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)

*NOTE: Many people have told me that sand pebbles have been hard to find. You can use other stones such as small river rock or lucky stones. The idea is to choose a larger rock than the size of your pea gravel for the base layer just to ensure a nice filtered drainage. The pea gravel top is there because it won’t hurt the dog’s paws like larger stones would yet still provide drainage.

Word of Caution: If your dog is prone to eating inappropriate things like toys, rocks, bedding, etc. this project may not be for you unless you take the dog out on leash and correct the dog if it attempts to lower its head to eat the gravel. My dogs don’t have dog beds or crate mats because they eat them. However, this project worked for them because I keep them on leash when they use the area and they don’t have access to it at any other time. Remember, your dog relies on your supervision. Now on to the project.

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

Two Years Later: Added daylillies on the left side. Still looks great. Only problem is the fiberglass screening edges occasionally surfacing. It helped when I added more pea gravel. I”ll have to top it off each year. dog potty area


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!


A Note Regarding Training Your Dog to Go Potty in This Area: If there is a dog alive that would rather go potty on pea gravel than soft green grass, I’ve never met them. I have three retriever 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 them on leash to the potty area, say “potty” and wait. Don’t repeat the command, just wait. If they don’t go in a reasonable amount of time, take them back into the house. Don’t let them roam outside and sniff. They need to get the job done. If you have a crate, use that. Wait 15 minutes or so and take them out on leash again. Say “potty” and wait. When they go, 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 pee 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 spot is the goal. When they complete the task, they get to play–off leash if your yard has a fence. Hooray! I hope that helps. Remember, the purpose of the dog potty is to keep your grass green. By taking your dog to the potty area on leash first before play ensures this. If your dog LOVES to go potty there and will go on its own, well that’s a bonus but not an expected one. Good luck!


I’d love to post all your successful projects. Three people have sent in photos so far. If you’d like your project posted, send your photo via Twitter @WelcomePup or at Here’s to green grass!

Beautiful job! Photo courtesy of Kim S.

Beautiful job! Photo courtesy of Kim S.

Very clean design with stairs - Photo courtesy of @wheatmonkeys

Very clean design with stairs! Photo courtesy of @wheatmonkeys

Classy design with a stepping stone approach. Photo courtesy of Mauricio.

Classy design with a stepping stone approach. Photo courtesy of Mauricio.

dog potty area

Great job from S.L. who stapled the fiberglass screening to the wood frame and put an x-pen on top to get his pup used to the area. Great idea!

Gould dog potty area2

John and Nicole turned this into a family project and got the kids involved. Fantastic. Now they have ownership interest and they’ll take the dog out! Yay!

Gould dog potty area1

…and didn’t it turn out sleek? Nice!

And here’s another from Geralyn H – San Antonio, TX. She wrapped the dog potty around her screened in patio:


It wraps around the back.


And the pups love it!


Below is how Scott’s dog potty turned out. His dog has taken to it well!



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

  1. Hi i was wondering if we took our puppy to the dog park and he peeded & pooded on the grass will he still learn to go at home on the potty area that we build?…also do u use it for the dogs to go poo there as well? thankyou

  2. This potty box is not a miracle cure for your dog. It’s a miracle cure for your grass. Your dogs should be taken on leash to potty using this box in your yard. Your dog may not want to use it on his own. All dogs want to pee on the grass. Some dogs will learn and go into the box themselves. Other dogs will never learn or like it and must be taken to the box on leash. Going to a dog park, or anywhere outside of your yard, will not make a difference. If you want your grass green and free of urine burn, take your dogs to pee on leash. They can poop there, too. No big deal. It scoops up nicely. Thanks and good luck with your project.

  3. Curious why you wasted money on the screens? They’re pretty much pointless. The bottom rock being put on the ground without the screen is fine and the smaller rocks going on top of the larger rocks is also fine without the screen.

  4. Hi Gary!
    Initially, I was concerned the small pea gravel would gather into the crevices of the larger rock and clog the liquid pathway. But as the box is now at least 3 years old, I see the screen surfacing and am cutting it away. It is draining properly. As long as the two rock choices are noticeably different in size, you probably don’t need the screen. I was being extra cautious and didn’t want a urine pool. Good luck with your project!

