Mulch is used to create a soft ground cover in dog runs, making running easier on dog's paws and joints. Natural and synthetic mulch for dog areas are available, but you'll need to shop around for a nontoxic version and replace it frequently as it becomes soiled. If you can't keep up with the maintenance, other options are available.
Natural wood chips for dog kennel
Pine mulch is a good ground cover option for your dog run. Pine mulch is soft, economical, and provides a comfortable layer of bedding when your dog lies down and shock absorption when he runs. Cedar mulch is also effective, but it's a good idea to initially test your dog for allergic reactions. The first time your dog walks on the cedar mulch, monitor your pup's skin for irritation and rashes. If the cedar disturbs your dog or increases itching, it's not a viable option for the run.
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The major downside to using natural mulch for a dog area is the need for regular replacement. Mulch will absorb urine and fecal particles, so you must remove and replace it often.
Synthetic mulch for dog area
Rubber is a popular choice for synthetic mulch. Shredded rubber is used in playgrounds and many community dog parks. It often comes from recycled tires and shoe soles and provides a nontoxic ground cover. The rubber is nonporous and cleans easily — simply use a pressure nozzle on your garden hose to wash away urine and sanitize the area. Furthermore, adding a layer of gravel under the rubber mulch will provide natural drainage and prevent water from pooling.
Beware of toxins and consumption
Only use nontoxic mulch products that are designated safe for animals and humans. For instance, garden mulch made from cocoa shells is very toxic to dogs. Also, treated lumber turned into mulch can lead to canine health issues. Respiratory problems and skin rashes can develop after prolonged exposure to toxic mulch products. Monitor your dogs to ensure they are not eating the mulch in the dog area — providing chew toys might help distract them.
Homemade wood chips for dog yard
Make your own mulch to save on costs if the materials are readily available. However, making homemade wood chips for dog yard play zones isn't simple. First, you'll need to rent or purchase a wood chipper with shredder settings. Then you'll have to cut down or buy untreated cedar or pine wood — partnering with a tree trimming service and collecting their scrap wood for your mulch pile might save you money, but not necessarily time.
After you've acquired a wood supply, you'll need to feed chunks of wood through the chipper on a shred setting and store the material in a pile for easy access. Note: practice or start slowly — wood chippers are powerful and dangerous. Use a thick stick to push material through the hopper, and never put your hands or metal tools near the spinning blades.
Non-mulch options for dog kennel
Sometimes mulch alone is not the best option. After all, mulch absorbs water and stays moist, fails to file your dog's nails, and requires frequent maintenance. Consider using wood chips for dog kennel corners only, but concrete or gravel for the remainder of the run. Hard surfaces help file nails and keep the paw pads hardened. A combination of mulch, gravel, or concrete might be preferable because it provides your dog different comfort zones inside your comfortable dog run.