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How to Build and Maintain an Inexpensive Dog Run


Marilyn has owned canines since childhood, including "Black Shado Kennels" raising Schipperke's. She holds a Master's Degree in Psychology.

We built this dog run in under an hour, but it's saved countless hours in cleanup.

We built this dog run in under an hour, but it's saved countless hours in cleanup.

Dog Runs Make Cleanup Easier

Most of us would do anything for our pets—spoil them, pay attention to them, play with them, make sure they have good food to eat, water to drink, and toys to play with—but when it comes to clean up outside, eww! The task is daunting and never-ending, especially if Fido is allowed to "go" anywhere in the yard.

While assessing the situation with three canine pets and a hard rain, the obvious came to light: there needed to be a specific area for them to do their duties that offered easy cleanup and the ability to disinfect. Mold and fungus can grow in areas frequently used by animals and can become dangerous for them to breathe (and contaminate feet and fur). Animals may walk through excrement and urine, track it in the house, kitchen, and maybe even on the bed covers if they are allowed up. Fortunately, spraying with vinegar and water neutralizes odors and disinfects the area. Here again, the process is much easier when there is a designated area to take care of.

One of our little friends came from a rescue shelter that was entirely concrete, so she was used to going to the bathroom anywhere. At home, she would most usually choose the sidewalk or patio, then the others would follow her example. We couldn't get into the backyard gate without scraping into nasty stuff.

Experiencing a limited income for a time, it was necessary to use available items to block off an area as a dog run. About a year ago, we had purchased some inexpensive YARDGUARD 16 gauge fencing (rolled, wire); 50 feet for under $30. There were also four metal posts, however, there was concern about digging, not knowing where gas or water lines may be underground. There was also a need to make the fencing temporary. We found the YARDGUARD easy to unroll, sturdy for wrapping, and it maintained integrity to keep our pets from breaking through.

Managing to get the posts a safe four inches into the soft dirt, each was braced with two heavy blocks, then the fencing was stretched and attached with tiny bungee cords. At the far end, the remaining fencing was wrapped around yet another heavy block of concrete to keep the dogs from finding an escape route. It made for a decent looking run without doing anything permanent. The entire process only took about 45 minutes, and the dogs were surprised! Believe me when I say that it cut my cleaning time down by at least an hour each day, and the sidewalk and gate are now accessible.

Our dogs are like family to us

Our dogs are like family to us

Our Family

Our family consists of my husband, our two Staffordshire Terriers, and another one partially adopted from one of our sons. All of our children are grown, out on their own, but we still have the pooches that became our "kids."

Our backyard is mostly concrete with a pool, so we wanted to keep doggie duties away from that area. Thus, the dog run was put together. It makes clean up easier on a daily basis, and provides a "safe" place for them away from the pool, especially since the smallest of the three canines can't swim. We attempted to teach her, but she just can't keep her heavy head above water for long. Because we love our pets, we are careful to keep their area clean and protect them from hazards. We also make sure they are not subject to bad weather, extreme cold, or heat.

How to Clean the Dog Run

Cleaning a dog run is relatively easy:

  1. Use gloves to protect hands, especially during construction of the fencing, but also during maintenance.
  2. It is important to pick up the excrement daily to help keep odors down.
  3. Purchase a scooper from a local pet store or your preferred place to shop that has a pet center. We purchased our Pooper Scooper from Amazon. I prefer the clamping model because it can be used with just one hand.
  4. Pulling the lever on the handle opens the scoop; place it down over the duty, and release the lever to close the clamp (or jaws) to enclose the nasties inside.
  5. Transfer the waste to a bag and disposed of it. We save grocery bags for this process to save more money.
  6. Place a bag in a bucket with the handles stretched over the sides to help hold it in place while using the chosen tools to transfer the stool to the bag. (This is much easier on the back too!)
  7. If there is a lot of stool, a broom rake can be used to make one pile that can also be picked up and transferred to the bag.
  8. We keep one large garbage can lined with a heavy liner to place all the smaller bags into, and take it to the curb once every two weeks. If you wait any longer, the can becomes too heavy. The objective is to keep it as sanitary and movable as possible for yourself and the people who pick up the trash. He or she does not want to smell it nor strain muscles lifting the can to empty it out.
  9. Spray the inside of the can with insecticide periodically to avoid flies and larva. Take precaution during the summer months when the air is moist because this becomes a combination for infestation very quickly. Yuck!
  10. Spray the entire area with a mixture of half water and half white vinegar at least once every two weeks. Purchasing a large garden sprayer that can be filled with the mixture makes it easy for application and only takes a few minutes. Vinegar neutralizes odors and disinfects the area.

