Design a Dog Playroom

Puppy playing with ball

Two Minute Dog Advice columnist Wendy Nan Rees shares tips on how to design a dog playroom. Use her ideas to create an indoor space where your pet can play with toys and nap anytime he wants - especially during bad weather.

Tip: Design a Dog Playroom

As some of you know my other day job is working as an interior designer for homes, and I also professionally design custom dog and cat spaces. Today, I want to share with you how to make a special space for your dog.

Here in California, many houses have something called a "bonus room". It may be a small room within your home or a small shed-like structure outside of it. This can be turned into the perfect play space for your pet. The way I gained my reputation here in Los Angeles was from creating a playroom in 1999 for my good friend Alanna. Her bonus room was behind her home, and I helped her turn it into a doggie care wonderland. In fact, Alanna used the space to start a doggie day care business called Chasin Pets®. Here's how we did it.

Designing Alanna's Dog Playroom

Forming a Design Plan

The first thing I did was make an assessment of the space and take measurements in preparation for planning the new room design. I like to work my designs out at a free website called It allows you to visualize how your elements will fit together.For Alanna's place, I had a blank canvas of 20 feet wide by 24 feet long with one high window over in a corner which was so old we could not even open it. The room even has a concrete floor. I decided to create three special spaces for the dogs:

  • A play area
  • Sleeping quarters
  • A food and water station

Luckily, the space also had a loft that we kept for storage space. Alanna approved the design, and we began the work.

The Preliminary Work

We knew we would need to finish the walls since they were still open. They had no insulation, and there were open outlets that would not be safe. First, we hired Alanna's contractor to replace the current window with a larger one for better ventilation. I was able to find a great window to recycle at the scrap yard. This one could be opened from the top down, so there would be fewer worries about one of the dogs pushing out a screen to escape. Next we had the contractor cover the existing floor with inexpensive Mexican paver tiles. They wash and wear well, and all you have to do is add a new coat of sealer once a year.

Finally, it was time to have the dry wall installed. I also used beadboard to define the three separate areas we wanted to create. This is a way to make any space look expensive without breaking the budget. We added a ceiling fan to increase circulation and some track lighting with a dimmer switch, and the basic shell of the playroom was ready for customizing.

The Grand Design

The Main Play Area

We decided a Dutch barn door was just the entryway we needed for the playroom. This door is split in two horizontally, so you can open one or both halves. This would allow Alanna to open the top half to let in more sun and air, but keep the dogs contained when she needed to. The colors we chose for the room were blue and white, so I painted the door white with the cross bars in dark blue to make everything come together.My next task was to apply some decorations called TATOUGE® to the walls. This is basically a sort of wall tattoo, and you can find the different styles all over the Internet. The results look like you hired a painter to come in and hand paint a mural on your walls, only it's far less expensive and you can use as many or as few pieces as you need to complete the look you want. I used the plants and the grass wall coverings, and added the flower garden with birds, bugs and butterflies for my theme. A coat of clear sealer ensures you can wash right over the designs.

The Sleeping Quarters

We decided Alanna would need approximately 15 dog beds to keep all her potential clients comfy, so I got to work making my homemade dog beds with extra covers to make washing convenient. I also made twenty-five polar fleece blankets for her to put on the floor or to add to the beds. I hung a small TV in the corner for the dogs to watch and I took her old stereo and put it in the loft with the speakers hanging in the room corners. I used eight speakers all over the shed so music could be heard in every space to help calm the dogs and keep them entertained.

The Feeding Station

We put four large water bowls in the feeding area. As the water supply was right outside the door, it would be easy for her to keep them filled and refreshed at all times. We then stored the feeding bowls and the food in air-tight containers, along with all the first aid kits with a box to hold any special medications one dog may need. I had made a strong, yet easy to climb library ladder for Alanna to reach the loft with; it works very well and it also looks great.

I then used all the old baskets Alanna had collected over the years and filled them with toys for the dogs to play with. I made sure we had three of each type of toy so none of the dogs would feel left out. I also created storage space in the loft to keep treats and other chew bones Alanna could hand out to the dogs as needed.

Final Touches

I went to my rug man and bought remnants pieces that I had him bind off for me, and we placed them all through the playroom. I had a few extras made in case some got dirty. This turned out to be a less expensive solution to purchasing brand new rugs.

The room has worked so well for the last nine years, and both Alanna and her clients have been happy with the space. You can use the ideas from this makeover to help you design a dog playroom for your own home. You may not want to start your own day care, but your pets will certainly love having their own special place.

"Remember, the animals in your life are not just your pets; they're your friends." WNR

Design a Dog Playroom