HEALTH & CARE

How to Build A Dog Run: Making The Perfect Enclosure for Your Best Friend

How to Build A Dog Run
John Walton
Written by John Walton

A dog lover’s life is not exactly a normal one. True, it is more rewarding in the long run and regardless of what happens we know we have that 4 legged companion by our side ready to love us, protect us and even entertain us with no questions asked, however there are a few bits and bobs here and there that require us to pay more attention to our dogs.

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There are all kinds of dog lovers out there, we tend to not follow a certain patterns, and with different people come different solutions to the same problem, and one of the most common solutions, especially among new dog owners, is the “dog run”. The dog run is basically an enclosure, like a zoo cage but for your dog. And even though some dog lovers and dog owners are against this concept, there are practical reasons for it as well.

Let’s face it, there are cases and occasions where you need to have your dog constrained. Let’s say you are having friends over for a barbecue, or you are having some yard work done, or simply the fact that you have invested a lot of money in landscaping and the way in which your yard looks, and you might either be afraid or sick of your dog trashing it up.

Dogs in kennel

On the flip side, you have to look over the fence at the other side and see what they have to say about this as well. Ok, it might seem a little cruel or maybe a little harsh locking your dog up like in a zoo, however there are no restrictions to the dog run itself. You can make it as big as you please and you can add a lot of amenities to it like a dog house, padding, doggy bowls, etc.

So it’s not exactly that bad of an overall deal. Another thing to consider here as well is the fact that this might just be a temporary solution instead of a permanent one, and there is no guarantee that the dog run will be your dog’s entire life and universe after it has been built.

Reasons for it vary from case to case, however it is a practical solution and it is not to be ignored.

Deciding the best way to go about the dog run

There are a lot of ideas on the market when it comes to dog runs, and to be quite honest, they are not exactly cheap, nor of impressive quality. To be quite frank, there are options on the market, and they might work, however it will not be tailor made for your dog, it might be a bit too small, it might not be able to put up with the dog’s strength, it might not be good for your yard, there are a lot of variables that a generalized model simply cannot deal with.

That being said, for the sake of your dog, and your wallet at the same time, you might want to consider building a dog run yourself. Ok, granted, a DIY dog run is not exactly something that you can take on overnight, and it is certainly something that might take you quite a bit until you get it right, however as long as you don’t make more complicated than it really needs to be you will be fine and your dog might actually end up enjoying it.

DIY dog run

First and foremost, before you get down to work, you must first decide what the best option is for your dog. Learn everything about your dog, its breed, what its needs are, see how much room the dog needs, how much exercise the breed demands, and so on.

Needless to say that a small dog will require a slightly smaller dog run than a very big dog, and seeing as this is a DIY project that you take on yourself for your dog, you can simply add in as many things as you wish, without having to deal with restrictive guidelines and crazy limitations.

Dog size chart

Another thing to pay close attention to is the climate in which you live. Is the sun a problem? Does your dog require more shade? Or maybe the dog needs more sun and more heat? The list can go on for quite a while, however you get the gist of it, see how the climate affects your dog and figure out how you can make it better for him or her with the dog run.

Special notes

There are a few things that need mentioning here before moving forward, and they might help you avoid quite a lot of headaches in the future. This has a lot to do with the purpose of the dog run itself, and what it can translate to in the dog’s mind. There have been a lot of dog owners, especially inexperienced ones, that simply don’t get it right and the result can be hilarious when viewed from my angle.

That being said, make sure you know what the purpose of that dog run will be, and for how long. After that is all set in stone, make sure you understand how to convey this purpose to your dog, making him or her understand what the dog run is for.

Purpose of dog run

Bellow are a few purposes that should not be the main goal of a dog run.

The doggy bathroom — you might find it funny, but there are quite a few people that have done this, and to my knowledge, are still doing it to this very day. When nature calls you have to answer and so does the dog, and when it happens, the dog owner tends to direct the dog towards the dog run. An interesting thing you should know about dogs is that besides marking their territory with urine, they tend not to defecate within their personal territory, in this case the yard itself.

