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I'm looking for suggestions for a ground covering for an outdoor training area for dogs.

1) My back yard is around 3.5 acres of pine forest. The natural ground covering is 100% pine needles and duff. If you are familiar with western pine forests you know that nothing else really grows there. Grass or sod is therefore off the table.

2) I found an area that is about 120 x 25 ft, maybe a little more, that is free of large trees. My plan is to have the saplings cleared and the ground leveled. I want to be able to do long recalls and then other training depending on what I settle on with a new pup (coming soon).

3) Because the area is relatively big an affordable (per sq ft) choice would be better. The area would not be fenced off--the whole back yard is fully fenced. I'm just planning on defining an area with the ground covering and something less painful to run on than pine needles.

4) I want something that a dog could run on full out comfortably. I worry about mulch with sharp edges but I've heard people talk about playground mulch which maybe is more comfortable?

5) Despite being clear of large trees the area is surrounded by 100 ft+ trees so pine needles will fall on the area. A material that let pine needles be cleared (say with a leaf blower) without scattering would be ideal. I realize this last one is probably a pipe dream.

Thought I'd ask to see if anyone had any creative suggestions. Thanks.
 

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Someone suggested getting shaved or pellet pine from Tractor Supply. I spread some shaved pine under one of my oak trees and near a gate and I've been very happy with it so far...and it has been raining quite a bit. I may pick up a few more bags and enlarge the area. The rest of that yard is moss and grass and pine needles. This is the first year I've done this and it will be interesting to see how it holds up over the summer. I suspect by fall it will be broken down, which is good because then I can mulch the leaf fall in autumn.
 

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I have used my arena for send outs - it is coarse sand/pea gravel. An outfit on Craigslist advertises chopped rubber (as in, I suspect, recycled tires) for arenas. And BTW your dog will do fine on pine needles.
 
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