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!


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

  1. Wonderful idea and directions! Built ours yesterday and success today. Used (3) 2\” x 6\” x 8\’ and found screening that was 4\’ wide so didn\’t have to cut. Our 13 week old GSD potties on command so it was an easy transition. I had her first trip be in the morning after coming out of her crate so she was ready. For feces we ended up going back in the crate 30 minutes then trying again successfully. Then I\’ve made sure to keep her on a short leash when outside so she didn\’t have the chance to go anywhere else. Total cost was ~0 buying everything at Lowe\’s, probably could have spent less if we would have bought the gravel elsewhere.

    Thanks for the details, we will love not having to worry about kids playing in the same spot the pup toilets!

  2. Hey TX Mom…Fantastic! I love it when things turn out well. Don’t you? It sounds like your dog is pretty smart to potty on command. Bravo to you for good training. Now you and your family can enjoy your summer without checking the bottom on your shoes. ha ha!
    Thanks for letting us know of your success!

  3. Hi Nancy!
    The sole purpose of this project is to prevent your grass from urine burn. If you’re using artificial grass in an area, you don’t have to worry about that. I have a friend whose entire backyard is done in artificial grass. The dogs go potty and she hoses it down. You wouldn’t need to do any pea gravel at all. I do wonder if urine lingers in the artificial grass. But if it does, you can try the deodorizer mentioned in my article. Good luck with your project!

  4. I didn\\\’t read thru all the comments but I thought you might like to add – to be careful about what plants they use. Lilies can be poisonous to cats, so if you have a kitty…you might want to select wisely. If one has a puppy, please check their yards for dangerous plants because puppies love to eat foliage. Great idea on your potty yard!

  5. Do you get snow in the winter and if so did you keep shoveling the area clean? Thanks.

  6. Hi Rhonda!
    Oh yes, we got snow. We live in Cleveland, Ohio! They knew where it was and pottied there anyway. When the snow got really deep, my husband was nicer than me and shoveled the snow so it was more obvious to the pups where the potty area was. ha ha!

  7. This looks awesome! Out of curiosity, do you mind sharing what the cost came to, approximately? And how did you decide the size of the area?

  8. Hi Christina!
    As I told Jen in one of the above comments, I don’t remember how much the dog potty area cost to build, but the article gives you exact materials and you can price them out at your local Home Depot or other home improvement and garden centers. The size was determined by the size of my dog and how many paces they take as they do the back and forth before they potty. Your dog may be smalled and pace less. Then the dog potty would be much smaller than mine. Mine was built for a golden retriever. Thanks for your input and interest!

  9. Thanks for this post. I’ll be building one of these this weekend, just have some questions. What exactly is the fiber glass screen for? Im assuming to help keep the rock and gravel from settling for better drainage, but I wanted to check. Also, are you using the fiber glass screening typically used for insect screens?
    Thanks for your time.

  10. Hi Tim!
    I used two different size stones for drainage. I could’ve just used the larger stones, but I thought it’d be rough on the dog’s paws. Pea gravel was smaller and easier on their paws so I chose that for the top. I was afraid the pea gravel would pack itself between the larger stones and screw up my drainage, so I needed something to put between the two that would separate the two layers and be permeable. My first thought was landscape fabric, but I was afraid landscape fabric might hold onto the urine smell. I chose flexible fiberglass screening that is used to repair screen doors. I used fiberglass versus aluminum because I didn’t want the cut ends to hurt the dog’s paws. The fiberglass screening is perfect EXCEPT I had to cut it to fit my size wooden frame–large! If you don’t put enough pea gravel on top, the edges surface and you have to bury them again. It’s not a big deal but it’d be great if that didn’t happen. Ideally, I should’ve sewn the screen pieces together. But who wants to do that? If you have a smaller dog, perhaps you can judge the size of the box by the width of the screen and have them cut you one perfect piece. Good luck on your project!

  11. Hi Laura:
    We did use treated wood because that’s what we had in the garage. You can use anything really: treated, untreated, plastic edging or even bricks. The reason behind the frame is to keep the stones contained and in one place so that they don’t spill all over your grass and be a hazard when you mow. Any creative way to contain the stones and pea gravel would be great. Good luck with your project!

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