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.

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

Almost…

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!

Simple-Green

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!

182 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!

  12. Love this idea… I have two questions. Male dog tend to hike their leg – how does that work with this setup? Also, was it hard to collect the feces on the gravel?

  13. Ha ha! Ellene, you got me! Can you tell that I only have female dogs? Well, from what I hear males don’t burn out the lawn as much as female dogs do because females pee huge amounts of urine at once in a concentrated area. Hmmm. No one has asked me this before. Well, you could put a small arborvitae in the middle or a fire hydrant. ha ha. This is fun. Anyone else have any ideas?

    Regarding the feces, if they will poop in the area too it is VERY easy to scoop it up as long as it is solid.

    I can’t wait to hear the answers to your question!

  14. How did you get your dog to just go to the raised bed potty area?

    How long did it take for your dogs to get used to it? I mean go there and then come back in the house…

    Do you spray it off to rid off odor or watery feces?

  15. Hello Sunshine!
    This is a common question asked and answered several times in the comment section. Please read the comments. They contain answers to other questions that may come up as well.
    Enjoy your project!

  16. What can I use instead of Sand Pebbles? No one sells it where I am. Why not just use all pea gravel?

  17. Well done!!! I did this sorta 9 yrs ago…but never thought of the screen between the layers!!! Excellent!!_ So Im redoing mine and hope my favorite Lowe’s Store has Sand Pebbles…because I only put pea gravel w/o the screen and it smells bad!!! So Thank You so much!!!
    Will also treat it w/your recommended product…SGOPOE!!!
    I like your idea w/the capillaries too…I’m doing that also because I hate looking over there at just pea gravel!! I clean pooh AM and PM…

  18. Hi Dave!
    There’s nothing magical about sand pebbles. I only just them because they were a larger stone than the pea gravel. My fetish with layering is drainage. I didn’t want solid pea gravel. I wanted layers so the urine could filter through and reach the bottom…not pool somewhere. I used the larger rocks than screening so that the pea gravel didn’t collect and clog the spaces between the rocks and inhibit drainage. It’s all about the drainage, so whatever rocks they have are fine. If you choose to just use pea gravel and no screening, let us know how it works and if you detect any odor. Thanks!

  19. Hi Kate!
    Terrific and thanks!
    My husband sprinkles a product called Sweet PDZ in his horse stall to get rid of the strong ammonia smell. I may try this when I can’t find Simple Green. Here’s the link: http://www.sweetpdz.com/

  20. I have searched garden centers and hardware stores everywhere in my area and can\’t find any sand pebbles. Will drainage rock work? Any other material?

  21. Hi Shelley!
    I didn’t know the sand pebbles would be so hard to find. (I will edit the article to include other options.) I got my sand pebbles at a garden center. Okay, that’s fine. Any small stone will work that is bigger than the pea gravel. Small river rock or those larger white lucky stones would work. The idea is to have a bigger base layer than the pea gravel for great drainage. Read the comments above on how others have done this successfully. Enjoy your GREEN lawn!

  22. Will this also work on a cement patio? We are moving to a condo with a nice size walled in patio where we would like to let our dog go out at night. We walk her during the day, but want a pee/poop spot closer for night visits. Any ideas?

  23. Hi Lyn!
    Sorry, but this project is not to be put on a cement patio slab. It needs drainage for the urine to absorb into the ground. You will have nowhere for the pee to go and it will accumulate and smell and possibly run toward your foundation if the cement slab is against the condo. I’d say emphatically no. You can buy potty boxes with artificial turf to put on your patio. You will have to empty the box of urine that accumulates. No easy answer for a concrete area.

  24. Nice job. I have a small patio area just off my kitchen, that I had fenced off from the larger patio with the idea of dog containment in mind. There is an \”L\” shaped garden there also, which is where my dog learned to pee/poop. Of course no plants can live there, and although it doesn\’t smell, it is a fly magnet. I had already planned on taking out the plants and installing an above-ground fountain in the crook of the \”L\”. Now, I think I\’ll use your instructions and still add the fountain. Thanks!

  25. Does the dog seek out the rock litter to do his business naturally or is it all training?

  26. Hi Rick!
    Sorry, but it is all training. The dogs won’t seek it out. They’ll happily pee on your grass.

  27. It was a wonderful project.
    However I need similar idea on building exactly similar on a concrete. California heat can warm up the pebbles and may hurt out cute little JRT.
    TIA.

  28. Hello Krishna!
    This project cannot be done on concrete. There is no drainage.

  29. I was so excited to build the potty pad. My two Shit Tzu! Will only use it to sun bath. Now the younger one wants to eat the pebbles. I need guidance, please help me . I love the concept. if they would only use it.
    Thank you for sharing your plans.

  30. Hi Aggie!
    Don’t let you Shit Tzu’s eat the pea gravel. Take them to the area on leash and don’t let them sunbath in it. This is for potty only. As far as teaching your dog to use it, this takes work on your part. The potty area is only a tool for you to use to keep your grass green. The rest is up to you. I’ll repeat my last paragraph of the post. Perhaps that will help you in your training.

    “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!”

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