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)

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

Almost…

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

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

  1. We have a large back yard with full perimeter fencing.
    Dogs have loved free range play, poop and peeing.

    We recently built a plot similar to yours. We have sandy soil (=sand), so after scraping surface grass we put down a commercial grade hard landscape fabric and then 3 inches of pea gravel. We did not want the area visible so we enclosed it with a four foot high close-spaced slat fence similar to the perimeter five foot and six foot high 1/2 inch spaced slat fencing; all natural wood, treated.

    The dogs have a dog door directly from the house into the “dog run.”
    For getting them acquainted/trained to it, I have carried them or leashed them into the area, but they still balk at using it, especially the older dog. It’s only been two weeks, so I guess I need to be a more conscientious trainer.

    Am I on the right track?

  2. What kind of dogs do you have? Ours are golden retrievers and I wonder if smaller dogs find the gravel area intimidating? I don’t know. I only have larger dogs. I still keep them on leash to go and then unclip the leash and send them out back. Sometimes they’ll go pee unleashed, but I have to stand and block the entrance to the backyard and tell them, “Get it done, first!” Different dogs learn at different rates and the important thing is that they not be afraid of the area, that it is an okay place to be in. Eventually, they will go–especially if they’ve held it for long–and they’ll catch on to what you want. Keep us posted!

  3. I love this, yard saver & brilliant all around!!:)

    My question:
    Where exactly is the sprinkler head?
    I\\’m a first time home owner & new to dealing with irrigation systems. I don\\’t want to mess anything up$$ Is is next to the potty spot? Thank you:)

  4. Hello Catherine: Great question. Picture #5 above best shows a notch that we had to saw out of the wood frame to accommodate our sprinkler head. To keep the pea gravel from covering it, I cut the bottom off of a water bottle that used heavier plastic and placed the round ring (open on both ends) over the sprinkler head with the hope that it would protect it. I don’t plan to use that sprinkler head–I haven’t needed to–but I certainly could. If you built your home, ask your landscaper where he installed the sprinkler system or call a local sprinkler company and tell them you plan a small excavation. Ask them if they can come out and give you an educated guess. They will probably charge a fee for this. I also read an article where you find the sprinkler head near the area you are digging, remove the sprinkler head and insert a flexible metal band called an electrician’s fish tape into the pvc pipe and use a metal detector to trace the route. Remember, we only went down 2 inches max because when we called to have our utilities marked before the dig, we had cable and gas lines to avoid. If your frame boards are 2 x 6, so you don’t have to go down very far to accommodate the layers of stone and pea gravel. If you do a web search on “How to find underground sprinkler lines” it might help. Good luck with your project.

  5. There is no odor. That’s what all the drainage is about. I think there were a string of days in the 90s last year where there was no rain and I may have smelled a little sense of urine odor when the sun baked the gravel, but that was it and I have 3 large dogs. Then an afternoon of rain washed it away. I’m sure you could hose it down on a regular basis, perhaps use one of those liquid fertilizer spray containers and fill it up with Nature’s Miracle or something and spray it on the pea gravel, but I haven’t found the need to. Drainage really is the key and if the dogs poop there, too, prompt pick up is essential. When planning, locate the dog potty away from any location you use for outdoor entertaining. How about others? Did you notice an offensive odor?

  6. Hi! I\’m interested in building one of these but am wondering how far down you set in your frame? Since you have it against your concrete sidewalk , did you secure the other sides? If I do this it will be in the yard with no permanent support so how do I secure it so it does not come up or shift? Thanks for any info.

  7. Hi Kathy: You can set your frame as deeply as you wish but remember, you have to have some of the wood extended above ground level or the pea gravel will spill out onto the grass. All sides of the frame are secured with 4 or 5 inch lag screws, thus it has permanent support on all sides. I hope this answers your question and good luck with your project.

  8. I ended up pulling out the screens that were getting exposed. The stones have since mostly remained in their layers. I probably could have stitched the pieces together, but I didn’t have the time or the energy. The good news is my 18 month old German Shepherd now uses the box exclusively and we are growing new grass. If you don’t give a dog another option, they will come around.

  9. Hi Joe!
    Terrific! There is nothing I like to hear more is that the dogs are using it AND you are growing new grass. Bravo!

  10. Hi there! We live in NYC And have a concrete back yard. Anytips?? We have a small Yorkie and a large mixed breed :)

  11. If would Google “dog potties” and check out the different contained dog litter boxes. My idea will not work for you.
    Thanks for reading the blog.
    Bonnie

  12. How large do you think I need to make the area for a single Golden Retriever? I think you said you have 3 dogs.

    Thanks so much!

  13. Hi Dave!
    I do have 3 large dogs, but they go potty one at a time. I made the dog potty the length that I did so they can pace back and forth a few times before pottying. I suppose you could make it smaller, maybe 25% smaller, but make sure if your dog paces back and forth before it finally goes potty it has the length to do it. Hope it goes well for you!

  14. What a great idea! Would this not work on concrete b/c there would be an odor issue, or b/c it would be harder to frame out? Approximately how much did this project cost you?

