How To Build A Dog House and Improve Your Retirement

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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

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…


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