Keeping the run clean helps the animals stay healthy, and keeps bacteria out of the house. Once a month, it is also a good idea to wash down the area with a hose, allowing the water to soak into the ground. It may take a day or two to dry out, but it helps get the vinegar mixture down into the soil where urine and other body fluids may have soaked into.

The area should be dirt, or coarse sand for easy cleaning as well. If the run is made with concrete flooring, hosing it off several times a month will be necessary along with the vinegar mixture. Animals and humans can develop upper respiratory inflammation or infections from unsanitized areas, so it is essential to keep the run clean.

I want to add here that I have used the Pooper Scooper for over four years now. It dried out a little in the summer heat, and the springs broke. I wrote to the company telling them about the issue, and they sent me several replacement springs for free! Also, where one of the spring mountings snapped off, I used super glue to put it back in place. I have been using it for the last three months without any issues. This item is a must for me!

Tips for Keeping the Potty Area Clean

Keep in mind that all fencing, dirt, even block walls and sidewalks can be sprayed periodically with the vinegar solution to eliminate odors and disinfect the area.

  • Plastic Fencing: Other ideas include the use of plastic fencing, which is cheaper, but does hold up to weather and most animals. The only drawback is the fencing is easy for dogs to push his or her way under unless something is used to block the bottom such as bricks, rocks, gravel. As long as the bottom looks like it is attached, most canines will not attempt to push through.
  • Bamboo Fencing: Bamboo fencing can also be used if there is a necessity to completely close off the area from sight. Be aware though, bamboo needs more support, especially if the area is prone to wind.

The fencing is entirely up to the individual, and finances available, these ideas are just a starting point for minimal cost. The thought of using cat litter seemed tempting, however, moving forward, every cat in the neighborhood would probably be attracted, and that would end up in disaster. Gravel is also not a good idea as "stuff" tends to stick to the rocks making it difficult to pick up. Sand or dirt is the best bet.

I wanted to add here that I have used the Chapin 20002 Poly Lawn and Garden Sprayer for multiple liquids, and reused it after cleaning for deodorizer, baking soda solution, and weed killer. It is fantastic, inexpensive, and has lasted through heavy use. I love the sprayer on it because it only takes light pressure to keep it spraying, so no hand muscle discomfort!

Baking Soda to Eliminate the Scent of Urine

The vinegar idea worked for a while. Of course, picking up the stool at least once per day helps to keep down odors, but what about urine? One can not pick up urine right after the pooches go, nor can it be taken up later in the day, especially in dirt. Well, I found a solution.

Read More From Pethelpful

After much research, I discovered that baking soda is pet-friendly and actually good for their feet, sanitizes, and eliminates odor. Twice a week, I sprinkle Baking Soda on top of the soil in the dog run and use a rake to mix it in. Amazingly, it does take away about 98% of the urine odor.

Once every two weeks, I water down the dirt to help dilute the urine and to help the Baking Soda mix in. I sprinkle it over the surface and let it dry. If you decide to try something else, research to make sure the solution is pet-friendly. Some chemicals and deodorizers are harmful to pad skin and can irritate their lungs.

Using Youngstown Gloves that are waterproof helps prevent direct contact with contaminated fencing and dirt, and I found that the baking soda tends to dry out the skin on my hands. These gloves may seem a little pricey, but they provide a good, solid grip, and I have used them consistently with no breakdown in quality. It just depends on your own personal preference.