  15. Hi Jen!
    Thanks for the compliment. The purpose of the dog potty is to save your lawn from urine burn. It requires good drainage–the reason for all the layers of rock and pea gravel. I do not recommend this to be built and put onto cement. There is no place for the urine to drain to and it would smell. The frame is no harder to build on grass than on concrete. The main issue is drainage. I don’t remember how much the dog potty area cost to build, but the article gives you exact materials and you can price them out at your local Home Depot or other home improvement and garden centers. Thanks for your input and interest!

  16. I’m so glad to read such a detailed account for this project. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I’m planning to do this too and had wondered if the rocks get hot (on the dog’s feet). In North Texas, the heat can get a bit extreme. We are on a half acre and conveniently have a small fenced portion of the yard that is separated from the rest of the yard by a large, raised deck. This provides a perfect place to use for the dog potty area. Since we are having all the rest of the fencing replaced, the dogs are limited to this area for a couple of weeks and have become accustomed to pottying there. Once this is all done and they are used to it, I won’t be walking them there and waiting with them. They’re already trained to potty on command so the training shouldn’t take long. My only other concern is, has anyone had any trouble with dogs picking up the rocks, since the rocks are small, and chewing, mouthing or even eating them? I was considering using river rock to prevent such an event, thoughts?

  17. Hi Stephani!
    I live near the Great Lakes so I don’t get the constant sun like you do. Perhaps it’s the pea gravel’s small size but I haven’t noticed that they get real hot. They do stick in between their pads sometimes. I have one golden retriever that puts everything in her mouth and I have to walk her with a toy so she doesn’t eat rocks and sticks. She has yet to try to eat the pea gravel. My guess is that because it has been urinated on she finds it disgusting. Good for you that your dogs are trained to potty on command. I still take mine on leash to use the area before letting them run free in the back. Good luck on your project! If you use the larger river rock, let me know how you like it. (I stuck to pea gravel because I wanted to make sure there was drainage.)

  18. Fantastic. Bonnie, I am so glad to have found this article. Perfect timing. Thanks so much!! :-)

  19. Hi Bonnie – Thank you so much for sharing your detailed instructions for building a dog potty area!! I live in Seattle WA and want to create an area like this for my little mini Dachshund and hopefully soon a Bernese puppy! I would love to know about how much you think this project cost? If you would be willing to share that information – I would need help to build mine and have to factor in some labor cost as well. Again thanks for sharing!

  20. As I told Jen in one of the above comments, I don’t remember how much the dog potty area cost to build, but the article gives you exact materials and you can price them out at your local Home Depot or other home improvement and garden centers. Thanks for your input and interest!

  21. Hi there. I live in an apartment complex in Seattle, WA. Right next door to my apartment complex there is swimming pool place that has an odd \”box\” out front with terribly taken care of grass & weeds. I am pretty sure that because there is no other area near here with easy access to grass that every dog owner in this large apartment complex uses that box for their dogs. I started noticed odd shaped bugs in there and now my dog has fleas. I was thinking to go over and ask the owners of the swimming pool place if I could fix up the box and make it into a nice little area where out lovely dogs can SAFELY go to the bathroom.

    There is already a concrete frame and it is actually about the same size as your doggy litter box. I\’ve been looking online for something I could do with that area so I didn\’t come in with a non-existing plan. So thank you for writing this and I\’ll keep you updated on how my project is going. :)

  22. Hi Cheyenne!
    Bugs and Fleas…Yuk! It is terrific that you are taking action to give the pups a clean place to relieve themselves. Do keep us posted. I hope this project works for your area.

  23. I’ve checked all over for the materials available in our area. We don’t have sand pebbles so my choices for the bottom rock layer are river rock, which is 2-4″, or crushed limestone which is available in 1″ or 1.5″ sizes. I can then follow up with the top layer of pea gravel. May I ask your recommendation for the bottom rock layer given the choices I have locally?

  24. I wish I could give you advise on your stone selection, but I am not a landscaper–just a dog owner that had a problem to solve. As long as the stones allow the urine to drain into the soil and not just run off it, I think you are good to go!

    Good luck on your project!

  25. The sand pebbles are anywhere from one to two inches in various shapes. The goal was to put the larger pebbles on the bottom to give the pea gravel a foundation so that the small pea gravel didn’t just pack into the clay soil and prevent the urine from draining. I hope that helps.

  26. Yep, that’s exactly the information I needed. Knowing the size of rock on your bottom layer, I can choose the product in my area that best matches. Thanks!!!

  27. Thank you so much for these wonderful instructions! My husband and I built an outdoor potty area this past weekend for our adopted 1.5 year old golden male (we got him three days ago…). Do you have any suggestions on how you trained your goldens to actually use the area? We are just now starting this process and so far our furry friend is being stubborn. I know consistency and persistence is key, however, I\’d appreciate any tips you might have! Thanks again!

  28. 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 two 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 pea 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. Hooray! I hope that helps. Remember, the purpose of the dog potty is to keep your grass green. If your dog LOVES to go potty there, well that’s a bonus but not an expected one. Good luck!

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