How to Build an Outdoor Dog Potty Area

Save Your Grass – Build a Dog Potty Areadog potty area

Are you tired of urine burned backyard grass? Do you wish you could train your dog to go potty in a designated area? Then this weekend, build yourself an outdoor dog potty area. It’s easy!

You will need:

  • 2 inch by 6 inch boards cut to size
  • fiberglass screen (found at hardware store) cut to size for two layers of stone
  • sand pebbles
  • pea gravel
  • shovel
  • a good back (those bags of stone get heavy)

Select the Area: Select an area to excavate and call the utility company to make sure the utilities are not where you plan to dig. Next, determine your size. My dog potty area measures 10 feet by 5 1/2 feet and is located by the garbage cans outside of my garage door. Very convenient.

Use Stone for Proper Drainage: A dog potty area will contain a lot of urine in a very small area. Therefore, especially in areas where soil is clay, drainage is a necessity. We built our dog potty area using rock and gravel so that it can be hosed off easily and provide proper drainage.

Building the Frame: A frame is necessary to contain the stone. We purchased long 2 inch by 6 inch boards, cut them to size and secured them with 4 or 5 inch lag screws. We built the frame in the garage and moved it to the designated area. Looking back, it would have been easier and we would have seen the sprinkler head if we would have built the frame on site.

Fiberglass Screen:  Measure your dog potty area and take the measurements to your hardware store. You will need two layers of screen (one to cover the excavated soil and the other to separate the sand pebbles from the pea gravel). The screen varies in width so have the hardware specialist calculate your need and cut it for you.

Sand Pebbles: Sand pebbles can be purchased by the bag at your local gardening center. They are sold in half cubic feet bags. For our 10 feet by 5 1/2 feet dog potty, we used 24 bags of sand pebbles which made the first layer about 2 to 3 inches thick. Sand pebbles are a good first layer as they are large and will provide proper drainage.

Pea Gravel: Pea Gravel can also be purchased by the bag at your local gardening center. They, too are sold in half cubic feet bags. We used 12 bags of pea gravel as the top layer of the dog potty area.

Let’s Begin:

Excavate the area by skimming off the grass and first layer of topsoil. We dug in an area where there were a lot of gas lines and cable, so we only went down about an 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Haul the removed topsoil to another area of the garden and prepare to lay the first layer of fiberglass screen.

build a dog potty area

Hmm…it looks like we left a little grass under the screen. No problem. The grass (we hope) will be suffocated by layers and layers of rock. We used fiberglass screen instead of landscape fabric because we were afraid landscape fabric would hold the urine odor. Fiberglass screen is flexible like landscape fabric and the holes discourage weeds while letting liquid drain through. When the first layer of landscape fabric was down, we added 12 bags of sand pebbles.

build a dog potty area

Twelve bags covered all the fiberglass screen, but we decided to double it to make the sand pebbles about 1 1/2 inches thick.

dog potty area


build a dog potty area

There, now doesn’t that look better? Notice how we notched out the potty area’s frame near the sidewalk where during excavation we ran into a hidden sprinkler head. The positioning of the sprinkler head seemed less than ideal until we realized that it will hose down the potty area. Now that’s a happy accident!

build your own dog potty area

When we had dumped twenty four bags of sand pebbles over the first layer of fiberglass screen, we put down the second layer of screening.

build your own dog potty area

You can see that there is about 1 1/2 inches of area left before the top of the frame. After the second layer of fiberglass screen was laid, it was time for the pea gravel.

build a dog potty area

We used 12 bags of pea gravel to cover the second layer of fiberglass screening. In the end, I thought it was just the right height for the frame.

pea gravel potty area

My golden retriever, Sydney, was the first to try it out. She doesn’t look very thrilled, but who does when the using the facilities. Anyway, after a little coaxing and a lot of sniffing, the other two retrievers used it, too.

dog potty area

I dressed up the area with a little doggy sign. I thought it was a nice touch, but something was still missing.

dog potty area

So I added some daylilies to brighten it up and hide the doggy litter box from the street.

dog potty area

So there you have it. Finished! This is definitely a weekend project and aside from hauling the heavy bags of rock, pretty easy to do. It was worth all the effort and will be especially convenient when it rains. No more standing in the middle of the burnt out backyard waiting for the dogs to finish their business and hopefully, there will be a lot less dirt on the paws and in my house!

Does your dog have a special potty area? Let us know!

