5 Steps To Build a Dog Run [2021]

Not another destroyed pillow! Oh no the lawn is ruined! My dog had somewhere to run free and burn off this negative energy. I wish I could leave but make sure my dog is safe and secure. I need a dog run!

Dog Destroy Door

The list goes on and on. If you have a yard and have said any of the following to yourself, you may need a dog run:

  • You’re having a BBQ and you don’t want your dog stealing food
  • You want your pet to be safe without you there
  • You want your dog to run free to burn off energy
  • Save your landscaping from damage
  • Your dog is not great around people and needs to be separated.

Whatever the reason, a dog run is a practical, customizable way to keep your dog confined when necessary. It’s a much nicer option than a cage, as your pooch can have doggie play dates in his own personal little dog park without tearing up your garden. Plus, it allows you to create a nice space that your dog might actually enjoy.

What is a Dog Run?

Dog Run

Simply put, a dog run is a safe, fenced and gated area using something like chain link fencing or wire mesh to keep your dog in a safe place when you can’t always watch them.

Why do You Need a Dog Run?

A dog run is a way to provide your dog a space to be free outside without being supervised.

More exercise

Your dog will have more space to run around. With the stimulation to explore with it’s nose, eyes, and sounds will keep your dog up and about.

Fresh Air

It’s a great way to let your dog enjoy being outside. Being outside lets your dog experience the joys of different sights and smells of the outdoors. Dogs have a very sensitive smell and explore the world this way.

Socialization

If a neighbor has a dog it can be a great way for your dog to socialize. Dogs also socialize with any dogs that happen to close enough.

DIY Dog Run Steps

By building your own dog run, you have all the control. You can make it as big as you want and add as many amenities as you want. It could even be a space that your dog enjoys. Add a dog house, a padded place to lie down, and built-in food and water bowls, as well as a bunch of toys.

There are so many easy DIY outdoor dog run blueprints available online. Try searching for patterns and ideas online to see what kind of dog run will fit your backyard the best. Pinterest has many DIY dog run ideas to get you started. In this post we will talk permanent dog runs for yards.

1 – Planning

As part of the planning you will need to determine location and size of the dog run a well as materials needed. Consider the following before designing your dog run:

How Tall is My Dog?

Tall dogs tend to jump higher. If your dog is tall and agile you might need a taller fence! For most large and extra large sized dogs a 6ft or 1.5 to 2 m tall fence is recommended.

Does my dog like to Dig?

Golden Retriever Digging

You will need to bury your fence deeper in the ground if your dog likes to dig. There are several ways to address this. You can do one of the following:

  • Bury the fence below ground
  • Add a barrier like chicken wire into the ground to prevent digging
  • Make a dog run with a concrete floor

How Long will my Dog be Outside?

If your dog will be outside for long periods of time you might consider building something where your dog can go in case of weather to stay safe and warm.

Also make sure not to leave them outside in the sun for too long. Dogs can also overheat! They will need plenty of water and food if left out long enough. A shelter might be needed.

Do you Want You Run to Connect to Your House?

Another option with dog runs is you can build them off of a pet door from your house. This gives your dog the ultimate freedom to roam when it chooses! Dog runs can be built around doors with doggy doors on them or doggy doors built into walls.

How large Should my Dog Run be?

The first thing to do when you decide to make your own dog run is to plan according to your dog. What size is your dog? What does he like to play with? Larger dogs will require more room to run. Look a bit deeper into the kind of breed your dog is to see what specific needs he might have and how much room he needs to run around, etc. Once you have a good idea of the size dog run you’re building. Now think about the climate you’re in.

What Exposure Will my Dog Have?

If it’s hot and sunny most of the time, make sure you place your dog run somewhere in the shade or plan to build a roof on it to protect your dog from the sun’s rays. If you live in a climate that’s rainy a lot of the time, you’ll also need to consider a roof and possibly even guttering if rainfall is going to be too much for the structure to handle.

Fenced Dog Run

Materials

There are a few basic parts to every dog run. You can make them as simple or as complicated as you want as long as it’s safe and sturdy. The first thing you’ll need to consider is the frame.

