If you’re not lucky enough to have a swimming pool, or if you’re not inclined to let your pup swim in yours, there’s a totally natural way for your pup to enjoy a pond.
I’ve been working on a swimming pool for my dogs, but I got faced with the question of “How do I make this dog friendly and not have to drain it every few days?”. I wanted to keep clean water in the pond to help avoid ear infections, mosquito larvae and all the other nasty things that happen when water just … sits around in a foldable dog pool and becomes a glorified dog bowl.
Not only is draining it every few days inconvenient, but it’s a huge waste of quite a lot of water if you have larger dogs like I do.
I looked at how you add pool chemicals, but I wasn’t much keen on that because I know that as soon as Indie dropped a ball in there, he’d be face-deep in there and we’d end up with itchy skin, skin irritation like hot spots or similar, and I really didn’t want to look at that. Not to mention that my dogs have dark coats could be affected by the chlorine and get a dull coat and stuff.So I looked into how natural pools work! And most of it was for quarter acre and larger ponds, but delving a little I found the logic could apply to a small pond… which meant not only could I get me a water feature, but I could get one my dogs (and ducks) could use!
So let me break down what we’ve done, how it works, why it works so well, and how you can make your own!
We live in a really rural area. There are deer, and there are trees, and it’s very natural. So, I wanted to keep it pretty natural, I wanted to
As cheap as possible
Dog friendly (duh!)
Large enough to fit big dogs
The Pool Choice
I looked at the classic, inflatable dog pools, a used backyard pool on facebook – but the first So I started knowing it would need to be one of the puncture-proof dog pools. But… when they get to 75lbs+ (35kg+) and you’re dealing with coonhounds (Ugh, those dog’s nails are pretty much diamonds), that “puncture-proof” label becomes totally relative…
Now, the next big issue is that we don’t have a huge flat area – we’re mainly on a hill – so it’s kind of inconvenient for the traditional “Family pool” without digging out an enormous chunk of the hill, and then we have rocks and … yeah it was looking pricey quite quickly, which didn’t seem like the best idea to me. And equally pricey was the idea of fiberglass pools – whilst I’d love that larger pool, the volume of dollars associated with that? Wasn’t going to be achievable for us.We looked at a number of options, but the best choice for us was an 8ft round stock tank, we opted for the poly tank over the galvanised because the poly lasts forever, we won’t face rust issues and the poly tank comes with a ledge that’s pretty solid, so I wasn’t too scared that it would be a problem with large dogs (or humans) standing on it.
So, me being me, we waited and found one on facebook marketplace – because I hate paying full price for anything and I feel like by using something someone else no longer needs, I’m doing my bit for society, right?
I sent my helpful husband (Mr Rebarkable, who will be featuring in this!) to go fetch it from down the road (where it had also been used as a dog pool, interestingly!) and he returned it.
We were lucky enough that our neighbour had a tractor with a bucket that made mincemeat out of the hill, and quickly levelled a spot where the new stock tank would sit. Mr. Rebarkable and I spent a bit of time levelling it out with some small amounts of masonry sand, and set it in place…
Now it’s a permanent fixture…
The Water Choice
Poor quality water in your dog’s ears, or a wet dog can just encourage bacteria growth – which is never a good thing, and I think we pet owners know that, right?
Chlorine is an excellent way to sterilise water – and it is drinkable, however, it can affect your dog’s coat, and drinking too much pool water can be a problem!
We did consider the saltwater pool idea, and whilst it’s definitely a step up from the chlorine pool (in my opinion!), it wasn’t a great choice. This one can’t be drunk that much by my furry friend s and it means that, whilst it’s dog safe, it takes more upkeep, and needs a little bit more managing it it’s going to be a successful pet pool.
Drinkable and with minimal upkeep, and minimal impact on my dogs coats? This works for me – and whilst it’s harder to set up, it does mean that
How Do We Filter It?
We opted for what’s called a “Bog filter” which mimics how water gets filtered in nature.
Lots of people used 55 gallon barrels, or whiskey barrels, or a secondary pond. We were lucky enough to have a second pond laying around (a Rubbermaid tub that Indie was using the year before for splashing in), so we dug that in next to the main pond.
How Do We Stop It From Freezing?
Now, this is theory only at this stage, because we’re still in hot summer days, but we’ve sunk half of it in, and we’ve created a bank, and stone wall around the bank to ensure that there is solid water flow at all times, then, we’ve made sure the plumbing is buried, and covered by large rocks, specifically large enough that when our dogs jump up, or down, that they’re big enough to
Flow Vs Bog Filter Means Waterfall!
The bog is how we keep our fresh water fresh – but it needs slow flow, so we had excess flow coming from our pump — which meant that we hated to see the waste! So we began making a waterfall.
We made one with real rocks first, that looked clunky and… frankly didn’t work. So we reassessed and I reached
What About A Safe Doggie Step?
We had planned this! But it turns out our dogs don’t need it. but we had looked at a ramp, and concrete block step to help them get in and out – as the poly tank was robust enough that this would work a treat. Luckily, we could skip that!
Now, I like to plan ahead, and … that big ol’ shake that dogs do? I knew that was going to result in lots of mud… in my house, in the pond, in their coats – and I am not into creating more work for myself – that sounds like pure stupidity, right?! So… I looked at some options.
