Best Dog Runs: Backyard, Outdoor, Large Dogs, DIY Ideas & More
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Are you looking for the best dog runs in the market? Need dog run ideas? Want to learn how to build a dog run?
Sit tight as we explain how outside dog runs will keep even the largest breeds securely confined while providing the freedom they need to stretch, run around, potty, chase their tails, and play daily.
Our dogs love spending time outside, but owners will need a dog run to keep Fido safe and secure without a fenced-in yard.
After sorting through dozens of dog run models and designs and building some ourselves, we show you how to pick the best dog run, when to use one, benefits, DIY dog run ideas, types, materials to build one, as well as recommend our top picks. Let’s get started!
Top Dog Dog Runs (Our Picks At a Glance)
Here is a glance at our top 4 picks for the best dog runs.
Learn all about dog runs
What Is A Dog Run?
A dog run is an enclosure is a private or public fenced-off area in which one or multiple dogs can be kept confined and get exercise and playtime.
Typically, private dog runs are built on one side of a house, apartments, indoors, or backyards. Most dog runs are fenced in with a chain-link fence, but wood fencing may be another viable option if the dog doesn’t tear at it.
Dog runs are meant to provide a safe, spacious and pleasant environment for our pups. A dog run act as a temporary playpen or a kennel, where your dog can spend part of the day. They are usually portable, so you can re-position them wherever you need them.
Some dog run systems have a modular system that allows you to increase or decrease their sizes according to your needs by simply adding or subtracting panels from the structure.
Dog runs may also include a dog house, food and water, a potty area, and a shared area for hot days.
They are also referred to as pet areas or backyard dog kennels.
Why Should You Build A Dog Run? Benefits
Here are some of the most common reasons why you should consider building a dog run. Having a dog run offers numerous benefits to you and your canine pal.
- Peace of mind. A dog run provides a secure outdoor space for playtime and exercise.
- Enclosed area. Fewer concerns about dogs wandering off, tearing property, getting into trouble or accidents.
- Stop escape artists. If Fido is a fence jumper, digger or escape artist, a dog run can prevent it. For dogs who like to scurry throughout their neighborhood unsupervised.
- Creates private areas. Great for limiting access to certain backyard or garden areas you don’t want your dog to have access to. You can even designate your dog’s run to be his only potty area.
- No fenced backyard. If you lack a fenced backyard, a dog run can act as one.
- Keeps guests, children and multiple pets separated. Hosting guests, cleaning the house, running errands, or doing projects around the house sometimes requires dogs not to be present. Because having them together simultaneously often causes problems, a dog runs serves for those times you need to contain Fido without crating or hiding him in your room. For instance, if you have a backyard BBQ, Fido can still be part of the fun without getting into trouble. Sometimes dogs might be too energetic for toddlers to handle, accidentally knocking them over.
- Crate alternatives. Dog runs provide a more spacious and pleasant experience than having Fido crated for hours.
- Dog shelter or doggy daycare. If you own any type of dog sitting service, a dog run is a must.
Whatever your reasons for needing a dog run, it is an excellent investment so dogs can have a place they can enjoy while you are busy.
How To Use A Dog Run: Best Practices
A dog run should be a place your dog can enjoy a little downtime. If not used correctly, your dog may feel trapped and frustrated.
1. Never use a dog run as a punishment. Your dog will associate it with a bad place and will eventually refuse to enter.
2. Consider including a dog house, toys, or other objects in your run. This may also require a larger structure.
3. Don’t leave your dog for days on end. Consider your dog’s basic needs. Adult dogs can hold their pee for more than six hours, but you shouldn’t force it. Somewhere in the range of 2 to 4 hours during the day may be appropriate.
4. A dog that’s has been in a run all day can become depressed or anxious due to lack of exercise and socialization—leaving a dog home alone in a run longer than six hours may hurt their mental and physical health. Always provide water.
5. Make sure the run has plenty of space for your dog to move around and play.
6. You can feed Fido while in his run but be sure no food is left on the floor. Otherwise, rodents and other critters will invariably be attracted to it.
Fido should not spend most of their time enclosed on an outdoor dog run. Can you imagine spending day after day in your room?
Dog Run Ideas
Looking for inspirational ideas for dog runs?
Below we captured the best dog run ideas to get you inspired to build your own. They range from simple and small to large and elaborate.
