Best Materials For Dog Toilet & Outdoor Potty Area

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There could be a number of reasons you want an outdoor dog potty area in your yard.

Maybe you want to protect your lawn which is getting damaged or turning yellow/brown from dog urine.

Maybe you want to stop your yard smelling of pet odors.

Or, maybe you want to make clean up time easier and to segregate dog poop to one area of the yard.

Regardless of your reasons, putting in a bit of time now to set up a potty area can save you some mess, smell and clean up time later on.

We’ve put together a list of the best materials for an outdoor dog toilet area in the guide below.

You might also want to check out this guide on how to make an outside dog potty area we put together earlier. (although we also give a pretty good outline in the guide below)

Let’s take a look …

 

(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)

 

Best Materials For Dog Toilet & Outdoor Potty Area

As a summary, the list of materials mentioned in this guide are:

– Soil as the base of the potty area

Soil should be freshened up by being raked and turned, and then being levelled out and compacted. Some people choose to bring in new soil, or mix/blend in some new soil with the existing soil

 

– Weed proof barrier on top of the soil

A wee barrier like ECOgardener Weed Barrier Fabric (on Amazon), or use a burlap liner

Some people don’t bother with a barrier, but it can be good for the long term if you don’t want weeds and other pest plants growing up through your dog potty area

 

– An edging, border or barrier around the potty area

Something like Dimex Plastic Landscaping Edging (on Amazon), Master Mark Plastics Landscaping Edging (on Amazon), or another type of edging might work

Some people choose a more decorative garden fencing border

The choice of edging is up to you – there’s really many choices you can go with. 

Edging is both for appearance, and to keep the potty area fill inside the edging, so choose something that works for you

You might like to choose a material that you can bury into the ground for extra stability

 

– A drainage material 

Usually some type of rock or stone material that has plenty of space between them to allow urine to drain and move properly

Goes under the filler but over the soil and weed barrier

 

– A potty area filler material

Goes over the weed barrier and drainage layer, and inside the edging

Pea gravel is a common choice – as long as it’s smooth enough for your dog to walk and do their business on, gravel tends to be good at drainage, doesn’t absorb odors and tends to look pretty good

It’s also fairly affordable and easy to replace.

An example of some pea gravel that has landscaping use is Maynooth Natural Granite Mini Pea Gravel (on Amazon)

Some types of stones and pebbles are a similarly common choice.

An example of some decorative polished gravel/river pebbles that has a landscaping use are Royal Imports Gravel/Pebbles (on Amazon)

Mulch, sand or artificial grass are some other choices people might go with

Like the barrier, the filler choice is up to you.

You can always clean up, remove and replace the filler later if you don’t like it initially

 

*Note – if you’re unsure about the texture, size, appearance or other features of filler material, go into a store and inspect and feel it before you buy.

 

– Any other decorative materials

Some people choose to finish off their potty area with decorative materials

Might include a sign, a matt, a stone path to the potty area, a decorative potty area fence, and so on.

 

– Other items and materials you might need

Tape measure, string/chalk (or something else to mark on the soil), shovel, rake, wheelbarrow, rock pick, soil compacting tool, a cutting tool, and so on

 

* A note on different materials – going to an outdoor/gardening store or nursery in your area, inspecting and feeling materials for yourself, and getting the advice of knowledgeable experts can be very helpful for selecting materials

You might also like to do an online search beforehand to find materials and layout/designs you like the look of (and that might suit your yard), so you have an idea of what you’re looking for for your dog potty area.

Consider your dog’s needs in the process too.

 

Soil

You’re going to have to have an area clear where you’ll make the dog toilet/potty area.

Choose an area ideally away from the house, or away from commonly trafficked/walked areas (like pathways) so smell isn’t an issue for people walking past.

Once you’ve chosen an area, make sure there aren’t any underground conduits or objects like pipes before digging.

Then, roughly mark out on the soil where the potty area will be.

Next, you’ll want to clear the soil of weeds, rocks and other undesirable material. You can use a rake and pick.

Next you’ll want to precisely mark out your border area, and turn the soil inside that border line over, and air it out. 

Now you have your area marked out, cleared, dug (to a depth that can fit the weed barrier, drainage material, and fill) etc – this is also your chance to bring in new soil, and blend or mix the existing soil with new soil if you want to.

Get the base sorted, and make sure you level it out/compact it afterwards.

 

Weed Proof Barrier

Secondly, you’ll want to keep the dog toilet area free from weeds.

To do this you can lay down some black plastic weed barrier that is permeable to let through air and water and urine – such as ECOgardener Weed Barrier Fabric (on Amazon).

