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Creating a Dog-Friendly Garden: Tips for Happy Pets and Thriving Plants

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Dogs can either be a delightful addition to your gardening experience or act like spirited youngsters wreaking havoc! They might dig up your cherished plants or leave your lawn less than perfect in their eagerness to explore.

But don’t worry, I’ve got some savvy garden design tips to help you create a peaceful coexistence between your furry friend and your garden dreams.

This guide on creating a dog-friendly garden will help you sidestep common pitfalls such as plants that don’t make it, grass that fades to yellow, and flower beds that turn into play areas for your pooch. Typically, I encounter two kinds of clients when it comes to designing dog-friendly gardens:

  1. Those who have recently added a puppy to their family and quickly realize that their garden is suffering from the new arrival’s boundless energy.
  2. Prospective dog owners who are proactive about making their garden a safe and enjoyable space for both flora and their future furry companion.

With my experience in crafting numerous dog-friendly gardens, I think it’s time to share some insights on the approaches I use to ensure these gardens meet the needs of both pets and plant lovers.

Craft a Dog-Friendly Garden Oasis

Training a dog to perfection doesn’t stop their natural curiosity—especially in a new garden. For gardening enthusiasts, fully eliminating all potential hazards isn’t always possible, but reducing risks can be managed with a bit of foresight.

Craft a Dog-Friendly Garden Oasis
Credit: HGTV

Start your garden planning with dog safety in mind. Be aware of external dangers like busy roads or gaps in fencing, and protect delicate areas of your garden from curious paws.

Setting up barriers like small trellises or fences around sensitive spots like vegetable patches or young seedlings is wise. These can be adjusted or removed as your dog learns which areas are off-limits.

Consider the comfort of your canine friend when choosing garden surfaces. Opt for materials that are gentle on their paws and don’t hold excessive heat, like certain pavers or mulches—steer clear of gravel and tarmac, which can trap heat or get lodged in their paws.

Sunny days mean more outdoor time, and while it’s great for your dog to join you, remember that dogs can overheat quickly since they only sweat through their paw pads. Ensuring there are ample shaded areas is vital, particularly during hotter months.

Create a cool retreat with pet-friendly plants, or even a makeshift den with furniture and a throw blanket, where your dog can escape the sun.

Be vigilant about temperatures: anything above 20 degrees can pose a risk of heatstroke, and above 24 degrees requires extreme caution. Watch for signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, red eyes, or lethargy. In such cases, it’s crucial to contact a vet immediately.

Even on hot days, sometimes the safest option is bringing your dog indoors to a cool, shaded room. For water features like ponds, ensure they are initially blocked off and have a gentle slope or steps for safe entry and exit.

Incorporating these elements into your garden not only keeps your dog safe but helps them feel secure and calm in their outdoor environment. Introduce new features gradually, keeping in mind that each new element might be seen as a challenge or a point of interest for your dog.

Prioritize safety in your garden layout and remember, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your furry friend’s well-being.

Designing Dog-Friendly Garden Paths

When I dive into crafting a garden that welcomes dogs, the pathways and hard surfaces grab my initial focus. For many of us juggling hectic schedules, the garden often doubles as a workout space for our canine companions, especially on those days when a long stroll in the park just isn’t feasible.

Incorporating varied routes through your garden, complete with distinct pathways and specific zones for play or digging, not only keeps your dog engaged but also happy. These pathways, enriched with different textures, invigorate their paws and senses.

Adding dynamic elements like salix (willow) and ornamental grasses that move with the breeze can captivate and entertain them.

It’s crucial that the pathways in your garden support both leisurely walks and spirited runs. I find that hard landscaping is best suited for this. It’s durable enough to handle the enthusiastic clawing from a quick sprint, which conveniently reduces the need for frequent nail trims.

Plus, these hard surfaces are easier to maintain, as they can be quickly hosed down in case of any messes.