Types of Dog Run Ideas
There are multiple
- Mentally-stimulating dog runs
- Simple practical
- Backyard dog runs
- Indoor dog runs
- Temporary dog run ideas
- Dog runs for small spaces and apartments
- Dog runs with or without roofs
- Side-yard dog runs
NOTE After you finish looking through this DIY dog runs list, we will delve into the best dog runs, how to build a dog run, and all the materials you need to construct a dog run like a pro. So keep reading!
Remember, your dogs’ run should be proportionate to the size and exercise needs of your dog. You can make it big, small, or as complex and fun for your dog to enjoy it.
How To Pick The Best Dog Run
Whether you choose to buy a store-bought (ready-made) dog run or build it yourself, there are many factors to consider when building or purchasing a pre-built best-fenced dog run. Here are some of the key features and elements to consider.
- Size. Your ideal dog run dimensions will depend on your dog’s size and/or if you plan on accommodating multiple dogs in one run.
2. Material. A metallic design, such as steel or metal, is preferable. These materials are more resistant, durable and prevent the growth of bacterias and germs.
3. Strong built. Some dogs tend to bite anything. Make sure the bars of the run can easily withstand dog bites without bending.
4. Weather-resistant. Dog runs site outside for the most part, which is why the run you choose needs to be sturdy and weather-resistant against the elements.
5. Enclosed top. Provides your dog with complete protection from sun, rain, snow, and debris. If you own a small dog, predators may be something you will have to worry about, so make sure your run comes with a cover on top or get one separately.
6. Modular design. Some dog runs are built with systems that let you increase or decrease their sizes. Most sturdy runs don’t.
7. Locking system. Make sure the door locking system is not able to be opened by an intelligent dog.
8. Doors. Some runs provide a set of double safety doors for feeding purposes or just as an extra layer of security to prevent the dog from rushing out when you open the run.
9. Digging prevention. If your dog is a digger, then a dog run with digging bars that sit against the ground around the edge of the run is a great choice.
PRO TIP: When buying a dog run, if you feel it might be too small and your dog may feel cramped in, the easiest solution is two buy another set or more. You can easily add the panels from your second set to the first one to make the run as big as you need to, thanks to modular designed dog runs.
The best dog runs reviewed
Best Dog Runs
We reviewed dozens of different outdoor dog runs and other types of fenced enclosures to help you pick the best one for your dog.
Whether you need outdoor dog runs for large dogs, small dog runs, or a dog run with a top, we’ve ranked our winners by categories and different needs.
Our team ranked the best dog runs considering material quality, customer reviews, first-hand testing, features and other key elements.
Material: Metal | Design: Modular | Panel Size: 32 x 48’’(WxH) each | Panels Per Set: 16 or 8 | Color: Black
Giantex Dog Playpen takes the spot for best overall dog run.
With panels measuring 48 inches in height, this dog run is ideal for small and medium dogs.
It is designed with a heavy-duty metal material. This pet dog run is sturdy and durable enough to endure long-term use. Furthermore, it is weather-resistant and rustproof, making it an ideal exercise dog playpen for safely outdoor use.
You can use it as a dog run for yards or for building an indoor dog run in your house. Whatever dog run idea you have, its modular design allows you to create, expand, or shape the run to your desired setup. Once it’s assembled, it’s pretty steady and sturdy so that it won’t get knocked around. To further secure it to the ground, you can purchase ground spikes or attach them to a wall.
Customer feedback is excellent, and dogs love the large playing area it creates. You can even fence your entire backyard with it.
Need a larger enclosure? Simply buy an extra set of 16 panels or 8 panels to increase the size of the run.
If you order, know that the 16 panels will come in 2 packages, so don’t panic when you get the first set of panels. The second half of your order should arrive shortly.
While the manufacturer says it can work for large dogs too (and it can), we have identified a better option for large and giant dog breeds. We cover this in the next section.
Best Dog Run For Large Dogs (Outdoor & Indoor)
The best dog runs for large dogs medal goes to Lucky Dog Outdoor Dog Kennel Playpen.
What makes this large dog run ideal for large dog breeds is its height. It measures 6 feet tall and 5 without cover installed. To put this into perspective, an adult Great Dane is 4’4 feet tall.
It comes with a covered steel roof that provides your pet with complete protection from UV rays, rain, snow, and debris.
This dog run provides plenty of room for big dogs. But, if you want more space for your large furry friend, you can get a second or third set to cover a larger area. It has a modular system so you can make it as big as you need.
