The Shasta-style puppy camper started out as a labor of love and a personal challenge. I've been a woodworker for many years and I earn a living making musical instruments (well… banjos...). A few years ago, just for fun, I started making birdhouses inspired by the old Shasta and Teardrop camper trailers of the ’40s and ’50s. At a friend's urging I opened an Etsy shop, and now I can barely keep them in stock. Almost since the very beginning of the birdhouse project, my wife has been encouraging me to try to scale one up for a dog playhouse. Finally, for her birthday this year, I came up with a design and built one.
I designed the Puppy Camper for indoor use only, and for a dog of up to 30 pounds—three of our five rescued dogs fit that size. It took a while for our dogs to explore the camper, despite mining it with treats at first—they’re suspicious by nature. It took so long it almost hurt my feelings. But now Cocoa Rae Bean eats all her meals in there. At meal times she sprints from the kitchen and runs into her personal "diner," wagging and dancing in anticipation of another great dinner “on the road.” On nice days, we sometimes pull it outside so they can play in it on the patio, but it wasn’t built to withstand weather. Plus, we believe dogs should be sleeping under the covers with their humans, not outside in doghouses.
It’s gratifying to see the dogs enjoy their playhouse, and it attracts a lot of attention from our friends. So much so that I've made a couple more and plan to sell these in my Etsy store in the future, too. Etsy.com/shop/jumahl
Shasta-Style Puppy Camper - Instructions
The full Puppy Camper House instructions can also be downloaded.
The camper is constructed of ½” Baltic Birch plywood, sometimes called cabinet plywood, because it is very high quality, has multiple plys for stability and has no voids. It comes in 5' by 5' sheets rather than the more normal 4' by 8' plywood. My design is of such dimension that both sides and the bottom will come from a single sheet of Baltic Birch. Another size factor is that I wanted to add a layer of aluminum flashing to the top, for that metallic look, and the widest I could find at a builders supply is 20 inches, so that determined the maximum width of the top.
The top is curved by bending a special plywood called, oddly enough, bending plywood, available on special order from a hardwood supplier (who should also have or be able to order the Baltic Birch). This comes in 4' by 8' sheets, 1/8” thick. The grain runs in one direction only, which is why it can bend - this also makes it just a bit fragile. It can be ordered with the grain running either direction - lengthwise or across grain, so it's important to specify that the grain run crossways, since the bend will be along the length. The top is comprised of two layers of bending plywood, laminated with yellow glue for strength. The Puppy Camper is for a dog of up to 30 pounds, and has a 2" thick memory foam bed (20" x 28") that fits the bottom snugly. This size is available online.