Designing Dog-Friendly Garden Paths
Credit: HGTV

For a stylish yet practical pathway, combining pavers with compressed hardcore offers an aesthetic and dog-friendly solution. However, I steer clear of fine gravel; it’s too tempting for dogs to dig up and can complicate cleanup of pet waste.

It can also pose a choking hazard for puppies prone to nibbling on small stones. Instead, opting for larger Scottish cobbles or pebbles, about the size of a large potato, is a safer bet. These are difficult for even the most curious dog to ingest.

Always be mindful with your choice of gravel—larger, undigestible stones are the way to go to avoid both accidental swallowing and the hassle of cleaning up after your dog.

Securing Your Garden for a New Puppy

When you bring a new puppy home, you quickly notice things like gaps in the hedge or a wobbly fence panel that weren’t obvious before. If you’re looking for an affordable and quick fix to these problems, here’s a handy guide to help you.

For those with larger gardens or just need to enclose a small area, a simple solution is at hand. Instead of opting for a costly, full wooden fence, you can use wooden fence posts coupled with chicken wire. This setup effectively blocks off any gaps without breaking the bank.

Remember, some dogs are escape artists who might try to dig under or jump over fences. To prevent escapes, ensure the base of your fence is secure and the fence itself is tall enough—around 6 feet for medium-sized dogs. Always keep your gates locked too.

Here’s what you’ll need to dog-proof your garden:

  • Fence posts
  • A fence post driver
  • Chicken wire with small gauge holes
  • A heavy-duty staple gun
  • Tent pegs

Step 1: Setting Up the Posts

Space your fence posts about 2-3 meters apart. Use the fence post driver to securely anchor each post into the ground. The closer your posts, the tighter the chicken wire will be, reducing the chances of your dog squeezing underneath.

Step 2: Attaching the Chicken Wire

Roll out your chicken wire and attach one end to the first post using a staple gun, ensuring it’s flush with the ground for maximum security. This method is much quicker and less cumbersome than using a hammer and nails.

Step 3: Securing the Wire

After stapling the chicken wire to the posts, use tent pegs for additional security. Hammer them in at an angle along the bottom of the wire to deter any digging attempts by your new pup.

Securing Your Garden for a New Puppy
Credit: ebay

This approach not only saves money but also time, making it ideal for last-minute preparations. With this setup, you’ll ensure your garden is a safe, secure space for your puppy to explore. Remember, a secure fence not only keeps your puppy safe but also gives you peace of mind.

Designing a Dog-Friendly Play Area in Your Garden

Every dog lover understands that a garden is a paradise for their furry friends, where the allure of flowers, the earth, and various textures can whip them into a playful frenzy. To prevent your pups from disrupting your carefully tended flower beds, setting up a designated play area in your garden is a smart move.

Choose a part of your garden that’s easy to maintain—perhaps an area with durable landscaping or minimal planting—for your dogs to call their own. Stock this zone with their favorite toys and consider placing their food and water bowls there too. This not only gives them a sense of belonging but also keeps their playful activities contained.

Engage with your dogs in this area to make it clear that it’s their special spot for fun. Regularly playing with them here, and rewarding them when they use this space, helps reinforce that this is where the action happens. This strategy encourages them to stick to their play zone and leave the rest of your garden in peace.

Designing a Dog-Friendly Play Area in Your Garden
Credit: Checkatrade

Dog-friendly plants

Dog-friendly plants are a must when you’ve got curious pups who explore with their mouths and noses! Dogs often taste plants out of curiosity, and although they might not like the flavor, this doesn’t always deter them.

In our furry friends’ quest to understand their environment, they might chew on plants that could be harmful. While we can’t control every plant in the neighborhood, we can certainly make our gardens a safe haven for our dogs to wander.

I’ve filled my garden with non- toxic plants, choosing varieties like coreopsis, coral bells, phlox, and kniphofia, which not only are safe for dogs but also bring vibrant colors to my outdoor space. For shade during the warmer months, larger plants like rose of sharon and tall grasses such as pampas grass are ideal.