  5. We’ve been at this two and a half days with our new puppy. She dislikes the gravel so much she has been holding her poop for 12 hours. Only after hours does she pee on gravel. Should we keep going or is she at risk for developing an infection?

  6. Two and a half days in not enough time to acclimate a puppy to any potty routine. The puppy doesn’t like the gravel? Perhaps. But all dog would rather go potty on the grass.

    The dog potty is a tool to save your grass from turning yellow. It does not perform miracles for your dog. It performs miracles for your yard. It does not make potty training your pup any harder or easier. It is up to you, not the puppy, to decide where you want the puppy to potty. Then you must be consistent and always take the puppy out on leash.

    Crate the puppy at night. In the morning, whisk the puppy to the dog potty area on leash. Stay there until the puppy pees or poops. Then take the puppy inside and feed it breakfast. Supervise puppy at all times when puppy is out of the crate. About 20 minutes after breakfast, take puppy out on leash again. Give puppy the chance to potty in the potty area. If puppy chooses not to go potty, in the crate puppy goes for an hour or two. Then take puppy out at around 10 am and potty the puppy on leash in the potty area. If the puppy refuses to go, puppy goes back into the crate. If puppy goes potty, give it some play time and back into the crate until lunch. This repeats at around 2 p.m. and around 5 p.m. for dinner.

    Unless the puppy is supervised, it remains in the crate. When the puppy is taken out of the crate, it is given a chance to potty on leash in the potty area or wherever you choose the dog to eliminate.

    As you can see, potty training a puppy takes effort. Some dogs are harder to potty train than others. Crating the puppy will give you some freedom to get work done during the day and keep puppy safe.

    Remember, the puppy doesn’t make the rules, you do. This is a commitment and you must decide. No dog has become ill because it had to go potty on pea gravel any more than if it had to go on mulch or grass or dirt. The puppy will only hold it so long. You have to be consistent and patient. Consult your vet if you have further questions. In any event, good luck with whatever decision you make and enjoy your puppy!

  7. THANKS!!!!! I copied this idea and built an area 4X8 on the side of our house for the dog!!!! perfect idea. I may add a roof too. I wish I could figure out how to share a photo of it!

  8. Hi Bonnie,
    We\’re excited about building this on the side of our house that also borders a wooden fence. Our house\’s exterior is made out of shingles. Any ideas what to do to the house and to the fence to shield it from dog urine? I can\’t imagine that it would be good for the house or the fence over time. And the smell wouldn\’t be great either no matter how much we would spray it down.

  9. Hello Bonnie,
    We would like to build this on the side of our house that also borders a wooden fence. Our fence is made out of wood and our house is of wooden shingles. Any suggestions how we would shield our fence and house from urine? I can’t imagine that the urine would be good for either one over a period of time.

  10. We do not have a wooden house or fence, but I didn’t locate my dog potty against the house. I left a space between the two. I’d avoid the porous wood fence and siding. Urine would be tough to remove from there. My only advice is to relocate it to another area of the house or you’ll regret building it.

  11. Hi Bonnie,
    We’re looking forward to building this outdoor potty spot right next to our house. Any suggestions how to protect the house and surrounding wooden fence from urine? I can’t imagine that it would be good for the house for long periods of time – even with the occasional wash.

  12. Hi, i have a small side/back yard that is all cement is this a good idea for creating a potty area for my 2 ukc registered purple ribbon blue/ fawn american bullys. Im trying to create a area in which its easy to drain urine instead of having to hose the cement every day .the only place for the water to go is the 6\” dirt area between the cement and fence…ANY SUGGESTIONS?????? The yard is 13\’ wide and 63\’ long

  13. I’m thinking of using sand instead of pea gravel? It seems like poop would be easier to remove from a sand filled area. Do you think that would sork as well? Also, any suggestions for an area that is significantly clay? Would you need to dig deeper than the 2″?

  14. Do NOT use sand. Sand smells. It will retain all the urine odor. You will regret it.

    As far as clay is concerned, all of our soil in Northeastern Ohio is clay. Make it however deep it says on the blog. Good luck with your project!

