How to Build a Play Yard for Dogs

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A dog needs plenty of space to run and play, or just roam around. And dogs love the scents, sights and sounds of the outdoors. However, roaming freely can be dangerous for a dog, and is often illegal, unless you live far out in the country. Creating a play yard for your dog can allow her to spend time outside safely even if you're indoors, although you should still check on her often.

Things You'll Need

  • Water-based chalk or paint
  • Fencing
  • Shovel
  • Hammer
  • Top soil
  • Small wooden post
  • Dog bowl or bucket
  • Dog house
  • Dog cushion
  • Dog toys

Install a Fence

Decide whether you'd like to fence off your entire yard or only part of it. Consider whether you need to keep your dog away from certain areas, such as a garden or equipment. As Better Homes and Gardens suggests, you could also place shrubs around the border of a garden to encourage your dog to stay out. Or, you could create a long, narrow dog run. As the Dog Owner's Guide website suggests, make the dog run at least 10 feet wide and as long as possible.

Walk through the area you'd like to fence off for your dog. This will give you a sense of whether the space will be adequate, and will help you to decide exactly where to place the fence. Also, talk to the neighbors to make sure you both agree on where the property line lies, and check local zoning laws to ensure fences are allowed.

Using a water-based chalk or paint, mark off the area.

Visit a local building supply store and choose a high fence that your dog can't jump over. Consider how it will look against the house, too. The type of fencing is a matter of personal choice; as long as it doesn't have large gaps that a dog could crawl under or climb through, as a split rail fence does, it will keep your dog secure. A brick wall, a high picket fence, and even chain link will serve the same purpose.

Choose a high enough fence to keep your dog from jumping over it. For a large dog, choose a 6-foot fence, and for a small dog, a 4-foot fence, says Jeff Beneke in "The Fence Bible." If you're concerned about other dogs or wild animals jumping into the yard, go with the larger size. While some people choose electric fences to keep a dog from leaving the yard, these tend to be far less reliable and potentially painful to the dog.

Consider having your fence professionally installed, unless it's a chain link fence, which is much quicker and easier to set up. For a picket fence, make sure fence posts are buried at least 30 inches deep, after ensuring that no gas lines, pipes, or cables are present, suggests Beneke. This will keep it stable, and prevent your dog from digging underneath. Digging a narrow trench and filling it with concrete will also prevent your dog from digging, says the Dog Owner's Guide website.

If you already have a fence, but it may not be high enough to prevent your dog from jumping, you can install fence extensions or a horizontal panel mounted on the inside of a fence to prevent a dog from leaping over the fence.

Include Shade

Make sure the play yard offers plenty of shade, which is crucial for your dog's health. A thick cover of trees can provide ample shade, though this will vary at different times of the day.

Put a dog house in the enclosure so your dog will always have an escape from the sun.

In hot weather, check on your dog often, even after installing shelter.

Add Extras

Create a digging area if your dog likes to dig, suggests Better Homes and Gardens. Much like a sandbox, a digging box contains soil, or a mixture of soil and sand. You can bury toys in it to encourage your dog to dig.

Install a "potty" area by placing a post in the ground, says Better Homes and Gardens. Many male dogs will naturally pee there to mark their territory. Even if you have a female dog, you could encourage her to relieve herself at the post by walking her to it on a leash and rewarding her when she goes. This technique can encourage a male or female dog to see the post as the "bathroom." This will keep the lawn cleaner and protect the grass.

Place a large water bowl in a specific spot, where your dog will get used to finding it. Make sure it can't be knocked over easily. For a larger dog, you could dig a hole with a flat bottom, and then place a bucket of water into it.

Give your dog "outside toys" to play with, such as a large ball and chew toys. And spend time outside with her, playing together.

Make sure your dog is comfortable and protected from the elements whenever you leave him outside. Putting a thick pillow in the dog house may keep him warm on chilly days, but in the winter, he might not be able to stay outside for long stretches of time. Instead, bring him outside to play for a short while. After he burns off some energy in the play yard, bring him back inside.

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