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. 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.

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!

Gould dog potty area2

John and Nicole turned this into a family project and got the kids involved. Fantastic. Now they have ownership interest and they’ll take the dog out! Yay!

Gould dog potty area1

…and didn’t it turn out sleek? Nice!

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!


For more photos of completed projects, see my corresponding post at


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

  1. I\\’m a puppy raiser for dogs for the blind, and how we train our pups to potty on command is to have the pup on a leash and walk in circles on pavement. No sniffing… lol

  2. Lisa!
    Thanks for the tip! That makes perfect sense. I’m going to try that with my pup in training that sniffs and tries to eat everything on the ground. AHH!

  3. How does this work for cleaning up the dog poop? Would chips be better than gravel? Help, please!!

  4. No no wood chips. Wood is porous. It will hold the urine and eventually stink to high heaven. Rocks are not porous and wash clean. Pick up the poop with a doggie waste bag or pooper scooper each time the dog poops in the box. My girls only rarely poop there. I don’t care because the box was meant for urine. Poop in the grass doesn’t cause the same damage. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

  5. I’m thinking about building ours between two of our trees, but I’m wondering if any of you have any thoughts on whether concentrating urine in that area would be bad for the trees? Thoughts?

  6. Hello Kassi!
    As you can see by the photos, the dog potty I built is next to arborvitae. I’ve been using the dog potty for at least 3 years and the arborvitae never turned yellow or died. Good luck with your project.

  7. Can you use a slow growing grass like bermuda which you dont need to mow so the dog doesn\’t have to walk on gravel, rounded or not?

  8. Thank you SO much for this great idea! We have 3 dogs and 2 other grandpups that visit frequently. Our front lawn has been damaged and we had given up on having a back lawn. I can’t wait to install a dog potty area! Leashes and treats will be used!

  9. How wonderful!!! I now have five retrievers and take them out on leash sometimes two at a time to use the potty area. They have to be leashed because they would still prefer to pee on grass. But after that, they can poop wherever they want and it doesn’t harm the grass because I immediately bag it. I have a front and back yard that is green and void of dog damage. It takes effort, but it’s so worth it! Enjoy your project and post send a picture. I’ll post it!

  10. Has anyone ever tried adding a layer of artificial turf on top so it looks like grass but still drains well?

  11. I\\\\\’m having a hard time finding sand pebbles, what can I substitute them for?

  12. You can. My only concern is that the turf retains a smell. Give it a try and let us know!

  13. Any rock larger than pea gravel will do. We just want larger stones on the bottom layer and smaller pea gravel on the top. Good luck with your project.

  14. I’m wondering if this would work for an apartment deck? We’ll be moving and the only place that allows our dog will be a high rise. They claimed to be dog friendly but expect dog owners to potty their dogs across the street at the park. I’ve been trying to find alternatives for when we are in a hurry and wonder if this might be an option.

  15. I\’m wondering if this would work for an apartment deck? We\’ll be moving and the only place that allows our dog will be a high rise. They claimed to be dog friendly but expect dog owners to potty their dogs across the street at the park. I\’ve been trying to find alternatives for when we are in a hurry and wonder if this might be an option.

  16. Hello!
    This is not a good idea for an apartment deck. It will not work. If you are interested in a potty box concept for apartments, you might try Pet Loo or some other brand of indoor-outdoor potty box concept. But you will have to empty it yourself and clean it.

  17. I recently tore down a shed with a dirt floor. I left the bottom boards around the bottom. The floor is level, so a lot of the work is already down. I foster puppies for a rescue group so sometimes have up to 9 puppies at a time. I had previously had a flower garden and had used rubber mulch around the flowers. Almost all of the puppies loved using this as their potty area. I am thinking of using this type of mulch instead of pebbles. Any concerns?

  18. Hi Janet:
    I don’t think rubber will hold a urine smell and can easily be hosed off. My only concern is drainage. Make sure the rubber is thin enough to let the urine drain into the soil. I’d hate to see it pooling. That’s just unsanitary. Also, watch (as you would with pea gravel) that the puppy doesn’t eat the rubber mulch. Let us know how it works out for you. Interesting…

  19. Pet Loo and similar products don\’t work well. I\’m spending a small fortune on sod each year for my dogs potty needs (*ug to city life*). Trying to figure out a way to convert this idea so it will work with concrete underneath. Are you aware of anyone that has done something similar over concrete?

  20. I’m sorry, but this project cannot be done over concrete. The urine has no place to drain. Do not do this project over concrete.

  21. Hi, I also have outdoor cats, do you think they\’d use this as a litter box?

  22. We live in Arizona (Phoenix) where all the landscaping looks like kitty litter.
    it hurts their paws and it\\\’s hard to get them to go in a single area…was considering (don\\\’t laugh) a similar idea by planting sod in a baby pool with drainage… Any thoughts?

  23. I don’t know if the grass will grow in the pool. This is a different approach. Just make sure you drill lots of holes for drainage and let us know if it works. I think your idea is extremely resourceful. What a creative approach to your problem. You are a thinker!

  24. For those of you wanting to use terf, look up K9 Grass by Forever Lawn. It’s made specifically for pets with a drain through backing underneath for proper drainage. I haven’t used it as we live in an apartment, but thought it might also be a good solution…

  25. any suggestions for small shrubs or plants to place around the area to make it more “private” for the dog? Also to hide from neighbors :-/

  26. I used nice river rock gravel with rocks larger than pea gravel. The poop sticks to it and I don\\\’t want to throw away these beautiful rocks when I clean out the area. Do I need sand or smaller rocks on top? Is that why you have shown smaller rocks on top? Did you have this problem of poop sticking to the gravel?

