Dog Run Ideas: The Definitive Guide To Pet-Friendly Backyard Dog Potty Areas

Dog Run Ideas

All dogs — from the laziest Basset hound to the most athletic greyhound — need the chance to stretch their legs, run around, chase their tails, and play on a daily basis. 

Like humans, exercise helps dogs stay healthy throughout their lives, staving off problems like stiffness, fatigue, weight gain and its associated health problems.

But adequate exercise isn’t just a physical health need for dogs. 

Pups crave the mental stimulation that exercise gives them as well. 

Dogs that don’t get enough exercise can engage in destructive behavior (like digging or chewing), become hyperactive, or bark incessantly in response to this unmet need.

While most pet owners know this, they often struggle to meet the exercise requirements of their dogs.

Daily walks or trips to the dog park can be a challenge for busy families or in places with harsh weather. 

Fencing an entire backyard or hiring a daily dog walker can be prohibitively expensive. 

Even putting the dog out in a fenced backyard has its risks. 

What if the pup digs up the flowers? 

Or jumps the fence? 

Or dots the yard with brown urine spots?

Fortunately, there is a solution. 

You can build your pet a dog run, which will give your pooch a safe place to zoom around to his heart’s content—all while protecting your yard and your pocket book.

In this article, we’ll provide a ton of dog run ideas as well as the benefits of installing a dog run, the advantages and disadvantages of different types of dog runs, how to design one for your pet’s specific needs, and what materials you’ll need to construct the perfect play area for your pet.

Large Dog Run

What is a Dog Run?

A dog run is any dedicated outdoor space or structure for your pooch to run free, scratch, roll, and be her delightful canine self. 

You may hear it go by many different names like pet area, backyard dog kennel, dog potty area, etc., but these are the same thing in essence. 

Regardless of the design, dog runs don’t require you to supervise your dog. 

Rather, they’re pet-friendly enclosures made to keep pups safe and out of trouble. 

Dog runs protect your dog, as well as the other elements or occupants of the yard. 

Exercise is crucial for healthy, happy dogs. 

Some breeds even grow anxious or destructive without it and will dig, pace back and forth (creating ruts), or scratch to get the exercise they need. 

A dog run provides a designated area for your dog to run, play, and go to the bathroom without destroying your yard. 

Bear in mind that dog runs are intended to be temporary shelters and safe places for dogs to exercise. 

They’re NOT meant to house pets full-time. 

Dogs in two artificial grass dog runs

Why Should I Build A Backyard Dog Kennel or Designated Dog Potty Area?

While a dog run does require an initial investment of time and money, it offers numerous benefits to you and your canine pal: 

Creates an Enclosed Area 

If you lack a fenced backyard, your poor pup has no safe place to play. 

With an enclosed pet area, your pooch won’t be terrorized by neighbor’s dogs or kids (or won’t do the terrorizing) and will stay well away from dangers like moving cars, strange dogs, and other people. 

Your pet’s safety is a prime reason for spending the time and money creating a dog-friendly backyard.

Separates Dogs From Guests or Children

 Your yard plays hosts to a number of occupants: dogs, kids, and guests. 

However, having them all together at the same time often causes problems. 

Your labrador might be too energetic for your toddler to handle, accidentally knocking her over. 

The size or bark of your well-intentioned Great Dane may intimidate visitors, or perhaps your Chihuaua hasn’t yet learned not to jump up on dinner guests. 

In any of these situations, your dog would benefit from a separate, contained spot so he can be a part of the backyard BBQ without getting into trouble.

Prevents Your Dog from Ruining the Grass

Dogs are rough on grass.

Even if they’re not actively digging it up, their urine often builds up in the soil, leaving unsightly brown spots to dot the lawn. 

By dedicating a specific spot for a dog run, you limit where Fido can do his business, preserving the look of the rest of the landscaping. 

Contains Jumping, Digging, or Escape-Artist Dogs

Sometimes a normal backyard fence is inadequate to contain a dog who’s determined to wander the neighborhood. 

A dog run with a roof is just what athletic dogs need to get out their energy without risking them jumping the fence and escaping the safety of the yard. 

Provides a Designated Potty Area

Nobody enjoys the weekly “easter egg hunt” for dog poo in the yard. 

When you build your pup a dog run, she only has one place to “go,” which means you only have one place to clean up. 