Whether you have an outdoors or indoors dog run idea for large dogs, Lucky Dog dog run is ideal for both uses.
Its wire mesh and steel bars are welded before coating to prevent sharp edges from hurting your pet and offer greater corrosion and rust protection, delivering years of durable service.
Thanks to its 1.5” raised legs, you can easily sweep or hose out the enclosure to prevent dirt and bacteria from accumulating, keeping your pet healthy and happy.
Another dog run idea for large dogs worth considering is the Lucky Dog Stay Series Presidential Kennel.
Best Portable Dog Run
Material: Iron | Design: Modular | Panel Size: 31.5 x 40’’(WxH) each | Number of Panels: 8, 16, 24 or 32 | Color: Black
If portability and expandability are your top concerns, Yaheetech Heavy Duty Foldable Metal Playpen is your best choice.
We didn’t pick this brand as our best dog run because their panels’ maximum height is 40 inches, not 48 (our top pick). While this difference may not seem significant, having a taller panel is a better alternative when housing medium to large dogs.
Having said that, it is ideal for puppies, small to medium size adult dogs.
This outdoor dog run allows your dog to relax or play outside in a safe, enclosed area. What makes this run unique is its portability. It can be disassembled into a flat and compact size for easy storage when not in use. Flat packing size is also convenient to transport.
It also comes in 24 and 32 height panels. Yaheetech playpens are subjected to rigorous sturdiness testing to ensure your pet’s comfort and safety.
You can easily add additional panels to create a square, octagon, or rectangular dog run. Or even to fence your whole backyard.
Best Affordable Dog Run (Cheap Dog Run Idea)
Material: Metal | Design: Modular | Panel Height: 24″, 32″, 40: & 48″ | Number of Panels: 8 | Color: Brown
If you are looking for the most affordable dog run that doesn’t break the bank or sacrifices quality, Iconic Pet Heavy Duty Metal Tube Pen Pet is your top choice.
This durable pet pen provides a safe area for your dog while providing the best mix of freedom and security. It’s perfect for the yard or your favorite room.
Eight interlocking metal panels offer maximum security and easy access. Available in other shapes as well as an 85” wide octagon. You can buy as many sets of 8 panels to make this dog run as big as you need to.
It’s a great alternative to small kennels or crates. It’s the best place for your furry friends when they have too much energy and need a large, safe place to play in.
Best Small Dog Runs
Material: Steel | Design: Modular | Panel Height: 48″ (4 feet) | Dimentions: 5 x 5 x 4 (L x W x H) | Color: Black
ALEKO Heavy Duty Dog Kennel and Playpen Kit provide a perfect space for small dog breeds.
From puppies, toy breeds and small dog breeds, it’s designed to keep your pet safe and secure without feeling confined.
Panels feature 12 gauge mesh welded to a 1-inch frame. Rust-resisting and powder-coated galvanized steel construction allows this kennel to be used indoors or outdoors for a long time.
ALEKO is one of the premier online retailers of home and outdoor goods in the US and Canada so expect great quality.
You can easily connect multiple kennels together to give your pet an even larger space to play
Best Dog Runs With Covers
Looking for the best dog run with a top?
We’ve reviewed the best dog runs with covers by size.
Dog run covers are important because they help keep your pets protected from the weather and outside elements. A pitched roof allows water, debris, and light snow to easily run off instead of accumulating.
Adding a roof or top panel to your dog’s run is a good idea if your dog jumps or climbs. A roof also deters threats from wild animals (coyotes, raccoons, foxes) that may roam around your neighborhood. This is especially ideal if you have small dogs and docile dogs.
Here are some of our top choice by size.
Best Small Dog Run With Covers
PetSafe Cottageview Boxed Kennel is the perfect dog run for small dogs. Its compact size makes it ideal for decks, patios, yards, and garages. SunBlock top included keeping your dog cool and safe. For the outdoors, PawHut Lockable Dog House or Lucky Dog Stay Series Studio offers a better top cover to protect your pet from outdoor dangers.
Best Medium Dog Run With Covers
This pet gazebo offers a comfortable, luxurious and safe dog run area for medium size pups. Easy to take with you and put together. You can create any configuration that best fits you and your pet. Thanks to a modular design, simply buy additional pet gazebos and connect them together with no extra parts.
Best Large Dog Run With Covers
When it comes to large dog runs with tops, we recommend either of these three options. PawHut Large Outdoor Dog Kennel, Polar Aurora Dog Playpen House, or Best Pet Dog Crate Pet Kennel.
