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 have females, so I’m not an expert at male pottying. Some people have put a fake fire hydrant or something else in the potty box to mark. I guess you can put a tree in there. Why not? Good luck with your project!

  2. Sad that people will go to this much trouble so they don’t have to take their dog for a walk.

  3. Hello Marg:
    It really isn’t sad at all. Some people have more than one dog. I have four. Four large female dogs, going potty at least 4 times a day is 16 times that a person would have to go for a walk to let them eliminate. No one is lazy here…we take them out on leash individually each and every time because we don’t have a fenced-in yard and we don’t want them to potty on the grass and burn it out. I don’t have time to go for 16 walks every day and either do my readers. I hope this shines light on how different the problem can be in scenarios different than your own and quelches your notion that both myself and my readers are lazy. Try to have a Happy Thanksgiving, please.

  4. We have very limited “pee space” in our yard. We have brick around the perimeter of the house. We do have drains into the brick throughout. Could we build on top of the brick knowing that we would have to rinse it down the drain more often? Ripping out the brick seems like a big job if we aren’t entirely sure it will work! Love your idea.

  5. Hi Joan:
    I really cannot recommend what you’re planning to do because I don’t know if it will work. I know my way works because the urine drains into the soil. If the brick has a drain, why doesn’t the dog just pee there? Why put pea gravel over brick? And the small pea gravel might clog the drain. If you do this, let us know how it turns out. Remember, my potty box works because all that urine is spread over the rock and graveled area and absorbed into the soil that is under the entire length of the graveled area. I’d be cautious.

  6. Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing! I think this just may be what I need. I have one question about the pea gravel; is it fine enough to work like kitty litter to help \”clump\” up soft stool? Thanks!

  7. Hi Arcee!
    No. It’s not that fine. If the dog has soft stool in the potty box the pea gravel will adhere to it, though. Easy scoop out or bag with poop bags. Much easier than soft stool in the grass. That’s a mess. You’ll lose a little pea gravel each time, but no big deal. Good luck with your project!

  8. We also have a potty spot! We have a standard poodle and 5 children so it was important to us that we didn\’t have poop in the yard where our children also play. After our morning run Charlie (female) goes to an area of our yard; we have a little fence around it with a solid door fitted with a large doggy door. She does her business in this area only. Although ours in just grass. We go in once a day and clean it up. That way we don\’t have to search the whole yard for poo, and our kids don\’t step in it.

  9. This info is very helpful, tasteful & supportive! Hoping to have a dog soon and was searching for just this type of forum for support.
    Thanks All!
    Marlese G.

  10. Questions:
    1. Can artificial turf be laid as the top layer instead of 2nd layer of pea gravel?
    2. How big does this need to be for 2 45lb dogs:
    3. If we remove solid waste immediately and hose off with the odor eliminator, will it smell in our 90 degree summers?

  11. Hi Kathy!
    Artificial turf is an interesting idea, but I heard it gets hot and can hold an odor. As far as size, eyeball how many paces your dog takes before it eliminates, you know…when it paces back and forth. There’s no mathematical formula. I don’t know if it will smell because you’re changing my design. Let us know!

  12. Yea Marg, suck it!

    Our dogs hate going to the potty at night when it’s raining, and we are hoping that this potty station will make it easier for them to go during the night. I think this will also help in making doggy doodie duty easier and faster since it is confined to an area. I am hoping! Thank you for the idea!

  13. We have a dog potty and did exactly the same as your design – but we have pine bark chips on the top. Just untreated pine bark. It smells nice when fresh out of the bag and is really cheap to top up. Our dog didn’t like the crunch of going on small stones!
    Thank you for taking the trouble to post this by the way it is a marvellous idea.

  14. these are great ideas, thanks for all of the explanation and pocs! we have 2 males, who we walk several times a day, but they still pee outside in the yard and they burn the grass! since we have put in a pool and patio, we want to keep the area nice and visitor-friendly visually so I bought a (fake) fire hydrant to put out to get them used to using one area, and will be building one of these areas around it come spring. thanks!

  15. Hey! Thank you for this idea! My grandparents have 6 dogs. Unfortunately, they are not trained in anyway and are just your average dogs. 1 Min Pin, 1 Red Nose Pit Bull, 1 Shih tzu, & 3 Lhasa Apsos. My grandparents do the best they can to clean the dog smell but sometimes you can only do so much! They pee in the gravel pathway before they ever get to the yard. Once they get to the yard, they poop and my grandparents don’t use a pooper scooper. :( So, I am def. on the hunt to fix this solution! I will show them this idea sometime this week.

