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Outdoor Dog Potty Area: How to Build One in 2023

Post updated 08/04/2023 with new inspirational photos– If you have ever owned a dog, you know that dogs will do their business pretty much anywhere. In the house, on the lawn, and in the street. As long as it is not where they eat or sleep, they will go. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By designating an outdoor dog potty area, you can keep the rest of your yard and home clean.

Not to mention the fact that having a designated potty area will help you potty train your puppy quicker.

Join us as we go over how to create an outdoor dog potty area and take a look at what you need to think about before creating your own potty area.

In this post we will go over:

  • Why you should have a dog potty area
  • Inspirational photos to help you design your own potty area
  • How to create an outdoor dog potty area including:
    • Where to locate it
    • Size considerations
    • Types of Ground cover
    • Ways to contain the area
    • Drainage
    • Tips on how the make the area attractive
  • How to get your dog to use the potty area

Before we go too far into this conversation let me say that the area you create for your dog can be as elaborate or simple as you want. It will all depend on your space and budget.

Our Potty Area

With our pup Molly we simply craved out a piece of the backyard that was easily accessible and separated by a fence from the rest of our yard. Our current pup prefers a section all the way at the back of our yard that is separated from the rest of the yard by trees.

While neither of our potty areas would win a design award, they did serve the purpose and they were low cost.

Dog Potty Area Guide: Tips, Ideas and How to

Why Should You Have a Designated Doggy Potty Area?

By having a designated place for your dog to potty, it allows you to keep your yard and home clean of feces.

Just think about it. Even if you pick up the poo as soon as your dog goes, unless you are scooping up all the grass and dirt around it, you are still leaving some poop particles behind.

Then you walk in this area or maybe your kids play in the area. Chances are they are going to pick up some of the contaminates. Dog feces are full of bacteria that can cause you to get sick.

Let’s face it; young kids are not known to keep their hands out of their mouths. Why take the chance of them getting sick when you can simply create an area that is off limits to the kids.

In addition to having a designated potty area outside you may also want to have a dog room inside. Check out our newest posts; Dog Room Ideas – The newest trend in dog care and Best Dog Wash Station Ideas for Home – 75+ Photos

Outdoor Dog Potty Area Ideas and Inspiration

Before we get into how to create a potty area in your yard, it’s always fun and useful to see what other people have done.

In our first inspirational photo, the homeowners took our simple idea of dividing the yard a few (many) steps further. Here, they created a dog run on the side of their house while keeping the rest of their yard dog poop free.

For easy access they added a doggy door with steps that leads out to the designated potty area from the house.

Below is another picture of the same yard. Here you can see how the backyard was divided between family space and potty space.

In our next inspirational photo, the homeowner again utilized an area on the side of the house to create a dog run and potty area, but instead of artificial grass they used real grass. They also used a metal fence to make the area a bit more attractive and the keep the dog out of the rest of the yard.

The next photo shows how the homeowners used the space between two structures to create a small dog run. Since it’s in a shaded area, they used artificial turf instead of real grass.

Our next inspirational photo shows a partially covered dog run. This allows the dog the ability to get out to do their business no matter what the weather is like.

In this next dog run (see below), the homeowners wanted a designated place for their dog. This customized space features a private doggy door and plenty of room for exploration. Synthetic turf keeps the area green and prevents dirt from being tracked into the home. This lucky pup also gets a great view of the lake.

This dog run was created for a homeowner that needed a large, secure dog run to accommodate the dogs she fosters. The 4′ retaining wall and 6′ corrugated metal fence give the dogs privacy and security while keeping with the aesthetic of the design. It also features a fire hydrant and a dog door.

Here is a view of the same area as above but looking from the outside in.

Gate into dog run
Photo by Reikow Landscape Design
Dog Potty Area Guide: Tips, Ideas and How to
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How to Create an Outdoor Dog Potty Area

Hopefully, the above photos have given you some ideas on how to build your own potty area. But, before you begin building, here are a few things you need to decide first.

1. Where should you place a outdoor dog potty area?

Where you place your potty area will have an impact on the rest of your yard. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

  1. Convenience – Place your doggy potty space in a convenient location with easy access for you and your dog.
  1. Smell – Although you should place it in an area with easy access make sure it’s not too close to outdoor living spaces. You don’t want your dog pooing right next to where you are having dinner.
  1. Weather – Think about what the weather is like in your area. If you live in a snowy place don’t place the potty area too far away from the house. Snow will make the potty area less convenient if you have to shovel a long path to get to it. If you live in a hot area, place the potty area someplace where it’s shaded from the sun.
  1. Vegetable Garden – Don’t place the potty area near or uphill from an edible garden. You don’t want to chance contaminating your garden with dog poo.
  1. Grading – Pay attention to the slope of your yard. Make sure to place your potty area in a spot that is sloped away from your house and other areas you plan to use.   Otherwise you may get pee runoff near your living areas.