What where my goals:
Low mud or mud eliminating
Little to no extra work (for install or upkeep)
So there were a few results I started working through.
Grass: Whilst it might be natural, I don’t want to mow up there, and it could just get trampled and turn into a mess anyway – which would defeat the objective.
Mulch or woodchips: Definitely ticks the natural box, they’re gonna get knocked in the pond and make maintenance harder, which is adding more work. No thank you!
A Deck: Yeah, an option… but crap do I wanna do the work to make that? Do I wanna do the upkeep? Do I wanna take it up an inch, and have that add in some level of looking unnatural? Nah… That wasn’t really the vibe I was going for when I made a natural pond.
A plant: A magical… mystery plant that could be robust enough to keep my dogs (and ducks) above the mud… Then something rang in my head about a plant I’ve been wanting to try….
Dwarf Carpet Of Stars (Ruschia): This succulent is a grass alternative that’s drought tolerant, (lives forever) and takes solid foot traffic before showing any wear and tear… it also forms a 2-4 inch thick “Carpet” that I’m under the impression will keep my wet dogs suspended above the dirt, and allow them to get rid of most of their moisture before they hit the rocks and come into my house! Perfection (theoretically!).
Plants being plants, these take a little while to settle in, so we fenced off the bank for a little while they established, and when they grow in? I’ll let you know how well it works!
Dwarf carpet of stars (Ruschia Lineolata ‘Nana’)9.4/10Our ScoreCheck PriceThis succulent was perfect for what I was looking for. It’s hard-wearing, soft enough to walk on, and keeps me and my dogs (and ducks!) up off the mud which helps keep my pond clean!
Natural Dog Pond Upkeep
All ponds need upkeep, and ours is no different, but ours is pretty low maintenance, and I’m really pleased about this.
Weekly pony testing (pool water strip, or pond tester)
Occasional water top-ups
Backflushing the bog twice a year,
This one’s a little weird, it would cost more if we set it up brand new, and if we were less opportunistic? However here’s a breakdown of our costs
Stock Tank ($350)
Pump (free) $30
Rubbermaid (free) $50
PVC pipes/bends etc $40
Masonry Sand (free) $60/yard
1 yard Topspoil $50
1 yard of fill dirt $14
Pea Gravel $30
Bog plants (free)
I will say, we were exceptionally lucky (in some ways) that we had all of these rocks, all of these materials, and were opportunistic enough to save a good chunk of money on this – and it could work out pretty expensive. But, whilst I’m not necessarily saying you have to do it this way – I’m hoping it gives you enough to work on your own pond!
Tractor w/ bucket
Mattak (roots & rocks)
PVC Pipe cutter
Drill (with bit for cutting 1 inch holes)
Again, we were massively lucky to have access to all of these things, and if we didn’t, it would have taken so much longer or been much more expensive! But
This took us about 3 weekends work, and it was hard work! But that included the sourcing my stones from all around my garden, re-building my rock wall 3 times as I figured out how to actually build with imperfect rocks.
Lessons we learned
Fill dirt vs topsoil: So you don’t have to do this research before building a pool for your four-legged friend, use fill dirt to be the thermal mass as this has stuff in it… from roots to rocks and rags – you’ll find stuff in the topsoil and it won’t be pretty. The topsoil is your pretty, more fertile soil used for planting, and has minimal rocks in it!
Solar Pump: We tried a reasonably priced solar pump from amazon, but it just didn’t work for us. We were too-low light, and it just wasn’t robust enough to deal with what we were originally thinking. If you have a lot of sun, this one may work for you, but it just wasn’t enough for us.
Rocks Are Heavy: yeah, you heard me. Sounds dumb, but it catches you up…
Facebook marketplace: Is the shit! Honestly, if you wait, and have the ability to move, or fetch things? You’d be amazed what deals you can get.
From an inflatable pool to a plastic kiddie pool, remember, your dog doesn’t need an inground pool! This was simply a case that we had an opportunity… so here are some of your other best options!
Foldable Dog Pool 63 x 12 InchesThis is one of those easy wins for dog pools, you’re not going to get your labrador swimming, but you’ll get some splashies! Check PriceStock Tank, 100 gallonMight be better as a dog bath, but definitely works for even the big dogs to have a little splash! Check Price4′ x 4′ Wide and 12″ Plastic Kids PoolEasy and quick to put together, this may not be great if your dog has some solid claws, but for smaller breeds this is a nice option.Check Price
And we have a forthcoming article for the best dog pools (which are all currently in testing!).
Our DIY Pool – The Natural Dog Pond
I’m really pleased with how the pond looks. I think it works supremely well for us and our family, and, on a hot day? I’ve even been known to put my feet in it! And I know it’s totally safe for use and dogs of all sizes. Our dog’s aren’t necessarily natural swimmers? But they definitely appreciate it, and it’s really helping with Indie’s water confidence too! I’m really proud of the strides he’s making with that too.
A natural dog pond is a great way for dog owners to get their large dog paddling in the summer, and your smaller dog is welcome too!
So if you have a water-doggo? Why not let them enjoy the cool water and try out this natural dog pond for yourself – I mean, why wouldn’t your dog love having their own dog pool?!
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!