  16. Anyone who will go to this much trouble to build something for the convenience of their dog is far from lazy!!! I\’m about to go get the supplies to get this started! Fantastic idea! Thank you for sharing! Happy New Year everyone!

  17. Great idea and far from lazy, not everyone wants there dog to pee and poop in the street!! i prefer to train my dog to use my garden, but dont want my garden full of pee and poop.

  18. Hi, this is great. We live in the desert and are about to have fake grass installed so need a potty area away from the grass for the dogs. Do you think this would drain okay if built on sand? As we don’t have much rain will we need to hose it down and how often?

  19. I don’t know whether it will work on sand. I only know that this design works. Good luck with your project.

  20. I am thrilled to see this design. I agree, there are many reasons to incorporate this type of potty area in a backyard. Laziness is not what came to mind. I live in an urban area and there is a pervasive problem with humans not curbing their dogs. This issue resulted in my one year old puppy being exposed to a parasite (more than once) and needing multiple rounds of antibiotics. I have been speaking to other condo owners about building such a potty area in our backyard. I was looking for an example online to share at our spring condo meeting. You could not have been more helpful! Thanks for sharing. It will help my cause tremendously.

  21. Thanks Carolyn!
    Our dog potty is now 4 years old now and it’s still in good shape. Still being used, too. I’m noticing the screening is beginning to surface. I’m cutting it away as it surfaces and I’m convinced you don’t need it. Just make sure there is a size difference between the two types of stones you use. Pea gravel on top and a larger size stone for the base. I’m so glad I did this! Good luck with your project, too!

  22. Very good information. I am about to start and build one. I have tried the artificial grass and it was a pain as it didn\’t clean easy and it would hold odour. I am looking forward to getting your design built. Thanks for all the information.

  23. Love reading all the suggestions and comments but my backyard area is all concert with a pool so I sectioned off about a 6ft space on the side ( it has deck drain) and then used wood chips/ bark. Even though we clean up the poo almost daily and refresh the bark every 4 months, it stinks to high heaven. We have tried a few years sprays but it is still so stinky…..any ideas? And for poor Marge, sometimes one walk a day doesn’t do the trick!

  24. Sorry Jen, but wood chips are porous and will stink to high heaven. So will sand. That’s why we use small stone and pea gravel so the urine doesn’t absorb. I have no idea what you should do short of getting rid of all the bark and trying stone.

  25. Can this type of potty run be used on a concrete patio which has a doggy door? Do you have to modify your idea because there may be drainage problems ?

  26. Thank you for this tutorial! We also teach the command to potty and have a designated spot, but it results in burned grass, etc. Since there are likely to be snakes in the borders (very rural area) I like to use a relatively open area for the \”potty-place\”. This project will be perfect for us. (We already have a decommissioned fire-hydrant!) In reply to the concern that it is a lazy approach to dog walking, let me say, I want my daily walks with my dog to be relatively free of potty behavior. My neighbors don\’t appreciate having their grass burned and I don\’t like to have to carry poop in a bag for any amount of time! LOL. Our walks are exercise time. Pooping can be done in the poop area at home.

  27. Thank you so much. I can\’t wait to get started on this project. I really enjoy this website. We have an older dog and he really has a hard time walking. I agree with Linda, I don\’t like carrying poop in a bag and I can\’t stand how people don\’t pick up after their dogs. Our four legged boy likes the privacy of his own yard. I\’m hoping he will learn to go in one spot. Thanks again for the tutorial and I will send pictures when I complete it.

  28. This is an awesome idea. Just what I was looking for. My dog has a sand area with pavers all around. We find he\\’s peeing more on the pavers than on the sand. I am hoping since your idea is a raised bed it will solve the issue.

    You mentioned you don\\’t use dos beds or crate mates since your dogs chew then up. Curious to know where they sleep? Whenever I leave my dog alone, I come back home to a chewed up dog bed.

    Thanks, Kavitha

  29. And the bad thing about sand is that it smells. Even clean wet sand smells. Add urine and oh boy–hold your nose. The pebbles and rocks are non-porous and the rain will wash them clean. Or use that product from Simply Green I mention on the website that is safe for dogs and the environment.

    I have four dogs. One Lab and 3 goldens. One of the goldens is a puppy, so when I’m gone I crate her in a metal crate with no bedding. I tried a towel once and she chewed that, too. The older dogs (3 yrs., 7 yrs. & 9 yrs.) leave the dog beds alone–finally. But not the puppy! The older dogs sleep on our bed at night, or on a dog bed. Sometimes one will go into an open crate we have up there with no crate mat. The only time I use an orthopedic crate mat is for surgery recovery when crate rest is needed for an extended period of time. I find the dogs get bored in the crate after a while and instead of sleeping, they start picking at the crate mat. Your dog will grow out of it eventually. Hang in there. But it’s frustrating because they have all these adorable dog beds and crate mats in such fun colors and you want them to be comfortable. But they are not responsible enough yet. Frustrating!