Or, some people put down a biodegradable option such as newspaper or biodegradable landscaping fabric, or a burlap liner.

This barrier goes on top of the soil to whatever depth you dig/level out your potty area to.

 

Dog Toilet Area Edging/Border

Now that you have the base and barrier down, you’ll need to enclose the area.

The choice of edging is up to you.

It usually serves a decorative purpose, but also needs to mark the area and keep in the potty filler material.

You can either use landscaping edging with stakes which is inexpensive (and good for circle toilet areas), or for square and rectangular potty areas, you can also use some treated 2 x 4 that is suitable for outdoors.

Commercial edging available is Dimex Plastic Landscaping Edging (on Amazon) or Master Mark Plastics Landscaping Edging (on Amazon).

Some people make their own small fencing borders.

You can bury the edging/border a certain depth into the ground for stability.

 

Drainage Material

Goes on top of the soil and weed barrier.

You need drainage material that doesn’t absorb liquid so urine can drain properly.

Some type of small landscaping or garden rocks or stones usually do well as drainage material.

 

Dog Toilet Area Filler Material (Rounded, Smooth Pea Gravel Can Be A Good Idea)

The filler is what your dog will go potty on, and is the material that sits on the top of the potty area. It’s what you see on the surface.

Filler needs to fill the depth of the potty area – 2 to 4 inches might be a good depth for some fillers – but, determine a depth for yourself that looks right to you.

Filler should look good, be comfortable for you dog to walk on (being smooth and soft enough helps), and have decent drainage ability.

 

Pea Gravel is one of the most popular choices.

Pea gravel is easy to clean and tends to stay in the one place.

It looks good, and pea gravel tends to come in small enough stones that are round and smooth on foot.

It also tends not to be affected by the sun or rain.

It’s probably easiest and cheapest to pick it up, or get it delivered from your local gardening or landscaping store.

An example of some pea gravel that has landscaping use is Maynooth Natural Granite Mini Pea Gravel (on Amazon)

Some types of stones and pebbles are a similarly common choice.

An example of some decorative polished gravel/river pebbles that has a landscaping use are Royal Imports Gravel/Pebbles (on Amazon)

 

Apart from pea gravel, have a few options:

 

Leave Soil As Is

If you fill/blend the inside area with soil, you can technically leave it as is. 

Although, like sand, it can get messy and muddy when it gets wet.

Some people also think this approach doesn’t look good aesthetically.

 

Sand

Some people complain about sand because it can get stuck on your dog’s feet and they can bring it inside the house.

When it rains, it can also get mushy.

 

Mulch

There’s different types of mulches you can buy from the garden store – so, it depends on the type of mulch you buy.

 

Some mulch benefits might include …

Mulch tends to be natural (chunks of wood or bark), so it will naturally break down over time, and it’s super easy to dispose of if you want to change it out for new mulch.

Dark mulch is also great for hiding urine and poop marks.

Mulch with no fines might be best for airflow and drainage.

Make sure the layer of mulch is no more than 2 to 4 inches.

 

Some of the drawbacks to mulch might include …

Mulch can contribute to conditions that encourage the growth of fungi, and also anaerobic conditions or waterlogged conditions for surrounding soil and plants or grass.

Mulch can get moist, warm and sometimes moldy in the wrong conditions.

 

Other notes on mulch:

Don’t use mulch your dog is likely to eat, or mulches that can be toxic to dogs if ingested like cocoa mulch.

Don’t use mulches that can be harmful for dogs to come into contact with with their skin.

Some people use safe and environmentally shredded barks or wood chips.

 

Artificial Grass

Some people choose to simply put down artificial grass inside the dog toilet area.

You can buy very affordable strips of artificial grass like the Pet Zen Garden Artificial Turf (on Amazon) and replace it as required if it starts to smell or stain.

Some owners note about this approach though:

a) their dog doesn’t like the feel of artificial grass under their feet

b) artificial grass and portable dog potties can be difficult and unhygenic to clean

c) bigger dogs might have issues peeing and pooping on small patches of artificial grass or small portable dog potties

However, some people find this approach works well for them and their situation.

 

A general note with the filler … 

Dark soil or dark crushed rounded stone, and filler that is solid and doesn’t move a lot, is usually best as filler as you can’t see poop marks and it’s easy to pick the poop up when it dries.

You want a filler that also looks nice, and is comfortable for your dog to walk on.

Make sure to turn over/air out, or dispose of filler (and lay down new filler) to keep filler fresh, especially if the existing filler becomes smelly, or for any reason undesirable.

Non absorbent filler like gravel and stones usually don’t have this problem though.

