Save Your Grass – Build a Dog 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
- 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.
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.
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.
Twelve bags covered all the fiberglass screen, but we decided to double it to make the sand pebbles about 1 1/2 inches thick.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I dressed up the area with a little doggy sign. I thought it was a nice touch, but something was still missing.
So I added some daylilies to brighten it up and hide the doggy litter box from the street.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s to green grass!
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.”
For more photos of completed projects, see my corresponding post at http://www.welcomepup.com/blog/dog-pee-killing-your-grass-the-solution/.