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There are plenty of dog-safe plants that add beauty without risk, including snapdragons, asters, camellias, and sunflowers. I’ve also focused on robust perennials like astilbe and nepeta, which can withstand a bit of roughhousing from my playful dogs. And yes, roses are on my list too—their thorns deter dogs, and their blooms brighten up the garden.

To protect new plants, I sometimes use chicken wire to prevent my dogs from trampling them before they’re established. And though my dogs generally avoid munching on dangerous plants, I remain cautious and keep toxic varieties out of reach.

When designing a dog-friendly garden, it’s also smart to include edible treats like strawberries and blueberries, ensuring they’re grown with organic methods. Plus, always have a toy on hand to distract your dogs from any potential garden mischief.

Despite the risks, there are many safe plant choices for dog owners. Always verify the safety of new plants with resources like the RHS plant finder. Here are some of my top picks for dog-safe plants: basil, lavender, hebes, flowering currant, Rudbeckia hirta, thyme, sage, Stachys byzantina, and Stipa tennuissima. These plants have proven to be reliable and safe additions to my pet-friendly garden.

Avoid toxic plants

Maintaining a beautiful garden while having a furry friend around is totally possible! Opt for dog-friendly plants like lavender, roses, sunflowers, and calendula. These pose minimal risks and can thrive alongside your canine companion. With some basic training, your dog can even enjoy gardening time with you.

While it’s rare for plants to harm dogs, it’s important to stay cautious. Always supervise your dog in the garden and be vigilant for any signs of discomfort or illness. Should your dog ingest any plant material and seem unwell, contact a vet without delay.

For plants that aren’t so pet-friendly, consider placing them in hanging baskets or fenced areas that are off-limits to your pooch. Keep an eye out for certain perennials that are known to be toxic to dogs, such as hosta, bleeding heart, clematis, iris, wisteria, and allium, among others.

Particularly dangerous is monkshood, also known as wolfsbane. While these plants need careful handling, there’s an extensive list of safe options available, so check out resources like the ASPCA before making changes to your garden.

It’s a good idea to observe whether your dog shows interest in specific plants. For instance, a hosta tucked away at the back of your garden or an iris in a high-up pot might be safe to keep if your dog doesn’t go near them.

Always consider your dog’s behavior and access when planning your garden to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for both you and your pet. Here’s a handy list of plants to be wary of around dogs and cats:

  • Aconitum (monkshood)
  • Amaryllis bulbs
  • Asparagus fern
  • Azalea
  • Begonias
  • Bergenia (elephant’s ears)
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil bulbs
  • Delphiniums
  • Digitalis (foxgloves)
  • Hemerocallis (day lilies)
  • Hemlock
  • Hyacinth
  • Hydrangea
  • Ivy
  • Laburnum
  • Lily of the valley
  • Lupins
  • Morning glory
  • Nightshade
  • Oleander
  • Rhododendron
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Sweet pea
  • Tulip bulbs
  • Umbrella plant
  • Wisteria
  • Yew

Always keep these in mind and prioritize your pet’s safety to enjoy a beautiful, bloom-filled garden without worries!

Example of a Dog-Friendly Garden Design

Lee Burkhil, the founder of Garden Ninja, recently transformed a client’s rundown backyard into a haven for their two adult dogs—one a basset hound with a penchant for digging, and the other a German Shepherd who enjoys tearing up grass.

To address the challenges posed by their playful pets, the redesign focused on creating a durable and cleanable space.

Dog-Friendly Garden Design
Credit: gardenninja

The garden is cleverly divided into distinct zones, each with a specific purpose. Hard landscaping elements, such as pavers, are strategically placed to facilitate easy cleaning and help manage the dogs’ claw wear.

  • Dog Zones

Directly outside the square orangery, you’ll find a flagged terrace designated as the dog zone. This area serves as a central hub for the dogs’ essentials, including food, water, and toys. Adjacent to this, there’s a seating area for people to relax alongside their furry friends.

