How to Build a Dog Run

Build a dog run to give your dog a safe outdoor enclosure.

Let’s face it, some dogs cannot be trusted to leave their owner’s landscaping intact!

Therefore, many people create some type of containment system to give their dogs a little outdoor roaming room when they’re unable to supervise.

Things to Think About

For building a dog run of any type, you need to think about suitable and available space combined with the following:

  • Your budget
  • Materials you have on hand
  • The durability of the materials needed to withstand weather, dogs careening into the sides, or chewing on posts.

Types of Dog Runs

During my research, I discovered there are two basic types of dog runs.

  • A rectangular dog run with a kennel that includes a dog house and is set in a back or side yard. The floor of the run may be dirt, concrete, asphalt, artificial turf, or rubber matting. For an elaborate variation, check out these photos of one built for a couple of Old English Sheepdogs.
  • A rectangular dog run that is attached to a building for a multi-kennel operation. This type often has a concrete, asphalt, or rubberized floor.

To build a dog run of either type, see more information and instructions under Building Dog Kennels and Dog Kennel Instructions.

Additional Dog Run Types 

  • A freestanding dog pen that may or may not include a dog house. This is often more square than rectangular. When it’s attached to a  commercial kennel, it’s called an exercise yard.
  • An aerial dog run, where the dog is attached via a lead to a cable that is strung between two anchors such as posts or trees and can run back and forth within a certain distance.
  • An exercise area or enclosure between two fences or a building and a fence – often used for security around some businesses or for the sport of lure coursing. 

When you build a dog run of this kind, you will generally use either dirt, grass, sawdust, or sand for the base surface.

Build a Dog Run: Freestanding Pen

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Special considerations:

  • Do you want one you can move around from place to place or do you want it be fixed in place?
  • Do you plan to use wooden or metal posts?
  • What type of fencing will you use – wooden boards, or woven wire or chain link in between your posts?
  • Consider drainage – how will the area you select handle rain or snow? Will you need to bring in sawdust or cover the area with straw or even artificial turf to keep it usable?
  • How will you prevent an escape if you have a digger or a climber?
  • For a digger, the bottom of the fence needs to be anchored tightly to the ground, or else you need to block access with chicken wireconcrete blocks or metal sheeting set into the ground all the way along the bottom.
  • For a climbing dog, you may either need to build a high fence with or without an inward lip, cover the entire top with chain link or chicken wire, or electrify the fence. (One Australian Shepherd mix we had managed to scale a six-foot high wooden fence because he was so anxious about being left home alone!)
  • Have a plan for minimizing barking if your neighbors will object. One way is to make sure your dog gets a lot of exercise daily or has a companion animal, toys to play with and structures to play on. Another may be to avoid placing the pen near areas of animal (e.g. squirrels) or human (people walking by) activity.
  • Have a plan for scooping the poop on a regular basis, or else removing your dog for exercise and bathroom functions a couple of times a day. Another option would be to train your dog to go in one corner of the pen only, and then using a dog poo composter or dog waste digester to recycle the stuff.

Aerial Dog Run/Dog Cable/Dog Trolley Line

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For folks who don’t have a fenced yard, you can build a dog run consisting of a cable and pulley system. 

Research uncovered the Amazon kit shown at left. The cable and pulley (or trolley) have reportedly held up well with dogs up to 80 lbs

The kit not only has good reviews but is inexpensive as well. I think it would be hard to put things of this quality together yourself for a cheaper price.

Anchoring the Aerial Dog Run:

People have used sturdy trees, existing clothesline poles, posts set in the ground, or a wooden or brick corners of their house as anchors. You don’t need to use two of the same kind of anchor but can mix and match.

To add posts:

  • Get a 4×4 that is 10 feet (3000 mm) long. Cover the end you will put in the ground with a waterproof sealer if you can.
  • Dig a post hole approximately 2 feet deep (610 mm). 
  • Mix a bag of fence post concrete with water in a wheelbarrow to the consistency of thick pea soup. 
  • Add the post to the hole, then pour the concrete around it to fill the hole.
  • Cover with dirt and rocks and prop if necessary till the concrete sets.

The cable:

  • Follow the directions to fasten the cable properly. Pay special attention to height above the ground so humans can safely pass under it.
  • Make the distance between anchors at least 20 feet long so your dog gets the maximum amount of running space. Since the cable is 50 ft long (haven’t seen any shorter ones by this manufacturer), you can build a dog run around 40 feet long. 
  • Set stops near the ends of the cable to prevent your dog from reaching objects where they could get tangled.

Proper use:

  • Use a harness to attach your dog to the line. Check the harness after each use to make sure buckles are still in place and it has not become too tight.
  • Keep a close eye on your dog to make sure he or she cannot get hurt by tangling with the lead, a nearby fence or with the anchoring poles or trees.
  • Take your dog off the line as often as possible. Please don’t leave your dog out there alone 24/7 – that is like solitary confinement to a dog.