11 Dog-Friendly Backyard Ideas and Upgrades On a Budget

Turning your backyard into a doggy playground doesn't have to be expensive with these free and low-cost tips.

Published June 28, 2023
labrador retriever puppy running in backyard with a tennis ball in its mouth

Your backyard is a great haven for your pup to run and play freely and safely. You probably haven't set up your backyard specifically with your dog in mind, but with a few tweaks it could be their version of paradise without breaking your bank account. With a little creativity and a dash of elbow grease, you can transform your backyard into an enjoyable play area that suits your best friend ... and your budget.

1. Safe and Secure Fencing

If your backyard isn't already fenced in, installing a dog-safe fence is one of the most important parts of creating a friendly backyard. You want to ensure your pup can't escape and that other animals can't get in.

If a full fencing renovation is not in your budget, consider improving your existing one or finding low-cost materials to make your own. You would be surprised how many people give away fences for free or cheap if you take them down yourself. Once it's all set up, make sure it's sturdy, and check for any gaps that need fixing.

Quick Tip

Creating a pallet fence can be a super cheap option. Local small businesses often give away or sell pallets at low prices, and you can bolt them together with 3-inch bolts or roofing nails to form a sturdy wall.

2. DIY Dog Houses

Creating a budget-friendly, DIY dog house can be a fun and rewarding project. You don't have to go all out with expensive materials. Actually, you can probably find most of what you need around the house. There are quite a few designs available online, but here's a simple plan to get you started:


  • One large piece of plywood or an old wooden pallet
  • A few old blankets or towels for insulation and comfort
  • Waterproof tarp or heavy-duty plastic bags
  • Adhesive, like duct tape or hot glue
  • Hand saw
  • A marker


  • Choose the Right Size: Buy a piece of plywood you can cut into 6 pieces, or a wooden pallet that is big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. But your material into the desired sizes for each wall of the dog house.
  • Create an Entrance: Mark out a door on one side, ensuring it's wide and tall enough for your dog to get through easily. Cut a rectangle for your door with your saw.
  • Insulate the House: Line the bottom with blankets or towels to keep your pup comfortable.
  • Waterproof the Dog House: To prevent the cardboard from getting wet, cover the outside of the dog house with a waterproof tarp or heavy-duty plastic bags and attach them securely with adhesive.
  • Provide Comfort: Put a comfy, washable bed inside the house. This can be a dog bed you already have or a makeshift bed made from blankets.

This kind of dog house isn't designed to be used during winter months or in harsh weather. It's just a comfortable place for your dog to take a nap or get out of the hot sun.

3. Kiddie Pools

Dachshund puppy in pool

On a hot day, a kiddie pool is a fun and inexpensive way for your dog to cool off. Plus, it's a fantastic source of entertainment! Look for a pool that's made out of hard plastic rather than an inflatable pool. You can find inexpensive plastic pools at most Dollar General stores for under $20.

Quick Tip

Make sure to change the water in your dog's pool regularly to keep it clean.

4. Homemade Agility Course

Creating an outdoor agility course for your dog in your backyard doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Start with making a simple jump by using two buckets and a broom handle or PVC pipe. The buckets serve as the stands, and the broom handle or PVC pipe acts as the bar for your dog to leap over. For weaving poles, use slalom ski poles or PVC pipes pushed into the ground at regular intervals.

If you want a tunnel, a children's play tunnel from a toy store can be a cost-effective solution. Old tires, secured safely, can serve as a "tire jump," and a large cardboard box with two sides open can work as a pause box. Remember to adjust the difficulty of the course based on your dog's size, age, and fitness level. The key is to create a setup that's fun, challenging, and safe for your dog, and always supervise your dog when using the course.

5. Edible Gardens

Planting pet-safe herbs and veggies can add a unique touch to your backyard, and your dog might even enjoy nibbling on some of them. Some dog-friendly options include carrots, blueberries, cucumbers, and herbs like rosemary and thyme. Always research to make sure your choices are safe for your dog to ingest.

You should also use healthy fertilizer. Most commercial fertilizers contain ingredients that aren't healthy for our dogs to be around. Dog-friendly fertilizers include coffee grounds, compost from your bin, and manure if you can keep your dog from rolling around in it.

