Weimaraner Dog in an outdoor dog run

Simple & Effective Dog Run Ideas Australia

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 9th January 2024

Building a dog run is a great way to give dogs a safe place to spend time outside. They can exercise and play while you’re busy doing other things. When it comes to designing the dog-exclusive area, the possibilities are endless.

But where does one even start? In this article, we’ll go over different dog run ideas, so that you can pick the one that’s suitable for the size and shape of your outdoor space.

15 Backyard Dog Run Ideas

#1 Dog Run For Apartments

Who said you can’t have a dog run just because you live in an apartment building? If you are willing to get a bit creative, it’s possible to create some dog-friendly space, especially if you have a balcony and your dog is on the smaller side.

A balcony or a terrace is the ideal area to create a dog run. But, that immediately creates a problem: balcony floors are usually covered in tiles or concrete, but those can get hot quickly on sunny days. While we might not necessarily feel the floor overheating, pavement and concrete can quickly burn the paws of our canine companions. The solution? Cover the floor with artificial grass which not only looks natural but is also gentle on the paws.

If your balcony is getting lots of sunlight, you should also take care to create enough shade for your dog to hide when it gets too hot. Depending on the shape of your balcony, you can use a canopy or a parasol. Or, to make it more realistic for your pooch, you can add hanging plants or foliage.

#2 Rooftop Dog Run

If you live in a penthouse or have access to your building’s roof, you can make an outdoor dog run for your pooch with the coolest view. Depending on how much available space you have, you can add amenities like benches, drinking fountains and even dog ramps for a bit of agility training.

Most rooftops are already covered with concrete. But if you live in a hot climate, concrete will be too hot for your canine companion to walk on during the day. While real grass is not an option for rooftops, artificial grass is the best alternative. It’s affordable, easy to clean and doesn’t heat up when it’s sunny. Furthermore, most rooftops don’t have shaded areas, so you should consider creating one for your pooch to cool down during the hottest part of the day.

#3 Side Yard Dog Run

Generally, the closer you live to the city centre, the less outdoor space you have. But even a narrow side yard can be enough for your furry best friend to play outside. That’s especially true for pups that love playing fetch above anything else. Side yard dog runs are easy to set up, as you only need to add fences on shorter sides of the run. 

#4 Concrete Dog Run

If you’re worried about cleaning after your pooch, then you should consider using concrete. You can simply wash off any dirt with just a backyard hose.

“The benefit of using concrete is that you can slope it so that water runs down to a drain area which is very useful during cleaning.” Mychelle Blake, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant for Love To Know.

Aside from being easy to clean, concrete is also good for dog pedicure. Walking on concrete wears down dog nails, so you don't have to trim them yourself that often. The main downside to using concrete is that it absorbs heat from the sun and can get quite hot during summer. So if you’re using this material for a dog run, make sure to also make a shaded area for your pooch to cool down during the warmest part of the day.

#5 Dog Run With Wood Chips

One of the most popular options for dog runs is wood chips. They look beautiful, can be found in most hardware stores and are rather affordable. But aside from looking good, wood chips are also a practical choice for dog runs, as they provide good drainage.

Bark and cedar mulch are some of the best options out there (2). They’re soft enough for dogs to lay on, but they also provide good shock absorption when they’re running. The main downside to using wood chips is that removing dog waste is hard, so you’ll probably end up replacing them very often. On the bright side, you can easily do that with a rake. Alternatively, you can use a different material for your pooch’s potty area.

#6 Pea Gravel Dog Run

Pea gravel is another popular choice for dog runs, not without reason. We can all surely agree that it looks nice, but that’s not the only thing that makes it a good option. Pea gravel is rather affordable and provides great drainage. It’s also gentle on the paws and doesn’t stick to your dog’s coat.

Compared to other types of gravel, pea gravel retains little heat, so you can leave your pooch in the dog run during the entire day. You can hose it down to get rid of odours and dirt. And in case your canine companion decides to play around and dig, you can easily rake the gravel back into place afterwards.

#7 Artificial Grass Dog Run

Aside from rooftops and balconies, artificial grass can also be used on the ground. In fact, if your pooch likes to dig and claw at the grass, this is a much better alternative for the dog run. But even if your dog doesn’t get destructive, it’s hard to keep the yard green when there’s a lot of paw stomping on it.

Unlike real grass, the artificial alternative doesn’t wear down from use, so you don’t have to worry about brown spots. What’s more, artificial grass is rather easy to clean. It doesn’t hold onto urine smells and it doesn’t get affected by the elements as real grass does. You can hose off any dirt and have it as luscious as it was the day you installed it. Less time spent on lawn maintenance means more time to enjoy with your canine companion.

#8 Rubber Padding Dog Run

Rubber mats have proven to be amazing for dog kennels, so naturally, they work great for dog runs as well. They give your furry friend a soft surface to play on, without worrying about potential injuries. Rubber padding is great if you own a puppy, but it’s beneficial to elderly dogs as well. Rubber is easy on their joints and acts as insulation, so you can rest assured your old pooch is not sleeping on a cold surface. Finally, rubber mats don’t retain odour and are easily cleaned with a hose.

#9 Dog Run With Paving Stones

If you’re willing to pay more to set up a beautiful dog run, you won’t go wrong by choosing paving stones. Although expensive, they’re the most visually appealing option, alongside grass. You can cover the entire dog run area with paving stones, or play around and make stone paths for your pooch.

