Best ground covers for dog potty areas | Top 5 Low-Cost Options

The best 5 ground covers for dog potty areas include bark mulch, pebbles, dog mats, artificial turf, sand or straw. When choosing a groundcover that is comfortable for our dog, low cost to replace, easy to pick up poo and hose of wee and will not stick to dog’s feet. Consider location, shelter, size and convenience.

This article will explore the pros and cons of dog potty ground covers, details about each choice to help you decide what is best for your home and your dog.

Ground covers for dog potty areas – Pros and cons

Here is a great summary of the pros and cons of ground covers for dog potty areas.

Mulch TypeProsCons
1. Bark MulchCheap, soaks up wee, easy to pick up poo, natural, comfortable for dogs, improves soil.Needs to be topped up over time, can spread onto pavers.
2. PebblesDrains well, easy to clean with a hose, looks neat & tidy.Large pebbles make it harder to pick up poo, can be uncomfortable for dog feet.
3. Dog mats or artificial turfEasy to install, looks neat and tidy, dogs love them.Can move around if not secured properly, can be difficult to clean without using a hose.
4. SandDrains easily, low cost, dogs love itCan stick to dog’s feet coming into your house, dogs can confuse dog potty areas and kids sandpits.
5. Straw or hayAbsorbs dog wee, low cost, easy to buy and replaceCan make a mess in your yard when your dog moves it around, needs to be replaced regularly.
This is my Ridgeback Cooper who has a potty area near the side of our townhouse.

Best 5 ground covers for dog potty areas

Bark mulch

Bark mulch is my favorite ground cover for dog potty areas as it soaks up dog wee and makes it incredibly easy to pick up dog poo. Using bags or a small shovel, the poo and a small amount of bark can be picked up cleanly.

Bark mulch works well for dog potty areas on the side of your house.

Overtime the bark mulch will need to be topped up but this will happen slowly. Bark mulch is a natural covering that will also work to improve the soil underneath. The bacteria living in the mulch will help to break down the dog wee and reduce smells.

The other negative of bark mulch is that it can move about as your dog walks over the top. Small amounts of mulch can move onto nearby pavers meaning you will need to sweep the mulch off to keep them clean.

When choosing a bark mulch, look for an untreated natural mulch that has not been colored with non-natural dyes. An organic or natural tree mulch is perfect for dog potty areas.

A mix of mulch and rocks can work well for dog potty areas.


Small or large pebbles work well for a small, designated potty area for your dog. The rocks will drain well and are easy to squirt off with a hose. Small rocks make it easier to pick up doggy poo than larger rocks but both will work well. With larger rocks, it can be difficult to pick up dog poo without picking up the rocks as well.

Pebbles can be uncomfortable for some dogs, particularly smaller or more sensitive dogs. You may need to take some time to train your dog to become comfortable walking on the rocks. I know that my dog did not enjoy walking on our large pebbles and would walk and poo on our pavers instead.

Many dogs that are comfortable walking on pebbles will find that pebbles are a great place to go potty and will be easy to clean for you. Pebbles can be bought from a local landscape supplier or hardware store and most will deliver straight to your door. Remember, pebbles can be heavy if you need to cover a large area so delivery is a great idea.

Small pebbles are easy to clean in dog potty areas.

Dog mats or artificial turf

Dog mats or artificial turf are great options to cover the ground for your dog potty area. These look natural and can be placed in a corner out of the way.

Check out this artificial grass for dogs from Amazon below.

The best way to clean these surfaces is with a hose. Make sure that artificial turf is secured tightly on the ground otherwise it is likely to move around your yard when your dog walks or scratches on the surface.


Sand is often a favorite cover for dog potty areas and dogs love it. Sand is soft, absorbent and is easy to keep clean. Dogs can often find kids sandpits an appealing place to do their business because of this. Dogs can become confused about what area is appropriate to do their business and a sand potty area and kids sandpit can look the same to them.