Dog Potty Location Ideas

  • Side of the house – Small side yards tend to be under-utilized making them a potential spot for a potty area. As you can see in the picture below, the narrow area houses the homes utilities, but not much else would fit here. By added artificial turf, a drain and an in-ground dog septic system this place makes a convenient dog run.

Here is another side yard that is larger, that makes great use of a difficult area due to the uneven ground.

2. How big should an outdoor dog potty area be?

Ultimately the size of your potty area will be determined by the size of your yard and your pooch.

If your dog is anything like mine, they need some space to walk around and smell the area before going.

None of my dogs liked to walk in an area that was too dirty or smelly. Plus, you don’t want your dog walking over where they just pooed.

For these reasons, I suggest that your potty area be at least 8’x 8′ or 6’x12′ for a medium sized pup. Larger if you are dealing with a bigger dog.

At a minimum it should be big enough so they can do a few circles before pooping. But you need to be mindful that a smaller area will get smelly quickly, which may cause your pup not to want to use it.

Whatever you decide, keep in mind your dog’s habits. Also remember that the point of having a potty area is for them to use it. If it is too small they may end up going outside of the area.

3. How will you access the dog potty area?

Another thing to think about is how will you access the potty area. Many of the inspirational photos we have provided include a dog door for easy access. While this will make it easier for your dog to go out on their own, you need to make sure the dog door is secure and your yard is safe.

Outdoor Dog Potty Area - Best materials for a  potty area.

4. What type of ground cover should you put in an outdoor dog potty area?

You have a few options when it comes to ground covers for your potty area. We will go over the pros and cons of each.


Grass is the easiest and possibly cheapest ground cover for a doggy potty area. Plus, most dogs prefer going on the grass. But it does have a few drawbacks.

The most obvious one is the yellow pee marks that happen when the acid in your dog’s urine kills the grass in your dog’s favorite pee spot.

Pee stain on grass -
Burn mark in grass from urine.

Now, there are products that will neutralize the acid but that means regular maintenance.

In addition to the yellow spots, you will need to re-seed the grass each season and mow regularly. Plus, if the grass dies you might be left with a poopy mud puddle.

It will also be harder to train your pup to only go in the potty area and not on the rest of the lawn.

Do dogs need grass to go to the toilet?

No. Dogs can go to the bathroom anywhere. But most dogs prefer to do their business in the grass or someplace that is comfortable for their paws.

But you can teach a dog to go on any surface that is not a discomfort to them. Dogs will even go on concrete.


The good thing about gravel is that it will drain well. The bad things are:

  • It can hurt your dog’s feet
  • It is harder to clean up poop because the rocks tend to stick to it.
  • Gravel has a way of washing away or getting kicked out of the area.

There are different sizes of gravel you can choose from. Driveway gravel is relatively large, between 3/8 and 3/4 inch in diameter. Gravel used in footpaths is 1/4 to 3/8 inches in diameter.

The smaller the gravel is, the easier it will be on your pup’s feet. But smaller gravel also washes away easier.

Note: Don’t choose any type of rock if you think your dog might eat them.

The picture below appears to be the smaller sized gravel. Again, the homeowners installed a dog door next to the entrance for easy access.

Pea Gravel

Pea Gravel is a good alternative to regular gravel because of its small, smooth pebbles. It will not hurt your pup’s feet like gravel can. But like regular gravel you may find yourself picking up the rocks as you pick up the poop.

River Rock

Another type of stone that can be used is a smooth river rock. Unlike the gravel which has sharp edges, river rocks are smooth all around but are larger than pea gravel. If you prefer to use stone in your dog’s potty area this is a good choice.

But some dogs may not care for it. Plus, we use to have a Golden Retriever Rescue that would play with the river rocks as if they were balls. I was always afraid he would swallow one. We ended up having to removed them from the yard.

Smooth rock potty area on terrace
Modern Deck in Jacksonville Photo by Just Terraces

Above is a custom stone pet comfort area that was created for a terrace.

For more ideas on how to make a patio or small yard dog friendly check out our post on Dog Patio Ideas – For Small Spaces


Mulch is a good, inexpensive option. Much like stone, it drains well and looks nice.

But unlike stone it will break down over time so you need to replenish it every year or two. We used wood chips in our first potty area. They worked out fine.

Outdoor dog potty area ideas - Two white dogs on woodchip dog run
Dog Run with wood chips. Photo by Pat Bernard Design, Inc.

