Asked on Jan 11, 2021

What would be the best wood chips to use in a dog play area?

SharonLifestyles HomesAnnie


I want to build a play area for my dogs that they can dig and use as a bathroom. What is the safest thing to use instead of sand?

20 answers
  • Redcatcec
    on Jan 12, 2021

    This is a good question, look below for a list of pros and cons of different covers:

    Here are some grasses that might work for you:

    1. Buffalo grass

    Buffalo grass is now marketed in places like Southern California as a low-water, drought-tolerant grass.

    You can buy buffalo grass as seed or in plugs by special order at many local nurseries.

    Though the slender grass looks fragile, in fact, it is far from it and grows to three inches tall while requiring very little care.

    2. Kentucky bluegrass

    This grass can reseed itself and withstand high traffic, though its more suitable for cooler climates.

    Kentucky bluegrass seed is also used to patch bare spots in other types of lawns because it grows quickly. This, of course, is always a plus when trying to maintain a balance between happy dogs and an attractive lawn.

    3. Tall fescue

    University of California, Davis issued a report stating that tall fescue tolerates lawn burn from pet urine better than other grasses, which is great news for dog lovers.

    Because tall fescue is deeply rooted and has wider blades than other grasses, it can also take serious traffic.

    Reseed patches with Kentucky bluegrass, since tall fescue is a slow-grower.

    4. St. Augustine

    Because St. Augustine grass has deep roots, this might be a good alternative if you have a dog who loves to dig.

    This grass, however, will not tolerate high traffic or excessive pet urine.

    • Tip: If you catch pet urine quickly after it happens on the lawn, water it down to decrease the intensity of the brown spot.


  • Cedar would be best, but I would worry about them chewing/choking on the wood chips. You may want to consider an alternative.

  • Vimarhonor
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Hello. For the best play area grass turf areas are probably the best situation.

    We have trained our dogs over the decades to go pee in the mulched areas as not to disturb the turf with that awful detrimental grass situation that results from their urination.

    Certain mulches are toxic to dogs I believe it’s the one with the cocoa beans. Here is a link for your review. Hope this helps.

  • GrandmasHouseDIY
    on Jan 12, 2021

    I would look into the recycle mulch they're starting to use in playgrounds and school yards. Its big pieces of old tires. As long as your dogs aren't prone to eating inedible stuff I've heard very good things about it.

  • Cheryl A
    Cheryl A
    on Jan 12, 2021

    we like to use cedar because it also repeals bugs

  • Mogie
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Cedar chips:

    Insect Repellent

    Bedding Material

    Eliminate Odor

  • Em
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Wood chips are not the best idea. MANY dogs chew on them and they call cause intestinal problems. MANY are treated with chemicals that are poisonous to dogs. They also dye them with chemicals to change the color. If you feel your dogs are safe and NOT chewers your best bet is to get fresh tree mulch from someone that is cutting a tree. Pick it up from the chainsaw when it throws it out where the tree has been cut. Maple is a good bet, other trees like oak and pine also have resins you don't want the dogs to eat.

    Consider pea gravel instead. It can be hosed off, and non toxic.

  • Deb K
    Deb K
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Hi Chantelle, I use horse bedding, the pups love it! You can get is at farm supply places or pet stores,

  • Chloe Crabtree
    Chloe Crabtree
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Concrete, brick, flagstone, pebbles and smooth rocks are all good choices. Mulch (except cocoa mulch) and small bark chips are dog friendly and won't heat up too much, though you'll have to replace them periodically. Lawns are another choice, though they may be destroyed more easily than harder materials.

  • Johnavallance82
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Hello there Chantelle,

    I would think Rubber, as it can be washed down and wouldn't absorb urine or smells.

    Good luck!

  • Dee
    on Jan 12, 2021

    Mulch is not good for dogs paws, they can get splinters and would absorb the urine and make it smell. I think your best bet is to section off an area, and use top soil. It is more absorbent than potting soil and sand. Will allow the dog to dig and you will able to see the doggy poop easily to pick up.

  • Unique Creations By Anita
    Unique Creations By Anita
    on Jan 12, 2021

    I don't think I would use wood chips because dogs keep chewing them. I would just stick to to grass and have a sand area for digging.

  • Betsy
    on Jan 13, 2021

    Hi Chantelle: I used to have dogs and had a 9 x 90 dog run for them to play in during the day. It was a grassy area, and at the end was an area with dirt. It was 9 feet away from the regular yard fence and made of chain link, just like the rest of the fencing around the yard. I trained them to do their business on the dirt. It's just like potty training a kid. Make a big happy fuss when they go there, and when they don't, pick up what you can, take it to the area you want them to use and point it out to them and make a huge fuss about how wonderful they are. A treat wouldn't go amiss:) Pretty soon they will get the idea of where to go and you won't have to go on a treasure hunt for poop. I wouldn't use wood chips or mulch of any kind as it may cut their feet or they may eat it out of boredom, and that could cause a lot of problems, some not so nice. I tried rocks and pebbles once, not good. They sink into the dirt when it rains and is a horror story to get the poop out. Once they were trained, they would go to that area, even if they were out in the rest of the yard. And, they could dig to their hearts delight. I even trained my friends dogs to go there when I watched their dogs for vacations.

  • Cindy
    on Jan 13, 2021

    Hello Chantelle. Pine mulch is a good ground cover for your dog play area. It's soft and provides a comfortable layer of bedding. Good luck Chantelle.

  • Tons of great suggestions here. First consider the breed of dogs and their characteristics. Next, consider your climate. Reconsider wood chips. They splinter, are treated with chemicals and can invite termites. Cedar would be a better choice. My vote is for a lawn. I use a fescue and it holds up to 6 dogs and their urine. However, I did train the first dog to go in a certain spot in the lawn and once she was trained, the rest followed suit pretty easily. In one area I have a tumbled pea gravel (shaded by a fig tree), where I keep my succulents, and the few that venture in, it is easy to get any bits out from in between their toes and less likely have sharp edges to make them bleed. It gets really hot here and stone products would be too hot on their paws. More things to consider to make your pups happy.

  • Annie
    on Jan 14, 2021

    I would use a bark mulch or some cedar chips. You could also try to find some shavings, Go to a livestock feed store and see what they have for bedding or find a local woodworker or sawmill for shavings..

  • Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom
    Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom
    on Jan 16, 2021

    There is rubber mulch that I would try! It'll be softer and cleaner.

  • Annie
    on Jan 16, 2021

    Wood shavings or course saw dust. Go to livestock feed store and see what they have for bedding material, or local wood worker or sawmill....

  • Lifestyles Homes
    Lifestyles Homes
    on Jan 18, 2021

    I agree that a lot of bark chips & wood chips will get moldy and hold the urine & feces.

    If you're ok with removing and replacing them when needed, then if they're big dogs will they be "splashing" them out if that area into the lawn?

    I agree about the cedar being a good wood choice.

    I would put a deep, well-draining gravel pit under whatever you decide upon for the top layer.

  • Sharon
    on Jan 18, 2021

    I prefer pea gravel over a sand base in the toliet area or 1/2 the enclosure, and then a patch of grass or astro turf on the other half for laying on.

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