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Repairing Pet Damage In the Yard with Boris the Pibble

This post is in partnership with Troy-Bilt as a part of their Fence Talks series.

A brown pitbull mix drinks from a garden hose on a red brick patio with lush evergreens // via Yellow Brick Home

It’s likely no surprise that we love dogs. Our dogs. Other people’s dogs. All the dogs! Our CC brings so much silly joy into our home, and we can’t imagine a life without a pup around. Having a dog in the family brings its own set of challenges, especially when it comes maintaining a yard, but after living as city-dwelling dog parents for the last 11 years, we’ve gained a wealth of knowledge in the area of dog-friendly yards and landscaping.

To help spread some of that knowledge, we’ve partnered with our friends at TroyBilt as a part of their Fence Talks series which will help tackle common yard pain points head-on! Other experts will be covering topics such as plant identification, pest control and even settling issues with neighbors! For our portion of the series, we’ll be talking through ways to help alleviate the pet-related challenges that Boris the Pibble‘s mom and dad are facing. Friends, meet Boris!

Boris the Pibble! // via Yellow Brick Home

Boris is a handsome rescue pittie from St. Louis, MO. His favorite past-times are playing fetch in his backyard, romping at the dog park, taking hikes and going for the occasional swim. Plus, he has the most kissable nose we’ve ever seen. Boris does, however, need a bit of help with his lawn!

When Yards + Dogs Don’t Mix

As many fellow dog parents know, dog urine and green lawns do not mix well. ‘Pee spots’ as they’re (not so affectionately) known, are patches of dead grass that result from dogs habitually relieving themselves in the same area. We’ve found some solutions to this pesky problem in the past both at our Chicago home and our Michigan Tree House, and we think we have just the plan for Boris’ yard!

A tan pitbull stands on a concrete patio with a table and chairs and a portable fire pit // via Yellow Brick Home

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be helping Boris’ parents, Alley and Alex, to fix some problem areas in their own yard. Troy-Bilt will be lending a hand in the form of a super cool new Pony 42 riding mower to help Alley, Alex and Boris jump-start their yard’s revitalization. Be sure to follow both @yellowbrickhome and @boristhepibble on instagram for updates on how the project comes together!

The Challenge with Boris’ Yard

Alley and Alex have continued sprucing up their St. Louis backyard this spring and recently installed this concrete patio in a shaded area at the rear of the property. They were a little uncertain how to finish the area surrounding the patio and through our rainy Midwest spring, Boris has turned the bare dirt patches into a bit of a muddy mess! Boris also has a habit of creating the aforementioned ‘pee spots’ throughout the grass portion of the yard, so we’ll address both problems with one solution; If you guessed that we’d be helping Alley and Alex design a potty pit for Boris, you’d be 100% right! Let’s take a look at our starting point, shall we?

A backyard concrete patio with a table and chairs and a portable fire pit surrounded by mature trees // via Yellow Brick Home

Alley and Alex have done a great job with their patio project so far and will just need a few finishing touches for it to really shine. The area features mature trees, a shade sail, a hammock and a portable fire pit, but it’s still a bit of a blank canvas. We think the addition of a decorative gravel area for Boris and some well-placed greenery will be just the solution to finish off the space and keep Boris from damaging the lawn further!

A tan pitbull stands on a concrete patio with a shade sail and a patio set  // via Yellow Brick Home

Boris is also lucky enough to have his very own doggie window installed into his back fence! We’ve been told that his special lady friend pup lives just on the other side of the alley, so his parents were kind enough to install the acrylic bubble window to let them gaze longingly at one another as often as they’d like. This means that Boris spends a lot of his free time at the back of the yard, so installing the gravel potty pit will also help cut down on the amount of mud and dirt that he tracks into the house. Isn’t it so satisfying when one solution solves for multiple problems?

A tan pitbull stands on a concrete patio in front of an acrylic bubble window cut into the back fence // via Yellow Brick Home

Our Backyard as Inspiration

As we mentioned, we’ve installed a couple of gravel potty pits in the past, so we’ll be using our own yards in Chicago and Michigan as inspiration for the design of Boris’s yard. When we planned our backyard space a few years ago, we intentionally avoided grass in favor of a layout with all hardscape. We opted for brick pavers as opposed to a poured concrete patio, but like Alley and Alex, we left ample space for gravel around the main seating area.