This is why when you take your dog out of the yard and onto the street or the area behind the yard the first thing he or she does is empty the bowls. If you direct your dog towards the dog run every time he or she has to answer to mother nature, seeing as the area is fenced off and more or less separated from the rest of the yard, the dog will interpret this as his or her private bathroom, and will use it accordingly.

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Ok, granted, it might seem like a better solution than randomly stepping in it, but there are hygiene risks, the smell will be awful, and the dog run will become more and more unsightly with every use.

Making it a permanent solution — As mentioned above, it is usually a temporary solution, and it works wonders this way, but there are the inexperienced dog owners that think that it’s a good idea to keep the dog locked up in the dig run for the entire day, 7 days per week, 12/12 months.

Dog run

A dog needs exercise, he needs to run around, socialization, having fun, annoying the rest of the family from time to time with his or her clownish antics, these are all things that the dog needs to do in order to be a dog. If you choose to make the dog run permanent doggy accommodations for your dog, you will find that the dog will become more and more aggressive, more and more unstable, and worst of all, more and more weary of strangers.

There might also be health issues involved because of the fact that your dog is not getting the exercise that he or she needs, so you might want to keep an eye on that as well.

General dog run elements

Building a dog run is not exactly rocket science, things don’t need to be complicated, and seeing as you are taking this on as a DIY dog run project, you might want to think about adding things to it later on rather than adding everything at once.

Original Dog Run Fencing

Let’s start with the absolute basics, the quintessential elements of a dog run:

  1. The frame — this is not exactly like the frame used on a fence, but rather more sturdy and able to take on more punishment. Generally, the frame is made out of metal pipes or bars, with 4 walls and an optional roof. The frame is pretty heavy by itself, so there will be no need to bury anything or anchor it properly into the ground. You can do this if you so desire, or happen to live in an area frequented by tornados or other natural disasters, but other than that it is not exactly mandatory.
  2. The fencing — The fencing is not exactly complicated, and unlike a normal fence, a dog run opens a lot more options, depending on what frame you have chosen for the dog run itself. You can mix it up as much as you want, either by making it out of sheets, thin wire fencing, thick wire fencing, or even with metal bars and crossbeams.
    Literally, the sky is the limit; however do remember to see what your dog feels about the fencing that you choose, as well as his or her ability to get through it. It goes without saying that the entire idea of the fence surrounding the dog run is to keep the dog in and keep everything else out.
  3. The roofing — As mentioned earlier, roofs are optional when constructing the dog run, however a roof or a cover of some sort could provide the dog with that extra comfort and protection that he or she needs. By protection, I mean mostly against the elements. There is quite a large chance that your dog will encounter rain while in the dog run. Now imagine how annoying it would be to be in his or her place, trapped there with nowhere to go, getting rained on with no cover.

On the flip side, believe it or not dogs hate standing in the hot scorching sunlight just as much as we do. Yeah sure they get entertained by it, but standing in it too much can cause them the same if not worst discomfort than it causes us.

One more thing you should keep in mind when thinking about the roof — random visitors. That’s right, birds can and will land in it if they so desire, and your dog might or might not appreciate their visit.

Building the dog run

Hopefully, by now you understand what building a dog run implies, and you are ready to take on your DIY dog run project. First and foremost, build the fence. The easiest one that you can build in this case is a metal pipe frame, 3 inches in diameter, the height and length of the frame is optional, and is dependent on what dog the dog run is made for mostly.

Great dog run

You might want to make it large and roomy though, this will allow the dog to run around freely and get some exercise as well as have fun with people that choose to enter it with him or her.

For the fencing, you can use diamond wire fencing, which you can cut to size with a pair of pliers and attach it to the metal pipe frame using C rings and C clips.

The rather tedious part about using this kind of fencing is the fact that you will have to connect it with C rings and C clips to the frame, with every single diamond shape that comes in contact with the frame, which means that you will be using C rings and C clips in the hundreds. Luckily, they are relatively cheap, and stocking up on them is not an issue.