If you choose to use mulch in your potty area, look for un-dyed mulch. Do not use cocoa bean mulch as it is dangerous for dogs if ingested.

Do your homework before purchasing any mulch to make sure it will not harm your pup.

Also, keep in mind that dogs can choke on mulch and must be supervised. This is especially true with pine needle mulch, as the pine needles can actually puncture the stomach lining if ingested

Another issue with using mulch is that it can absorb the urine and start to smell. Since we had a large area for our dog we did not have this problem.

Artificial Grass

Artificial grass is a common potty area cover, but it takes a lot of work to do it right. Since artificial grass will not absorb pee you need to make sure you have the right materials underneath it for the pee to drain away.

Another concern with artificial grass is that it can get hot when it’s hot outside or exposed to the sun.

Did you know that there are self-service dog washing stations in many of the pet supply store across the country? You can learn more at our post “Self Serve Dog Wash Station: Where to find One”

5. Containment

Next you need to think about how you are going to keep your ground cover and maybe your dogs contained in one spot.

There are several options based on your needs. If you are looking for more of a dog run then just a potty spot, a simple fence will do. In the dog run pictured below, they used wood posts and what appears to be deer netting to enclose the area.

You can see the dog door from the house in the middle of the picture.

For the first potty area we created, we used a simple low fencing. For our most recent one we used 6×6 posts to outline the area, then added mulch.

Low fences will work fine for some dogs, but not all dogs are alike. We once had a dog that could climb chain-link fences. He was too small to jump over them but he could climb them much like the dog in the picture below.

dog climbing fence

You can also use a decorate fence to keep your pup in the dog run.

Our next homeowners took the idea to the next level with this covered run. This dog run is located in Connecticut so weather was an issue.

Enclosed dog run
Covered dog run Photo by RoSal Enterprises

To combat the bad weather, they used glass windows to protect the potty area from the rain and snow while still letting light in. The windows can be opening on nice days to let in fresh air. There is also a dog door from the house.

6. Drainage

When deciding where to place your potty area, pay attention to how well the area drains. If the area does not drain well, you will need to add drainage or pick another location.

Driveway gravel works well for drainage. Just add a layer of gravel before added the ground cover.

Also, don’t forget to add a weed blocker that will let the water pass through but keep the weeds at bay.

In the video below, they do a good job at showing what needs to be done to install artificial pet turf but the steps can apply to any ground cover.

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How to make your outdoor dog potty area attractive?

Your potty area doesn’t have to be ugly. With the use of decorative fencing, plants and some well places furniture your potty area can look nice.

Here are a few ways to make your potty area a little more attractive.

Dog Potty Area - How to make your potty area attractive

1. Decorative fencing

Fencing like the one shown above can solve two important issues in the potty area. First it contains the area to inside the fence. Second it will make the area nicer to look at.

2. Seating

Having a place to sit might not be the first thing you think of when creating a potty area. It wasn’t mine neither. But then I realized that if you have a dog that takes their time, having a place to sit might not be so bad.

You could position the sitting area to face away from the potty area. Having a bench just outside the potty area can accomplish a couple of things; first, it gives you a place to sit; second it can be used to hide the potty area.

Description from

  • Made from fade-resistant POLYWOOD recycled lumber
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Some assembly required
  • Commercial grade stainless steel hardware
  • Made in the USA
  • Measures 60-1/2 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 35-1/4 inches high
  • 20-year limited warranty

3. Add plants and flowers

Plants and colorful flowers will distract visitors from what is beyond them. Tall plants will hide what lies behind them.

Just make sure to use flowers that are safe to use around dogs. The ASPCA Pet Health Insurance company lists these 10 common outside plants as toxic to dogs. So, make sure not to use them.

  1. Azalea
  2. Bird of Paradise
  3. Daffodil
  4. Daisy
  5. Hydrangea
  6. Iris
  7. Calla Lilly
  8. Morning Glory
  9. Rhododendron
  10. Tulip

Note: This is not a complete list. The Pet Poison Helpline offers an on-line poison list that includes plants.

4. Add Large planters to the mix

You can shield your potty area by placing large planters around the perimeter.

5. Privacy Screens

Privacy screens can also be used to hide your potty area from sight.

How to Get Your Dog to Use a the Potty Area?

So now that you have created this great potty area, how do you get your pup to use it? It’s easier than you think. Just follow these tips and they will be using it in no time.