Confining the doggy potty area to the dog run may also be an aid in potty training your dog.

Separates Problem Pets

Sometimes dogs in the same house don’t get along well and need to be separated. 

It may be a personality clash or territoriality, or you may want to prevent the accidental breeding of a female dog in heat.

Whatever the reason for the separation, having a dog run gives you options on how to situate your dogs for a happy, peaceful household.

Whatever your reasons for needing one, a dog run in your backyard is an excellent investment if you want your furry friend to have a safe place to enjoy and exercise while you are busy. 

Three Types of Dog Runs

Different Types of Dog Run Ideas

Like homes and parks, there are a variety of dog runs that meet a variety of canine needs. 

Some are simple and small, while others are large and elaborate. 

Which is right for you?

A number of factors will influence what design is best for you and your pup. 

Consider things such as:

  • The exercise requirements of your dog (your pet’s age, physical ability, and breed)
  • The size and number of your dogs
  • The size of your yard
  • The configuration of your yard (things like steep slopes, shade, existing structures, etc.)

Each of these will play into how large and complex your dog run should be. 

For the purposes of this post, we’ll be focusing on pet enclosures or outdoor dog kennels.

Before delving into how to construct a dog run, let’s explore the different varieties of dog runs available.

Simple Artificial Grass Dog Run Before & After

1. Simple and Practical Dog Run Ideas

This option is the most basic dog run design. 

It usually involves a small, fenced area for a dog to exercise and potentially potty train. 

It should be proportionate to the size and exercise needs of your dog—St. Bernards and great danes will naturally need bigger spaces than Basset hounds and shih tzus. 

A dog run doesn’t have to be big or complex for your dog to enjoy it. 

A simple design with four sides and a roof may be all your pup needs and can be constructed/installed in a short time.

Dog Run with Toys Obstacles & Challenges

2. Mentally-Stimulating Dog Run Ideas

Another added benefit of a dedicated dog run is to provide your pups with mentally-stimulating activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble. 

Some dogs aren’t compatible with dog toys—either the dog isn’t interested in the toys or the toys aren’t durable enough to withstand the dog’s teeth. 

If toys get chewed up, they can pose a choking hazard. 

Consider instead an area with items that will stimulate a dog’s senses to keep him occupied. 

This can be as simple as adding rocks and pet-friendly plants to create texture or as elaborate as installing ramps, hoops, or tires as a canine obstacle course.

Artificial Grass Dog Run in Large Backyard

3. Wide and Unrestricted Dog Run Ideas for Large Yards

Big dogs and hunting breeds require lots of daily exercise. 

Providing them with a large, unrestricted, open space to run and play will keep them from barking, chewing, digging, and destroying your yard. 

The more energy your dog burns while outside, the less energy it will have to destroy things when you bring it inside. 

Dogs that get the chance to run around a large yard are often more docile and cuddly when they come back in the house.

Small Dog Runs on Apartment Balconies

4. Dog Run Ideas for Small Spaces & Apartments

Even if your yard is tiny or you live in an apartment, you can create a small dog run for your furry friend with minimal space. 

For indoor or balcony dog runs, consider using artificial pet turf

It will simulate natural grass, give your pet a place to “go”, and require minimal maintenance on your part.  

Add toys, ramps, or obstacles to make the most of a small space. 

Backyard Dog Runs with Synthetic Grass

5. Enclosed Pet Area

Dog runs don’t have to be just for dogs. 

As long as the roof is high enough, their humans can join in the fun too! 

An enclosed pet area is a great place for you and your pup to interact, play, and enjoy each other’s company. 

By occasionally playing with your pup in the pet area, you establish it as a fun, positive place to be.

Using a pet area can also be a fantastic way to train young dogs. 

By training them in a single, enclosed area, you eliminate the option for the pup to wander off or get distracted by her surroundings. 

(As an added bonus, enclosed dog runs limit the distance you have to chase your pup’s tennis ball!)

Side-Yard Dog Run with Artificial Turf

6. Dog Run Ideas for Side-Yard

Many single-family homes have a long, narrow side-yard between the house and boundary fence. 

This otherwise wasted real estate is the perfect spot for a dog run.  

If this is an option for you, building a dog run could be as easy as putting a fence or gate at each end of the side yard. 

This simple dog run design has the added benefit of shade from the house.