A unique feature here is the raised rill water feature, which adds visual interest and safety, preventing the dogs from accidentally falling in. This zone also includes a screen that protects the more fragile garden beds. To the left, a summer house with a fenced section offers a retreat for the dogs when guests visit or during gardening sessions.

  • Woodland Zone

This section is a lush oasis filled with ferns, Dicentra, Hostas, and other robust, dog-safe plants. It’s designed for shade and is densely planted with low-growing varieties that thrive under the canopy. These plants are all non-toxic, ensuring safety for the dogs who have shown no interest in chewing on greenery.

  • Working Zone

The heart of the garden features a working area with a glasshouse surrounded by vibrant annuals like Rudbeckia and Stipa grasses. Notably, this design eliminates any grass lawns, previously a challenge, and instead incorporates ample hard surfaces that are simple to maintain.

Between the woodland and dog zones, two secluded nooks offer the dogs a quiet escape from activity, perfect when the garden is bustling, such as during a BBQ. These spots also allow for the repositioning of dog beds to stay in the shade, keeping the pets cool and stress-free.

This thoughtful design by Garden Ninja ensures that both the dogs and their owners can enjoy a functional, beautiful space tailored to their needs.

Digging Solutions

Dogs naturally love to dig; it’s just part of being a dog. However, when your prized garden becomes their playground, it might be time for a solution that keeps both your greenery and your pup happy. Dogs often dig to chase intriguing scents or to create a comfy spot to relax, and sometimes they’re just securing a treasure for later enjoyment.

A great fix is to set up a designated digging pit in your garden. This not only protects your flowerbeds but also keeps your dog mentally and physically engaged. Here’s how you can easily create one:

  1. Select a Spot: Pick a corner of your garden where it’s okay for your dog to go wild.
  2. Prepare a Container: Use a robust container, like a cat litter box or a durable plastic bin.
  3. Install the Container: Dig a hole and place your container so that it’s level with the ground.
  4. Fill It Up: Backfill the container with soil or use a soft, dog-friendly material like sand.

To make the digging pit more enticing, consider burying a few toys. This focuses your dog’s digging instincts to a specific area, sparing the rest of your garden.

Switching to a no-dig garden can also influence your dog’s behavior. This method involves minimal disruption of the soil after the initial setup. You simply add organic material on top each season, which reduces your workload and keeps your garden thriving with minimal disturbance.

This approach can discourage your dog from mimicking your digging and allows you more leisure time with your furry friend.

The no-dig method is not only a labor-saving tactic but also enhances soil health over time. By avoiding constant soil turnover, you help maintain its structure, improve moisture retention, and support the ecosystem of beneficial microbes.

For added protection, consider raised garden beds. They safeguard your plants and prevent dogs from trampling them. Incorporating built-in seating in these raised beds can also maximize your garden space, creating a cozy nook for you to enjoy alongside your pet.

This strategy melds functionality with style, ensuring your garden is a sanctuary for all its inhabitants.

Safeguarding Your Lawn from Dog Damage

Dogs are wonderful companions, but they can be tough on your garden, especially your grass. To keep your lawn looking green and healthy, consider setting up a specific area where your dog can play or dig.

Using materials like sand or bark can localize the mess and prevent damage to other parts of your garden. Establishing paths or defined borders, such as a low box hedge, can also help keep dogs out of areas where you don’t want them.

Now, onto the common issue of yellow spots on lawns caused by dog urine. This typically happens because dog urine contains compounds like nitrogen, which can burn the grass, leading to unsightly patches.

There’s a bit of debate about whether the acidity of the urine or its nitrogen content is the culprit. It’s always good to look into this further to understand what affects your lawn specifically.

  • About the Tomato Juice Myth:

You might have heard about giving dogs tomato juice to neutralize their urine. While some gardeners swear by this trick, others worry it might affect a dog’s urinary health.