A fine or coarse river sand works well for dog potty areas but if you also have a kids sandpit, you may need to cover this when it is not in use. It can be easier to cover the areas you do not want to your dog to go potty and encourage them with treats to use your designated area.

Sand can also stick to dogs feet if it is damp so if your dog likes to come in and out of your house then it may not be a great option. Heavy rain can also move sand easily so make sure you have a strong timber or steel edge to keep it in place.

Straw, hay or sugar cane mulch

Light mulches such as straw or hay are another option to cover areas for your dog go potty. Shredded light mulches like sugar cane absorb dog wee well and make it easy to scoop up dog poo. You will take a small amount of mulch with you each time but it can be a great way to remove waste easily.

The cons of this ground cover is that it can blow around your backyard easily or be kicked around by your dog. It will need to be replaced or topped up often but your dog will love the feel of natural mulch under their feet. It is also low cost so can be a great option to try.

Making a designated potty area for dogs

Choosing an area that is designated for your dog to do their business has many benefits including keeping the rest of your yard clean, making it easier to clean up and can help your dog to understand what you expect of them.

To encourage your dog to use a dog potty area, you will need to dedicate time to train them. When you let your dog outside in the morning, head out with them and encourage them to do their early morning business in the area with treats.

The other great benefit of a designated area for dog business is that it will keep the rest of your yard clean, reduce the amount of times your kids will accidentally step on dog poo and walk it around your yard and in your house and make it easier to do a daily clean.

You do not need to fence off a dog potty area but encouraging your dog to use this with the appropriate cover that they enjoy will help to positively reward this behavior. A short time training with treats will be the best way to get them to go in your designated spot.

Where to put your dog potty area

There are lots of things to think about when you choose the area to put your dog potty ground cover. Here are my top considerations for dog potty areas.

Dog PottyNotes
LocationPut your dog potty area in a corner out of the way or covered by shrubs or trees. This will give your dog some privacy and keep any waste out of view.
SlopeAn area with a gentle slope will help excess rain and water to drain away keeping the area dry. This will help keep your dogs feet clean and dry.
DistanceKeeping the area close enough to the house that it is convenient to clean up each day while avoiding it being too close to avoid smells.
Weather protectionIf you live in a snowy or very rainy area, you may need to consider weather protection above your dog’s potty area. The side area of a house or shed may work well.
Edible gardensDo not place your dog potty area near your vegetable garden or fruit trees. The dog urine can damage plant roots or contaminate your edible garden.
Outdoor FurnitureAvoid placing your dog potty area near outdoor furniture. This will avoid smells and also avoid any confusion for your dog who may mistake a chair leg for a good place to wee.

Dog potty area ground cover – FAQ

What is the best ground cover for a dog yard?

A ground cover for a dog yard can double as a potty area so choose artificial turf, a mix of pebbles, lawn and bark mulch. Your dog yard can look great and make it easy to pick up dog poo. Choose something that your dog likes to walk on and you will have a happy pooch.

Will dogs poop on gravel?

Dogs will poo on gravel if they are used to walking on this substance. For dogs that have never experienced walking on gravel before, they may take some training or time to get used to walking and pooing on this surface. It can be achieved by offering treats to encourage your dog to walk on the surface first.

Can dogs pee and poop on gravel?

Dogs will both pee and poop on gravel if they are trained and encouraged to. The easiest way to train this is to take your dog out first thing in the morning and reward them after they have done their business on the gravel. This will make it easy to pick up for you and hose off.

What can you use instead of mulch for dogs?

Other ideas for ground covers for dogs instead of mulch include artificial grass, pebbles, sand or lawn. Your design choices will come into play as you choose a surface for your dog yard so trying a cover to see if your dog likes it is a great way to make decision.

Best ground covers for dog potty areas – Summary

There are lots of options for covering the ground for dog potty areas. My favorite is bark mulch but pebbles and sand are also great choices. See what works for you and your dog and don’t be afraid to change if you find something that might work better.