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. The idea was to separate each layer of stone so that the smaller pea gravel didn’t compact into the empty spaces between the larger stones beneath it. We were concerned about drainage and urine flow. (Now, 4 yrs. later, the fiberglass screening is beginning to surface. We removed a section of it and it appears the drainage is still fine. So it’s your choice whether to use it or not.) 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!


For more photos of completed projects, see my corresponding post at


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

  1. P.S. I just posted a comment. But I wanted to add I can share a picture but not sure how if you like. Thanks again.

  2. We\’re about to get a chihuahua puppy and only have landscaping, no grass so I need to come up with something like this. It will be placed under a covered area. Because we\’ve never had a dog, this is a dumb question, but I imagine I need to wash the rocks of pee weekly and then pick up the poop when he poops on them just as it he was going in the grass? Sorry for being so naive!

  3. Hello Lisa:
    If the area wasn’t covered, I’d say let rain wash the rocks and if you smell any odor, use Simple Green eco-friendly product that is mentioned in the blog post. With a covered dog potty area, I’d hose it down with Simple Green perhaps once a week or every other week. Yes, you pick up the poop using a plastic bag and throw it in the trash. Good luck wit your project!

  4. You cannot do this on concrete. There is no place for the urine to drain. This project is all about drainage.

  5. Wow, I have to try something like this, except has to be smaller. I’ve had a precious 2–year-old rescue for about a month now. He came to me totally house-trained, which is AWESOME, except he will not go in a designated area in my yard. I fenced in about a 60ft X 10ft area along the side of my house (it’s like a big kennel or dog run) because of condo HOA rules. The first few days I had him, he would only go when I walked him. I have Muscular Dystrophy, so I had to use my cane. Decided I can’t do that, so I started riding my scooter while he runs on the leash. He LOVES that and now will only go when I’m on my scooter. I don’t mind taking him for walks in the afternoon, nice weather, etc but he needs to know to go in fenced area if it’s raining or freezing. I’ve tried all the leash-walking/saying command methods and he just lays down. He’ll hold it until he sees my scooter! Is it too late? Did I spoil him by using the scooter twice a day? I’m hoping an area like this will help? (he usually poops on cement on walks, so I’m assuming he was raised in a kennel and this may be a perfect answer?) Please help?!?!??!

  6. You haven’t ruined your dog. Your dog is trying to get what he wants. Your dog enjoys his time with you on the scooter, but needs to understand that when you tell him to do something, he needs to do it. Dogs will hold it only so long. They will eventually go. If you choose to make a dog potty, there are instructions at the bottom of the article on how to teach your dog to use it. It takes persistence. Good luck!

  7. This is awesome…thanks for sharing. I am working on this project now but have a question. She the rocks be polished? Or would regular non-polished rocks work?


  8. This is awesome…thanks for sharing. I am working on this project now before winter gets here but have a question. She the rocks be polished? Or would regular non-polished rocks work?


  9. We are working on (fighting over) the same thing except my husband used large uneven rocks and I have a Chinese Crested. Her paws are small and very soft. She doesn’t want to walk on it because it hurts feet. I’m trying to get my husband to add pee gravel but he thinks it’s fine. I won’t give up!

  10. Wonder what would be the equivalent size and shape of rocks on a human scale ? Make sure he is barefooted when he is testing it by peeing with one foot in the air😱

  11. If my backyard is clay based would this still work? I think this idea is perfect for my new house but i just discovered that area has clay instead of soil.

  12. Hello Monica!
    I live in Northeastern Ohio and clay is what we have up here. Just follow the directions on the blog post. I never have urine settling on top of the stones. All of it drains. Good luck with your project!

  13. Thank you for the instructions. I finally have mine built.

    Question: is it best to train your dog to first train your dog to potty on command in the grass and then once he/she knows the command to move him/her into this potty spot? I ask because my dog has been fairly good about the command, but not great. She abosolutely has no interest in going on the pebbles though. Any thoughts would be helpful.

  14. First off, most dogs love to pee in grass and most dogs will not want to pee in gravel. Know this. Peeing on gravel more than likely has to be taught. If you want this to work, I suggest you disregard your dog’s preferences. Do you really care that your dog doesn’t want to pee on gravel? They need to get over it. All my dogs learn to pee on all surfaces, including concrete. When I tell them to go, they need to go (if they have to go) on the surface that life has provided for them wherever we may be. So, you can train your dog to pee on leash on command on grass, but the dog will then want to pee on grass and training to gravel will be harder. If you plan on using the outdoor dog potty method, train them on that only. That will be your training challenge. You must be consistent and persistent. Don’t give in after 25 attempts. If you give in, the dog wins. If the dog has to go bad enough and you have provided the dog pea gravel as its only release, it will pee on the gravel. Don’t worry about training on grass. After the dog pees on gravel, the dog will easily pee on grass. With the dog on leash, give the dog a command for going potty like “get it done” or “hurry” or “potty” or whatever. Give them a some time, but if they’re just screwing around, go back inside. Crate the dog if you’re afraid they’ll pee on your floor. After a while, take them out of the crate and outside on the gravel again. Give the command. Wait. Repeat. Just be consistent and persistent. Good luck.

  15. If I understand correctly the drainage for the urine is performed by the top soil. We already have an area where the dogs have already burned all the grass away and are peeing on the top soil. The area is washed down every night by the existing sprinkler/ irrigation system. Even though the ground, top soil, has become so saturated that it\’s unable to drain anymore. Even in Northern California where the sun can burn unwatered grass in the winter, its unable to dry the area out so urine can be absorbed, filtered, and pulled away.