Paving stones are a great slip-resistant option for your dog that’s also easy to clean. They do get hotter in direct sunlight, but you can avoid that by creating a shade for your pooch.

#10 Agility Dog Run

If you own a very active breed, like a German Shepherd or a Jack Russel Terrier, then you know that just a plain, grass-covered fenced area won’t cut it. Now obviously, it’s unlikely that dogs living in the city can enjoy a large backyard that allows them to run to their heart’s content. But there are other ways you can challenge them physically, like setting up a dog run with obstacles.

Nowadays, you can find any type of dog obstacle online, and that’s an easy way to make an agility run in your backyard. But, you can also make many of them yourself. Basic obstacles, such as A-frame, dog walk, weave poles and most jump poles can easily be made with plywood, PVC pipes, broomsticks and basic tools you already own.

When setting up the dog run, make sure to leave enough space between each obstacle for your dog to move around easily.

#11 Aerial Dog Run

Let’s say you can’t, or for some reason simply don’t want to fence your backyard. That still doesn’t mean you can’t let your canine companion run around freely without going too far. You just need to set up an aerial dog run.

This type of dog run is essentially a taut line connected between two points. You can tie it to trees, a house deck or any other stationary object. The idea is to take a cable and attach one side to the line, and the other to your dog’s harness. This will allow your pooch to move around freely without being able to go too far from the designated area.

Just keep in mind that with aerial dog runs, there’s always a possibility of your dog getting entangled in the cable. For that reason, it’s important to supervise outdoor playing time.

#12 Dog Run With A Digging Pit

All dogs love to dig, and there are many reasons they might do it. Maybe they’re making a spot to cool down, or they’re simply bored. But what starts as a fun time can easily progress into a tunnel all the way to Uluru. To avoid having your backyard look like an excavating site, try making a dog run with a digging pit instead.

A pit of around 1 by 2 meters and a depth of 50 to 60 centimetres is more than enough for your pooch to have fun digging. You can make it in the same way you’d made a raised garden bed. The only things you need are 4 pieces of timber sleepers and a shovel to dig. You can fill the pit with the same soil you dug out, but then you’ll have to clean your pooch’s paws when entering the house. A less messy option would be to use sand instead.

#13 Dog Run With A Pool

There’s no better way to cool down during hot summer days than to take a swim. Most dogs love this activity, and if your canine companion is no different, then consider making a dog run with a pool.

You can install one of those fibreglass or PVC pools the market is swamped with. They’re easy to set up and portable, so you can move them around or put them away during colder months. Or, if you’re willing to commit, you can build a real tiny dog pool. Just make sure to create a shallow part for your dog to stand in, as well as steps or a ladder to get in and out.

#14 Portable Dog Run

There are so many things to love about portable dog runs. First, they usually don’t require any installation or tool for setting them up. This makes them great as temporary options. Whether you’re living in a rental unit, or just spending time in the non-enclosed outdoor area, these can be set up and packed together without a hassle.

Portable dog runs can usually be folded down into a box, so they’re suitable for travelling by car. But their portability also proves to be handy at home. You can move it around to place it under natural shade during the day, or to a part of the yard with less worn-down grass.

This type of dog run is not as spacious as some DIY options, so it’s more suitable for smaller dogs that don’t need much space. One thing to keep in mind is that, while practical, a portable dog run is not the most beautiful option for your backyard.

#15 Shaded Dog Run

When it comes to shaded dog runs, Australia is one of those places where they should be an absolute must. That’s especially true if you live in the desert, where the sun is blazing from dawn till dusk.

Wooden constructions, such as pergolas, provide decent shade while making it easy for air to circulate. You can increase the shade by growing vining plants like wisteria, jasmine or honeysuckle.

Shade sails might not look as good as pergolas, but they’re more affordable and easier to set up. Just make sure to find a model with a sun-blocking power of at least 90% UPF.

Final Thoughts

A dog run is a great way to provide your pooch with a safe and enjoyable space to spend time outdoors. No matter how big your yard is or how much you’re willing to invest, there’s surely a dog run idea that will work for you.


How big should a dog run be?

The size of a dog run depends on how much time the dog would spend there. But generally, small breeds need at least an area of 2x2 meters. For medium breeds, you’ll need at least a 3x2 meter area, while large breeds require a 4x2 meter area.

What’s the best type of fence for a dog run?

Among all, chain link fence is the most low-cost and low-maintenance type of fence. This makes it most suitable for large dog runs. Wooden fences give your yard a more rustic appearance and can block street noise when solid. Finally, vinyl fences prove to be the best when it comes to durability.

Do I need to make a designated potty area?

It’s not a must, but a designated potty area makes it easier for you to clean after your dog. Not all flooring materials are easy to upkeep and provide the same drainage. So for instance, if your dog run is covered in grass, you could make a designated potty area with pea gravel, which is easier to clean.


  1. Blake, M. “5 Types of Flooring for an Outdoor Dog Run” LoveToKnow. Retrieved February 26, 2022. https://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Flooring_for_an_Outdoor_Dog_Run
  2. Aumann’s Garden Supplies. July 30, 2021. “Is There a Safe Mulch for Dogs?” Aumann’s. Retrieved February 26, 2022. https://www.aumanns.com.au/is-there-a-safe-mulch-for-dogs/

Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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