “being all in” with our volunteer work while keeping our schedule fexible for that spur of the moment trip or travel. We want to do it all but I feel and at times feel that others hold back waiting for that next opportunity and miss the opportunity that is in front of us now. Maybe you have a suggestion.

    1. Todd, nice to hear from you. Awesome that you volunteer at your church to help feed the hungry, great cause. I can totally relate to your dilemma of commitment vs. freedom. My only suggestion is to always remember that you are a VOLUNTEER, and the only sense of obligation is the one you create yourself. Help when you can help, but don’t let it become a “job”. Allow yourself to be free when required, you’ve earned that right.

  5. Aloha Fritz!

    Great article to share with the masses! I agree hobbies and volunteering are crucial to one’s self esteem in retirement and a critical part of a “happy” retirement!

    You would be a natural at what I have proposed in the past Fritz. Try it once and, if not your thing, then withdraw from further builds. Of course, I am urging you and wifey to volunteer in Habitat for Humanity’s program called “Care A Vanners”. You register, sign up for a build in just about any state, and travel with your RV building homes for families that deserve a safe and affordable home. It is truly a great experience….the bonus is building with like minded individuals that have soft hearts and big smiles! No building skills are required. I had none and, sure, we were a little anxious driving to our first build. Pete took me under his wing and I learned SO many things the first week! I think you guys would absolutely love it. Only a two week commitment. Please check it out via Google Fritz.

    Then you could write 3 articles about your 2 week build and encourage others….just a thought! 😉

    Peace. Cheers. Stay healthy everyone, Steve

    1. Steve, I do remember your encouragement to try the Habitat Care A Vanner program. I was fairly active in Habitat while I was still working, great organization and I love the feeling you get when building a house with them. The biggest challenge we have around the Care A Vanner is the reality that we have 4 dogs, tough to leave them home, and tough to take them but end up leaving them in the RV while we work for two weeks. I wonder if Habitat has every considered setting up a dogsitting program for the Care A Vanners??

  6. I just listed to the Choose FI podcast episode this morning where you talked about the dog house, so it’s now neat to ready about it as well!

    I am 6 months into early retirement and still going through the list of little fun to-do’s that I have built up over the years. In the back of my mind though, I have started thinking about finding a brand new thing to do, where I have little knowledge of it. I am not sure what this is yet, but I like your mindset of “Capturing Everything I Learned Along The Way…” I think the extra time we have in retirement allows us to be more thorough in our pursuit of a new activity. My nature is to over-research new things, so I can see myself jumping into the mindset of documenting everything!

    1. Hey DG, crazy timing about the ChooseFI interview coming out on the same day as my doghouse post. It wasn’t planned that way, but I’ve gotta say was pleased about the coincidence.

      Congrats on your first 6 months across The Starting Line, I remember that timeframe well (see 6 Lessons From The First 6 Months of Retirement). It’s an interesting transition, and being “not sure what this is yet” is a great way to sum it up at the 6 month mark. Good luck with your “research”. Go. Do. Learn.

  7. That dog house is so nice you might want to sleep in it!
    Many hobbies offer great social opportunities. There are the model train guys that build sections separately then put the together for an event. Model airplanes. Quilting…. For carpentry, some cities have carpentry clubs where one can sign up and use their equipment, kinda like a gym. The nice part is access to very good equipment. Go get out there and try something!

    1. Too bad we gave that dog house away, I’ll have to settle for the sofa if I get into a pinch. Wink.

      Interesting comment about the carpentry clubs, I hadn’t heard of those. I may have to get out there and try to find something like that in my area. Thanks for the good addition to the discussion.

  8. Hey, what happened to Dave, he always posts first. Wonder if now your a famous author you scared him away. Great post.

    1. Nothing better than a hearty salute from an inveterate brother! I’m in awe of your welding challenge, I don’t see myself getting to that point. Fun to watch as we both learn new things. Ah, the spice of life!

  9. Enjoyed the article and the video, Fritz.

    It’s important at all stages of life to continue learning. Taking the challenge to learn something entirely unrelated to your normal course of life/business (such as building a dog house) forces you to grow in ways you can’t foresee in advance. It usually also requires plenty of patience as you’re forced to break the mold of your normal expectations and ways of doing things.

    Take care,

  10. Thanks Fritz.
    Love the Dog House. Looks like one any self respecting recalcitrant spouse would be proud to call home.
    I really wanted to state both my respect and my jealousy for hearing about you learning the skills to builds the dog house, but the videoing, the Blueprinting (I am an architect, and I am old enough to remember both the look, feel and smell of a freshly printed blue print, and why it was called a blue print).

    I wish I could get myself retired rapidly enough to get me learning similar skills sooner than later…

    Once again, you have inspired me (and countless others, no doubt)


    1. Shaun, thanks for your kind words, couldn’t ask for more than respect from a legit architect on my first set of blue prints! Be patient, you’re at “the wait”, the hardest point in the journey. Stay strong, you’ll get across The Starting Line eventually.

  11. Hobbies are vital. I’m not into woodworking but fortunately my wife and I share several hobbies. Bass and trout fishing, hiking, bush whacking, tennis, pickle ball, distance running, skiing and cooking. Being able to do these together has let us keep going during this social distancing. We also have individual hobbies, she wood works, works in the yard, reads and I do auto and boat maintenance and blog. Plus I consult as a hobby that also pays the bills. Great work on the dog house, my dad would be proud! And great blogging, you are the gold standard.

  12. Fritz,
    I was sharing your blog with my wife yesterday who loves all animals but especially dogs. Finding your retirement niche has proven to be a little more difficult lately but I’m looking forward to the new normal. I retired last September and was trying to jump back into Habitat and volunteering at the Flying Heritage Collection at Paine Field in Everett WA. Everything is on hold now! I turn 53 tomorrow and don’t regret a single day of retirement!

    1. Tom, thanks for sharing my work with your wife, much appreciated! Volunteering at Paine Field would be fascinating, we may have to make a visit there the next time we’re out to visit our daughter and her family (Tacoma/Olympia area – her husband is stationed at Lewis-McChord Army base). Happy Birthday!

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