A bright and compact Chicago backyard with a picnic table wide staircase and planter boxes // via Yellow Brick Home

CC simply has to walk under the wide back steps to access her semi-private 8×10 gravel potty. She’s adapted well over the years and almost always disappears behind the steps to do her business without being prompted. With a little bit of training and coaching, we’re confident that Boris will be using his own potty pit in no time!

A red brick patio is surrounded by planter boxes overflowing with evergreens. A white staircase leads up to a small back deck // via Yellow Brick Home

Potty Pits, Large and Small

In our front yard, we’ve integrated a miniature version of our backyard potty pit so CC never has too far to go when nature calls. When we poured the concrete for our front sidewalk, we intentionally left a 4″ deep strip between the concrete and the cedar fence, which we then filled in with the same decorative gravel that we used out back. This offers just enough space for CC to run down and take care of business when we’re spending time on our front porch.

A brown Pitbull mix dog runs down a white staircase onto a sidewalk in a Chicago front yard // via Yellow Brick Home

Much like in our backyard, with a bit of training and encouragement, CC goes potty almost exclusively in the gravel area instead of in the grass. We love the textural variation between the perfectly poured concrete and the gravel pebbles and could see this as a perfect fit for Boris’s yard as well!

A brown pitbull mix dog naps on a concrete sidewalk next to a gravel pebble area // via Yellow Brick Home

In addition to the back and front yards of our Chicago home, we integrated a gravel area at our home in Michigan (also with Troy-Bilt‘s help!), seen below. The area allows for ample space to store our hose and deck box, while also leaving space for CC to relieve herself. After a bit of training, she knows to head straight over to the gravel area when she needs to take care of business!

Our 3 day 'Flip the Yard' backyard makeover with Troy-Bilt | via Yellow Brick Home

We’ll all be sharing progress on Instagram along the way, so keep an eye on @yellowbrickhome and @boristhepibble to follow along with the design and build of Boris’s very own potty pit! We can’t wait to help Alley and Alex finish their backyard project so it works for their whole family.

Thank you to our friends at Troy-Bilt for introducing us to our new buddy Boris and providing the tools – and conversation – to get the job done! We’ll be addressing Boris’ concerns as well as yours over the next few weeks, so let us know: What are your pet-related yard issues?

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  • at home with ashley6.16.20 - 8:22 AM

    Love the dog friendly landscaping. We need a close-up of Boris’ doggie window!ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.16.20 - 8:59 AM

      I think we need to see him stare at his girlfriend lovingly, don’t we?ReplyCancel

  • Emily6.16.20 - 10:34 AM

    What a love story and nice parents to give him that window! Unrelated but this post reminded me… Did you guys seal or stain your cedar fence at all? How has maintenance been? We are considering it because I really prefer the wood over vinyl but wanted to hear how it’s doing through winters and weather! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

    • Scott6.16.20 - 11:10 AM

      Hi Emily! We didn’t seal our cedar fence because we prefer the slightly weathered silvery look of cedar. It seems to be holding up pretty well after 7 or so years, but it’s mostly preference. I think if we had to do it over again, we’d let it silver to a point that we liked, then protect it with a clear waterseal product. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

      • Emily6.16.20 - 11:28 AM

        Very helpful, thank you! ReplyCancel

  • Kara6.16.20 - 11:44 AM

    This is a little tangent but we’re about to build a patio table like the one you guys built and I’m wondering if you can give us an update on how it’s held up over the years? Thanks! We love following your projects!ReplyCancel

    • Scott6.16.20 - 12:34 PM

      Hi Kara! The patio table has held up perfectly! The paint shows very little wear after a few years (we cover it in the winter months) and the structure is still as sturdy as the day we built it. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