6. Natural Flea & Tick Repellents

Certain plants act as natural flea and tick repellents. Planting these in your backyard can provide an affordable, natural method to help keep your dog safe from pests. Here's a list of some of the best natural flea and tick repellants:

  • Lemongrass: This plant has citronella, a natural oil that can repel fleas and ticks.
  • Rosemary: It's believed that this plant's strong scent can help to repel fleas and ticks.
  • Lavender: Not only do these purple flowers add beauty to your garden or home, but their scent also repels many pests, including fleas and ticks.
  • Mint: Different varieties of mint, including peppermint and spearmint, can help deter fleas and ticks.
  • Garlic: While you shouldn't allow your dog to sit in the garden and chow down on garlic plants, planting it in your garden may help to repel fleas and ticks.
  • Chrysanthemums: These flowers contain pyrethrin, a natural insecticide, and can repel a variety of pests, including fleas and ticks.
Quick Tip

Research any plant you're interested in to make sure they're not poisonous before adding them to your backyard paradise.

7. DIY Toys

Making your own outdoor toys for dogs can be a fun and cost-effective way to keep your furry friend entertained. Take a look around your house to see what you can make. Be creative and use your imagination. Here are two ideas to get you started:

  • Rope pull toy: All you need is an old piece of sturdy, non-fraying rope. Just make sure it's a fabric rope, and not made from synthetic material. Tie knots along the rope at regular intervals, leaving enough space between each one for your dog to get a good grip.
  • Flirt pole: A flirt toy is like a giant cat toy that some dogs love. To do this, take a long stick and tie a rope to one end. Attach a soft toy or a bunch of feathers to the other end of the rope. This setup allows you to wave the toy around in the air for your dog to chase and jump after, providing a great workout.

8. Clear Paths

Clearing paths for your dog in the backyard can help create a safe and fun environment for them to explore. Start by assessing your yard and deciding on the routes that your dog is most likely to take. These may be along fences, around garden beds, or from the door to their favorite spots.

Next, remove any potential hazards from these routes, including sharp stones, branches, or toxic plants. If you have flower beds or sensitive plants you'd like to protect, consider installing a gentle barrier or border, like a low fence or garden edging, to guide your dog along the path. You might also want to lay down a pet-friendly material on the path, like mulch or flat stones, to make it more appealing and comfortable for your dog to walk on.

9. Outdoor Toy Box

Dog has box full of pet toys for different types of play and training

Consider having a dedicated outdoor toy box. This could be as simple as an old tote you're not using or an old tire. Fill it with frisbees, balls, chew toys, and other outdoor-friendly dog toys. You may even want to consider grabbing another tote so you can swap toys every couple of weeks to keep play interesting.

10. DIY Pallet Dog Bed

An elevated pallet bed can offer a comfy spot for your pooch to lounge outside. You can easily make one using recycled pallets, a bit of paint, and a comfy cushion. It keeps them off the cold or hot ground and gives them a place of their own. Here are some steps to get your bed built and ready for your dog to chill:


  • Wooden pallets
  • Screws and a screwdriver
  • A saw (if necessary)
  • Sandpaper
  • Outdoor paint or wood stain
  • A cushion, dog bed, or blankets


  • Sizing the pallets: Start by making sure the pallets are the right size for your dog. They should be large enough for your dog to lie down comfortably, but not so large that they take up unnecessary space. If necessary, use a saw to cut the pallets to the right size.
  • Sanding and painting: Sand down the pallets to get rid of any splinters or rough spots that could hurt your dog. If you want, you can paint or stain the pallets to make them look better, but it's not a necessary step. Just be sure to use a product that's safe for pets and suitable for outdoor use.
  • Assembling the bed: Stack the pallets on top of each other until they're at the height you want. Secure them together with screws to ensure the bed is stable and won't collapse.
  • Adding some comfort: Finally, add outdoor cushions or old blankets to make the bed comfortable.

Remember, the pallet bed needs to be placed in a sheltered area to protect your dog from direct sunlight and rain. Regularly check the bed for any loose screws or splinters and maintain it as necessary.

11. Add a Sandbox

A sandbox can be a great addition to your backyard. It provides a designated spot for your pup to indulge in their natural digging instincts without ruining your lawn or garden. To make a sandbox, first, choose a spot in your yard that is shaded for at least part of the day to keep the sand from getting too hot. Use wooden planks, bricks, or a ready-made sandbox to create the boundary.

Fill it with play sand, which is typically cleaner and safer for dogs than regular sand. Make sure the sandbox is large enough for your dog to comfortably play in. Introduce your dog to the sandbox and encourage them to dig there instead of other areas in your yard.

Quick Tip

Hide a few toys in the sand as a fun surprise for your dog to find. This is a good way to encourage digging at appropriate times, with you supervising and rewarding their play.

Don't Be Afraid to Get Creative

Building a backyard haven for your dog on a budget requires a bit of creativity and effort, but the joy it brings to your pet makes it all worthwhile. These dog-friendly backyard ideas should serve as a starting point, and remember, the best yard for your dog is one where they're supervised and safe. Enjoy designing your budget-friendly, dog-friendly backyard!

11 Dog-Friendly Backyard Ideas and Upgrades On a Budget