How to Make a Dog Run – Flooring, Fencing, Dog House & Shade

Picture of a dog outside in fenced area

Whether you’re looking to create a space that is safe for your dog to run in or simply want to preserve your grass, adding a dog run to your backyard can be an excellent idea. Many people believe that a fenced in yard will meet all of their dog’s activity needs. However, sometimes, having a space for Fido to call all his own can really come in handy; particularly, if he is the type of pooch known for destructive behaviors like digging or has a penchant for escapism. Building a dog run in your yard is also an effective means to keep your gardens protected. It can also be used as a potty area to keep pet mess contained to one specific area for easy cleanup. If a dog run has become a part of your future plans for your pooch, it will be important to understand all of the how-to’s to accomplish this goal.

What is the Best Location for My Dog Run?

Once you’ve decided to add a dog run to your property, the next step will be determining the best location for it. The ideal locale for a dog run is an area that allows you to provide supervision when needed without too much inconvenience. But at the same time, the run should be situated in a place in the yard that is away from high traffic areas if you do a fair bit of entertaining and prefer to keep your dog separate from your guests.

Another important consideration for the location of your dog run is whether or not you prefer your dog to have the liberty of entering and exiting your home whenever the mood strikes. If you plan to allow Fido access to his dog run when you are out for the day, it may be a wise idea to consider adding a dog door specifically for your pooch to use, so the main entrance to your home can remain securely closed and locked in your absence.

Another excellent option for the placement of a dog run is a section of the yard that sits at the extreme end of the property, and that is currently unused. Since these areas are typically already fenced on two sides, they allow for real cost savings when it comes to both maximizing space and new fencing materials to safely enclose the dog run.

Here are some important things to bear in mind when considering the perfect spot to place your new enclosure:

  • Shade

Since your dog will be in the great outdoors throughout all four seasons, it will be important to ensure that there is adequate shelter from inclement weather elements including heat, wind, rain, and snow.

Since the hot summer sun is one of the weather conditions dogs will be exposed to the most when outdoors, the location of your dog run should be in an area of your yard that receives the most shade. In addition to this, to allow your dog the most time to enjoy his brand new fenced outdoor space, it is an excellent idea to equip it with the creature comforts that allow for protection from bad weather including a dog house or a large umbrella to offer additional shade. A cover for the run is another alternative you can consider.

  • Size

The size of your run will need to be adjusted to reflect the size of your dog as well as the amount of available space you have in your yard. In order to realize the greatest benefit from your dog run, you need to make it fairly substantial in size. This becomes especially important if it is your hope for your dog to love his run so much that he will naturally want to spend as much time as possible out there.

Since building a dog run is a significant investment of resources, it is wise to build a fenced outdoor space that permits your dog ample room for running, playing, and having fun in general. As a basic rule of thumb, experts recommend that your dog run measure a minimum of two times the width of your dog by five times his total length.

Another important factor when it comes to size is making certain there is adequate room for drainage of accumulated precipitation. Failure to accommodate drainage needs can mean your dog spends a lot of time playing in water and mud which can harbor bacteria at the worst and mean lots of baths at the best.

What Designs are Available for Dog Runs?

Once you have determined the perfect locale for your dog run, it is then time to begin the process of narrowing down the design. There are several different options you can choose from. These include:

  • Portable dog runs

For families that prefer not to erect a permanent structure in their backyard, a portable dog run offers the perfect solution. Portable dog runs are far less expensive than their built-in counterparts. They can also be moved to any area of the yard, providing you with flexibility. Best of all, if a move is in your future, a portable dog run can easily come with you to your new home.

However, there are some significant drawbacks to portable dog runs that you should consider. In general, these systems are not comprised of solid enough construction to contain a very determined pooch with a penchant for escapism. In addition to this, portable dog runs are very utilitarian in appearance and are unlikely to enhance the beauty of your home.

  • Side-yard dog runs

If your yard is long enough to accommodate a side run, these can be an excellent solution for families looking to provide a safely contained space for their dogs to enjoy some outdoor play time. Side-yard dog runs typically run the length of a boundary fence to the far side of the yard. They are narrow and long to permit lots of space for running.

Side-yard dog runs are easy to create simply by fencing in one section of an already fenced yard and including a gate for easy access in and out of the space. This solution is far less expensive than installing a dog run from scratch in another portion of the yard. For dogs that are prone to escaping, it is a good idea to consider adding a panel of fencing to the top of the run thus eliminating any potential jumps for freedom.

