Skip to Content

Dog Potty Area Guide: Tips and Ideas

Post updated 01/10/2022 – So maybe you just brought home a new puppy or dog.

Or maybe you are tired of looking at the yellow burn marks on your lawn.

Either way a designated dog potty area can help you keep your yard and house clean.

Not to mention the fact that it will help you potty train your puppy quicker.

Join us as we take a look at what you need to think about before creating your own potty area.

Plus we will show you examples of how people included a potty area into their yards.

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.

With our pup Molly we simply craved out a piece of the backyard that was easily accessible. To do this we put up a low fence to separate her area from the rest of the yard.

Dog Potty Area Guide: Tips and Ideas cover picture

Our potty area would not win a design award but it did serve our purpose and it was low cost.

In the pictures below 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.

Outdoor dog potty area with fencing and turf
Custom Dog Run Photo by Buzz Custom Fence on Houzz.com

Now their pug can easily access his potty spot through a doggy door in the homes wall. Below is another picture of the same yard. Here you can see how the backyard was divided between family space and potty space.

Backyard divided up between family space and dog run.
Custom Dog Run Photo by Buzz Custom Fence on Houzz.com

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 materials around it you are still leaving some poop particles behind.

Than 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; 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 a area that is off limits to the kids.

In addition to have a designated potty area outside you may also want to have a dog room inside. Check out our newest post from Dog at Home- Dog Room Ideas – The newest Trend in Dog Care

What to Consider When Creating a Dog Potty Area

1. Where should you place a 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 going poo 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 is 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 also sloped away from your house and other areas you plan to use.   Otherwise you may get pee runoff near your living areas.

If you live in an apartment or simply don’t have a large yard these potty are ideas may not work for you. If that is the case check out our post on Dog Patio Ideas – For Small Spaces

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 pup.

Dog potty area with turff
Dog Area Photo by Green Toe Turf on Houzz.com

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’x8′ for a medium sized pup. At a minimum it should be big enough so they can do a few circles before pooping.

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. What should you put in a 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

Dog Potty Area Guide: Tips and Ideas Happyoodles,com image urine burns on lawn

Grass is the easiest and possibly the cheapest ground cover for a doggy potty area. 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.

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 are taught to do their business in the grass. Plus I am sure the grass feels better on their feet. But you can teach a dog to go on any surface that is not a discomfort to them.

Dogs will even go on concrete. After going to doggy day care a few times one of our dogs thought it was ok to poop in the garage. It was concrete just like the daycare.

Gravel

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 gravel will be easier on your pups feet but also washes away easier. We have a gravel driveway that our small pup Bella will go in. She has no issues about doing her business there, but prefers the grass.

Note: Don’t choose any type of rocks 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 for easy access.

Outdoor dog potty with gravel and grass.
Gravel Dog Run Photo by Tryon Homes, LLC on Houzz

Pea Gravel

Pea Gravel is a good alternative to regular gravel because of its small, smooth pebbles. It will not hurt your pups 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 used to have a Golden Retriever Rescue that would play with the river rocks as if they were balls. I was always afraid that he would swallow one. We ended up having to removed from the yard.

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

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

Mulch is a good, inexpensive option. Much like the 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 potty area. They worked out fine.

Two white dogs on woodchip dog run
Dog Run with wood chips. Photo by Pat Bernard Design, Inc.Houzz.com

If you choose to use mulch in your potty area, look for undyed 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.

Another concern with artificial grass is that it can get hot if the weather is hot.

Picture of a black dog on artificial Grass
Artificial Turf – Photo by PlushGrass Custom Synthetic Turf on Houzz

4. 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.

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, than added mulch. In the picture below they used an edging block to separate the pebbles from the grass.

Dog Friendly Back Yard Photo by Calafia Design

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.

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 window can be opening on nice days to let fresh air in. There is also a dog door from the house.

Covered dog run Photo by RoSal Enterprises on Houzz

5. 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. 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.