Make sure you set aside one fence section in order for it to act as the gate. Grab a pair of metal hinges, weld one side of them to the gate and the other side to the part of the fence that you want it to swing from. What you have so far is the basic dog run design, a 4 sided fence and a gate. Now it’s time to put in some real effort for your dog.

Now it is time to put a roof on it. Grab some metal pipes, which are the same size and type as the ones that you have constructed the frame out of, and welt them across the top. Make sure you don’t add too many, making it too heavy.

After you have finished welding, grab the material that you have decided to use as roofing. You can use sheet metal, wood panels, plastic sheets of panels, and so on. If you chose sheet metal then weld it on to the pipes, if you chose wood you might want to drill a hole through the wood panels and the pipes and lock them into place with screws, as for plastic you might want to consider bigger C rings or even adjustable metal clamps that can lock them into place.

Dog run with dog house and roof

Ok, so the roof is done. Now it’s the time to add some extras to the dog run. You can add a dog house to it, add ledges and ramps, add like a small obstacle course, and even put a used curtain or something along those lines on the side in case the sun is causing issues with your dog and you want to give him or her that extra bit of shade.

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Don’t go overboard with these extras though, simply add in a few if the dog will have to use the dog run for an extended period of time or maybe if you decided to have this be a permanent solution.

Before you leave, there is one more thing that you must do before your dog can start using it. Give it a quick inspection, making sure that the structure is sturdy, the area is clean, the grass is properly trimmed and that there are no nasty surprises that can affect the dog negatively in the long run.

In conclusion

A dog run might sound like a half-baked solution, but if done properly, and if the dog is not really deprived of any liberties or any freedom, it might just prove to be a great solution after all.

Homemade dog run

The best thing about making a dog run yourself is the fact that you can effectively tailor it to match the specific needs of your dog, and you can even add extra things in there to make your dog feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more happy at the same time.

If you think you have what it takes, if you think you have the tools, the resources, the skill and the time to take on this DIY dog run project, then I suggest you go for it.

Building a dog run and seeing your dog enjoy his or her time in it is a very rewarding sight, and it will make it worth it in the long run.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • May Walker

    I’ve seen terrible dog runs before, those that are built with the convenience of the owner and not the comfort of the dog in mind. They put a bad light on my personal view of dog runs. But seeing how so much detail and attention is put into making legitimate dog runs (and not glorified dog cages) convinces me otherwise. I’m grateful for this informative article, good thing I came across it!

  • Ophelia Kent

    I came across a guy in our town who built a cable run for his 3 Huskies. It was amazing and practical. There seemed to be endless cables placed overhead. But it was so creatively done. Who would’ve thought of a cable run?This is a person who really adores his pets and would want the best exercise for them.

    • A cable run is practical, durable, very safe, and definitely works. It works for a lot for high-energy dogs and offers a great exercise routine and is starting to become a popular type of dog run all over the country.

  • I greatly appreciate your comment, May! Dog runs are a lot nicer to look at and encourages more interaction and play amongst dogs and their respective owners. Cages are very confining, and can agitate the dogs.

  • Virgil Chandler

    Way before I fully understood what dog runs were, I usually thought of them as cages! But after reading this article and seeing some dog runs for myself, I am quite convinced that a dog run is a necessity especially for someone like me who loves giving my dogs the best! I will work on one with my husband this weekend, might take all my energy, but totally worth it!

    • John Walton

      Dog runs are misunderstood to be just an extension of a dog house. Some even thought that it is a dog house. Glad you we were able to convert you on dog runs! Good luck on the project!

  • Kelly Yates

    I never imagined that dog runs could be made without a roof in place? Isn’t it supposed to be like a mini house for the dog? I know I certainly can’t live in a house without a roof! This was a detailed article and I will be using it as a guide when I do decide to make a dog run for my poodle (with a roof of course!)

    • John Walton

      Hi Kelly! Dog runs are all different. It is an owner’s choice and owners build dog runs what would be the best for their dogs. I wish you luck on your dog run project!

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