Providing your dog with a safe outdoor space to run around is a great way to offer them exercise and fun. It's important to think about the flooring when designing an outdoor dog run, as it will affect the ease of cleaning and protect your dog from weather extremes.
Dirt or Grass Options
Dirt or grass is the easiest solution and the cheapest. You won't have an installation or purchasing costs associated with using what's available. Also, keep in mind:
- It stays cool in the summer and both grass and dirt are comfortable for a dog's feet.
- The downside is that it's hard to keep your dog clean. You'll have to do more work to care for grass, and grass and dirt will become muddy if it rains.
- You will need to make sure there are no toxic weeds or poisonous plants that your dog can reach as well as any insects that may be a problem. Treat your surrounding yard with pet-safe pest control options.
There is also synthetic grass, which looks like real grass but is easier to clean and doesn't require the same amount of upkeep. It can become very hot though if you live in a warmer climate. It also can be pricey running anywhere from $2 to $8 per square foot, plus the cost of installation from $6 to $20 per square foot.
Wood Flooring for Your Dog
Some owners lay wooden platforms down on the ground in their runs. The platforms are usually placed over gravel, rocks or concrete so water can drain when you're cleaning it. When choosing groundcover for a dog run, remember that:
- If you use the wooden platforms, you will need to treat them with a paint or stain that is dog-friendly. Otherwise, they will rot over time.
- It's easy to move if you decide to change the run location or if you move to a new home.
Pricing for wood varies depending on the type you use and whether you build it yourself. You'll find 6x8 cedar boards run around $10 each and pine 2x8's are about $3 to $4 each; keep in mind lumber prices do fluctuate with the market.
Composite Decking That Resembles Wood
Composite decking looks like wood but is more weather-resistant, easy to clean and won't become moldy or get mildew. The material requires no staining or painting and last longer than wood. Pricing varies depending on your design but a 5x8 foot composite board is about $12 to $15 each. You can also purchase a 2"x4" plank composite deck board for about $50 and purchase several to fit them together to fill your desired space.
Gravel, Stone, and Sand
Some traditional dog runs use substances like gravel, stone, or sand but this is not ideal. Think about:
- While it drains easily, in hot weather the surface will become hot and uncomfortable for your dog and burn their paw pads.
- It also is not the best for dogs to run on and you risk ripped paw pads and damaged nails.
A better option is pea gravel, which is less jarring on their feet and does not retain as much heat. According to HomeAdvisor, pea gravel is about $3 for a bag for 5 cubic feet and gravel is about $30 to $35 for one cubic yard. Sand runs about $4 for a 50-pound bag.
Limestone that is crushed and compacted to create a relatively smooth surface is another good option. It's hardy in all types of weather and also can help keep down the smell of urine and feces due to its natural lime properties. It's also easy to hose down and drains well. It also doesn't heat up in the summer as much as other types of rocks. The cost per square foot for crushed limestone is $1.25 to $1.80.
River rock can also be a better option for dogs as they are flat and smooth and there's less chance your dog can break a nail or hurt their paws. They're also very attractive for your landscaping. Because they're larger than small rocks and gravel, they are less likely to sink into the ground and become muddy and they will drain more easily than small rocks. They are also harder for your dog to dig up because of their size. The downsides to river rock are:
- Like other types of rocks, they can become hot and uncomfortable in the summer months.
- While they are smoother than other rocks, it's still an uneven and uncomfortable surface for a dog to relax on so you'll need some type of raised bed for them or a cool, grassy area for lying on.
- Larger dogs with PICA may be at risk of eating them if they're small enough to fit in your dog's mouth.
- Unless they are confined in with landscaping edges and instead are loose and spread out, a running dog can easily trip over them and hurt himself.
River rocks cost approximately $20 to $100 per cubic yard or $0.75 to $4 per cubic foot.
Concrete Dog Run Floor
The benefit of using concrete is that you can slope it so that water runs down to a drain area which is very useful during cleaning. Cleaning a concrete area is generally easy and concrete is very durable. Also, consider:
- Like gravel, stone, and sand, concrete is affected by weather extremes so it will be hot to the touch in the summer and cold in the winter.
- Another benefit is running around on concrete can keep your dog's nails trim, but it can also cause extra wear and tear to their paw pads.
If you choose concrete, an option would be to provide an area for your dogs to relax that is not concrete, such as a wooden or composite deck platform, rubber matting or a raised dog bed and even a small wading pool in the summer so they can cool off their feet. Concrete runs about $2 per square foot although your costs will vary depending on whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor.
Rubber Matting for the Floor
Rubber matting is often used in doggie daycare facilities. It is a great flooring material option for outdoor dog runs. Consider.
- It's easy to clean and is softer on a dog's feet and absorbs shock better.
- The mats can be interlocked and shaped as you need.
- Make sure you select ones that can withstand sunlight if you live in an area with lots of sun.
The flooring is sold in squares or rectangles and the smallest size, a 3x4 sheet, would cost about $90. You can also get kennel mat kits sold in specific sizes that are about $2.50 per square foot. You can also purchase vinyl mats which run about $3 per square foot.
Finding the Right Solution for Your Dog
Deciding on your dog run's floor involves your budget and the size and shape of your yard area. While some types are cheaper than others, spending a bit more on a long-term solution that involves less cleaning and upkeep may be a good solution, particularly since it's natural to expect that the run will be used as a potty area by your dog. You'll also want to consider your dog's personality and energy level to make sure the surface will be comfortable for them.