Another Way to Eliminate Urine Odor

Though baking soda works fairly well to eliminate the sent of urine, my husband just found something to try that works almost instantly, and has a floral scent! Clorox makes it, so you know that it is a good product; it's called Clorox Urine Remover for Stains and Odors. He purchased a few of them to try, and the first day the odor was cut in half, the second application took almost all the urine smell away!

We have one male (who has the worst odor) who hikes his leg on the block wall, and cinder blocks that line the fencing, and two females (mostly potty in the dirt). I am amazed at how well it neutralizes the odor!

It works on hard and soft surfaces, and it has multiple uses such as urinals, rugs and carpet, mattresses, and upholstery. This might sound like an advertisement, well, it is. I am so impressed with the results that I had to discuss this product here.

Important Note: Please allow the product to dry thoroughly in areas used before letting pets walk on it. Do not spray anything pets chew on, or can ingest! This product does contain hydrogen peroxide.

Happy, contented pooches. Healthy, loving, and well taken care of.

Happy, contented pooches. Healthy, loving, and well taken care of.

Dog Duties

Challenge for Research

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How many diseases can dogs get from feces contact?
    • I don't know of any.
    • There are many types of infection that can even be transfered to humans.
  2. How often should feces be picked up and disposed of?
    • Let nature break it down.
    • Daily, or as fresh as possible before other bacteria and insects can infest.
  3. Should dog feces be used for fertilizer?
    • Absolutely not, dangerous bacteria lurkes within!
    • It doesn't matter, it all breaks down the same.

Answer Key

  1. There are many types of infection that can even be transfered to humans.
  2. Daily, or as fresh as possible before other bacteria and insects can infest.
  3. It doesn't matter, it all breaks down the same.

Interpreting Your Score

If you got 0 correct answers: You scored low, between 0 and 30%, do more research to learn how your pet and you can be affected!

If you got 1 correct answer: You scored between 30 and 60%, that's Midway, do more research!

If you got 2 correct answers: You scored between 60 and 80% and you have a good idea, but need to do more research!

If you got 3 correct answers: Congratulations! You scored between 90 and 100%, that means you have done your research and understand the importance of cleaning up after your pet!

"Everyone Should Know"

Materials for Building and Maintaining a Dog Run

Making a dog run is not difficult—it saves time and makes cleanup and disinfecting more efficient. Many styles of fencing are available with variable prices, along with other tools necessary for cleanup and maintenance.

Required Materials

  • Fencing
  • Posts (either metal or wood)
  • Ties to adhere fencing to the posts.
  • Possibly a gate to close off the run at certain times.
  • Post driver (or sledgehammer to pound posts into the ground - hint- call before digging or putting posts in to make sure no gas or water lines are in the area).
  • Bricks, or rocks to block the bottom of the fencing if it does not set tight with the ground to keep dogs from pushing through.
  • Garden sprayer for vinegar mixture.
  • Pooper scooper
  • Bucket and bags (either trash bags, or shopping bags to place picked up items in for disposal).
  • Gloves to protect hands while working with fencing, and maintenance to avoid contact with feces, and urine.

Keeping a yard maintained, the dog run clean, and pets and owners healthy is worth it. Cleanup used to be a dread, and now it only takes a few minutes a day and a periodic wash down to keep the yard looking and smelling clean.


Bountiful Films, (2013). Dangers of Poop - Dog Dazed. Retrieved from Youtube February 2015.

Hoover, N., (2013). Why Pick up Dog Poop? The Dangers of Dog Feces. Retrieved from Hubpages at

Lundin, D.,(2014). Homemade Disinfectant for a Dog Kennel. The Nest. Demand Media. Retrieved January 2015 from The Nest at homemade-disinfectant-dog-kennel-11433.html.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2015 Marilyn


Marilyn (author) from Nevada on December 19, 2016:

Well, first, I'm not lazy, and do pick up after our pets go. Please, let us all know if you have a secret how to pick up dog urine after they go, we would love to hear it. How to get dog, or pet urine out of soil is a good subject that many people deal with, especially when the soil gets wet from rain, or watering (lawn). I have found that vinegar, or baking soda make good neutralizers.

