15 Awesome Ideas for Backyard Dog Runs + Best Materials for Dog Runs

Looking to line your outdoor dog run with something pleasing to the eye and nice on your dog’s paws? Well look no further. In this article we’ll cover a list of awesome backyard dog run ideas. Plus we’ll show you some of the best flooring materials for dog runs and how to build them.

Note: If you click some of the links in this article we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

15 Awesome Ideas for Backyard Dog Runs and the Best Materials to Them

Artificial Grass – Best to Keep the Yard Green

Small pet runs can be tough on lawns. Urine and feces get concentrated. Lots of digging and dog movement can tear up grass.

Plus the added shade of pet runs can make it difficult for live grass to flourish.

Why not try artificial turf grass instead? You get to keep that same great look, urine passes through, and pet waste is easy to clean up.

Be warned in drier environments like the US west. Here in Colorado we are not big fans of artificial turf as dog runs.

The smell of dog urine can get pretty bad. With 300 days of gorgeous sunshine here, we’re not left with enough rain days to wash things away.

Plus, even though turf grass is porous, it’s enough of a cover that it seems to concentrate the urine smell rather than letting it break down via sunlight and biological activity in the soil.

I don’t have any scientific articles to back that up. It’s just our experience of turf for small dog runs here in Colorado. If turf works best for your yard just make sure to spray it down every once and awhile to keep down the smells.

Next up we’ll cover two commonly used path building materials that you can use for a dog floor instead.

GL Artificial Grass Turf Lawn - 6FTX10FT(60 Square FT) Indoor Outdoor Garden Lawn Landscape Synthetic Grass Mat

 

Wooden Paths

First we have the classic wooden path. You can build this as shown in the YouTube video below.

If you’re not into building or DIY you can buy huge rolls of wooden paths. Once delivered you simply roll them out in the dog run.

The picture below comes from a roll you can buy on Amazon.

Plow & Hearth 52127 Weather-Resistant Straight Hardwood Pathway, 8'

Stone Moldings and Paths

Just like with wooden paths you can also borrow some design ideas from stone paths.

With stone you can either get individual stones and set them yourself or you can buy larger sections of stone molds and lay them out fast.

The picture below is an example from stone molding sold in sections. For the best look you’ll want to invest in some pea gravel to spread around them and in the cracks.

You could also use dirt or mulch with the same purpose though mulch can be difficult to get to stay between the cracks.

Walk Maker, Pathmate Stone Moldings Paving Pavement Concrete Molding Stepping Stone Paver Walk Way(Big Size:16.9 x 16.9 x 1.6 inch)
Stone molding with pea gravel, dirt and mulch.
Walk Maker, Pathmate Stone Moldings Paving Pavement Concrete Molding Stepping Stone Paver Walk Way(Big Size:16.9 x 16.9 x 1.6 inch)
Stone molding without gravel in the cracks.

Wood Chips

Next we’ll cover two other wooden options. First up is wood chips.

These look great and you can get them cheaply from any local hardware or home outdoor store.

You need to watch out for splinters though. These don’t work for all dogs.

They are a quick way in a pinch to get them off the dirt.

Another great way to use wood chips is to as their pee place. Split the dog run into two parts:

  • Wood chip area for peeing, digging, etc.
  • Stone or turf area that’s softer on the feet for sleeping, sitting, etc.

See the picture in the next section for an example of using two types of materials.

Pine Bark Mulch, 100% Natural Pine Bark Mulch, House Plant Cover Mulch, Potting Media, and More (4qt)

Pine Straw

A slightly softer wooden material to use would be pine straw. It looks far better than baled straw and it’s easier on a dog’s feet than thicker wood mulch chips.

The example below shows a combo of stone mixed with dark bark mulch between the stones and stray on the outer edges.

Of course this is just a landscaping example. You could easily use the same setup inside a dog run to build something both fun for your dog and gorgeous to look at.

USA Pine Straw - Premium Pine Needle Mulch - Covers 300 Sqft

Rubber Padding

This next material solves the hard on the dog feet problem. Use rubber padding.

Like turf grass this stuff can get pretty smelly in arid areas without rain to keep things clean.

We recommend using this for part of a dog run in combo with other more porous materials for pee and poop zones.

