Outdoor running area - dogs

ktmastSeptember 9, 2011

We are raising a guide dog puppy. She is an 8 month old black lab. I want to make a fenced in play area in our yard. She tends to eat stuff off the ground and tear up grass. I have considered the following:

foam pads

artificial grass


I don't want to use regular grass because she pulls it up and I don't want to leave it with dirt because in the winter I don't want to deal with the mud. Any suggestions as to what I might be able to do inexpensively? I appreciate any suggestions. The area I am going to enclose is 14'x24'.



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She should not be out without supervision, especially if she eats/digs. She's bored. Better to get he an interactive toy (that drops treats as she works it) or a frozen kong stuffed with peanut butter.

Good luck. I raised a service pup and it was constant work and training which really paid off.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 7:12AM
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Is this an area for her to stay in when you're gone or do you intend to play with her in it? It's not large enough for her to romp and burn off a lot of energy but she could be comfortable there for periods of times when you are gone. Will she have access to the house and will there be a place for her to get out of the rain/sun? Keep in mind that if you intend to put her in that area, while you or children are in the other part of the yard, that you could easily end up with a frustrated, barking dog.

Since she tears up grass she'll probably tear up artificial grass. If she eats stuff off the ground, she may eat gravel. I'm not sure what the foam pads are.....maybe rubber tiles?? Either way, they sound like good chewing toys! : ) DS has a large puppy that chews and eats everything she can get her mouth on but she doesn't eat gravel. They have her outdoor run covered in large pea gravel and it's fine for the dogs to do their business on, but it's not something they'd choose to lie or play on.
Do you think she'd eat bark mulch or wood chips?

If you're not around to manage her the safest surface is concrete, but it won't be inexpensive.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 11:30AM
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Does she run? How long. Grow grass, let her run for a bit and bring her inside or take her on a walk when she's done running. My dogs run in the backyard and yes there's a circular track. (They ran professionally.) However I never leave them outside to just 'hang around' as that's when you will get bored dogs who have nothing more interesting to do than dig or eat things. It's also not safe to just leave a dog outside unsupervised. And - if she has habits you don't like you can only train her if you're right there with her. That's what bringing up a dog is all about, being with them and training them.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 12:03PM
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Just saw the 14 x 24 - that isn't large enough for a dog to run in. Is it actually supposed to be a potty area?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 12:06PM
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The guide-dog puppy trainers around train the pups to use a crate. Other times, the dog is always at the puppy raiser's side.

They also meet in supervised groups to learn, together, what to do and how. Firm guidelines exist.

You should be asking the group's leader for assistance in how to deal with the pup. I doubt that putting the pup in an outdoor run is the answer.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 12:06PM
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Thanks for all the great feedback. We do belong to a Guide Puppy raising group and have meetings every other Sunday.

This are would be used strictly for burning off energy, only under supervision and with someone in the area at all times. It would not be an area for relieving. She relieves on command is a designated area. We would play in this area 2 or 3 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. The puppy would be on a 20' drag line so I could correct behavior.

Right now we play at a park with her on a 30' drag line. I have the handle around my wrist at all times. Our regional rep. did an evaluation and has allowed us to play with the puppy on our front lawn (with the end of the drag line around our wrist) but it's not the best solution. I was trying to create an outdoor area that is convenient.

Right now I take the puppy for a walk to the park(wearing her jacket), remove the jacket, leash and head collar, put on the long drag line and give her the release command to play. She will be running around with the Kong in her mouth then suddenly drop to the grass and pull out a big clump, then runs around with it. The pulling out of grass in not acceptable play and I correct her. I have noticed that one of the local parks has shorter grass and the dog doesn't tend to pull it up as much. Other dogs that are not on leash are a potential problem too. My puppy is an intact female, potential breeder for Guide Dogs. She is 8 months old.

Originally I was going to install an dog run that is 12'x7.5'x6' high. The regional rep said that she didn't think I would get the results I wanted, it would be too small to play so I am trying to fence off a larger chunk of my yard.

