Monday, 13 May 2019
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DIY Faux Fire Hydrant Garden Pee Post for Dogs

Shiny red fake fire hydrant pee post mounted in the garden

One of the things we wanted to try at the new house was teaching the dogs to use a designated location as their preferred toilet area, which for our dogs would require some sort of potty post. A fire hydrant would be perfect: great for any dog, but even more so for Dalmatians. Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn't use that style of above-ground hydrant, so buying an old/surplus hydrant, while a cool idea, wasn't an option. We decided to make one. 

The objectives for the post were to be inexpensive, good-looking, secure yet readily moveable if required, and durable. The hydrant would be fully exposed to our strong NZ UV, baking summers, frosty winters, a whole lot of rain, and (ideally...) plenty of pee!  We used PVC pipe to create a single straight-line standpipe design (less expensive than fancier configurations), and splurged a little on hardware to dress it up. I had considered gluing a curvy object, like a bowl, on the top for a more old-school hydrant look, but we were dubious about how it would hold up in our conditions over time so decided to just keep it sleek and simple.

PVC is durable, but not cheap. If you know someone having work done who may have off-cuts, or if you have a plumber/tradie pal, you may be able to score some freebies or a discount. Keeping the shape and fittings relatively simple will help keep cost down. Similarly, for hardware, shop carefully - similar looking pieces can vary greatly in price (just make sure they're suitable for outdoor use). For more savings, scour the bargain bins and/or look for salvage objects that can be repurposed.

Fake fire hydrant pee post for dogs mounted in the garden

The body of our hydrant was made using PVC pipe, a curved junction, and two flat-topped end caps, with all the PVC components in compatible sizes for fitting their respective ends together. The pipes were cleaned and painted with self-priming exterior rated plastic-suitable spray paint in a vibrant red and allowed to thoroughly dry and cure before further assembly. Note: The length of PVC pipe was significantly longer than the visible finished hydrant - see below on how we installed it for easy removal or relocation, if needed.

To simulate hydrant hardware and add some pizazz to the plain pipes, we used two outdoor water spigot-style gate valve knob handles (ready-made in red) along with attaching hardware supplemented by a large stand-off nut and big beefy square galvanised metal washer plate to create metallic features on the caps. Flashy enough, but cheap and durable. Perfect. Note: The hardware is shown disassembled in the collaged photo below. Since there is nothing to attach into on the back of the PVC end caps, small nuts were used on the back/inside of the caps to keep the external hardware securely bolted onto the caps.  

The finished PVC components were glued together and allowed to set before mounting. Mounting the hydrant in the garden was fairly simple (deep digging not withstanding). Since we wanted the hydrant to be secure but moveable if needed, we opted to deeply embed and pack it into the ground. With our clay soil, this is very sturdy. Once fully backfilled and the the surrounding mulch repositioned, it looks perfectly at home in the garden.

Step-by-step instructions for making a fake fire hydrant with PVC pipe for dog garden pee post

In full disclosure, I share this post with a bit of a sigh. This project was completed a while ago (some of you may have seen it in our Instagram stories). All good so far and still looking great. Although the post looks awesome, sadly I've not (yet) been able to consistently get our boys (or their visitors...) to use it as their preferential pee place! Training tips (or tales of commiserating woe) are welcome. 

I know people who use designated potty places with great success and would love to spare our lawn from the dreaded pee patches. At Oli's age, we knew it would be unlikely but we did have high hopes for Humphrey. He likes having a few preferential leg-up pee points, and this barked section of the garden is both pee-safe and one of his favourite destinations for number two, so we thought it would be a good option. I've tried leading, bribery, and even using dog pee to mark the post (one of the surprise skills honed over our years together - I'm might handy at sample collection!). Our dogs have the luxury of spending lots of time free roving about in the garden, so training on-position is difficult but still the goal. If you have a new pup and/or consistently observed (or ideally on lead at the start) potty time, location training is much easier. :)

Pee patches of concentrated dog urine are a lot like like accidentally putting too much fertiliser in one spot on your lawn (read more about pee patch causes and management here). This is completely natural for healthy dog urine. If well-diluted and of moderate pH, nitrogen-rich dog pee can actually be quite good for grass! If location training fails, watering helps. Maintaining a healthy hydrated lawn (less vulnerable) and watering the wee in, whenever possible, is the best line of defence. I keep a full watering can handy for dousing - much to our neighbours' amusement, but it works!  

Homemade shiny red fake fire hydrant dog pee post in the garden

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