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. 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!


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

  1. Hi Greg!
    My only concern is for the dog’s paws. Are the slate edges sharp? If not, give it a try!

  2. Hi Bonnie,

    The slate chips do not have sharp edges, so I may consider it primarily for aesthetics so as not to draw attention to the potty box.

    Couple more questions:

    Wondering if I can go smaller given that I only have one lab?

    Any sense as to whether my (indoor/outdoor) cats might use it? It actually would be a good thing since if they do go potty outside, they generally go in the mulch beds in the front of the house; but I’m thinking they may not like the smell of the dogs eliminations? Thanks again for all your help!

  3. Greg:
    Take note of how much room your lab needs to pace before going potty and build the box accordingly. You can go smaller with the chips. Pea gravel is very small. Just make sure there one more larger layer beneath it to distribute the urine and have it absorb into the soil easier (which is probably a bigger problem with females as they produce large pools of urine). The box is essentially a doggie litter box. Try the cats. They might use it! Let us know!

  4. Bonnie,

    What about 3/4\” crush stone for the base stone? It\’s cheap and readily available at most landscape nurseries and is used for drainage in retaking walls and other applications.

  5. Hi Greg:
    Just make sure there are two layers of stone. One larger than the other and he smaller on top. That should work.

  6. We built this for our puppy. After using treats and praise, he understands what it is for now and enjoys going there. It\’s so easy to clean and there isn\’t any smell. Thanks for the post!

  7. Our backyard is already old cracked concrete (no grass). Can this project be done on top of concrete or will there be drainage issues? Also, since I am not trying to avoid burnt grass (as there is none), is there any benefit to the gravel area beyond cosmetic?

  8. I’m considering putting a potty area like this on the side of my house. Im desiging a shed to build this summer, but i also am putting a potty area over there too. So an idea i have is to use the back of the shed to attach a doggie house with a bed-that is floating-attached to the shed on two corners, and posts supporting the other two. It would have a ramp coming down. Then id have a potty area, like yours underneith. Then i would fence the area. My dog would be an indoor dog most of the time, and i would potty train him how you did. But when we are gone here and there we would leave it kenneled in that potty area with the dog bed above… would a dog respond well to this set up? My spouce is concerned the dog house cant be in the same area as the potty zone or my dog wont want to potty there.. But i dont want a dog chewing on my kids toys and patio chairs whileim gone. And id like my dog to have shelter from the elements , still pooping where i want. Any thoughts would be helpful. We dont have a dog just yet. We have in the past, were preparing to get one in the future.

  9. Interesting design idea. I don’t know if your dog will respond well to it. All dogs are different. Worth giving it a try. I have seen crates that have two distinctly separate areas, one to toilet in and the other to sleep in, both separated by a partition. It might work. Why not simply buy a crate and crate the dog indoors while you’re gone? Unless you are concerned you are gone too long and the dog will need to go potty. Best of luck with your project and let me know how it goes!

  10. Built the area as described for a new puppy. She was great the first couple of weeks but at12 weeks old has become resistant to going where she is supposed to. I give her treats each time she goes in the area. Any thoughts on how to encourage her?

  11. Keep her on leash and only do it for potty. Let her poop somewhere else, bag it and throw it away. She may be bored with it or simply shutting down. You’ll see this pattern in all sorts of training. They’ll sit and down like a pro. Then one day they just won’t do it. You sit there and scratch your head. Just be consistent, gentle and kind and you work through this brain cramp. Treats are a great reward! She doesn’t have to love going pee in the potty box, she just has to do it and get on with her life. Just remember how pretty green your grass is because of it.
    Good luck with your training and don’t let her puppy dog eyes train you. Be consistent. She’ll get there.

  12. Found your site on a Google search; I have a small area where my dogs go potty and it was run down and smelling horrible. I decided to build a potty area like this after seeing your page. Finished it today and it turned out great, and I got the dogs to use it already as well. Thanks for the great idea!

  13. Super find!!! We are getting a Great Dane puppy very soon and don\’t want to have him destroy the yard that we have worked hard on maturing. Thank you so much for posting.

    One question… do you have any concerns about the boards rotting over time?


  14. No. The wood is just on the edges. In fact, the wood we used were the exterior boards that held in the mulch in the area where my son’s swing set sat. The wood was from 1994 or so. Still in solid shape. You’ll be fine.

  15. Hi. I am moving to an apartment soon and love the potty idea. I have a small 3.2 x 1.35m concrete courtyard, which has drainage in it. Can I just put layers of stones straight on the ground and just hose it off or pour hot kettle water on it to wash it down the drain?
    My dog is used to sing my stones on our current backyard, so I thought I would take a bucket full of those to my new address… then she\’ll hopefully want to use that area.
    What do others think?

  16. Hi Kerri!
    The purpose of the dog potty is to save your grass from burning out. You don’t have any grass. Why would you go to all this trouble? Just have the dog pee by the drain and hose it down the drain. Putting stones on the drain will only hurt the drainage as the stones may stop the flow and clog the drain. This project should not be done on cement.

  17. Bonnie – Thank you for sharing the design of this dog potty. This is exactly what I was looking for!


  18. What’s up with planting Lilly’s, that are poison to dogs, by the potty area…….ugh

  19. Hi Lori!
    The answer is simple, they look pretty! Just as I don’t eat while I’m in my bathroom, they don’t either. It’s a potty place and they go there supervised on leash with me. No need for policing. Appreciate your concern, though.

