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


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!


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

  1. Hey S.L.
    Great idea stapling the fiberglass to the screen! So glad that it turned out and it looks really GREAT! Interesting idea regarding the x-pen. I wonder if he’ll take to the area better. Let us know! I’ll post your photo for our viewers to see! Great job!

  2. Probably a bad idea to use the pen as most dogs won\’t go in their \”home\”… Kind of the opposite idea. You want to take them out to potty after they\’ve been inside for a while. To each their own but it seems counter productive.

  3. Probably a bad idea to use the pen as most dogs won’t go in their “home”… Kind of the opposite idea. You want to take them out to potty after they’ve been inside for a while. To each their own but it seems counter productive.

  4. Has anybody tried adding activated carbon – pebbles or pads – to help absorb odors? Did it work?

  5. Is there something else you can use besides sand pebbles? We cannot find it anywhere!

  6. Hi Cyndi!
    Several people have mentioned that sand pebbles are hard to find. There’s nothing magical about sand pebbles. I chose 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 and 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 as long as they are larger than the pea gravel. Even lucky stones would work. Good luck with your project.

  7. We live in the city, so our \”backyard\” is all brick paving. Luckily, when we moved in there was a small framed garden area with no brick underneath, just earth. All we had to do was remove some soil, then lay the screen and rocks. It has been great so far! If we\’re in a hurry and can\’t take the pup for a walk, we just let her out back to potty and hose it off. We were able to find all the materials needed at Lowes.Thanks for the great idea!

  8. We have a yorkie who doesn’t like to go out in the rain, and, frankly, we didn’t like to walk her in the rain either. We had an old dog pen in our yard so we converted it into a potty yard. First, we moved the pen near the house so it would be easy to get to, next we put mesh fabric down to prevent grass growing through, and then we covered with gravel. To top it off, we attached a large tarp to the top so during rainstorms, we have a dry area. Our dog is trained to potty on command and it has worked out wonderfully. No muddy paws on rainy or snowy days.

  9. Great idea, have you thought about installing a fire hydrant or upright post for the male dogs to mark which would encourage weeing at the same spot within your space?

  10. Genie: What a great idea! Someone try this and post a photo here. Very cute and it just might work! Thanks.

  11. Great information here! I have a question about size of the space – for a small dog (12 lbs), would a 5 foot by 4 foot space be big enough?

  12. Jamie – I have very small puppies that visit me. My son-in-law just built the large one for their mini schnoodle! I was talking with my daughter and we decided 3 x 3 would be great for the little guys.

  13. Hi Jamie:
    I decided on the size of the space after observing how much space my dog used while pacing on leash before doing her business. She usually took a few steps, turned, then a few steps and turned, etc. I made it as big as her pace. The comment by Terry may help as she has smaller pups. Good luck on your project.

  14. I love this! My “princess” never wants to get her precious paws muddy in the winter, and so she uses the deck if I’m not watching! This is a wonderful alternative. Thank you so much!

  15. For smell I’ve used a light coating of crushed lime or sweet PDZ I think it’s called. The crushed lime works great at neutralizing smell. I have two 50lb dogs in a 30ft x 50ft yard.

  16. This is an awesome idea. I was just wondering what the cost in material was for your dimensions (10’x5′) as the material needed for my are will be around 2-3 times that size. Thank you

  17. Hi Peter!
    Someone asked me that in an earlier comment. Frankly, I built this two years ago and I don’t remember the cost. I gave you a pretty good list of what you need. Take it to Home Depot or your garden center and they can give you an estimate. Even if I remembered, the cost would be different using today’s prices. Good luck with your project!

  18. I am a little confused. So when my dog does his poo poo it will take some of the pea Pebbles when I clean it up. How is it you only have to add more once a year? Seems like you would have to add all the time to fill in those areas. Also do I have to hose it everyday for the urine to drain and not smell?
    Thank you

  19. Hi Karen:
    I built this to prevent urine burned grass, so my three retrievers just pee in it. And I don’t have to hose it down. I only use the Simple Green product at the end of the blog post if I begin to smell anything. It attaches to the hose. That’s the only time I hose it down. Other folks have sprinkled a product called PDZ that you get at Tractor Supply and places like that. It’s usually used for horse stalls but works as well. As far as poop is concerned, on the rare occasion my dog poops in the dog potty (poop doesn’t burn out grass) I just pick it up with a doggie waste bag. I might get three or four pea gravels stuck on it, but no biggie. It depends on how your dog’s stool is, I guess, and if you use it for poop you’ll have to judge for yourself when you need to replace the gravel. Good luck on your project!