Backyard Dog Run Design

How To Build A Backyard Dog Run?

Now that you’re familiar with the different options of dog run designs, let’s get down to how to construct the perfect place for your pooch. 

Your pet area can be small and simple, or large and complex, but taking the following steps will help your project proceed smoothly.

Finding The Perfect Spot in Your Yard

Step 1: Find the Perfect Spot in your Yard

Just like for humans, real estate for canines is all about location. 

Consider the configuration of your yard. 

Choose a spot that offers some natural shade to allow your dog to escape the heat of the Texas summer sun. 

If possible, avoid steep slopes that may erode under the high traffic of a running dog or be problematic for her to get up once she gets older. 

Also, be mindful of what is already in the spot you want to place the dog run. 

Certain grasses, plants, and mushrooms can be toxic to dogs, so steer clear of spots where these things are growing or have grown in the past. 

Don’t forget to avoid any buried power, gas, or plumbing lines as well.

Dog Size & Space Req. for Exercise

Step 2: Determine the Size of the Dog Run

The size of your dog run is largely determined by the size of your dog. 

The larger your dog, the more space it will need to get sufficient exercise. 

There isn’t a mathematical formula to calculate this, but the dog run should be long enough or large enough for your dog to turn around comfortably and run for several paces before reversing course. 

Your pup will likely use all of the space you give him (whether that’s a few square yards or an acre), though no dog will complain of having too much space to roam!

Dog Run Being Installed in Backyard

Step 3: Select a Design

You know your dog better than anyone. 

His needs and personality (as well as your personal choice) will school your choices for elements of a pet area. 

Make sure to select a design that meets your pup’s needs, as well as your own. 

You’ll also want to decide on whether to install a prefabricated pet enclosure or construct one yourself. 

Here are a few tips on choosing a dog run design.

Dog Run Ideas: The Definitive Guide To Pet-Friendly Backyard Dog Potty Areas 1

Things to Consider When Selecting a Dog Run Design

Regulations – Your town regulations or HOA rules may require you to obtain a permit prior to constructing your dog run depending on its height and size. Check with your local governing body to see if a permit is required for your design before you start to build.

Roofing – If your dog is a jumper or a climber, be sure to add a roof or top panel to your dog run. Even docile, small dogs will benefit from a roof as it will deter threats from any wild animals (coyotes, raccoons or foxes) that may roam your area.

Access – Take practical usage into consideration as you plan out your dog run. If you plan on placing the enclosure adjacent to an exterior door that has a doggie door, design the run to be tall enough for you to conveniently use the door to access the area. 

Height – You’ll probably need to enter the dog run at some point to clean it or check on your dog. Make the area tall enough so you can do so without crawling or stooping. Even if your dog is short, make sure the pet area accommodates human guests as well.

Lock – Smart, agile dogs may be able to manipulate a simple latch. Choose a locking mechanism that makes it easy for you to get in but hard for your dog to get out. Place it high enough on the gate so your dog will have a tough time getting to it.

Portable Dog Run

Portable Dog Runs 

Portable dog runs come with many benefits. 

They are quick to install and relatively inexpensive. 

If your dog starts to wear down the grass in one spot, you can move the dog run to give the grass a chance to recover (though you’ll be stuck with a brown spot in the meantime). 

However, portable dog runs are less durable than permanent ones and may be structurally insufficient to contain large or athletic dogs. 

They also tend to detract from the beauty of your backyard.

Built-In Dog Run in Backyard

Built-In Dog Runs

Unlike a portable pet area, a built-in dog run is a functional part of the landscaping, so it blends in better aesthetically. 

Though they require more time and money initially than portable dog runs, they don’t ever need to be moved, and they can be built strong enough to contain the largest and most active of dogs. 

Fence Being Installed for Dog Run

Step 4: Selecting Dog Run Fencing

Second to the overall design, the most critical component of your dog run will be the fencing material. 

Choose fencing that will be sturdy enough to stand up to the inevitable chewing, pawing, jumping, and climbing that your dog will do. 

If your dog is a digger, be sure your fence goes down far enough or has a concrete foundation to prevent her from escaping the enclosure.

Chain Link Fencing

Chain link fencing is one of the most popular choices for fencing in pet areas due to its affordability and durability. 

It’s also see-through, so you can see what your dog is up to. 

Despite its many benefits, some people dislike the look of chain link fencing. 

