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!


Below is the before and the after for the dog potty created by Elizabeth T.

Here are pictures of Sheila R.’s dog potty. Look how nice and neat it looks!

Here is an outdoor dog potty created by Tony S., BC, Canada. He writes: “My area was about 85 sq/ft in size.  I used 1” round rock for the 1st layer about 3” deep, then 3/8” to 1/2” pea gravel for the top layer about 2” deep.  I purchased the rocks in bulk from Burnco.  I couldn’t find any Fiberglass landscape fabric so just used regular landscape fabric they sell at Costco.”

V. Soltis from New Jersey got creative and made a dog potty for her new male puppy that included a tree. What a perfect target! Good luck with the training, be persistent, and take him to the spot on leash until you know he’s got it down. Great job!

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


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

  1. Great idea! I was wondering if it is possible to use artificial turf or something similar on top for pets who do not like the pea gravel? What do you think.

  2. Has anyone done this without the fibreglass screen layer between the two types of stone?

  3. Any other ideas besides rocks, we have a small area but because the summers are so hot the rocks get too hot. Could I still use the boards and try to get grass just for that area? has anyone tried it. Any advise will be welcome. The dogs are two Great Dane females, 7 years old so they stay in the house or move to a cover area, they do need a better potty place.

  4. Great idea that I want to give a try…would limestone screenings work as the base layer instead of sand pebbles? Having difficulty finding sand pebbles..

  5. Would love to see the photos of after this has been used for years, just as proof this isn’t a sweet home construction project that ended badly again. Proof is in the pooping 💩

  6. You can give it a try. I just wanted two layers of stones to make sure it drained well. And it does. Let me know if it works.

  7. Over the weekend, I created a potty area for my 12 week old puppy boxer, and he does not want to relieve himself on it. He has relieved himself on our entire backyard, but will not use it on the location that was designed for him. I’ve kept him on a leash… spent 15 mins at a time on the area… even allowed him to start peeing on the grass, since he didn’t relieve himself on the pebbles- then immediately picked him up so that he can finish on the pebbles… placed feces on the pebbles so that he knows it is fine to relieve himself in this designated area.
    I need help… What should I do? Thank you!

  8. I just read through the comments for my answer. Consistently sounds like the key!

  9. Yes. Consistency is the key. He is just a baby. You are still in the potty training process to get him to go outside instead of your house. None of his behaviors surprise me. He just prefers grass. They all do. Why did you let him pee on the grass? Because you waited 15 minutes and he wouldn’t go and you wanted him to go so you could take him back inside? You should’ve taken him back inside and put him in his crate. Then waited 10 minutes before trying the potty box again. Instead, he trained you. He peed on the grass and got his way. Training puppies is hard, and takes consistency and repetition. And patience. I know how difficult this is when you’re in a hurry and you want them to go because you need to be somewhere. But try to build in time to let your puppy learn to potty where you want him to. It will take time. It may take months. Just be patient. The puppy can’t hold it forever. He’ll eventually have to go. Don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up. Puppies learn at different rates just like people. Remember to breathe.

  10. I have dirt and the odor accumulates so I’m going to try the stones. I think with the drainage for washdown that will help control the odor

  11. This is a great idea! I’m not very handy with wood building – do you think a raised garden bed would work? Are 10” sides too high? Also, do you think a smaller size would work for one dog or is it best to have a large-ish area?

  12. The project is at least 4 or 5 years old and I don’t remember the cost. In the post, there is a list of materials needed to complete the project. I suggested taking the materials to your local home improvement center for current pricing.

  13. A raised bed is great in that the structure is ready to go. The height would depend on the size of your dog and whether or not the dog could jump over it to enter. If the dog is tiny, you could always saw a small entrance to the area. The size of the raised bed depends on the size of the dog. Observe your dog when it paces to go potty on leash. How much area does it cover when it goes back and forth? That will determine if the box is big enough. The size I made was for 64 lb. retrievers. Two can use the potty box at once, on leash. They don’t poop there, though. They need more pacing for that. They poop in the grass and I immediately bag it. The box was made to keep the urine from burning the backyard. The poop does not burn out the grass, so for me, it isn’t a concern. Good luck with your project!

  14. I have a small concrete area in the back of my home in the city. I won’t be able to bust it up to have a dirt base. Any suggestion on how I can make it work? I was originally thinking of a similar idea with a deeper box filled with dirt and sod placed on top.

  15. I would not put this on a concrete base. The urine will collect and smell and burn out the sod. You will have a mess. There is no drainage. You’re better off having the dog pee on the concrete. At least it can be hosed off.

  16. Use a tray meant to be used under washing machines and add a drainage hose. Pour water in it every time your pet pees. You can use either sod (which will need to be replaced every six week or so) or gravel.

  17. How does this work in freezing weather. Once the ground freezes, there wouldn’t be any drainage and if you watered it down, it would form a layer of ice.

  18. You don’t wet it down with a hose in the winter. Snow accumulates on top of the pea gravel. When the dog pees, it melts. The box never freezes so that drainage doesn’t occur. It never collects water or becomes a small urine swimming pool. It trickles down into the layers of rock and somehow it all works. I have 5 dogs that use I potty box and I live in Cleveland, Ohio. Snow and frost is crazy here. Good luck with your project.

  19. Any thoughts about leaving the fiberglass mesh on top so that you don\\’t eventually lose the rocks when cleaning up feces? Or would the dog\\’s nails get caught in it?

  20. You certainly can give it a try and see if you like it. If you don’t, unless your dog has very soft stool, you’ll only pick up a rock or two if you use poop bags to clean it up. Good luck with your project.

  21. Hi :-) wonderful! In our future plans for sure!
    Just curious, how much did this project cost?

  22. I have a question. I have an area under a huge pine tree that I would like to use. It is behind a fence and would be inconspicuous. My question is, there is a rose of sharon, a hydrangea and this big pine of some sort (whatever kind it is the first branches are above my head and therefore you are able to walk under it which is why it is a nice spot). Will using this area harm the tree and shrubbery?

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