We regularly review the best products around for our dogs at Canine Weekly, but we are also partial to learning how to create things for our dogs with our own hands. This post will focus on one of those things: How to build a dog run: The DIY Guide!
Dog runs can be essential for some dogs. Maybe you have a shared yard, need to keep your dog separate from other animals or children, or it could be that your dog lives outside, and it’s time to update his shelter. Whatever the reason is for wanting to build a dog run, this guide should hopefully make the venture more straightforward.
This post will identify what tools and materials to use, provide some handy tips, and include a round-up of some of the best dog-run DIY guides out there – including a step-by-step guide of my own. I’ve also answered some popular questions relating to dog runs.
What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Building Your Own Dog Run?
We appreciate, at Canine Weekly, just how costly it can be to own a dog. This is why we regularly feature home remedy articles, budget-pick products, and DIY guides. Before this post, I have looked at the best way to build a large dog house and the best plans for DIY dog houses; now, I have researched how to build a dog run to complete your yard set-up!
But is this really a worthwhile venture? Let’s look into the pros and cons of building your own dog run.
Benefits of Building Your Own Dog Run
- Money-Saving: A large-sized dog run will cost hundreds of dollars and could run into thousands. The basic materials are pretty cheap; chicken wire, metal poles, and roofing material. Dog runs don’t come fully assembled, so you’re basically paying a high sum of money just for materials.
- Personal Design: Buying a dog run limits you to the runs that are for sale. You may have a certain shape of the yard that requires a more specialized build. Or, you could have a beautiful home where a more aesthetically pleasing dog run would be more fitting than a standard grey metal. When you build your own dog run, you can build it however you want it.
- Self Satisfaction: The feeling of pride when you have built something with your own two hands to enrich the life of another is something that money can’t buy. This sense of achievement alone is worth it for many of us!
Drawbacks of Building Your Own Dog Run
- Time Consuming: Even a store-bought dog run can require 2-people and many hours to complete, so we can certainly increase this considerably for a DIY project. If you don’t have sufficient time to dedicate to a large project, then building a dog run could be entirely stressful.
- Accidents Can Happen: Whether you’re a novice at DIY or a skilled tradesman, where there are tools and materials, there’s a risk of accidents. This could range from mediocre to fairly severe. Do you have the medical insurance to cover any accidents or injuries? Can you afford the time off work to recover?
- Will it be Good Enough?: With the best will in the world, if you aren’t able to fully grasp a plan or you feel like cutting a few corners, this could have a negative impact on the dog run, and remedy it is just not good enough. It may be that it could injure your dog or that the dog is able to escape.
Things to Consider When Building a Dog Run
As well as the potential drawbacks to building a DIY dog run, there are some other things that it may be wise to consider.
- Legal Requirements: In the US, a dog has a legal right to adequate shelter, and although many dogs thrive living outside, they all need to be protected from the elements. You could risk fines, an animal ban, or even prosecution if you are not providing your dog with a decent environment.
- Dog Safety: Besides the run shielding the dog from the elements, it should also be a safe environment. This means that the dog cannot injure himself on any part of the run or be injured or harmed due to the run’s materials or location.
- Dog Comfort: A dog should always have access to freshwater, somewhere comfortable to lie down, warmth, adequate food, and shelter. All of these things should be included within the run. Even if you’re only planning to use the dog run sporadically, it should still include the basics a dog needs.
- Location: Consider where it is best to place the dog run. This will ideally be a shaded area far enough from the home to not interfere with outdoor activities or entertaining but close enough to supervise your dog.
- Permits: Depending on the height and size of your dog run, you could need a permit before constructing it. Check with your local governing body to see if this applies to you.
- Consider Your Dogs Quirks: Extra precautions could need to be taken when building your dog run. If you have a digger, this could mean adding chicken wire under the ground cover or laying paving stones or concrete on the floor. If you have a dog that loves to jump, it is essential to install a roof – this will also prevent wild animals from gaining entry.
- Floor Coverings: You could build the run on your existing concrete or outdoor grass flooring, or it may be worthwhile looking at alternatives, such as wood chips, gravel, rubber, or artificial grass. As long as you can hose down the floor and keep the interior of the run sanitary, most flooring materials should be ok.
My Step-by-Step DIY Guide to Building a Dog Run
The following guide is very basic and for a square-shaped or long and narrow dog run. This will be suitable for small breeds and puppies for short-term use. We will get to the grander designs further in the post.
- Mark the perimeter of the area you want for the dog run
- Dig a trench along the perimeter; 18-in to 24-in deep is sufficient
- Dig post holes at regular and even intervals along the trench for the vertical supports
- Install the vertical supports and cement in place
- Attach chicken wire or fencing to the support
A gate will also need to be installed to provide access. An experienced builder can fashion a custom gate fairly easily, but it may be simpler to purchase a low-cost gate for most of us.
The Best Free DIY Dog Run Plans
Here is a round-up of some of the best free dog run plans for a DIY dog run I have found:
#1. Low-Cost, Easy-Construction by Instructables Living
Instructables Living has produced a really straightforward step-by-step DIY dog run guide with pictures, making this an excellent plan for the more visual learner. This is a cheap and easy dog run plan and one of the most affordable and simple I have come across.