  15. You would do the same thing if your dog was eating sticks or mulch–correct the dog. When using the dog potty, the dog should always be out on leash with you there. If the dog’s head goes down to pick up rocks, say “No!” and redirect the dog by having it walk in the opposite direction. A slight leash correction may be necessary. If you have a dog that likes to eat small items, you are doing your dog a favor by correcting the dog. This may take awhile if your dog likes to eat things. But if its pea gravel now, down the road it might be a piece of glass, a toy, a stick or a poisonous mushroom. You will be saving its life by teaching it “No!” This behavior is not a quick fix, but you must be diligent and teach the dog “No!” The command might save its life down the road. Always have the dog on leash when using the potty box. Once the stones have scent on them, they might be less desirable. The behavior may also lessen as the dog gets older and has more self-control. Don’t give up.

  16. I\’m currently planning of building one such area for my dog, and top it off with ForeverLawn\’s \”K9 grass\” which apparently has great drainage capability.

  17. NOTE: Many people have told me that sand pebbles have been hard to find. You can use other stones such as small river rock or lucky stones. The idea is to choose a larger rock than the size of your pea gravel for the base layer just to ensure a nice filtered drainage. The pea gravel top is there because it won’t hurt the dog’s paws like larger stones would yet still provide drainage.

  18. Hi there, love this idea! Wondering what you think of using artificial grass in place of stones? Do you think that could work? My thinking is that perhaps the puppy might prefer the artificial grass over the stones plus it is a more temporary fixture in case we move (renting). Thinking turf over a grate set up, similar to the apartment style doggie toilets, but larger, in the garden, and cheaper! Thank you.

  19. The idea behind the layers of stones and pea gravel is drainage. As long as the artificial turf is over stones and can drain, it’s okay. Do not put artificial turf over cement. Also artificial turf is not cheap and many who use it say that it holds the urine smell. You can give it a try and let us know what you think. Just make sure that urine seeps into the dirt and doesn’t pool under the layer of artificial turf.

  20. Wow thank you for the super fast reply! I really appreciate it! 😊 I am thinking of creating a ‘box’ over the dirt garden bed with timber then securing a metal grate to the box so it is raised then the artificial grass on top, so it has decent drainage to help with being able to hose it. Will need to think about it more I think.
    Can I ask, do your doggies take themselves to their own toilet area on their own now after an initial training period (how long was this period?) or just on the leash?

  21. I have no fence so my four retrievers always go out on leash. I suspect they would choose to pee and poop on the grass if they were off leash. I made the dog potty to save my grass, not expecting them to use it off leash. However, I’ve heard some dogs train to the dog potty and go there on their own. That’s the ideal situation, but don’t expect it. Have fun with your project!

  22. Great concept. We had an area near the trash cans which was our mini-dachshund puppy’s designated potty area. In order to keep her clean, make poop clean up easier and just make the area look nicer we followed your lead.

    I went with the super easy install option. A 10 ft Pressure treated 2×8 cut to 3x4x3. 4 deck screws on each connection. I dug about a 2″ trench and set the three sided frame in place – using a level to get it well…level.

    While I cleaned up what little grass and weeds were inside the form I wanted to prevent any from sprouting so I put down about 4 sheets of newspaper. I know – odor possibilities – but I it should disintegrate fairly quickly.

    For this area 12 sq ft I ended up using 8 bags of pea pebbles (.5 cu ft bags) which is a good 4″ thick. Here is a link to a final photo (before any landscaping.

    I just installed it today but she seems to like it as well as the “natural area” she was using.

    Thanks again for the idea and for sharing!

  23. I don’t know. This box was built for 65 lb. retrievers. Here’s something you can try. When your dog has to go potty, take your dog outside on leash using at least a 6 foot leash. Stand in one spot. Don’t move. Pay attention to how your dog paces back and forth and the distance necessary for it to finally go. Judge that distance and build your box accordingly. It doesn’t matter that you have more than one dog as you will take the dogs out on leash one at a time. Good luck with your project.

  24. Doesn\’t the pea gravel sink/move a lot with nothing binding it together? Dogs won\’t push it around and out of the box? I thought pea gravel tended to move a lot and feel basically like sand when it isn\’t firmed up somehow.

    In the pictures from \’John and Nicole Family\’, their finished product looks like they did add some kind of compound/epoxy to the pea gravel. Any idea what that is?

  25. No epoxy. That would totally defeat the purpose and no allow the urine to drain. The dogs kick sometimes and some pea gravel spill from the box, but no biggie. If you’re worried, make the walls higher or don’t fill the walls of the box to the top. Good luck with your project.

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