Pre made Dog Runs or Permanent

It should be durable and sturdy—it’s typically made of metal pipes or bars or thick wood fencing. There are a number of dog runs you can buy online. These usually do not contain a floor. If your dog is a digger you may need to consider creating a more permanent structure and dig proofing your dog run.

Fencing

Dog run fencing comes in a lot of variations. Some people use standard thin wire fencing but you can also use thick wire fencing or even rods. If you want to give your dog some privacy, you can even use metal sheets. It’s up to you to decide what material to use for your DIY dog run fence. Roofs are optional but recommended in order to protect your dog from rain and the sun. You don’t have to cover the whole thing, but it’s a good idea to have at least a small section where your dog is protected from the elements.

Materials

If you live in a region that gets storms frequently or if you have a particularly large dog, it would probably be best to build a dog run with a frame that’s cemented or otherwise anchored into the ground. The posts should be at least 18 inches deep and encased in cement. The main purpose of the posts is to hold the fence. You can choose any kind of fencing as long as it’s durable and safe for your dog. Remember, the point is to keep your dog in and everyone else out. It’s also important to make sure your dog can’t jump over it.

What is the Best Surface for a Dog Run?

As far as the ground goes, you have a few options. Pouring concrete will keep things a little neater because it gets less messy when it rains. You can also use a bed of mulch, pea gravel, or cedar chips. You don’t have to use the same material for the whole area. For example, you can use half concrete and half mulch so your dog has some options as to where to play and where to relax.

Level Dog Run

2 – Prepare the Land

Use a rake or other garden tool to remove the grass and loosen the topsoil in the area. You will also need to prepare the land for whatever your ground cover you will be creating.

Lay out the Border

The first step to preparing the land is laying out the boarder. For this step you can mark your boarder with stakes and string. Place steaks on the corners of the areas where your dog run will reside. Wooden steaks can be used and driven into the ground with a hammer. Then String can be used by wrapping the string several times around each stake around the parameter of the dog run.

Remove the Turf

Dig out the marked area to a depth of approximately 2 to 3 inches for low-traffic feature areas such as mulching around pots, flower borders and areas used for display only. Remove the turf in sections about the size of a shovel. A suitable depth of gravel for large areas and pathways is 4 to 6 inches Clip and remove all vegetation with loppers and pick out rocks that could tear through the landscaping fabric. You can apply an herbicide to the area at this point if you wish.

Place the Border

Use steel or vinyl edging material to immobilize the border. Vinyl edging is usually held in place by the weight of the pea gravel. Outline the entire area with edging, making the edging flush with the surrounding ground. Drive in the stakes if required for the edging material.

3 – Lay the Ground Cover

There are many different varieties of ground cover you can use in a dog run. A softer ground cover is more ergonomic for your dog. However a concrete surface stays clean. You will need to decide what your needs are.

Bare Dirt or Grass

Dog in a dog run with grass

Using bare dirt or grass can be the easiest solution. However there are also some drawbacks to a dog run like this. Learn more below.

Advantages

Grass and dirt can be an easy flooring.

  • Not a lot of preparation is necessary.
  • Dirt and grass are easy on your dogs paws.

However there are some draw backs.

Disadvantages

  • Grass turns to mud and can and up being messy.
  • It is not as pleasing to the eye

After a while dogs can easily trample the grass until all that’s left is mud. Therefore most dog run owners prefer a cleaner surface to keep their dogs from tracking in mud and dirt.

Two large breed dogs play fighting in a fenced in park; a golden and a husky.
Two large dog breeds play fighting in a fenced in dog run.

If you do choose a dirt and grass dog run, you can add a hose near the entrance to rinse your dogs off before letting them in the house.

Concrete

Concrete dog run

Unless you have experience pouring concrete, we suggest getting a professional to perform task. However if you want to Do it Yourself here is a great resource for pouring concrete.

Advantages

  • It’s low maintenance
  • Concrete flooring lasts for a long time

Disadvantages

Not as easy on dogs joints and paws as other flooring.

  • It’s expensive
  • Dogs don’t like to “Do their business” on concrete

Disadvantages of concrete are dogs don’t like to poo on concrete as much as grass for instance. Also it’s harder on their paws and joints.