UPDATE: One year later and aside from the closed blooms on the day lilly and my exchange of the wooden decorative fence for a dog flower pot, the area has survived a harsh Great Lakes winter and looks very much the same.

outdoor dog potty

A Note Regarding Odor: Since my post, many of you have asked about odor. I haven’t smelled any offensive odor, but so as not to discourage people from creating their own dog potty, I found a product that will set your mind at ease. It’s called Simple Green and I bought it at Petco. The bottle said: “Simple Green Outdoor Pet Odor Eliminator neutralizes and eliminates odors in outdoor spaces. Odor eliminator quickly removes pet urine, stool and vomit odors. The multipurpose formula is ideal for the patio, deck, dog run, artificial turf and yard. Simple Green Outdoor Pet Odor Eliminator is completely safe for use around children, pets and landscaping. Simply connect your hose to the nozzle and spray area.” I did exactly that. It was very easy to attach to my garden hose and has a nice smell. Now, just for good measure, I’ll spray off the pea gravel potty area seasonally. Enjoy your dog potty area!


144 thoughts on “How to Build an Outdoor Dog Potty Area

  1. Hi, I am getting ready to build one of these. My dog goes to the bathroom right off our back steps, doesnt make it out far into the yard, so i am looking at putting this pee area close to the steps/patio. Would it be ok to build this box next to the foundation of our house and patio? I am just worried about rain water sitting in the box and possibly flooding our basement because water will be sitting next to the foundation. Please advise.

  2. Hi Brian!
    I don’t have any water in the potty box because it drains properly. There is no solid bottom to hold water. The layers and layers of stones filter and drain the urine. However, I do have concerns about anything right next to the foundation. Is there any way you can put it a foot or two away from the foundation? If you ever did have water problems you wouldn’t want your basement to smell like urine.

  3. Hi,

    I\’m doing a project about dog fouling and I am trying to find solutions for it. i like your idea, however I wanted to know whether these out door dog potties are also suitable for dog faeces or is it just urine, since I don\’t have a dog myself so I am not quite familiar with how their \’going to the toilet\’ process works :).

  4. Hi,

    I’m doing a project about dog fouling and I am trying to find solutions for it. i like your idea, however I wanted to know whether these out door dog potties are also suitable for dog faeces or is it just urine, since I don\\’t have a dog myself so I am not quite familiar with how their \\’going to the toilet\\’ process works :).

  5. Hi Dalia!
    Yes, these outdoor dog potties are even better with feces because you don’t have to worry about drainage. You do have to scoop them up and throw them into the trash can as soon as possible to avoid flies and bacteria, but it is easy because feces is sitting in pea gravel. It’s like a giant kitty litter box. You will have to replace the pea gravel more often if they urinate and defecate in the potty box because you’ll scoop some of the pea gravel each time, but it will work just fine. Good luck with your project.

  6. My husband built a box in the back yard for our golden retriever puppy (now 10 weeks). He wants to lie down on the stones. He\\\’ll do everything in his power not to soil the litter box, then as soon as he gets out on the grass, he does his business. We have tried a spay purchased from the pet store but he doesn\\\’t seem to get the idea.

  7. Your 10 week old puppy is playing you, the little stinker! Do you crate the puppy? If so, put the puppy in the crate until it’s time to potty. Take him out and to the potty area and wait until he goes. If he lies down on the stones, then he doesn’t have to potty. Return him to the crate for a time, and try again. He eventually has to pee. When he does, it must be in the stones. Keep doing this until he does. Never let him use it as a leisure area. The stones are all business. This may mean crating him for a half hour and trying again and if unsuccessful, returning him to his crate and repeating the process. He will learn and if he does his business in the grass (and they all would prefer that) then he’ll do it on the stones. If he poops on the grass you can quickly bag it and it won’t burn the grass. But the urine is the problem. It loves to kill your lawn. Be persistent. He’s just a puppy and it will take repetition and time. He may never love it, but he doesn’t have to. He needs to get it done and then he can play.

  8. Have you had any problems with your dog digging and tearing the fiberglass screening? How tough is the screening that you utilized in your project?

  9. Have you had any issues with your dog tearing or digging up the fiberglass screening? How thick/tough is the screening you used in your project?