However, this can be improved by painting the fence or using plastic or bamboo privacy slats if desired.

Metal Fencing Around Dog Run

Metal Fencing

Using higher-end metal fencing gives your dog run a classier look. 

Opting for a wrought iron fence elevates the dog run from a functional area to an ornamental feature of your backyard landscape. 

Metal fences are pricey, however, and without repainting, they will corrode over time. 

If you go with a metal option, be sure the fencing doesn’t have gaps wide enough for your dog’s head to fit through or fancy features like scrollwork that could scrape or poke the dog by accident.

Wood Fencing

Wood Fencing

Many people opt for the natural, beautiful look of wood fencing. 

Wood is easy to obtain and work with, and it’s a fairly inexpensive material. 

Be mindful, however, that wood isn’t as durable as some other building materials. 

It deteriorates quickly from rain and sun. 

Additionally, your dog will probably scratch or chew the wood. 

Large dogs that repeatedly jump on wooden fencing can also compromise the integrity of the fence over time. 

Using wood fencing can be a good option in the right circumstances. 

Be sure whatever stain or paint you use is non-toxic to dogs (in case of accidental ingestion). 

Also, make your wooden fence strong enough to withstand the wear and tear from your pooch. 

Plastic Coated Wire Fencing

Plastic-Coated Wire Fencing

This type of fencing strikes a nice balance between the pros and cons of the fences mentioned above. 

It’s an attractive option that provides the durability dogs require while looking much better than chain link fencing. 

It’s also more affordable than wooden fencing.

Dog Running & Playing on Pet-Friendly Ground Cover

Step 5: Install Pet-Friendly Ground Cover

Now that you’ve picked the walls and ceiling for your dog run, you need to choose what goes on the floor. 

You may be able to build a dog run on existing ground cover if it is safe for your pet and allows for proper drainage. 

Here are the six most common dog run ground cover options to consider:

  • Natural Grass
  • Wood Chips or Mulch
  • Gravel
  • Concrete
  • Paving Stones
  • Artificial Grass
Dog Run Natural Grass Ground Cover

Natural Grass

Although grass is safe for dogs, maintaining natural grass would be exceptionally difficult in a designated pet area. 

The ruts and brown spots caused by dogs in the run would be impossible to prevent. 

Also, mowing grass inside a pet area will be difficult at best. 

There would be no way to fertilize or treat the grass without endangering or removing your dog. 

On the other hand, waste clean up is fairly easy on natural grass. 

A poop scoop and a garden hose once a week are enough to keep a grassy pet area clean.

Dog Run Wood Chips or Mulch Ground Cover

Wood Chips / Mulch

Wood chips and mulch are popular choices for ground cover in dog runs. 

Mulch is aesthetically pleasing, relatively inexpensive, and is easy to spread out with a rake if it clumps up. 

It does have downsides, though, including build-up of bacteria and urine, which is difficult to rinse out of wood chips completely. 

Dog Run Small Pebbles Ground Cover

Gravel / Small Pebbles

Gravel makes for a durable ground cover in a pet area. 

However, in the Texas summer heat, gravel can become too hot for pets if it’s in direct sunlight for much of the day. 

Pebbles can also be hard on puppy paws, getting stuck between the pads. 

Gravel can also be hard to contain, spreading to other areas of the yard.

Dog Run w Concrete Ground Cover


Concrete has many benefits as a ground cover in dog runs. 

It’s durable and easy to clean by rinsing with a hose. 

But similar to gravel, the Texas sun can make a concrete pad extremely unpleasant or dangerous for your dog. 

Dog Run With Paving Stone Ground Cover

Paving Stones

Paving stones split the difference between the benefits of concrete/gravel and grass. 

Paving stones are nicer-looking than concrete, but they’re more expensive and they’ll still heat up in the sun. 

Paving stones can be interspersed with grass, giving your dog some reprieve from the heat, and they’re easy to clean.

The grass will be difficult to maintain, however.

Dog Run With Artificial Grass from Ideal Turf

Artificial Grass

Artificial grass has gained a lot of popularity as ground cover in recent years—both inside and outside dog runs. 

One of the most common residential artificial turf applications is in dog runs and designated dog potty areas.

It’s easy to see why. 

Fake grass for dogs has the springy feeling and beautiful, natural look of grass, but it isn’t susceptible to ruts or brown patches like a regular lawn. 