IncStores Playground Swing Mats 2 in x 32 in x 54 in Durable Rubber Outdoor Non-Slip Protection Under Playground Equipment

Rubber Chips

Rubber pads too smelly? Try rubber chips instead. Like the pads they are also soft on dog feet. However, they’ll let urine through so the soil can break down the smell.

You can buy chips by the bag online or at your local hardware store.

Chips in combo with flat stones give an awesome high contrast sharp look. Plus the rubber chip color fades more slowly than the use of dark colored mulch which often you have to replace every year.

Playsafer Rubber Mulch Nuggets Protective Flooring for Playgrounds, Swing-Sets, Play Areas, and Landscaping (40 LBS - 1.55 CU. FT, Brown)

PVC Flooring

Want something ultimately utilitarian? Why not use PVC flooring!

Simple, cleans easily, and fast to implement. Just don’t expect to win any awards for beauty anytime soon.

PVC makes a great barrier to put on concrete to help keep your dog’s feet warmer and give them more grip to run around.

Rubber-Cal Coin Grip Metallic PVC Flooring, Silver, 2.5mm x 4' x 9'

 

Interlocking Flooring Tiles

We love floor tiles. Why? They come in so many shapes, colors, and materials.

Want a long lasting wood look? Use plastic wood tiles.

Rather use real wood? Get wood tiles.

Connecting the pieces is fast and easy and you can build this to fit many outdoor dog kennels and dog run shapes.

The platforms are elevated which means they drain well. Urine falls through and poop is easy to scoop. Plus you can spray it down every now and then and water will pass underneath.

Click on the picture below to see that first version on Amazon. Then scroll through all the other options. Get ready to go down the rabbit hole a bit. There’s a ton to choose from.

Bare Decor EZ-Floor Interlocking Flooring Tiles in Solid Teak Wood Oiled Finish (Set of 10), Long 9 Slat

Next up we’ll cover dog toys, ramps, beds, and other accessories that are fun to add to your dog run to keep them busy and entertained.

Dog Run Accessories

DIY Tire Dog Beds

Need a waterproof dog bed that can handle the elements? Build a DIY tire dog bed. See full video below on how to build one using simple tools for super cheap.

PVC Pipe Dog Course Obstacles

Why not add some obstacles to your dog run? No need to buy them if you want to just build your own. Check out the tutorial below on building DIY agility obstacles using PVC pipe.

These things are super light and easy to move. Leave the smaller ones in the run for your dog to play with. Then, take them out for fun in the yard and basic agility training.

DIY Ramps

Carrying on with the PVC pipe construction method, here’s a slew of DIY ramps that are fast and easy to build.

This kind of construction can be a great way to build an elevated area inside a tall dog run or kennel. While tall kennels allow dogs to jump they don’t always use that jumping space.

Use ramps like these to get more out of the vertical space in your kennel.

Manufactured Obstacles

Don’t like the look of PVC obstacles? Don’t feel like building them? No worries, there’s plenty of places to buy obstacles instead.

Below you’ll find just a few examples.

You’ll need to experiment a bit to see what your dog actually enjoys playing with.

Personally we’re not huge fans of obstacles inside a dog run. They take up space and dogs prefer to use them in larger areas.

Still, if you have a large dog run it’s something to consider.

PawHut Portable Dog Obstacle Course Backyard Agility Set with Adjustable Weave Poles, Jumping Ring, High Jump

Wooden Cabins

Dog cabins are a fast way to add a nice look to your dog run. In combo with stone paths and dark wood or rubber chips you can quickly build something fun for your dog and great to look at.

PawHut 67" Large Wooden Cabin Style Elevated Outdoor Dog House with Porch

Petmate Precision Extreme Outback Log Cabin Dog House, Large

Outdoor Dog Kennels

Don’t want to build a dog run? Just buy a long and high dog kennel instead. These also make great enclosures for cats. Add a cat tree and a rain plus shade cover. Your cat will never be happier!

Sandinrayli Large Outdoor Dog Kennel Cat Pet Shelter Waterproof Cover Shade Enclosure House Cage

PawHut Large Wooden Outdoor Cat House with Large Run for Play, Catio for Lounging, and Condo Area for Sleeping, Natural