Best Aerial Dog Run
If you don’t like confining your dog in a box, but you still want to let your pup run free, an aerial dog run is a solution.
An aerial dog run works like a zip line, but two poles/trees support an overhead cable with a lead/tie-out cable. This keeps Fido home without being overly restrained.
Picket Fence Dog Run
If you want more space, we suggest you get 4 or 6 panels. For small dogs, consider Zippity’s Dig Madison or Portable Puppy Fence. For medium and large canines, the WamBam Fence can work.
Other Outdoor Dog Runs
Chain link dog runs are also viable options for building a dog run.
Although they are not as easy to assemble or durable as our top picks above, these outdoor dog runs for large dogs can work exceptionally well if properly installed.
These dog runs come in extra-large sizes. Some of our top picks include LONABR Metal Dog Playpen (chain link) and Omitree New Modular Dog Kennel Heavy (steel). Dimensions are 10 x 10 x 7.5″ and 5 x 10 x 5.5″ (W x L x H) feet respectively.
For even bigger size, you can opt for PawHut Outdoor Dog Kennel (15′ x 15′ x 6‘) or ChickenCoopOutlet Backyard Dog Kennel (20’L x 10’W x 6’H).
Dog Runs Tractor Supply
Our team also compared and contrasted Tractor Supply dog runs to our top picks. We found that Lucky Dog is the best brand on their website. The Lucky Dog Stay Series Presidential Kennel, Lucky Dog Outdoor Dog Kennel Playpen and Lucky Dog Stay Series Studio are your best options at this store. You can also find them on Amazon. Visit their store.
Dog Run Ground Cover
So, what is the best dog run ground cover?
Here are the six most common dog run ground cover options to consider. We evaluate each and recommend our top pick.
- Natural Grass: While grass is safe for dogs, maintaining natural grass would be difficult in a designated pet area. Mowing and fertilizing can become tedious.
- Wood Chips or Mulch: These are popular choices for ground cover in dog runs, but they can splinter and cause build-up of bacteria over time if not cleaned or replaced. Wood chips are relatively confrontable to dogs’ feet.
- Gravel/Small Pebbles/Stone Moldings: A good choice for durability, but need to take into account gravel/stones get hot during hot weather. They can also be har on dog paws.
- Concrete: Durable and easy to clean by rinsing with a hose, but again it can get hot easily during summer. However, concrete can serve as a primary base for another type of cover.
- Artificial Grass: It’s great for both inside and outside dog runs. It’s aesthetically beautiful and isn’t susceptible to any of the disadvantages of a regular lawn. It’s easy to clean as well.
- Wood Floor Tiles: Wood is easy to clean and long-lasting. It offers one of the best looks out of all the dog ground covers. Interlocking tiles make it easy to set up. Another great feature is that most are water-resistant. They work perfectly for indoors and outside runs.
Best Dog Run Ground Covers
We narrowed it down to the two that provided the most advantages over disadvantages out of all the options above.
The best artificial grass product for use in a dog run is Petgrow Synthetic Grass Turf.
Made high-quality polypropylene fibers, and PE material on the surface, with drainage holes that allow dog urine and water to drain through quickly.
The materials prevent the build-up of microbes and odor-causing bacteria. Plus, it’s easy to clean.
Great for outdoor and indoor. Ideal for garden, lawn, patio, landscape, backyard, deck, balcony, porch, and many other outdoor places.
Wood Floor Titles is our second top favorite. You can get Bare Decor EZ-Floor Interlocking Flooring Tiles. The platforms are elevated, which means they drain well. Tiles come in an oiled finish in solid teak wood. They are super simple to install. Just snap the interlocking tiles together.
- Wood chips or mulch (Pine bark or cypress)
- Paving stones
- Rubber padding
- PVC flooring
- Pine straw
If you opt for a solid flooring option like concrete, be sure to incorporate some padded or soft areas in the run. You can mix two flooring options in one run.
Learn how to build a dog run: accessories, tips & more.
How to Build a Dog Run: Step By Step
Now that you understand all about dog runs, including the different design options and best dog run brands you can buy, let’s talk about how to install a dog run and the accessories you may need.
Here is how to make a dog run on the side of the house or wherever you choose.
Step 1: Pick the perfect place
It should be a space that is safe and comfortable for your pet.
