Post updated 03/31/2023– If you have ever owned a dog you know that dogs will do their business pretty much anywhere. In the house, on the lawn, 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 a dog potty area you can keep the rest of your yard and home 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. Many of the pictures in this post are on the elaborate side.
However, with our pup Molly we simply craved out a piece of the backyard that was easily accessible and separate by a fenced from the rest of the yard. Our current pup prefers a section all the way at the back of our yard.
While neither of our potty areas would not win a design award, they 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.
Now their pug can easily access his potty spot through a doggy door in the home’s wall. Below is another picture of the same yard. Here you can see how the backyard was divided between family space and potty space.
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.
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; 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 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.
- Convenience – Place your doggy potty space in a convenient location with easy access for you and your dog.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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 10’x10′ for a medium sized pup.
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 dirty 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. 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 is the easiest and possibly 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 first potty area. They worked out fine.
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 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.
Did you know that there are self-service dog washing stations in many of the pet supply store across the country? You an learn more at our post “Self Serve Dog Wash Station: Where to find One”
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, than added mulch.
In the picture below they used an edging block to separate the pebbles from the grass.
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 windows can be opening on nice days to let fresh air in. There is also a dog door from the house.
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.
As an Amazon Associate and Etsy.com affiliate I can earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
6. How to make your 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Bird of Paradise
- Calla Lilly
- Morning Glory
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 place placing large planters on the perimeter.
Veradek Block Series Short Indoor/Outdoor Span Planter available at Amazon.com
Plantercraft Corten Steel Metal Planter Box- Available at Amazon.com
5. Privacy Screens
Easy to install privacy screens can be used to hide your potty area from site. The ones listed before are staked into the ground for easy installation.
Enclo Privacy Screens – Wood – Available at Amazon.com
Enclo Privacy Screens – WoodTek Vinyl Available at Amazon.com
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.
- 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.
- Clean up any poop in the rest of the yard.
- 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.
- 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.
- Praise them every time they use the potty area.
- Most dogs are smart and want to please so they should learn pretty quickly.
- 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
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.
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.
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 Etsy.com
Potty Area Sign
Want to make sure everyone knows where the dog potty area is? Simply place this sign at the entrance of your dog potty area. This 6×6 powder coated sign stands on a 2 inch aluminum post. This sign can be found at Etsy.com
Looking for some more dog friendly home ideas? Check out these posts.
- Dog Patio Ideas – For Small Spaces
- The Best Dog Beds Made in the USA
- Gone to the Dogs – Dog Friendly Home Designs
- Home Office – Making Space for Your Furry Friend
- Boredom Busters for Dogs: 15 Ways to Entertain Your Dog
Are You Looking For A Rescue Dog To Adopt?
Here are some resources to help you with your search
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,