    Has anybody considered or built this Litter Box on top of simple system of corrugated drain pipe protected with drainage sleeves and connected to the pre existing drainage system. 3 or 4 drain pipes under the litter Box at the surface of the ground directly below the 1st layer of screen could capture watered down urine and funnel it into the existing drain system.
    The current dedicated area has gone through a full summer and has begun to look like anti freeze because the urine can no longer be absorbed by the saturated dirt.
    Any ideas or advice.

    Has anyone considered occasional applications of agricultural lime, finer powder than flour, to eliminate odor? Applied lightly and evenly, watered down by urine and water, the lime should eventually be drained off as well. If lightly watered after application, it should pull below the first layer of rock so your house doesn\’t look like Casper the ghost walked through it. Ag. lime is animal safe and cheap.

  16. In Northeastern Ohio, we have little topsoil before hitting clay and drainage isn’t an issue. I have 5 dogs that use the same spot at least 3 times a day. Are you watering down the area with the sprinkler too much? Is this water drainage a common problem in your location? I cannot comment on the other proposed drainage device as I’m not qualified to do so. I know mine works. I’ve used it for four years and it’s working fine. It’s not spilling over and killing surrounding grass, either. Good luck with your project.

  17. I’m giggling to myself because A. Our dogs all pee on command and because they have been urged by me to learn (and for themselves) due to our cold and frosty Indiana winters AND B. My French Bulldog Khloé prefers to potty on gravel. More specifically our driveway gravel which really makes my husband happy (sarcasm) because he is a mechanic and works close to the ground when working on cars. She doesn’t like to get her feet wet in the dewy moist grass, haha. So, this would be a perfect solution to our problem!! Thank you for sharing this and sharing updates on how it held up over time! Great post!

  18. Hello, i love your idea. I have a 2 yrs old retriver. Do you think its to late To train him? Also we are in Canada and there is a lot of snow. Do you have an idea about that if it can work? Thx

  19. Hi Dan!
    Yes, it will work in snowy climates. You may have to shovel the top to locate it at first–ha ha! A two-year-old retriever can learn to use it just fine. Be patient in your training and start now before the snow covers the box. There are training instructions at the end of the article. Be patient and be consistent. Good luck with your project!

  20. Do you have to dig down to build it? Or can you build it on top of concrete? And how do you get it to drain? You didn’t mention that.

  21. Yes you must dig down to build it. No it cannot be built on concrete. The urine drains through the rocks and disperses evenly into the soil. I tell you exactly how much to dig and how to build it in the article. Good luck on your project!

  22. This is exactly what we’ve been looking for. Thank you for your post. We live in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California, and we get little or no rain. Now we have a 8 mo. old Standard Poodle, and he is destroying our struggling grass. His potty area continues to expand and is killing the grass. We have an unused area along the side of the house that will be private and perfect for his potty area. I can’t wait to get started. Thank you, again.

  23. I am really wanting to do this on my whole side backyard…great it’s an area that my grass won’t grow well at all and ends up being muddy because there is not enough sun!

    We do not seem to have sand stone around here. What else can be used for the base? Would Quartz be a possibility?I’m trying to get bids to have someone do this for me and they have not found sand stone.

    Also, after all this time, have you had problems with weeds coming up though the rock layers and what do you do to prevent it? I am afraid Roundup may be toxic to spray in that area with a puppy….I am just getting him tomorrow!

    Thank you so much!

  24. Any rocks or stones will do. Buy what is available in your area. The key is to dig down a few inches (I’m sure more exact details are included in my post) and clear the grass out of the area. Then lay the fiberglass screen. Then the larger layer of rock. Then more screen. Then top it well with an inch or so of pea gravel. I built the dog potty in 2013. I’ve had no grass or weeds surface in the area. I have had the fiberglass screen between the larger rock and the pea gravel surface in some areas, and I’ve removed the screen in those areas (cut it out or pulled it out) without a problem. So you may not need the fiberglass screening between the pea gravel and the larger layer of rock. But I would still put it over the bare earth and the 1st layer of larger rock when you begin your project. That probably keeps the growth at bay. And DON’T use landscape fabric. It will hold the urine smell and you won’t appreciate that.

  25. Do you mind if I ask how much this project cost you? Trying to get a ballpark so we can plan the size and materials.

  26. The project was completed many years ago. You’d have to take the materials I listed and price them with current prices at your home improvement or garden store.

  27. This is a brilliant idea and I will be building one for our nine dogs. We have several large patio areas that we can’t use because of the stench of dog urine – I would love to reclaim them. What do you think of using a layer of activated charcoal to help with the smell?

  28. I understand the draining of urine and hosing the area occasionally to eliminate odor. What about stool??? Does it still need to be scooped?

  29. Hi – we have raised flower beds around our yard so the framing is already done in the form of concrete, but they don’t have any drainage. There are sprinklers in the box.Will this still work?!??

  30. If the concrete frame includes a concrete bottom, you have no drainage and it will not work unless you drill holes in the bottom of the concrete. If you don’t drill holes, you will wind up with a pool of pee that no plant will want to grow in. If it’s just a concrete frame and a soil bottom, dig out some soil and lay the rocks on it as explained in the post. Good luck with our project.

  31. Anyone else have trouble getting their dog to go on the gravel when it’s wet from rain? Our puppy was doing great, but as soon as the rain hit, he wouldn’t go anywhere near the gravel.

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