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All About Artificial Turf Dog Runs

Building a dog run and pairing it with pet-friendly fake grass can create the perfect space to offer your pup some fresh air and exercise without the need for constant supervision. Learn more about the benefits and maintenance needs of artificial turf dog runs below! 

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What is a Dog Run?

A dog run is either a private or public fenced-off area in which a dog can be kept confined and get exercise. A private dog run keeps them safe from potential hazards such as poisonous plants, chemicals, or traffic. They're also great because they contain your dog without the hassle of having to always be on the lookout for other people. A public dog run, on the other hand, is a social place for dogs usually located within city parks. These are especially ideal in California, where the typical dog owner doesn't have a large yard where their pup can get exercise.

A private dog run is generally located at the back of a person's property, though it can be on one side too. In private settings, dog runs can be accompanied by a doghouse and sleeping quarters for your pet if it's near a water source to provide ample water for your pooch. Some pet owners will even build small dog agility courts within their backyard dog run. While dog runs are typically enclosed by chain-link fencing, wood fencing can be used as well if your dog won't tear at it. 

dog enclosure for backyard dog run

Best Turf Materials For a Dog Run

There are a few things you'll want to keep in mind when shopping for artificial grass for your pets. The best artificial grass materials for dog runs are typically shorter, less dense, and with durable blades. Grasses with short blades make cleaning the surface much easier, while lower density allows for quicker drainage when flushing the surface with water. Durability is very important in pet turf, so opting for synthetic grass that has structured blades is ideal. While these materials may cost more, this will help reduce wear and tear over time as your pets use this space to play and exercise. 

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Pet Turf Components and Add-ons For Dog Runs

Manufacturers recommend installing a drainage layer beneath the artificial grass in pet turf dog runs to assist with air ventilation and water flow. This drainage layer in conjunction with consistent sanitizing will prevent odors and bacteria growth from occurring. Keep reading to learn more about the components of a pet turf system for dog runs: 

What's the Best Turf for Dog Runs? 

As mentioned above, short and durable grass with a low density is best for dog runs. You'll want something that's easy to clean because pet turf will require consistent rinsing and sanitizing. Opting for plush and soft grass in dog runs is usually a mistake. Dense and tall artificial grass is less wear and tear resistant, becomes hotter in the sunlight, drains slower, and takes longer to clean. 

What type of drainage DOES a dog run need?

Artificial grass for pets will feature a 5 mm drainage grid called Drain Core. This drainage layer goes between the base layer and the grass itself and elevates the surface to create an air void for circulation and accelerated drainage. This addition is vital in areas where pets are using the restroom consistently to help prevent urine from living beneath the surface and causing odor and bacteria growth. 

How to Prevent ODor in Pet Turf 

Another component of pet turf systems that helps reduce and prevent odor build-up is a turf deodorizer, also known as Zeolite. This fine substance is a natural odor eater that traps the ammonia from urine and locks in its odors until the area is flushed with water. When installing a dog run in backyards, we lay a layer of turf deodorizer beneath the surface because it can leave a chalky film on the grass if it's applied on top. 

What's the best Turf infill for pets?

The best infill to use in areas that are pet specific is antibacterial sand infill. The granules of this infill have a plastic-like coating that helps to prevent bacteria, mold, and mildew growth. This is also the best infill for dog runs because the coating makes the infill smooth rather than abrasive like silica sand. Cooler surfaces and better drainage are also a few more of the benefits that antibacterial sand infill offers. 

Is nail-free installation necessary for pet turf?

For dog runs, manufacturers recommend installing a frame around the perimeter and attaching pet-friendly turf to the frame with heavy-duty staples. This will remove the use of nails and be the best preventative measure against wear and tear and active diggers. Most homeowners opt out of this, however, this is highly recommended in public or commercial artificial dog runs. 

artificial turf attached to a frame for nail-free turf installation

Pet Relief Area FOr Dog Run

To keep your dog run with fake grass long-lasting and odor-free, we'd recommend creating a "relief area" to confine the area in which pets actually use the bathroom into a smaller space. This will help with cleaning and sanitizing, water conservation, and keeping the majority of your artificial dog run clean at all times. 

This area is designed to be used for pet relief only, is usually up to 50 feet in size, and is completely washable. Cleaning a relief area can be fully automatic with a chlorine-enabled wash system, or rely on manual flushing and sanitizing. Relief objects, such as a fake fire hydrant or mailbox, will help lure your pup to this space to pee. This system is currently the most hygienic way to keep your artificial dog run clean, however, it requires some training to get your dog used to the relief area.

Dog Run vs Porch Potty

A Porch Potty is a small box typically set on a porch, patio, or balcony that is topped with artificial grass and acts as a litter box for dogs. This is typically used for smaller dogs and is purchased as a restroom alternative when a pet owner either doesn't have lawn space, or their lawn is not fit for pet use. 