Gravel

Dog standing on Gravel Dog Run

Gravel can be a good option for dog runs. When choosing gravel consider what size you will need. Pea size gravel is a good all around option. Its not sharp which is good for paws, and it’s small enough it provides a soft surface while walking on.

Advantages

  • Dogs won’t track in mud with gravel flooring
  • It’s also easy to clean up messes
  • This surface is also very easy on your dogs paws and joints

Pea size gravel can be a good option because of how easy it is on your dogs paws. It’s also easy to make a gravel bed.

Disadvantages

  • It needs periodically replenished
  • Dogs can track the gravel in
  • Gravel can get stuck in your dogs paws

With all of the advantages and disadvantages we think gravel is a good option. Some other options you can consider would be cedar or wood chips.

4 – Install Fencing or Barrier

Husky farm. Dog sitting on the fence. Finland

The Barrier to contain your dog is an important part of your dog run. You should consider how tall the barrier will need to be to contain your dog.

A chain link fence can be an easy option but most medium and large dogs can jump over your typical fence. 6 ft tall or more is a good height for a fence. Some dogs may even need a taller fence. Some dogs can’t be contained! I have seen German Shepherds easily clear a 6 ft fence with enough momentum.

For smaller dogs around 1 ft tall or so, a shorter fence is enough to keep them contained. For instance bulldogs can weigh 150 lbs but can they jump a 6 ft fence? Not likely.

Fencing

Once you know the height of your fence you can select materials. The most common types are chain link and wood. There are many other types of fences as well if you want something decorative. Just make sure whatever you use it’s sturdy and tall enough to hold a dog.

All Fence posts should be cemented in if you want them to last. Posts not cemented in will eventually start to shift. Usually after only one year!

Does your dog like to observe the world? That can be difficult when you don’t want an aggressive dog to scare people walking by. If that’s the case maybe a wood fence would better suit you.

Chain Link Fence

If a chain link fence works for you that can be a good inexpensive option. Chain link fences are less expensive than wood fences depending on where you live. There are also many different styles to choose from. All fences have posts c

Wood

6 foot Privacy Fence

There are many different types of fences to choose from. There are also wood, metal mesh fences, vinyl fences, and many other variations like brick and cement.

Barriers for Digging

Now that you have your fence picked out you will need to think about how so keep your dog from digging. Depending on how agile your dog is, you may need to bury your digging barrier up to 2 feet down! It’s recommended to bury your fence 1 to 2 feet down. Make sure the barrier is attached to your fence properly.

For more information on dog proofing your fence click here. There are many different examples of fences and barriers in that link.

5 – Add Roofing or Cover

Cover is important to allow your dog a place to escape the heat, rain, snow, or other elements. It’s good to keep cover in mind while building your dog run. There are many options available to keep your pet safe and comfortable.

Some roofs are designed to be easily attached to chain link fences.

If you are building a roof make sure to adhere to the local codes. An easy option for cover can be adding a small dog house to your dog run.

Safety and Enjoyment!

If you build the right kind of dog run for your furry friend, the time you spend on it to make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for him while ensuring complete dog safety will be well worth it! Building your own dog run gives you a chance to create a space to run, sleep, and play where your dog will be safe and actually enjoy himself.

Every dog run design depends on your space.

Dog Run Alternatives

There are some alternatives to building a dog run. Some alternatives would be to simply chain your dog. However if you would prefer to buy something premade there are many choices. There are also other options such as Cable Runs which can also be an effective way to keep your dog safe and secure.

Premade Dog Runs

There are a lot of good premade dog runs. Not all will accommodate larger dogs but for smaller dogs they can be a good option.

Cable Run

If you don’t like the idea of having your dog in an enclosed area, then maybe a cable run is a better fit for you and your pup. Just like a DIY outdoor dog run, it is easy to set-up your own DIY dog cable run. However, take note that in a cable run, your dog will be on a running leash for a cable run.

Cable Run Graphic

One item to caution when using a cable run. Dogs tend to wrap themselves around cable run poles. You can address this by adding barriers large enough at the end of the cable run so the dog can’t wrap it’s leash around the pole and get stuck. Some also come with stoppers to keep the dog from getting close enough to the posts to wrap themselves around.

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