You can place your dog run indoors or outdoors. If building it indoors, stay away from high traffic areas in the house. For outdoor runs, steer away from spots where toxic plants and grasses may grow. Don’t forget power and plumbing lines. Choose a sport that offers some natural shade to allow your dog to cool off during the summertime.
Either location needs to be close and accessible enough so you can check on your dog periodically.
Step 2: Choose the right dog run size
You should base the size of your dog run on the size of your dog. To make this process easier for you, reference our reviews above. We’ve selected the best runs by dog size.
Generally, a run should be large enough for dogs to run without feeling confined in a small space.
The larger the dog breed, the larger the dog runs should be.
Step 3: Selecting a dog run (Pre-Fabricated vs. DIY Ideas)
You need to decide on whether to install a prefabricated pet run or construct one yourself.
Option 1: Pre-Fabricated
The first option is the most convenient way. It’s less time-consuming, and you can quickly assemble and customize the design to your preference and needs. Check out our reviews above to pick the best one for your pup. Once you have one, move to step number five.
Option 2: DIY Dog Run
This option requires handyman work and lots of hours and days to build. You will need to get all the materials and tools to DIY.
Here is a quick DIY dog run guide on how to get started
- Step 1. Mark the perimeter of the area you wish to enclose
- Step 2. Dig an 18- to 24-inch-deep trench along the entire perimeter
- Step 3. Dig post holes at 4- to 8-foot intervals along the trench for the vertical supports.
- Step 4. Install and cement the vertical supports in place. (the vertical supports should have enough heght to prevent dogs from jumping over)
- Step 5. Attach the fencing to the vertical supports. (fence can be made from wood, metal, chain link, etc)
Watch this video for the full instructions on how to build a dog run from scratch.
Step 4: Prepare the area
Regardless of which option you chose on step three, you need to prepare the surface of where the run will sit.
If you plan just to place your dog run on your existing ground, then you don’t need to do much. Just ensure it is safe for your pet and allows for proper drainage.
On the other hand, if you want to install artificial grass, pour concrete, gravel, or paving stones, prepare to dig from 3 to 6 inches, depending on the type of surface you want to install. Some surfaces may not require extra digging but only additional installation steps.
This is the time where you also want to have a floorplan in mind so you can design portions of
Step 5: Lay down the floor
Start covering the surface area with whatever flooring option you picked. For instance, you can mix concrete and artificial grass, wood, concrete, or whatever you think is best for your pet.
Step 6: Install fencing
Follow the instruction on the box so you can correctly assemble it. Check your dog cannot open the gate by pushing against it and all panels of the structure are tightly secure and sturdy.
Step 7: Add other accessories
Use our list of dog run accessories to furnish the place with different items to make the whole experience more appealing to your pet.
Dog Runs Accessories
If you would like to personalize your pup’s run, you can add a host of accessories for a more stylish design that is more mentally stimulating and fun.
Here is a list of add-ons you can use to bring your dog run ideas to life.
- Kennel lighting
- Obstacle course (tunnels, seesaws, tire jumps, a-frames, etc.)
- Potty training areas
- Dog toys
- Fake plant decorations
- A wooden dog house (helps provide share if the run doesn’t have a roof)
- Auto-feeder and watering bowls
- Dog name signage
- and more!
Dog Runs Concepts (Video)
Even though this is a promotional video for artificial grass, it gives you a great preview of how a dog run should look.
Are Dog Runs Cruel?
Are dog runs good for dogs? Are dog runs safe?
Dog runs are perfectly safe to use! It’s not about the runs but how dog owners use them.
If you confine your dog to being all day in a kennel-like structure, then yes, that’s inhumane!
If your dog whines, experiences anxiety, or starts to develop destructive behavior due to being in a dog run, it’s time to re-think using it.
Most dogs should be happy to have a place where they can roam free.
As long as you follow best practices, then you should be okay.
Dog Run Alternatives
Building a dog run on the side of the house or in your backyard seems like a demanding job, but we hope our guide made it easier to understand the process by providing you with the best pre-made dog runs in the market and every step you need to know.
Dogs are den animals by nature, and they look for their favorite place for comfort in times of stress.
A dog run approached correctly will provide that space of security in times of stress your dog can rely on if he ever needs to. Dog runs can effectively provide this den-like structure that gives your pup a safe place to sleep, retreat, and maybe even eat.
You can also consider a wireless dog fence as an alternative to dog runs. Wireless dog fencing is a reliable way to keep your determined dog safe in his yard without having to bury any wires or build a traditional fence.