CoCo on August 18, 2016:

Oh my GOD.. lazy people. I have 3 large dogs. Clean up immediately after they go. It's not hard!

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on April 30, 2015:

I discovered another unique way to keep odor down for the dog run. In my spray container, I mixed the solution of vinegar and water, then added about 30 drops of Jasmine essence oil. Mix well and spray the entire area. When the water and vinegar dissipates, the remaining residue of Jasmine will carry for days, especially in warm weather. It is a nice fragrance, even our dogs like it. The only thing to watch out for is not to use too much essence oils especially those that are irritants such as orange, lemon, lime, or even sage, or cedar. Some of those including mint can irritate the canine upper respiratory system. If you have an ideas to add, please feel free to comment.

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on April 24, 2015:

We have not been able to do very much with our dog run, or our back yard lately, however, I am still thankful that I was able to construct the run. Time has not been in my favor, so it makes it very easy to keep up with clean up, and keep the canines well. Keeping the droppings picked up also helps to keep the fly population down, and keeps birds from invading the area. I also discovered a mild solution of Cheyenne pepper and mint essence oil with water can be used in between vinegar sprays to chase flies away, and keep the area smelling clean. Just make sure to keep it diluted, otherwise the odor can be an irritant to the canines sinus, and digestive system. Do not allow them to lick up the solution. I make sure it dries before allowing them into the area again.

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on March 26, 2015:

Now that the weather is getting warmer, the dog run develops yet another type of issue that needs regular care. Of course it is necessary to pick up the dog duties every day, but it is also necessary to make sure flies, and fly larva are kept at bay. Instead of using insecticides that could harm our pets, or us, I am mixing the vinegar solution just a little bit stronger, and spraying thoroughly at least twice per week. Flies do not like the vinegar, so they are less likely to land on remnants of the excrement, or where there might be urine. Vinegar neutralizes the properties so flies are no longer interested and go somewhere else. The process has worked so far, if there are any changes I will keep everyone updated.

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on March 14, 2015:

In the next few months we will be changing the fencing on the dog run, but will still be temporary so it can be easily moved (but not by the dogs). When we make the changes I will add the photos to this Hub. Thank you to everyone for visiting, and commenting!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 11, 2015:

I like having dogs and patting them and to be playful. Licking me on my face and lips is not allowed. I try to be careful in that way and more thank you for this hub. I had to stop by again.

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on March 05, 2015:

Thank you DDE, for your comment. I guess there are some people who thought dog feces would be ok as fertilizer, but later found out that there are dangers. To make sure our dogs and family stays safe, I have researched possible dangers associated. Dogs can also carry worms (unless they have been dewormed), and if they lick your face or mouth, or sleep on your bed they can be transferred to the human. We keep our dog space very clean, sanitized, and also wash their dog bedding at least once per week.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 05, 2015:

Interesting about using dog's feces for fertilizer. I did not think that would be a good idea. I would like my dogs to have a lot of space and runway. It is very important that our pets have their space and playtime. A well.informed hub.

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on March 03, 2015:

Well, that is another reason why I published this information, but at the same time, I have also shared the info with people that I see walking their dogs, allowing them to do their business on other people's property. They no longer come down our street, so maybe a few are listening, or they just decided to avoid me and take another route. It is sad some people don't have more respect for other's than that.

poetryman6969 on March 03, 2015:

I wish my neighbors gave as much thought to this as you do. That way my yard would not be a dog's toilet.

Marilyn (author) from Nevada on March 02, 2015:

Thank you so much for your comment Lee. I am still amazed how little time it takes for me to clean up after the dogs now, especially after the hard rain we just had! Plus, we have a pool, so it keeps their 'stuff' away from that area, and can't be tracked or blown into the pool.

Lee John from Preston on March 01, 2015:

Wonder Hub! really good information



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