  1. Clean up any poop in the rest of the yard.
  1. Start your training first thing in the morning, when you know they need to pee.
  1. Bring them out on a leash to the potty area. Give them the potty command and wait for them to go. Since they have not relieved themselves all night they will go quickly.
  1. Make sure to praise them for going in the potty area as soon as they start to go.
  1. For the first week or so each time your dog needs to go potty bring them out on a leash to your new potty area. Give them the go potty command.
  1. Praise them every time they use the potty area.
  1. Most dogs are smart and want to please so they should learn pretty quickly.
  1. If they do go in an area you don’t want them to, clean it up quickly.

If your puppy is not potty trained yet, check out our post on Potty Training a Puppy: Made Easy. Here we let you in on our tips and tricks for easy potty training. Our puppy potty trained in less than 2 weeks.

Dog Potty Accessories

Everyone likes to add a little something to make a space more special. Check out these accessories to make it a big hit with your dog.

Green Fire Hydrant

This antique replica fire hydrant is sure to please even the pickiest pup. Larger than the other two hydrants listed here, it stands 29 inches tall by 16 inches at the widest point. It’s heavy too at 32 lbs.

The green fire hydrant comes with two small tabs at the base that can be used to bolt the hydrant down.

You can find it at

Potty Area Sign

Want to make sure everyone knows where the potty area is? Simply place this sign at the entrance of your potty area. This 6×6 powder coated sign stands on a 2-inch aluminum post. This sign can be found at

Looking for some more dog friendly home ideas? Check out these posts.


Monday 17th of April 2023

Thanks for the article, and thanks to everyone who commented. I've read that ammonia will entice dogs to pee. Would spraying ammonia in the potty area regularly also prevent a build up of the smells that eventually cause dogs to not want to use the potty area anymore?


Monday 17th of April 2023

Hi Janice,

Thanks for reaching out. Ammonia is toxic to dogs. Here is an article from PetMd that talks about the dangers of Ammonia and other cleaners. Common Cleaning Products That Can Harm Your Pets



Monday 18th of April 2022

I have two dogs. Will they both go in the same potty area?


Tuesday 19th of April 2022


Thanks for stopping by. It will really depend on your dogs. Dogs like people have their own individual personalities, so it's impossible to know what they will do.

But most dogs want to go where another dog has already gone. Have you ever took your dog for a walk and they had to pee on every fire hydrant and post they see? That's because they smell another dog there.

So there is a good chance that they will use the same area. But two dogs using the same area will make the place dirty and smelly quickly. Although dogs want to go where others have gone, they don't want to step on poo. If it gets too smelly, even if you clean up all the poo, they will stop using it. Make sure you have a large enough area to accommodate both dogs.

Good luck


Rosanne Greco

Thursday 4th of November 2021

We live in northern Vermont and have a 12 pound, 8" tall Jack Russell Terrier. We have to shovel the snow in our back yard in order to get a spot for her to pee and poop. The photo of the CT leanto would work for us. We have a back deck on which we could attach it. Do you have (and/or can you sell us) the plans for building something like that. We do not want a glass top. All we are looking for is an enclosed area (without a floor) to block the snow (and rain).


Monday 8th of November 2021

Hi Rosanne,

If you click on the picture or the link right below it, you will be taken to There you will find more pictures of the project and also information on the company that built it.

Good luck with the build.

Thanks for visiting our site.



Monday 12th of July 2021

We have a yellow lab rescue who up to 14 months, lived in a outdoor kennel. For the past year while living with us, he REFUSES to pee or poop in our outdoor run… it’s attached to our garage, it’s entered thru our back door, we stand there with him, and it has a river rock base. We’ve tried washing the area, putting in a fake hydrant, and nothing. HELP please!


Sunday 18th of July 2021

Hi Joan,

I would try replacing the rock with grass. Although my pup will go on concrete or gravel, she prefers to have a softer material to poo on. Since your dog wasn't trained to go on the rocks as a puppy he may never come around to the idea.

Best of luck Bonnie


Saturday 1st of May 2021

Bonnie how do you “move” a potty area? If it’s full of mulch, landscape fabric, & the drainage rocks you mentioned? My spaniel has never regularly used hers - I’m trying to decide if I should move it only to realize not sure how. It’s in a good spot 16x4 but aft the first 3-4 uses she jumps around like it’s a poop land mine despite everything being picked up. Do I need to do fresh mulch weekly? Idk ??


Saturday 1st of May 2021

Hi Kay,

I am not sure if moving your potty area is the answer. Our dogs used the same area for years before we moved it. By the time we did decide to move it the straw or mulch was fairly decomposed so it was only a matter of cleaning the area than covering it with soil and seeding. New areas got new mulch and landscaping materials. Have you tried hosing down the area to clean away any small particles and smells that might be left behind? Where we are we get regular rain storms that keep things clean. If you are in a warmer, dryer climate the smells might be sticking around even if you are picking up the poop.

Best of Luck,