As an Amazon Associate I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

6. How to make your dog potty area attractive?

When I first wrote this post I focused on the practical elements of creating a potty area. You know like what types of material are best and where to locate it. But after thinking about the idea for a while I realized that I left out an important piece of what goes into a potty area. That is making the potty area attractive. This is especially important if you have a small backyard.

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

1. Decorative fencing

Fencing can solve two important issues in the potty area. First it contains the area to inside the fence. Second it can make the area nicer to look at. Here are two fence ideas that are available on Amazon.com.

Zippity Outdoor Products – Newport Fence on Amazon.com
Zippity Outdoor Products – Madison Vinyl Picket Fence on Amazon.com

2. Seating

Having a place to sit might not be the first thing you think of when creating a dog 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.

Vineyard 60″ Bench in black

Description from Amazon.com

  • 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.

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

So now that you 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. This one is gross, but if your pup has eliminated elsewhere pick it up and place it in the potty area. Dogs will go where they smell poo.
  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. 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. 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 will show you our tips and trick for easy potty training

Dog Potty Accessories

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

Fire Hydrant Pee Spot

If you have a dog, you know that dogs like to pee on stuff to mark their territory. So why not give them something in their potty area that allows them to do just that. The Lulind Fire Hydrant is made from resin and is hand painted with UV resistant paint. At just 14″ tall it is a little on the short side compared to a real fire hydrant but the dogs don’t seem to mind. This fire hydrant comes with plastic stakes to secure it into the ground. Since it is made from resin it won’t rust like some of the other more expensive Doggy fire hydrants. You can find the Lulind Fire Hydrant at Amazon.com

Toscano Fire Hydrant Statue

If the Lulind Fire Hydrant is too small, the 23″ high Toscano Fire Hydrant Statue may be a better choice for you. This hand-crafted fire hydrant is made from real metal construction and hand-painted with a vintage rustic red color for an aged appearance. Per the manufacturer “Customer should apply Rust preventative product if keeping outside.” Based on reviews it sounds like this fire hydrant will fade and rust if not properly maintained. You can find the Toscano Fire Hydrant Statue at Amazon.com.

Potty Area Sign

Want to make sure everyone knows where the dog potty area is? Simply place this sing at the entrance of the space. The 6″x6″ powder coated aluminum sign stands on a 2′ aluminum post. This sign can be found at Amazon.com

Looking for some more dog friendly home ideas? Then check out these posts:

Are You Looking For A Rescue Dog To Adopt?

Here are some resources to help you with your search

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).

Bonnie

Monday 8th of November 2021

Hi Rosanne,

If you click on the picture or the link right below it, you will be taken to Houzz.com. 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.

Bonnie

Joan

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!

Bonnie

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

Kay

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 ??

Bonnie

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,

Bonnie

Michelle L

Thursday 24th of September 2020

How do you keep the potty spot fresh smelling for them????? I scoop poop daily and use sprinkler for urine. Our area is about 6'x12' and is mostly dirt since the urine has killed all of the grass there. Lately my dogs are not wanting to use the spot. I

Bonnie

Thursday 24th of September 2020

Hi Michelle,

Thank you for bringing up this topic. If you are repeatedly use the same area, overtime the dogs will stop using it. Even if you are cleaning it up daily, it’s not possible to clean it completely. This means there are “smells” from the poop particles that are left behind, especially if there is no grass.

We move our “potty spot” every so often to keep the area fresh. Plus we use straw or mulch that can be removed to “clean” the area. You don’t mention how many dogs you have but I would suggest that you designate a larger area and then divide it in two. Use only the new part of the area for a while, then when the dogs stop using it move to the unused area. That will allow the first used area time to rest. I would plant grass during the rest period to help freshen up the area.

I hope this helps.

Bonnie

Sweet Purrfections

Tuesday 4th of August 2020

Great post! My parents set aside a small potty area for their dog and it's working well