  20. Hi there! I pinned this fabulous project a year ago, and we might actually be ready to do. However, I have since read that pea gravel isn’t ideal because it can get in between the pups’ pads? We also have a Golden (and two other mixed breed dogs). That’s my only hesitation right now. How have your pups been with that?

    Thanks so much!


  21. Hi June!
    The dogs are fine with the pea gravel. They aren’t on it very long. They pee and out. Any gravel between the pads falls out. No complaints.

  22. Love the idea! My wife and breeder is worried that our boxer may want to eat the pea gravel. Could this be a valid concern?

  23. Any concern about my new puppy eating/swallowing the pea gravel? It’s making me nervous to see her lick or pick the odd one up (she’s only been home a couple hours)

  24. Take your puppy to the area on leash. Do not let your dog eat pea gravel. When the dog tries, correct the dog by saying NO! and redirecting her. You treat pea gravel just like you’ll treat mulch and sticks and rocks. Raising a puppy takes patience and consistent training. It is not unusual for small puppies to try to eat anything. Vigilantly supervise.

  25. Hi Aaron:
    Take your puppy to the area on leash. Do not let your dog eat pea gravel. When the dog tries, correct the dog by saying NO! and redirecting her. You treat pea gravel just like you’ll treat mulch and sticks and rocks. Raising a puppy takes patience and consistent training. It is not unusual for small puppies to try to eat anything. Vigilantly supervise.The dog should be at the potty area to go potty and that’s it. If you’re there, the dog can’t eat it or if it does you can get it out of its mouth.

  26. Hi, I have a similar setup this where I\’ve prepared a litter box for my 2 dogs to go and potty.. the problem is, the 8 month old was making mistakes every other day and pooping indoors instead of going out (via a flap door) to do her business outside.
    We then had an idea to put the older 3 year old at my in-laws, and for the she\’s been pretty much accident free in the week that\’s he\’s been away..
    When I put a small deposit of his poop in the corner of the litter box, the next day we found she decided to pee/poo indoors again. We\’re taking this as a possible sign that she\’s not comfortable with sharing the potty space with him, but my logistically my house constraints don\’t allow a separate potty area.. so I\’m stumped as to what to do now!
    Any ideas would be most welcome.. thanks heaps (:

  27. Hi Matt!
    I have four retrievers that pee in the potty box. I notice they each have their own spot or preferred corner. They don’t usually poop in the potty box unless it’s an emergency. Poop doesn’t ruin the grass if it’s promptly picked up. I built the potty box with urine burn in mind. I also have never used a doggy door. I’ve always had control of when they go and where. So the only advice I can give you is to take them out on leash or only have them pee in the box and poop on the grass. It sounds like a territory struggle. It might improve with age.

  28. I have 5 pomerians 7-9 lbs with very tiny feet .
    Pea stone is rounded ? Do you think this would work for for us ?
    Thier toilet area will be fenced in an has a natural run off .
    Thank you 5 pommom

  29. The pea gravel is small and rounded. I don’t know if your Poms will like it or not. I’d buy a bag and sprinkle it in a garden area. Have the pups walk over it and see if they do okay. Good luck with your project!

  30. This seems like a nice idea, but in my yard there is constant sun exposure and therfor my concern with using stone is they get hot as an oven when exposed for long hours in the sun. This would severly burn my doggies paws. Seems great for shaded yards tho

  31. I have a courtyard with pavers. It looks like rocks won’t work on pavers because there is no drainage. Do you have ideas for me to have a litter box for my dog? I see some ideas such as turf, sod, rocks, etc.. I am thinking probably 8×3 box for my small dog. I’d appreciate suggestions. Thanks.

  32. For urine, drainage is the key. If you don’t have drainage, nothing you put on top will work. It will eventually smell and you don’t want that. Have you tried the preassembled dog potty boxes that have artificial turf for the dogs to urinate on? There are several companies that make them like Porch Potty, Pet Loo, Fresh Patch? Search online for indoor dog potties, and good luck!

  33. Hi,

    does anyone have experience with this and dogs who like to \”rake\” over their pooh, sometimes urine, when they finish. My dog does this and I don\’t want the gravel kicked out into the lawn area.

  34. Hello I am starting this project tomorrow. We moved into our new house. I am nervous my husband works long hours on his new job. Honestl I think we would argue more than building, too many Alphas on one project :) My 9 year old son and myself will tackle this project. I did get weed netting instead of fiberglass so I will trade that out today. Just building the frame today. Getting another set of frame wood also. We have 4 dogs. 2 medium sized 2 large.

    I have the following questions.

    1. Can I screw side wood to wood fence since it will be infront of it , reasoning it\’s best drain site. Keep in mind after this project is dig proofing bottom of fence.

    Also considered using fence for my back wood piece and building front and 2 sides. If I did that I would add decrative bricks infront of fence line to prevent digging and pack it in place with gravel.

    What do you think?

  35. If you don’t mind screwing it into the fence and it looks good, go for it. The box is simply there to contain the pea gravel. If it also prevents your pups from digging, then that’s a double bonus. Remember to train them on leash. They will not choose to do their business in there if you don’t take them there. They much prefer the soft grass, but the purpose of the dog potty is to keep your grass from dying. Be persistent and good luck!

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