- Skill Level: Low-Moderate
- Materials: Wire Livestock Panels, Gate Hinges, Metal T Fence Post, Aluminum Wire, Metal Gate, Machine Oil, x9 Safety Clamps.
- Tools Needed: Pliers, Tape Measure, 4-pound Sledgehammer, Reciprocating saw.
#2. Chain-Link Dog Run by Family Handyman
The Chain-Link Dog Run by Family Handyman has some great features, such as a place that allows you to mount your dog’s house properly and buried barriers to stop a dog from being able to dig his way out. This is a pretty challenging build, but the step-by-step guide breaks it into more manageable tasks.
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Materials: Chain Link Fencing, Gate, Landscape Fabric, Concrete, Privacy Slats, Dog House and/or Sunscreen, Pea Gravel, Sand, Treated 2x12s.
- Tools Needed: Circular Saw, Adjustable Wrench, Hacksaw, Spade, Pliers, Spirit Level, Post Hole Digger, Tape Measure, Shovel, Gloves, Wheelbarrow.
#3. Andersen Wood Crafts: DIY Dog Run
A video tutorial by Anderson Wood Crafts shows you how to make a very sturdy dog run, suitable for large and strong breeds. This is a very simple two-post design that doesn’t provide shelter for a dog but will keep him contained in the yard.
- Skill Level: Basic
- Materials: Eye Bolts, 7 ft Chain Link Fence Posts, Concrete, Soil, Metal Rope, D-Ring, Turn Buckle, Pulley, Leash Attachment, Long Leash.
- Tools Needed: Drill, Wrench, Spade
#4. Salvaged Wood Project by My Farmers Daughter
My Farmers Daughter has uploaded this fenced enclosure for her vegetable garden. Made from salvaged wood and odds and ends lying around, this is a low-to-no-cost build designed to keep animals out of the vegetable garden. This plan could be used to keep dogs inside of the garden, providing there is additional shelter added, such as roofing or a dog house.
- Skill Level: Medium
- Materials: Wire Fencing, Timber, Nails, Wooden Gate
- Tools Needed: Hammer/Mallet, Spade, Drill
#. 5 Bits of Wood Workshop
A really short and informative DIY dog run video guide by Bits of Wood Workshop results in a very low-cost, simple run for your dog. There is no mention of an entry or exit for the dog, but it seems lightweight enough to lift if you don’t want to fashion your own gate. I would recommend this for small breeds and puppies.
- Skill Level: Medium
- Materials: 2x4s, 48-in Wire Fencing, Wood Screws, Pliers, Fencing Nails, Tape Measure
- Tools Needed: Drill, Hammer, Circular Saw.
#6. Little Missurior Fencing
The Little Missouri Blog has a great piece on animal runs, aimed at goats on the farm but easily tweakable for dogs. This is a quick and easy build that anyone can attempt. Again, there is no reference to a gate, but this could be added in using intel from the above plan!
- Skill Level: Low-Medium
- Materials: Wire Fencing, Fence Posts, Cable Staples
- Tools Needed: Hammer, Circular Saw, Drill
FAQs About Dog Runs
Q1. What is an Alternative to a Dog Run?
A dog run is basically a safe, enclosed area for a dog in the yard or garden. This can also be created by using a dog playpen (which has the advantage of being portable but the disadvantage of not being particularly Houdini-dog proof).
Q2. What is the Best Size for a Dog Run?
It is best to consider your dog’s size and energy level – as well as how much available space you have. The average size is 12 x 8 for a medium dog. I personally feel this is pretty small if the dog is to spend a lot of time there, but it’s a good starting point.
Q3. How Much Will it Cost me to Build a Dog Run?
Dog runs fluctuate hugely in price. If you want something simple like #3, you would be looking at between $20 – $30 for materials. Many plans are based around salvaged wood, which would be greatly financially saving. A creative and innovative owner is likely able to build a dog run for less than $200, but this is a project that could run into thousands of dollars if additional features are wanted.
Q4. Can You Feed a Dog Inside his Run?
You physically can feed a dog in a run, but it would be best not to. Firstly, leaving food outside will attract rodents and bugs, as well as being an inconvenience to you going back and forth. The fundamental purpose of a dog run is to provide an area for your dog to exercise safely. A dog run isn’t designed to be permanent accommodation for your dog.
Q5. How Long Should a Dog be in a Run?
Again, a dog run isn’t a long-term housing solution. There are some things to consider to help you to decide how long is appropriate to leave a dog in a run, and these are:
- Your dog’s tolerance to high and low temperatures
- Your dogs desire for human companionship
- Your dogs exercise needs
- The climate and weather
Generally speaking, around 4-hours is fine as long as the dog has fresh water, shelter, and something to keep his brain active. I use lickimats, durable chew toys, and tennis balls in my runs – just make sure to go for tough, non-chew products if you aren’t able to supervise to prevent choking.
Dog runs are a good way of providing your dog with a safe place to exercise and play. You can customize any of the plans in this guide to suit your property and your dog perfectly.
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.