  30. I have a small patio area in our ground level condo with soil + plants but I\’m planning to rip the plants out and just build this on the borders for my two dogs. There\’s is a sprinkler system to wash away the urine! Sounds perfect but got any tips?

    One question: is the fiibreglass mesh needed or can I just build on top the soil with the two layers of different sized stone?

    Thanks for the great idea!

  31. This is a great idea. I have my pup use his area in our yard and then I awake him for a walk. That way he is not peeing or pooping on neighbors grass. This is not about beiing too lazy to walk your odd. It\’s about being considerate and taking good care of your pup.

    Thanks for great tutorial

  32. Oh marg you haven’t thought this through.Walking our dog is a highlight but here are some whys this is a great idea . . .
    -My 87 year old mother can not walk the dog, but can still manage this responsible solution.
    -Sick days human or canine
    -Bad weather days
    -An older pet
    -A workday solution with an added doggie door for a well trained pet.
    -Solid Waste management with convenient dog bomb containment.
    -Going for a walk Marg? Potty first. Trust me even your dog loving neighbors will appreciate it.
    Can’t wait to design this clever solution. Thanks especially for the odor control tip.

    Fluffy’ mom
    LeClaire, IA

  33. You do not have to use the fiberglass screening. Just make sure you use at least two different layers of stones that are different sizes. Good luck on your project.

  34. I’m glad I’m not Marg’s neighbor. If I walked my four big dogs so they could poop and pee, the only place they could do their business would be in someone else’s yard. Great solution to them not going in our yard, but it wouldn’t endear us to our neighbors. Lol!! Thanks so much for this solution!

  35. I have a dog door with ramp to reach the ground-it is a fenced in large semi circle area with access by a sun porch also. Would like to have flower bed inside the fence -maybe a chair etc.–also grass.
    I have an aussiedoodle mimi now 5 mo. old -THe ramp is not straight out it goes sideways down and under the solfit(spell). could I build it under the ramp(it would also extend two ft passed the highest part of the ramp to the foundation of the sunporch) It would measure 21″ wide and 3yds-2ft long-maybe a little less because of the slant of the ramp.

  36. I have no way of knowing. Your design is different. The potty box’s success is about two different sizes of stones set on soil and contained somehow. It’s all about urine being able to drain from the area. You don’t really need the fiberglass screening. I know my dog potty works. I can’t comment on another design. Sorry.

  37. Thank you for this great idea! I cant wait to build one for our tiny little teacup chi. We got her yesterday, shes just 6 weeks old but already is consistently going potty outside for us. It will take some searching to find the right gravel for her tiny sensitive paws but this looks like a perfect solution for a little pup and her teenage mommy. Suggesting that my teen daughter should \\”go for a walk\\” at all hours is not only impractial, but it wouldn\\’t be safe for either doggie or daughter.

  38. I never thought of the safety issue! What an excellent point!
    Good luck with your project!

  39. Marg, my dog\’s been trained to go potty before we go on walks or runs so that she doesn\’t ruin the grass in front of anyone else\’s house. You should get a clue. How rude!

  40. Fabulous design Bonnie! So glad I stumbled across your post when searching for solutions for our two dogs. We put in a wrought iron fenced area in our back yard as a dog run (30 x 30 feet) to keep the dogs out of the pool when unsupervised. It is all gravel, but would like to put in some lawn for them to lounge on. The gravel dog potty area seems like a great solution so that they have a designated area to “go” within the enclosure.

  41. Hi! I’ll be a new owner of doggie this april, just wondering, is it okay to put 3 layers? the third being huge ass pebbles just so to prevent them from eating it? or will it clog the potty drainage? hehehe hoping for a reply :)

  42. Ha ha! You are funny! I totally get what you’re saying. I now have an oral golden retriever puppy who I trained to pee in the box, and the first month was a battle for she wanted to eat the pea gravel. Constant corrections. Frustrating. She’s okay now. I put the pea gravel on the top because I thought it’d be softer on her paws. Frankly you just need two different size layers to keep the urine going down. Drain drain drain into the soil. You don’t want it pooling on top. So if you want to skip the pea gravel which was just for comfort, try the big stones on top. Let us know how it works.

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