  20. Hi thanks for the great information. I’m in the early stages of getting a puppy and was looking for potty area ideas. The pea gravel seems to fit more naturally with our Desert landscaping my main concern is how it is for the pup/dog with the extreme heat we have hear in the desert. Will the pea gravel retain heat and be too hot? summer is usually about 105-115′.
    Thank you,

  21. Hi Matt!
    I’d have no way of knowing if pea gravel gets hot in desert climates. I’d purchase a small amount and lay it in an area and check. Our summers in Cleveland can get into the high 80s lower 90s and the dogs never reacted. Give it a try and test it. Good luck with your project!

  22. My husband and I are in the process of trying to figure out a dog potty area for our yard. We like the idea of stones but are wondering how difficult it is to keep stones free from snow during winter….? Seems like that space would be difficult to shovel. We typically get a good amount of snow where we live.

  23. We live in Cleveland, Ohio, the land of the snow beast! We get heavy snow here. The dog potty was covered up, but my girls knew where it was and pottied on top of the snow. They were on leash, so I could lead them to it. And when the snow was too deep, my husband shoveled a layer to designate where it was. The snow was not a problem at all. Good luck with your project!

  24. Hi there,

    Just wondering if anybody has ever used anything other than rocks for their dogs “area”. Our dog gets half of our yard (which is separated by a fence) but its mainly dirt or mud because he’s worn down all the grass (and there’s a tree that tends to prevent the grass from growing nicely in that area as well). We were considering some sort of sawdust or mulch… He is only really out there to pee, and on occasion when we are out of the home… Suggestions?

  25. Curious what size the fiberglass screen holes are? We are having a hard time finding fiberglass screens instead of landscape fabric. Great job!! Thank you so much.

  26. Fiberglass screen holes are as small as any screening you have on your window. Go to your home improvement store where you’d buy replacement screen for your windows or doors. They’ll have it. Fiberglass screen is oftentimes black and is very flexible.
    Good luck on your project!

  27. Would this work over concrete instead of a grassed area? The entire one side of my house is concrete and we want to build her “potty” over there.

    Thank you

  28. Hi Christina:
    No. It will not work. There is no drainage. They will essentially be peeing on stone and concrete and there’s no where for the pee to go. The concrete and stones will smell. I do not recommend it.

  29. We made something similar for our new puppy that we brought home yesterday . He keeps putting some stones in his mouth and I cant tell if he is eating them, but I can hear him chew. I watch him closely. Needless to say, he wont pee/poo on the gravel, but he is doing it on my floor! UGH! Any pointers to get him to go on the pea gravel??

  30. We made something similar for our puppy that we brought home yesterday. He keeps eating the gravel when we take him out there. I have to get it out of his mouth before he swallows it! Needless to say he wont pee/poo out there, but he will on my floor. Ugh! any ideas to get my puppy to do his business on the pea gravel!

  31. Hi Julie!
    Potty training young pups takes patience and time. My suggestion is to crate the puppy and take the puppy out only to eat and have supervised play and then back in the crate. When the pup is taken out to potty and it starts to eat the pea gravel, say “Don’t!” or “No!” firmly and gently pull the leash upward, thereby pulling up her head. If that doesn’t work and the puppy continues to eat the pea gravel, another suggestion (and this is just until the puppy gets the hang of it) is to buy puppy potty pads, those pads that absorb urine that they sell at pet stores to put in the bottom of your crate. Put one down on the gravel and put the puppy on it to pee. That will eliminate the pup grabbing gravel and eventually as the pup gets older, teething is over and the desire to put everything into its mouth lessens, it may ignore the gravel or not be inclined to eat it. Be persistent and keep going! Don’t give up. Be kind, but don’t let puppy win. I get a new puppy in 9 days. Take heart, I’m going to be in your same shoes very soon.

  32. Matt: I just received a response from one of my readers who lived in Arizona regarding pea gravel heat retention:

    “For one of your posted replies about the pea gravel in the desert, I can help with that, having lived many years in the Phoenix, AZ area.

    Get light colored gravel vs. darker. The lighter the color, the more it reflects the heat. Also, one of those small rakes used on golf courses or as part of a set for pooper scooping your yard can be used to ‘stir’ up the gravel. This reduces the heat tremendously.”

    I hope that helps.

  33. Hi Matt!
    Yes, my dogs have these ridiculous pooping rituals and only go on the grass by a shrub or by a fern or whatever. They each have crazy habits. So my dogs only use it as a potty area because the urine is what kills the grass. But you certainly can use it for poop as well. Why not? That makes life very simple.

  34. This was a great find. Thanks for posting. I inadvertently created a potty place at our side door from our lanai. Here’s how it was done. The previous owners had put down gravel in this space because of the downspout drainage. Mt new Lab puppy thought it great fun to try to eat all of the rocks though so I needed to find a better way to take care of this problem. I got a roll of inexpensive indoor/outdoor fake grass carpeting and put over the rocks then laid 3 outdoor rubber door mats on top in the front. Willow decided this green thing must be an extension of her yard and is now using it to pee on. It’s easy to not only hose down, but is at an area with a sprinkler plus the downspout when it rains. Turned out great and no more eating the rocks.

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