  10. Hi Ryan!
    The fiberglass screening is very thin and can be easily cut. I would imagine dog digging could tear it up. My dogs don’t like hanging out in the potty area and are always there on leash, so I haven’t had problems with the dog’s digging it up. It does surface when the pea gravel is displaced and that reminds me that I need to replenish the top with a bag or two of pea gravel as the grave settles throughout the year and/or the dogs kick it up after they potty. The screening is only there to add a barrier between the pea gravel and the larger stones so that the pea gravel doesn’t pack into the larger stones and cause the urine to not drain. So if you have to bury the fiberglass screen deeper so they cannot find it, that’s all right. Just top it with more pea gravel as deep as you’d like. Good luck!

  11. I’ve been wanting to create a designated potty area for our two beasts since we moved here last year. My old dog never went on the lawn, so we didn’t have this problem (she liked to keep her play area clean, I guess!). But our current dogs not only pee on the lawn, but also pee and poop in the same area they run around, which causes sanitation problems as well as ruining the lawn. My question is: Since we don’t have a dirt area available for this gravel pit, is it possible to somehow build it on concrete? What would we need to do differently to make it work? Also, how do we keep the dogs from going on the lawn once it’s built? Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!

  12. Hi Lisa!
    This method is meant to be used on the ground, not on cement. Cement wouldn’t work well because the urine has no where to drain and no earth to absorb into. I am not an engineer or architect so I don’t know what you could otherwise do, but my design won’t work on cement. Sorry.

  13. Hi!
    I want to build this for my dog – on my patio it is mostly cement, but there is about a foot to a foot and a half of soil. Is there any way to make this design work for that? maybe a slant in the design to drain to the soil?

    thank you

  14. Great idea. Thank you for that. I would look at doing this over a covered drain leading to storm water run off. Naturally the filtering component would have to be secure. I wonder if you could put artificial turf over the pebbles for pups who have been trained already to use that surface? Hose down straight into the run off. You appear to have girls. My boys would love a pee pole within that structure!
    Love your idea Thank You!!

  15. Hi I’ve been looking for an awesome idea like this and I just love it!! I’ve been having problems with my dog killing the small grass area we have for her potty area and it just gets muddy and nasty. I’m on a budget though and my only question is if this project would still work the same way if we didn’t put the sand pebbles down? Just lay the screen and do a thicker section of pea gravel?

  16. Hi Misty. I know this design works. I’m not an engineer or a landscape designer so I can’t say with any certainty that your design will produce the same results. The only job of the fiberglass screening is to separate and keep separate the smaller pea gravel from the lower layer of larger sandstones. The fiberglass screening prevents the smaller pea gravel from lodging into the sandstone voids and facilitates drainage and filtering. If you plan to not use the larger stone, then the fiberglass screening is unnecessary. In my design, the layers of stone create the drainage necessary to filter and distribute the urine before it reaches the soil/clay and hopefully is absorbed. If you choose to use only a thick layer of pea gravel, make sure you box it in so that in the event the urine doesn’t drain you can hose the pea gravel down. Good luck.

  17. this is perfect! thank you for posting this. I am wondering though, it seems pretty big, is it necessary or slightly smaller will do as I don’t have big space ?

  18. Hi Marsha!
    Indeed it is big. I have three golden retrievers! I wanted to give them room to pace back and forth. Adjust the size to your dog. Enjoy!

  19. Thank you so very much for your very detailed instructions! This is on my weekend “honey do” list! Lol … we scaled down to a condo and your potty yard is perfect for a small dirt space at the back end of our yard. I also very much appreciate your lovely pictures! This is such a great idea!! I have been fretting about how/where my poochies can go potty! Problem beautifully solved! THANK YOU!!

  20. Hello Lisa!
    You’re very welcome. It’s good to share!
    Good luck on your project. Remember to pile the pea gravel deep enough so that the seams on the fiberglass screen don’t surface. This is finally happening to me as the pea gravel has been kicked about and displaced. I simply need to pour on a few more bags of pea gravel this year, but we have too much snow up here in Cleveland to worry about that just yet.

  21. Hi Suzanne!
    This project was done two years ago and I don’t remember the cost. Even if I had a better memory, the cost of materials have most likely increased. The cost also depends on where you purchase your items. I’ve listed the materials necessary to complete the project at the beginning of the post. I’d take the list to your local home improvement or garden center and have them price it out. Remember, if you have smaller dogs you will make the area smaller and the cost will be less. This was built for two golden retrievers.

    Good luck with your project!