  27. My dogs don’t poop in the potty area. I use it for only for pee, so the urine doesn’t burn out the grass. On the occasional time that a dog does poop in the pea gravel, it’s easy to pick up, bag and throw away. Yes, the poop sticks to the gravel, but the rocks are small and insignificant. And the pea gravel is easy to replace if it gets low. My larger rocks are beneath the pea gravel.

  28. A tip I got from my Veterinarian was to sprinkle Rid-X over the area and hose down throughly once a week. The Rid-X “eats” the poo that has fallen into the gravel. I found a liquid version (drain maintainer) that does the same thing and has a built in deodorizer that can be applied with a garden sprayer. Works great and no smell

  29. I can not recommend using Rid-X because the product website says to keep the product out the reach of children and that it may contain irritants. Quoting from the Rid-X website:
    CAUTION: Contains Bacterial Spores and Enzymes. May cause eye irritation. Avoid contact with eyes. Avoid breathing dusts. Individuals having known allergies, particularly to enzymes, as well as those with respiratory disease or disorders, should avoid contact with this product. Wash hands thoroughly after use. KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN. IS RID-X® HARMFUL TO PETS IF THEY DRINK FROM THE TOILET? While most of the product will have been flushed away, we do not recommend that the pets drink from the toilet after using RID-X®.

  30. Why do you need the fiberglass screens? Can’t I just put the gravel layers over dirt? One side of our house is narrow, enclosed & dirt.

  31. Originally, it helped to keep the pea gravel from blocking the spaces in between the larger stones beneath it. It was designed to allow for maximum drainage. After 4 years, I see the fiberglass is beginning to surface and I’m pulling it off. It doesn’t seem to make any difference. Still draining well. So if you don’t want to use it, don’t.

  32. Hi, My name is Ernestine and I getting ready to build one with my young nephews. My question to you is does the wood need to be pretreated and do you have to get a permit to build on my property. I know it sounds dumb asking but I just had to ask!

  33. Hi, I have 3 male dogs that love to mark their territory continuously! They follow each other around the yard remarking. Which I have to come after them and house down the area because of the smell! Do you think a potty yard as this will defer them from doing this?

  34. Hi Sonia.
    No. The dog potty will not prevent them from doing that. To control the marking, you have to control the dog. You need to take them out on leash and have them potty, have them play when finished and bring them in. I have all female dogs and don’t have that problem. You may get more advice from your friends with male dogs. In any event, the outdoor dog potty will not eliminate marking.

  35. Can you do this on concrete? I live in the desert southwest and it hits highs of 115 and it is just so hot that I am trying to find something that will give them a little relief. I plan on putting a cover over the area if this will work on concrete so that it will stay a little cooler. Thanks!

  36. Hi Dana!
    Sorry, but my design cannot be used on concrete. There is no drainage through concrete and I wouldn’t advise it. The entire design is based upon good urine drainage into the soil. Sorry.

  37. In anticipation of our puppy we built this next to our garage for easy access from the house and lack of runoff from the roof in a rainstorm. Unfortunately I didn\’t think about the almost full sun exposure. The gravel temp was 130 degrees. We\’ll have to rethink the location. Potted plants won\’t shade the area adequately. Recommend trying to position the \”potty\” in the shade.

  38. I also live in the extreme heat, Las Vegas, and trained my dog to go in a potty yard (no wood borders because it’s the side of the house) originally covered with pea gravel now just dirt. I am moving and need to establish a new area, no side yard there, and have 2 issues…1-the rocks get too hot and there’s no shadey spot available & 2-he’s a male who lifts his leg most times when he pees. What can I iuse that won’t burn his paws and what can he lift his leg on? He used to use the block wall.

  39. Hello Shani:
    I’m sorry, but I don’t know of any rocks that don’t retain heat. But in 70 or 80 degree summer weather, pea gravel isn’t a problem. I looked into artificial turf, but it retains heat, too. With extreme desert heat, my project may not be right for you. If you dog lifts his leg, you may try a fire hydrant lawn ornament or a potted plant. Perhaps if the pot is tall enough, the urine won’t hit what is planted inside and burn it.

  40. Hi, Thanks for sharing this- I\’m now building one of these for my dogs. Can you tell me what size pea gravel is best? 10mm or 20mm?

  41. Hi Lisa: I didn’t know there were two sizes of pea gravel. I just grabbed a bag. They are the size of small beans. Must be the smaller size. Doesn’t matter. Base it on what seems comfortable for your dog’s paws. The key is the bottom rocks should be bigger than the top. Good luck with your project.

  42. There are natural products to use instead if Rid X, that vet is nuts. Natural lime restores pH, and is safe to use. Can buy at any gardening store. Sprinkle rocks and rinse lightly.

  43. I had a thought as I read through these comments. Someone asked whether it would work for a cat litterbox, and others wondered about putting it on a balcony with no drainage. So for you apartment dwellers, what if instead of filling a wooden boxed area with gravel, you could use a child’s plastic sandbox with a lid (to keep the rain out) and fill it with regular kitty litter? True, it will retain smell and you’ll have to clean it out and add fresh litter, but it’d be easier than taking them across the street every time, right?

  44. Thank you so much for sharing your idea. I have coyote problems and needed something that would work inside a large covered kennel attached to the house and entrance via doggy door. I did exactly as you instructed with leveling for drainage, larger rocks from my yard (several from digging for landscape), covered with screen, larger sand stones, covered with screen, lastly the pea pebbles. Works GREAT!!!

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