I’m not a vet, but it’s important to remember that dogs often eat things far more peculiar than natural tomato juice. However, as with any remedy, it’s best to consider what’s safe for your specific pet.

Unleash the Nutrient Powerhouse: Fish Heads for Thriving Tomato Plants

  • The Watering Solution:

One effective, natural method to prevent urine burn is to water down the spots where your dog urinates immediately after they go. Alternatively, training your dog to use a specific area for their needs can help.

If these options sound cumbersome, accepting some level of lawn discoloration or opting for hard landscaping in high-traffic areas might be the best way forward. This allows for easy cleaning and maintenance, keeping your garden beautiful and your dog happy.

Safeguarding Your Lawn from Dog Damage
Credit: Easigrass Cambridgeshire & East Anglia

Staying Safe in the Summer Garden with Your Pet

Summertime brings fun in the sun, but it’s important to watch where your pet plays, especially if you have artificial grass. While it’s not as heat-retentive as asphalt or concrete, artificial grass can still heat up significantly under direct sunlight.

To ensure it’s safe for your dog, try the seven-second rule: press your hand against the surface for seven seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s definitely too hot for your pet’s paws.

If the ground is too warm, it might be wiser to let your pet play in a cool, shaded area indoors to avoid any risk of burnt paws. The heat can turn even the friendliest outdoor spaces into no-go zones for sensitive paws.

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Handling Compost Safely

When it comes to using compost in your garden, always secure it away from your pets. Store your compost in an area your dog can’t access, like a locked shed or garage, especially if it includes food scraps. Items like grapes, onions, and avocado can be toxic to dogs and are often thrown into compost bins.

Compost can develop mold as it decays, releasing mycotoxins that are dangerous if ingested. Dogs that consume moldy compost may suffer from symptoms such as tremors, imbalance, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and heightened excitability. These symptoms can persist for several days and can be severe.

Should your dog manage to ingest any compost, it’s crucial to act swiftly. Contact your vet immediately for advice—waiting for symptoms to appear can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Prompt action can make all the difference in preventing serious health issues.

Other tips for a dog-friendly garden

  • Ensure a Safe Garden Environment for Your Dogs

It’s crucial to monitor your dog in the garden to ensure they don’t snack on slugs or snails, as these can carry lungworm. This parasite can lead to serious health issues like breathing difficulties, lethargy, excessive coughing, and unusual bleeding. Steer clear of using non-organic slug pellets; they’re poisonous to all kinds of wildlife, including your furry friend.

  • Secure Your Garden Shed

Always keep your garden shed locked. Sheds typically house sharp tools and potentially hazardous chemicals that could harm your dog if they gain access.

  • Choose Safer Garden Products

Opt for dog-friendly gardening practices by avoiding harsh chemicals. For dealing with pests like slugs and snails, seek out organic methods. Also, refrain from adding any chemicals to ponds or water features to prevent your dog from consuming contaminated water.

  • Opt for Safe Mulching Options

Cocoa bean shell mulch might smell delicious due to its chocolate origin, but like chocolate, it’s toxic to dogs. Instead, use safer alternatives like bark chippings that won’t tempt your pooch.

  • Designing a Dog-Friendly Garden

To minimize your dog’s impact on your garden, consider using hard paving stones or cement for pathways, as these materials discourage digging more than softer options like cedar chips or pea gravel.

Planting larger plants can help restrict access to garden beds and reduce the space available for your dog to wander. It’s also effective to fence off areas that are off-limits to your pets and designate a specific area for them to enjoy. A dedicated space allows dogs to expend their energy and reduces their likelihood of mischief.

  • Being a Considerate Pet Owner in the Neighborhood

When walking your dogs, always use a leash and be vigilant about the plants they show interest in. Keeping them out of neighbors’ gardens not only protects your dogs from unknown chemicals but also maintains good relations with your neighbors.

Though it’s great to let dogs run free, reserve those off-leash moments for secure areas like your well-fenced yard or a local dog park. This approach ensures they can play safely without risking their health or disturbing the community.

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