What Do I Need to Consider Before Building My Dog Run?

Before beginning any construction project on your home, you should consult your municipality’s government office to see if a permit is required. It will be important to take with you the measurements of your proposed dog run as zoning laws for your area may limit the height of certain structures.

Once all necessary permissions have been obtained, you will then need to give some thought to your dog’s own unique habits and what he will need from a dog run both to meet his activity requirements and to keep him safely contained. Dogs of a substantial size and strength will require hardier, more durable fencing options. Other pooches with a love of digging will mean fencing must also be installed several inches beneath the earth to prevent any freedom digs. If Fido fancies himself a climber, your dog run will need a roof to keep him securely in his space. This is also an excellent option if you happen to live in an area that is frequented by wildlife that could cause harm to your dog such as coyotes or mountain lions. A completely covered enclosure is an excellent way to ensure your dog remains safe from threats that loom outside his enclosure.

What Kind of Fencing is Best for Dog Runs?

The next step in building your dog run is selecting the correct type of fencing. There are many different materials available on the market today, affording you the luxury of choosing a fence in a wide array of prices, styles, and functionalities.

Among the most popular fencing options for dog runs are:

  • Chain link

Chain link seems to be the most popular option for families looking to add a dog run to their yard. Chain link offers you a lot of value for your investment as it is known as a material that can withstand challenging weather conditions without succumbing to rust or decay. In addition to this, chain link is relatively inexpensive when compared with other building materials. It is easy to source and is also strong enough to take a beating from persistent pooches jumping against it.

As an added bonus, chain link is largely transparent, providing you with the luxury of being able to see your dog and what he is up to while you are out enjoying other areas of your yard. However, some dog owners do not like chain link as they consider it to be a bit of an eyesore, taking away from the natural beauty of their yard and home. This can be combatted through a very simple and inexpensive technique: painting. Green paint acts as a camouflage, helping the fence to blend in with grass while brown paint works well against wooden fencing.

Chain link fencing requires no maintenance, making it the simplest option for a dog run.

  • Metal or wood

Both metal and wood are alternative fencing options that provide a more elegant look to complement your home and yard. However, it is very important when installing this type of fencing that the slats be wide enough to allow a small field of vision for both you and your dog to see in and out while not being wide enough to permit escape attempts or your dog getting his head lodged between fence panels.

On the whole, metal and wood fencing is more expensive to purchase and install. Though durable, wooden fences may require staining every few years to maintain their attractive appearance, thus increasing their cost and level of maintenance.

  • Plastic-coated wire

Plastic-coated wire fencing offers you the best of both worlds when it comes to attractiveness and price point. Wooden posts can be installed to provide the sturdiness required for a dog run. The plastic-coated wire fence can then be attached to the wooden post to form the containment system.

Plastic-coated wire fence materials are easy to source at any garden center. Available in several different colors and styles, you can easily select a roll of fence that best suits your tastes and home’s exterior.

To ensure the longevity of your dog run, the type of wooden post you select is very important. Choose a wooden beam that is known for its hardy character such as redwood or cedar. Treated lumber is also an excellent option though it has less visual appeal.

  • Chicken wire

For dogs that just need a space to call their own and that aren’t known for escapism or being hard on fencing, chicken wire will definitely do the trick. Chicken wire is extremely inexpensive and can be bought in rolls at any hardware store.

Like plastic-coated wire, chicken wire will need to be attached to wooden posts. It is best for dogs that are not overly strong and that cannot climb fencing. Chicken wire can be bent out of shape, so it is not the correct material for dogs that have a history of jumping on fences or trying to wrench them to get free.

Chicken wire is not particularly attractive; however, it is an excellent solution if you need a short-term fenced run while you save up to install something more permanent.

What Flooring Do Experts Recommend for Dog Runs?

Once you have determined the correct fencing material for your dog run, you can then turn your attention to the type of flooring you will install. As with fencing, there are many different kinds of ground cover to choose from, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the most commonly used materials for flooring in dog runs:

  • Grass
  • Wood chips
  • Gravel
  • Concrete
  • Dirt
  • Turf
  • Paving stones
  • Rubber matting

Since your yard already contains grass, it is an easy solution to the ground cover conundrum. Grass is soft on sensitive paw pads and is a material dogs are quite used to and enjoy treading on. However, grass requires regular upkeep, meaning that it will not only be necessary to mow your yard but also your dog run, a tricky task if your run happens to be narrow and long.