  22. hi, I live in an apartment ttay had a giant patio about the size of the naked if my apartment- it has dirt areas surrounding the patio and I wanted to block an area off for my 2 dogs since they currently go wherever they want— do I need the border or can I just get something to hold in the fiberglass and pea gravel and use the dirt/ soil underneath as the drainage? Thanks

  23. I suppose you can use a square shovel and make a nice vertical slice in the soil. The purpose of the edging is to keep the stones and pea gravel from spilling into the grass and to keep the grass from growing into the pea gravel. Other than that, just make sure you layer the stones and gravel enough to filter the urine before hitting the soil on the bottom. That will provide decent drainage even if your soil is clay like ours in Northeastern Ohio. Good luck with your project and make sure your apartment approves your project before you spend the time and money.

  24. This looks like a great way to repurpose a raised bed I was thinking of removing. We have a hard enough time growing grass due to a large old apple tree, having a designated potty zone would be ideal!

  25. hi I love this idea and would like to try it. my question is , is how do you know the dog will go there once you build it. is there something that you put there that smells or a sense that he will definitely go in the box you built instead of your grass? I have a rottweiler and he will go everywhere on my land and he will tear up the grass. do you have any advice for me? Thanks

  26. As I mentioned in previous comments, If there is a dog alive that would rather go potty on pea gravel than soft green grass, I’ve never met them. This project is not magic. Like all dog training, you have to train the human more than you have to train the dog. This requires determination and follow through on your part. I can’t address the digging or tearing up the grass, but I can address urinating in a box so that your don’t experience urine burn. (You can make them poop in the box, too, by training your dogs the same way. But this will take work on your part and the dogs must be on leash. There also must be sufficient pacing room so the dog can go back and forth before eliminating.)

    I have two pets and also raise service dogs and one of the commands we teach them is to potty on command, necessary for a person in a wheelchair who must handle the dog. Is it easy? No! We start them off when they’re young puppies. We take them on leash to the area where we want them to potty and wait. When they go we praise them and give them a treat.

    When they get the hang of it, we introduce a name to the command. Name it what you want. For clarity, I’ll call the command “potty”. Take the dog on leash to the potty area, say potty and wait. Don’t repeat the command, just wait. If the dog doesn’t go in a reasonable amount of time, take the dog back into the house. Don’t let the dog roam outside and sniff. The dog needs to get the job done. If you have a crate, use that. Wait 15 minutes or so and take the dog out on leash again. Say “potty” and wait. When the dog goes, praise and treat treat treat!

    My dogs know where they’re supposed to go, but there’s no way that I trust them to do it voluntarily. The only reason a dog would choose to pea on pea gravel versus soft grass is to please YOU! And when they do decide to please you, treat them! This takes patience, consistency and a willingness to not let them sniff and wander. Instead give them a reasonable amount of time to potty and if they don’t, then back inside. Try again a little later. Going potty on command in the area you’ve provided is the goal. When they complete the task, they get to play in the backyard. Hooray! I hope that helps. Remember, the purpose of the dog potty is to keep your grass green. If your dog LOVES to go potty there, well that’s a bonus but not an expected one. Good luck!

  27. This. Is. BRILLIANT! I have wanted to do something like this for year, but didn’t know where to start. Thank you so much, I’ve shared this every where!

    As far as dogs that’s aren’t attracted to the box, you can purchase pheromone items at your local pet store. You can search for “Pheromone pee post.” Possible even potty pads temporarily. Also, start your dog on leash and take them to the specified area every time you take them out to potty.

  28. Liz:
    Thank you for your kind words and sharing the page with others!
    Good luck on your project and enjoy!

  29. I have a solid balcony area that is set up for my dog, I’ve notice my dog has chosen one corner of the balcony to do her business while I’m at work, if I set up an area for her with the main texture being dirt/soil instead or synthetic grass or gravel, will she use it??

  30. I would have no way of knowing whether your dog would use the area or not, but my potty area design is not for balcony use. The entire idea behind the dog potty area is that the urine would drain-filtered through the layers of rock-into the ground and not burn out your lawn. Using it on a balcony would require a drain pan that you’d have to empty and at that point it wouldn’t matter if it was synthetic grass or artificial turf. I wouldn’t recommend it.

  31. Great project details, looks like a perfect execution! My curiousity is, when your dog is away from home do you find they have difficulty adapting to non-gravel pit potty time?