Benefits of Artificial Dog Runs

The nice thing about building an at-home dog run is that you can lay artificial pet turf on concrete and other hard surfaces. This allows you to create a green space for your pet to use the restroom even if you don't have a traditional lawn area. While the porch potty is a great temporary alternative to a natural lawn, this won't provide your dog with any play or exercise opportunities. Another obvious benefit to dog runs is the ability to allow your dog to run, play, and use the bathroom without being supervised because the area will be enclosed. 

Outdoor Shading For Artificial Dog Run

When designing and building a pet-friendly space and looking into backyard dog run ideas, it's important to plan ahead. Although it may not be hot and sunny during the installation, summer months bring high temps and this space can become uncomfortable for your pup if not properly shaded. Dogs are unable to express their discomforts, so it's important to build them a space that will keep them safe during play! Shading the artificial dog run will help keep the surface of your turf cool as well. There are multiple shading options for dog runs to reduce sun exposure: 

  • Shade Sails 

  • Solar Shade Clothes

  • Kennel Cover

  • Landscape Fabric 

  • Cotton Awning

  • Pallet Pergola 

  • Canopy 

  • Lattice Wall

How to Install a DIY Dog Run

If you're designing a dog run and building it yourself, let us support you! Reference this quick walkthrough to see what installing an artificial dog run entails, and check out our DIY pet-friendly turf installation article for more detailed step-by-step instructions.

1. Map out and measure your space

Build any fencing prior to laying the pet turf to ensure there is no damage to the turf during other installs. Check out backyard dog run ideas online to understand exactly what you're looking to accomplish. Shop our Online Turf Store to find the best and coolest pet-friendly turf materials and have them shipped directly to you! 

2. Excavate the area

Remove any natural grass from the area along with approximately 2 in. of soil using a sod-cutting knife. We'd recommend letting the grass in this area die prior to removal because this will make removal easier and can save you some money on dumping costs. Lay a heavy layer of weed killer before moving on with base preparation

3. Build a frame around the perimeter (optional) or install edging

This is manufacturer recommended in pet turf installations. Not only is nail-free safer for dogs, but it helps prevent any uplift from avid diggers. Use 2x4 treated wood planks to build your frame around the perimeter.  

If you opt out of the frame installation, you'll need to ensure there's proper edging to support the base. 

4. Prepare the Turf Base Layer

Lay 1 in. of decomposed granite along the surface, using a push brush to distribute the DG evenly before using a heavy-duty roller to compact and smooth the surface. While manufacturers recommend the use of a class II road base, DG will produce the best results without the need for professional tools. Repeat this step 2-3 times. 

Compacting DG with Heavy Duty Roller for Dog Run

5. Apply a Layer of DG Stabilizer

Applying a decomposed granite stabilizer to the DG will solidify the surface so it can hold the nails during the turf-laying process. This is an important step to take, as skipping it can cause turf to begin to raise on the edges over time and the nails will not be secure. One container of stabilizer covers approx. 50 sq. ft, so divide the square footage of your area by 50 to determine how many containers you'll need. Allow the area to fully dry before moving on to the next step.

6. Lay turf deodorizer

Sprinkle your turf deodorizer along the surface of the base. This will trap and lock in the smell of ammonia and other odors between cleanings. 

7. Lay drainage layer

Fix the drain core or air drain to the surface with non-galvanized nails to keep it secure beneath the pet turf. You'll want to make sure this layer is secured, otherwise, there may be movement underneath the surface. 

8. Cut & Seam

If you're working with multiple pieces of pet-friendly fake grass for a dog run, you'll need to cut the grass to size and seam your pieces together before you can begin securing the installation. We'd recommend seaming with the zipper or "s" effect to reduce visibility.

S Seam for Dog Run to Create Invisible Seams

9. Secure the Artificial Grass to the Base

Stretch and nail down the turf along the perimeter. Stretching the turf is very important to prevent wrinkles and buckling as temperatures fluctuate. Let the turf sit in the sun prior to securing so that it's easier to stretch. If you're using nails, make sure they're hammered as deep into the surface as possible. For the best results, nail every 2 ft. throughout the surface as well.

10. Apply Infill 

Apply antibacterial sand infill onto the surface. Use a push brush to distribute approximately 1 lb. per sq. ft. Brushing the surface after applying infill is important to push the infill down near the backing of the turf and fluff the blades upright. 

To learn how to build an artificial dog run on concrete, check out our article on how to DIY turf installation on hard surfaces

Artificial Dog Run Maintenance

It's very important to flush out artificial pet turf in dog runs with water and a sanitizing agent to prevent odor build-up. While the added drainage layer accelerates drainage and offers more ventilation, the longevity of your artificial dog run really depends on how you keep it clean. For this reason, a pet relief area will substantially reduce water use because you won't need to flush out the entire area as often as you'll need to clean the relief area.

We'd also recommend brushing through the turf with a stiff-bristled broom occasionally to break up the sand infill and redistribute it across the surface evenly, this will help keep drainage accelerated. 

We're here to support you with your artificial dog run project. At InstallArtificial, we sell high-quality turf materials for DIY turf installation AND we install turf ourselves. Whether you're looking online for dog run ideas to install it yourself, or you want us to handle the entire process, contact us today by requesting an estimate below to get started! 

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