In addition to this, grass easily succumbs to stains and burns from urine and feces, rendering it unattractive to the eye fairly quickly. Soil can easily become contaminated, making it a less hygienic option for Fido and also prone to retaining unpleasant odors.

Wood chips are a popular option for dog run flooring. They offer better visual appeal and are easy to install on top of sheets of landscape fabric. Unfortunately, wood chips are well-renowned as agents for harboring germs. Though you can easily remove any solid waste, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate residue from urine. This means that to keep the surface looking and smelling clean, it will be necessary to continue to layer new wood chips on top of the old and to eventually completely replace the landscape fabric and wood chip pile.

Wood chips provide an uneven surface for dogs to walk on. At times, they can break, leaving your dog at risk for splinters.

Pea gravel is one of the most commonly used solutions for safe ground cover for dog runs. The smooth appearance of pea gravel makes it easy for dogs to walk on and unlikely to cause any lacerations in skin or feet. For dogs that like to chew on rocks, pea gravel can cause some concern as the little pebbles can cause damage to teeth. On occasion, small pieces of gravel will become embedded between toes. If you notice your dog limping or refusing to put weight on a paw, a quick examination may reveal a piece of pea gravel between paw pads.

For a more permanent and low maintenance solution, you can install a concrete pad for flooring for your dog run. Concrete is not expensive and is very easy to keep clean. The one down side to concrete is its natural penchant for retaining both heat and cold, making it uncomfortable to walk on during extreme weather conditions.

Paving stones offer you the opportunity to create flooring that will enhance the beauty of your home and yard. Unfortunately, paving stones are quite expensive to purchase and install. They are a great surface from which to remove dog waste and can be easily cleaned with a power washer or garden hose. However, they do create an uneven surface and are prone to retaining heat, making it uncomfortable for your dog to walk on.

Since dirt is very inexpensive, many families like to use it for the flooring for their dog runs. However, there are several major drawbacks to dirt floors. Dirt is not attractive; not in the run and not all over your floors when your dog drags it inside with him after a day of fun in his run.

Artificial turf allows all of the look of natural grass without any of the work. Since turf does not stain, you get the benefit of the comfort of grass without any burns or brown marks from urine or feces. Best of all, no mowing is required, making artificial turf extremely low maintenance. However, the smell of urine will cling and begin to permeate artificial turf, meaning cleaning and disinfecting will be necessary on a regular basis.

Rubber mats are quite expensive; however, they can be laid over any material and provide excellent footing. Rubber mats can be removed for ease of cleaning with a power washer or garden hose.

How Can I Provide Shade in My Dog Run?

The final component of completing a dog run involves ensuring your dog has adequate shade. During the summer months, temperatures can soar, making it uncomfortable for your dog when outdoors. Thankfully, there are a few simple things you can do to ensure Fido has every opportunity to spend the maximum amount of time enjoying his new outdoor run.

Here are our top suggestions for providing shade for your pooch to enjoy during bouts of hot weather:

  • Include a dog house

Dog houses provide shelter from any type of weather that would normally drive dogs indoors. These can be attached directly to the fenceline or as a stand alone structure within the dog run. Of primary importance is the location of the house as some dogs may attempt to jump on top of it to escape their yard.

  • Plant trees

Trees add character, charm, and beauty to your home and to your dog run. Unfortunately, it takes time for them to grow. Consider planting some trees and/or non-toxic shrubs to provide a little extra privacy and shade during warm weather months.

  • Buy a patio umbrella

The same patio umbrella your family takes cover under during outdoor meals is the perfect addition to a dog run to keep Fido protected from the heat of the sun’s rays. Installing a patio umbrella in your dog run gives Fido an attractive place under which to lay to enjoy the warmth of the sun without the added UV exposure or intense heat.

  • Add a roof

Putting a roof on your dog run offers you many different advantages. This permanent shade structure prevents excess heat from negatively impacting your dog. In addition to this, a roof keeps the ground cover from becoming wet, thus eliminating the accumulation of mud, saving you time cleaning dirty paws, coats, and floors after Fido has spent time enjoying his dog run.

If you do decide to add a roof to your enclosure, you will need to be certain that adequate airflow passes through the fencing.

Thinking it’s time to add a dog run to your yard? Our top tips can help get you started on designing the perfect outdoor enclosure for Fido.



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