Artificial turf dog run cleaning & maintenance doesn’t require any of the expensive lawn care equipment that natural grass does; just spray it down once a week, and you’re good to go.

It’s durable enough to withstand the wear and tear from running, playing dogs (just fluff it with a rake occasionally to prevent matting). 

And most importantly, contrary to popular artificial grass misconceptions, it’s safe for pets AND kids.

An added bonus is that artificial grass is an environmentally friendly alternative to natural grass.

Two of our best artificial grass products for use in a dog run are Aberdeen 84 and Dog’s Choice

To learn more about pet-friendly artificial grass, we put together a buyer’s guide to the best artificial grass for dogs.

Aberdeen 84

Aberdeen 84 is equipped with our proprietary DUAL FLOW drainage technology. An 84-ounce beautiful, lush, and soft natural grass replacement that’s 1.125″ tall featuring delustered and UV stabilized Summer Blend grass blades with Green and Tan thatch that combine to create the perfect artificial grass solution at an affordable price point.

Dog Run Ideas: The Definitive Guide To Pet-Friendly Backyard Dog Potty Areas 2

Dundee 77

Standing at 1” pile height Dundee 77 is the perfect solution for your lawn & landscape needs. Pet friendly, Microbe-Safe™ antimicrobial backing, and DUAL FLOW drainage set this turf apart and make it a popular choice for dog owners. Manufactured in the USA, Dundee 77 is backed by a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty. Your pets will love the lush and realistic feel of Dundee 77 artificial grass.

Dundee 77 turf product sample with center raised in an arch

Both turf products have a short pile height, which allows for easy cleanup; solid pet waste stays on the top of the short turf. 

These two varieties of pet turf also have top-rated, antimicrobial, fully permeable, and hole-punched backings that allow dog urine and water to drain through easily at a rate of over 2,000 inches per hour.

Our Microbe-Safe™ antimicrobial protection technology is infused into the backing of our turf products and will help to prevent the build-up of microbes and odor-causing bacteria.

Like concrete, gravel, or stone, a problem with artificial grass is that it can heat up in the Texas summer. 

To prevent the temperature of artificial grass from getting too high in the sun, consider using T°Cool® Infill which lowers surface temps by 30° – 50°F through the process of evaporative cooling.

You can also keep the pet turf cool by making sure the dog run is in a naturally shady spot.

Dog Run With Shaded Area

Step 6: Add or Create Shade for your Pup

Consider adding some type of shade to the play area so your dog can escape the Texas heat or a passing rainstorm. 

You may be able to accomplish this by strategically designing the pet area near existing shade from trees, fences, covered patios, or the house. 

If this isn’t possible in your yard, you may have to create a roofed portion of the dog run to ensure the safety and comfort of your dog on hot days.

Three dogs walking together on artificial grass

Wrapping Up “Dog Run Ideas”

Creating a dog run in your backyard provides your furry friend with a safe, comfortable place to run and play outdoors while giving you the peace of mind that she isn’t destroying the lawn, digging up the flowers, or terrorizing the guests. 

Constructing a dog run can be a simple weekend project or an elaborate puppy palace—whatever works for you. 

Choose features and materials that support your dogs needs. 

Fencing should be strong enough to withstand any digging, chewing, or jumping behavior and the ground cover should be easy to clean, cool enough for puppy paws, and low maintenance. 

If you’re considering installing pet-friendly artificial grass in your dog run, we recommend you explore our website a bit. 

There are a lot of specifics to understand about artificial grass, and the first step to creating a flawless, maintenance-free lawn is to educate yourself on the many features and options available. 

Learn about: 

We have artificial turf products for every situation, free quotes, and world-class customer support.

Let’s get an expert on your side to help you put together the perfect installation plan. 

We have teams of the best artificial grass installers located throughout Texas and in Oklahoma. 

At Ideal Turf, we truly believe artificial grass is worth the money, and we are happy to help you explore this decision by answering any of your questions before buying turf.

You can get a FREE design and installation estimate or you can give our team of experts a call at 800-204-4650.

Tim Taylor is an industrial engineer and entrepreneur with years of hands-on experience in the synthetic turf industry. As a member of the Synthetic Turf Council, he dedicates his time, energy, and resources to finding real solutions to real problems for synthetic turf products and installation processes.

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