I bought some interlocking foam mats for the original sized area (link below). I didn't read the description thoroughly enough and it says "-Can be used outside in mild climates, not UV stable, not suitable for extreme sunlight locations." I think my location is too sunny (climate is mild - I live in the San Francisco bay area). I have put together 6 of these mats on my screened in porch and the dog loves being on them, no attempts to chew. The mats have a bumpy side and a smooth side, I put them smooth side up. The extras won't go to waste, I am planning on using them in my garage.

She does eat pebbles when given the opportunity. She came back to me from a 2 day, over night puppy sit and had pebbles in her poop.

I was looking for something relativity inexpensive, easy to sweep or use a leaf blower to clean(she will eat leaves given the chance) and low maintenance. Because she is a puppy and we will be raising more of the guide dog puppies, I didn't want to use concrete because Guide dogs said running on concrete for the little ones isn't good for them and they could get hurt. I looked at the horse stall mats, but they don't say anything about outdoor/UV durability.

I thought artificial turf might be the answer if it was a very short type. Maybe I should reconsider real grass and keep it mowed short. Are there any other plant alternatives that are short and very durable for dogs running, chamomile? other ground covers? I'm open to ideas and suggested areas to research.


Here is a link that might be useful: Dense Foam Mats 5/8 Inch

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 1:00PM
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How large is your back yard? Just wondering if you can enclose it if you intend to continue working with Guide Dogs and raising their pups.
The area you've describe isn't large enough for a dog to run in but is a nice size for playing with toys. If you're going to be there with her, then I'd choose the artificial turf for low maintenance.
From experience at DS's farm I can vouch that the rubber mats will get hot in the sun and dirt clings to them. I think you'll find them more difficult to keep clean.

Does she have soft toys to play and run with since she prefers tufts of grass. Dogs usually grab tufts of grass during play because it can be swung around as they shake their head during play. It's just fun! : )

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 1:46PM
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My yard has other issues that I could address. It just increases the scope of the project. We would only be playing with her in the area so we could monitor the activity and correct for inappropriate (per Guide Dogs) behavior. That's a good point about the rubber mats. I'll look into the artificial turf.

She doesn't have soft toys to chew because they aren't Guide Dog approved. She has a rubber Kong which is probably the softest thing for chewing. Other than that, she chews Nylabones. She does hold the Kong in her mouth and shake it. It is very cute!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 1:18AM
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puppnikkita - I appreciate your concern for back yard dogs, but it doesn't really apply in my case.

This dog is a well loved, guide dog puppy in training. The outdoor area would be used 2 or 3 times a day for 10 to 20 minutes. She would never be alone in the yard and once she exercised, she would be brought into the house. At night she sleeps in my daughter's bedroom (in a kennel). During the day, someone is always with her. She goes with us almost everywhere, parks, stores, the library and outings. We are volunteer puppy raisers for Guide dogs. You may find the link below interesting. This is the first puppy we have raised and we want to give her every opportunity to be successful. At 15 months of age, she will be going back to the Guide Dog campus for formal training. We will miss her very much.

I appreciate your concern for backyard dogs. There is no need to worry in our case.

Here is a link that might be useful: Guide Dog Puppy Raisers

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 12:18PM
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ktmast, sorry I don't have any advice for you, but I do want to thank you for raising a guide dog. Not sure if i could raise a dog from a puppy and then let it go!

I think puppnikkita is spam ... they just registered and link to a site to buy animal related clothes.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 12:26PM
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Thanks Pamghatten, I hadn't checked out the link posted by puppnikkita. I know what you mean about letting go of the dog. It's going to be tough. I have tried to think of her as being "on loan". We are planning on raising another one after this one. My youngest is 14 and both of his siblings will be off to college next week. Helping raise Guide dogs and going to the meetings is good for him too!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 3:33PM
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Thank you for taking the time and effort to bring up a service dog.

I don't think the size you're planning on is really big enough to be able to be a "play" area, but it sounds like she's getting enough exercise through your efforts to take her to the dog park and through walking.

FWIW, I put down tons pea gravel in my Boxer's outside dog "run" area but he wasn't a rock eater either. LOL It was just his place to go to lay in the sunshine and watch the butterflies.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 6:14PM
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