  32. Hi Wes!
    Thank you. Regarding dog travel and non-gravel potty time dilemmas, there are none. The dog prefer (and always will) to do their business on the grass. They are more than happy to do so when they are traveling and there is no pea gravel dog potty available. To them, it is a treat. :-)

  33. This is a great idea!! We just bought a house in October and one of the selling points on this house was that fact that is had a big fenced in yard for our 3 medium sized dogs (45-60 lbs). However our yard only has a few flat spots and the rest is quite hilly and has a few dips in it. After all the snow has melted and now we can\\’t seem to go 2 days without rain, mud has become my worst enemy. We want to reseed our yard this spring but it will never grow with the dogs running on it.

    We have a large back deck connected to the house can be closed off but has a small opening on the left side that the dogs jump through all the time (its about a foot jump on that side). Since the left side of the yard is a flat area I think we may just be fencing a small portion of that off and making that the potty area. We can keep the actual porch gates closed so they cant go into the bigger part of the yard and get all muddy.

    I had thought about doing this before however I wasnt sure how I could keep the smell to a minimum. However with your method, clean up would be a breeze! Thank you so much for sharing!

  34. Danielle:
    Older dogs are harder to train. They are set in their ways, but it can be done. Train just like you would any young pup. It is a new behavior for the older dog and it will need to learn it the same way.

    Take the dog on leash to the potty area, say potty and wait. Don’t repeat the command, just wait. If the dog doesn’t go in a reasonable amount of time, take the dog back into the house. Don’t let the dog roam outside and sniff. The dog needs to get the job done. If you have a crate, use that. Wait 15 minutes or so and take the dog out on leash again. Say “potty” and wait. When the dog goes, praise and treat treat treat!

    My dogs know where they’re supposed to go, but there’s no way that I trust them to do it voluntarily. The only reason a dog would choose to pea on pea gravel versus soft grass is to please YOU! And when it does decide to please you, treat the pup! This takes patience, consistency and a willingness to not let the dog sniff and wander. Instead give the dog a reasonable amount of time to potty and if the dog doesn’t, then back inside. Try again a little later. Going potty on command in the area you’ve provided is the goal. When the dog completes the task, the dog gets to play in the backyard. Hooray! I hope that helps. Remember, the purpose of the dog potty is to keep your grass green. If your dog LOVES to go potty there, well that’s a bonus but not an expected one. Be consistent, patient and don’t give an inch. Good luck!

  35. I am curious about the use of the simple green odor remover. How often would you say this is recomended? I would love to do this in my back yard. But are still wondering about the care and maintenance/sanitation mechanics about the project.

  36. Hi Michelle:
    You use the Green Odor Remover if you think you smell something. I used it 3 times last year during really hot days. Regarding sanitation, if your dog pees on the grass, the urine goes into the soil. If your dog pees in the potty area, the rocks provide drainage for the urine to go into the soil. It is no more or less sanitary than if your dog pees in an area of your grass.

  37. Hi there,

    We currently have an area that has river rocks that my dog does not like going pee or poo on. Would this project work if we put the screen over our current river rocks instead of digging it all up and buying sand pebbles? Was thinking we would put screen over the river rocks and put pea gravel over the screen. Thanks

  38. Hi Krys:
    I know my model works. I don’t know if yours will work or not. It certainly is an interesting idea if you already have a place full of larger rocks. I’m envisioning large flat river rock. Make sure the river rocks aren’t so large that the pea will run off them and pool into an area that might overflow onto your grass and burn it. The layers of rock are to distribute the urine to aid in uniform absorption into soil. Let us know if it works.

  39. Hi,

    Very well executed, thank you for sharing. Two questions:

    This would still apply during wintertime with snow accumulated on it right? Rather, no adjustments must be made, and it was used during wintertime.

    Also, my background is relatively small, so i was WONDERING what minimal size you would recommend for a golden retriever.

    Thank you,


  40. Hi Audrey!
    Nothing needs to be done in the winter. The dogs know where it is even with snow on top of it. But remember, I take them there on leash. I doubt they’d seek it out on their own. I take my goldens out one at a time and this size seems to work well for their pacing. But your golden might not walk back and forth as much as mine do before “getting the job done.” They make a big deal of it. (eyes rolling!) Watch your pup and observe how many steps it needs in the back and forth ritual before execution. That will give you the size, give or take a step or two more. The only problem I’m having with this is that the seams of the screening are surfacing. In a perfect world the screening would be one piece and this wouldn’t happen. But I was unable to find it in the size I needed. I’ll have to submerge the seam and top it off with a bag or two more of pea gravel. That should do it. This is year two and the pea gravel has settled so it needs a good topping off anyway. Good luck!

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