      • Kara6.17.20 - 7:31 PM

        So great to hear! Thank you :)ReplyCancel

  • Carin6.16.20 - 2:24 PM

    We have 3 doggos and they really like to play and wrestle in the yard. Between the hard use from the dogs, the shade from two giant white pines, and the pine needles themselves, not much grass grows. Our backyard is 75% dirt. (Oh and the youngest is a digger)Anyone have recommendations? We’ve considered mulch (cons, the digger will still dig), fancy astroturf (cons, giant hunk of plastic), rocks, (littlest guy likes to carry them around? and also is digable). I don’t really need grass, but I’m really tired of the dirt that gets tracked in.ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.16.20 - 8:58 PM

      Have you considered creating a paved surface, similar to our yard? It was the perfect solution for us to eliminate mud and mess, easy to hose off and keep clean, and a long term solution!ReplyCancel

      • Carin6.17.20 - 12:58 PM

        That’s the direction I’m leaning now? I think our yard is maybe 3 times the size of yours so it’d be A LOT of literal ground to cover ;) But its maybe doable, especially if we get creative with the space.ReplyCancel

        • Kim6.17.20 - 1:01 PM

          You could also divide it up into zones, so you still have some grass – if you even want it. Another thought: a platform deck, mixed with pavers, would add interest.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey Billingsley6.16.20 - 4:14 PM

    Just curious, but do you still go pick up CC’s poop in the potty area? Seems like it would smell if you didn’t (and be unsightly). ReplyCancel

  • Christina6.17.20 - 1:23 PM

    I love this idea! We’ve had good luck using Dog Rocks in the water bowls. It reduces the nitrates in the water, and makes their pee less likely to leave yellow patches. They’re $15-17 for a set, and we just buy one new set 2x every summer, and that’s enough for us! You can get them at just about any pet store. ReplyCancel

  • Sarah6.21.20 - 5:45 PM

    Do you guys ever have to treat the gravel pee area for odor? I have a small spot and two large dogs and it does start to smell. I have tried laundry detergent with enzymes, Nature’s Miracle, Rocco and Roxie Odor Eliminator. Out of those, the Rocco and Roxie one works the best. However, it’s expensive to use every other week. Any recommendations? ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.22.20 - 7:22 AM

      We spray it down with a hose and that’s it! We haven’t noticed any odor that a good rinse with water couldn’t solve.ReplyCancel

  • Cait6.27.20 - 5:34 AM

    Is it difficult to scoop poop under the stairs?ReplyCancel

    • Scott6.27.20 - 12:17 PM

      Nope! Neither of us are very tall and we can aaaaalmost fully stand up under there.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny Bilbrey6.27.20 - 11:15 AM

    We have a very large backyard, maybe 3rd of an acre. We fenced off about a quarter of the yard for the dogs “play yard.” I call it the puppy pit. It is all dirt, some clay, but mostly dirt. We have 4 dogs of our own and also foster for rescue. We are looking for a ground cover solution for such a large area. Help!ReplyCancel

  • Ann8.5.20 - 1:30 PM

    When we put up a backyard fence years ago for our former dog, nicknamed Donut, we cut a hole at her eye level so she could watch me working in the side yard. We named the “window “Donut-hole”. Our current puppy would rather jump up on the gate to watch me. Hasn’t figured out what the donut-hole is for yet.ReplyCancel

  • Vickie5.20.21 - 3:42 AM

    Kim, was there ever a follow up post on this project? I looked on Instagram, but could not find it (not a Instagram person, is there a search function?).
    We have two puppies (sisters) arriving early July. Putting in two pee pads. One off the front porch in the side yard for potty trips from the house. One in the opposite diagonal corner of the backyard for when we are all outside. 
    I reread all your pee pad posts. I think in the beginning you thought two types of stone were needed, but after several installations, you decided weed cloth and one type of stone were enough, correct? I read “gravel” and “pea gravel” in various posts. What is the final recommendation please? 
    We are framing with treated wood 4×4’s so we can sink them a little to help contain the stone. 
    And we are going to put a temporary fence around the pit to corral puppies until they are dependable. 
    Any other thoughts? ReplyCancel

    • Scott5.20.21 - 8:49 AM

      Your plan sounds great! Regarding the gravel, pretty much any style will work. As you mentioned, we’ve found it easiest to use one type of gravel since excited pups can sometimes kick up the gravel and bring the lower style to the surface.ReplyCancel

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