 

Changing The Fill Material After Your Dog Potty Area Is Set Up

If you’re worried about picking the wrong fill material, you probably shouldn’t be.

If your dog doesn’t like using it or there is a problem with it, it’s pretty easy to remove it, and re-fill the area with a new fill material.

Test different fillers and see which one works best practically, but also choose one that your dog finds comfortable.

You might like to do a test patch before you make the potty area for your dog to walk on to see if they like it.

 

Remember To Train Your Dog To Use The Potty Area, & To Clean It Regularly As Required

After the potty area is finished, you have to train your dog to use it.

Positive reinforcement treat training can be a good idea. 

You want to reinforce the behavior when your dog uses the area – so you may need to lead them to it. A leash works well for this.

You might have a regular time your dog goes potty – like for example when people let their dog outside in the morning or night. This might be a good time to do potty area training.

Bring treats out with you to the area.

When your dog uses the area – reward them with a treat and praise them (try not to overfeed them though if you are doing heavy training).

You will also need to clean (and possibly deodorize) the area as often as required.

You might choose to change out the filler material every so often if it’s getting old or dirty/smelly.

 

‘How To’ Video Examples Of Making An Outdoor Dog Potty Area

Here’s a few video examples of outdoor dog potty areas:

Outdoor Litter Box For Dogs

DIY Outdoor Potty Area For Dogs

DIY Backyard Dog Litter Box

 

Is Your Dog Still Peeing & Pooping On Your Lawn Or Grassed Area Even Though You’ve Made A Designated Dog Potty Area For Them?

Even fully trained dogs might still go potty on the lawn/on your grass 10 or 20% of the time. So, you might have to make peace with this.

You might like to read this guide which outlines additional tips for how you might keep your dog off your lawn.

This guide also outlines general lawn care principles and considerations for dog owners.

Consider engaging with a dog trainer if you want extra help with doggy behaviors and habits around the yard.

 

Other Options – Other Than Making A Custom Outdoor Potty Area

You have several other options:

 

Using The Garden

A common approach for some dog owners.

Some owners are OK with their dog walking around in, and doing their business in the garden – as long as it’s not a feature garden bed that you want kept to a certain standard.

Urine will soak into the soil, and poop will either decompose naturally or you can pick it up once a week with your pooper scooper or shovel.

Smell can be a problem if you don’t tend to the garden and pick up the poop periodically.

Just make sure that if you have flowers or plants you don’t want dying that you don’t let your dog pee on or near them, as the excess nitrogen and salts in the dog’s nitrogen might burn the flower or plant roots.

 

An Unmarked Patch Of Soil

It’s pretty easy to keep a patch of free and clear soil somewhere around your house – you don’t have to border it and fill it like what is listed above.

It could be behind the bushes in your front yard so it’s obscured from view, or around the side of the house where no one frequently sees and you don’t need or want to grow flowers and plants there.

Leave a patch or space of soil free somewhere and lead your dog out on a leash to this space first thing every time you let your dog out of the house in the morning, and when you get home from work.

Bring treats out with you and feed your dog a treat and praise them if you see them go potty there.

The best part about this approach is it’s super easy and quick to clean up once a week with a pooper scooper

 

An Unmarked Real Or Disposable Patch Of Grass

Some owners prefer this option.

If you want to preserve the lawns and grassed areas that you and your visitors or neighbours most look at, a grassed or dirt area to the side of the main lawn, or to the side of the house are good options.

Obviously this grass is going to start going patchy/dead, and won’t keep it’s appearance like the above fillers will.

The other option is disposable grass patches.

Depending on how often your dog uses the grass, you might replace it every few weeks or month/s.

As long as you don’t mind the cost to replace to grass patch every so often, this can be a better option than the artificial grass option for dogs that don’t like the feel of artificial grass, and for owners that don’t want to worry about cleaning up.

The DoggieLawn Disposable Dog Potty Real Grass Patch (on Amazon)  is a popular option.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for your article. I have a dog that’s getting older. He has back issues and problems climbing stairs/lifting rear legs. I want to make an easy to access dog area. I bought 2 kiddie pools but can’t really decide how/or with what to fill it. I was thinking of sand but many sites discourage it. Now I’m looking into your idea of wood chips or gravel. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. THANKS!

    • Did you ever end up doing this with the kiddie pools? Make sure that you put lots of holes in the bottom of the kiddie pool for good drainage. You don’t want it filling up with water, pee, or doodoo. I would fill it with pea gravel. “Pee Gravel” It’s like they made it purposefully for this very thing. But yeah fill it with pea gravel and you should be able to hose it down to wash down the waste, and I think bleach water once in a while will keep it sanitary and keep it from smelling bad.

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