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!


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

  1. We couldn’t get our pup to stop playing in the pea gravel! He loved to play in it, rather than do what he was supposed to. So we covered it with fake grass, and now he’s getting the hang of it. We still have the advantage of the drainage because of all the rock underneath, and it is very easy to clean up! The next project is the doggy septic system!

  2. I’m not quite sure I understand the question,but I’m currently raising a puppy and she’s using the dog potty just fine. Take your dog out on leash. If the dog has to go, it will go quickly. If not, take the dog in and watch for signs that it has to go and try again. You have to take your dog out on a leash to use the dog potty. Once they get the idea, they still may have to be led their on leash. If unleashed and given the choice, most dogs prefer the grass–that’s why they burn it out. Your dog may never prefer the dog potty to grass if they are off leash. The dog potty was made to save your grass. It was not offered as a guarantee that your dog will learn to use it off leash. I hope that helps.

  3. I’m raising a puppy now and she occasionally grabs a pea. She is more interested now in the leaves that have fallen in the dog potty area and the pine needles. When she does look for peas I say, “No!” and give her a leash correction. Brilliant idea with the piece of fake grass that you can eventually relocate or eliminate. BRAVO! Let us know how that septic system goes.

  4. I’ve been considering a “litter box” for our dog for some time. This is great. But I’m curious if you’ve had any issues with the way a dog digs and scratches the ground after pooping. Our dog is somewhat enthusiastic about it, and I worry would pretty quickly tear up the screen and throw the gravel all over the yard. Thoughts? Thanks.

  5. Hi Brian!
    The purpose of the dog potty is to prevent urine burn to the grass. My four dogs use it to pee only. I have all girls and one of my girls kicks her legs after pooping. That would definitely spray the gravel. I let them poop on the grass, bag it and toss it in the trash. The goal is to keep the grass green. Good luck on your project!

  6. Can sand be used instead of pea gravel? I would think dogs would like the feel of this better.

  7. They would like the feel of sand better. But the reason I didn’t use sand is that I remembered what it smelled like when it was wet. Now add sand saturated with urine. I remembered how water pooled on it and didn’t sink in. Now imagine that’s urine. The clean drainage of pea gravel cannot compare. Rain can wash the pea gravel clean, but what will it do with sand? Now imagine your dog’s paws covered with urine saturated sand and carrying that in your house? No, I’ll stick to pea gravel. They go on it to pee and get off it. It shouldn’t hurt their paws that much. If you try sand, however, let us know how it goes.

  8. Hello Marvin:
    This project was done two years ago and I don’t remember what it cost. The cost of materials has probably increased. The cost is also determined by the size of your outdoor potty. I would suggest you figure out how large you want the potty to be (judge by the size of your dog and his or her pacing back and forth) and take that and the list of materials to your nearest home improvement center for an estimate.
    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

    I have no cost for the labor, either as we installed it ourselves.

    Good luck on your project!

  9. Hi Bonnie–first, thank you for this informative thread!! Thank you even more for sticking with it for years. Question–you mentioned that you allow the dogs to poop in the grass. Based on your method for teaching them to go on command, how do you teach them to use the area only to pee?

  10. I have male dogs that kick like crazy, but relieve themselves on command, we have therapy service dogs… I have high sides, I had to keep raising them until they contained the pea gravel, but it is definitely saving the yard from their “covering kick” after going. Thanks…

  11. I have a sand area beside the house and have experienced odor and wetness after rain. I also have concrete adjoining it. What I’ve done is replace the sand and put the used in a bag for disposal. I was thinking kitty liter. That was just recently, so I don’t have a follow up for that. My dog poops on both surfaces and I clean the area with a hose. I will look into the simple green for odor and talk my husband into the mini septic tank. Thanks for the info!

  12. I love this idea. I have 4 small dogs (20, and 3 10 pounders). One male, who conveniently uses what ever is standing to pee on. Girls all do their own thing. My yard is completely ruined and I was dreaming of just this type of area. I am so grateful to have found this site. Thank you. When the mention of “mini septic” was posted, I wondered if this was one of those garbage can lid things that sit in the ground with an open can container under the lid. You dig a hole and sprinkle enzymes(?) in it, and pick up the poops and put them inside. Is that what you are talking about? I had one of those and they don’t really work very well for large dogs, but I’ll bet they work just fine for smaller ones. Do you have to empty them, or are they supposed to just go away into the soil? Do you need a leaching field like a big septic tank has? Fill in here, if you can. Thank you.

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