Gardens with dogs in them usually face some increase in wear and tear. This being said, by planning and adapting your garden wisely, you can minimize the potential for damage, and quite successfully enjoy an attractive garden in the company of your dog.
The planting and features that you include in your garden will depend somewhat on the nature of your dog. Some dogs are very well behaved in the garden and will allow you to own plants and landscapes without too much concern. On the other hand, some dogs will run through flower beds, dig up lawns, eat and chew plants(considering growing plants that are natural remedies for your dog), jump in ponds, and generally cause chaos!
If your dog is one of the latter, you can still enjoy a colorful and interesting garden. All that is required is some creative design that takes your dog’s behavior into account. The pages in this section look at garden design strategies that cater to the needs of dogs and other pets, while aiming to create attractive gardens for owners to enjoy.
Design Base On Dog Breed Characteristics
While all dogs are individuals and will have their own specific character, most breeds of dogs do come with certain ‘in-built’ behavioral traits. These traits are related to the work that the dogs were originally ‘designed’ to do.
The most successful dog-friendly gardens usually provide areas in which the dog can engage in its ‘natural’ behavior.
For some dogs, this means space to dash around at high speed. Others will appreciate a space to burrow and dig in the soil. Others will have a love of water and take every opportunity to splash about in puddles.
It is useful to be aware of the particular instinctual behaviors developed in your own dog’s breed and to take these into account when designing your garden.
Lots of information about specific dog breeds are available online, and it is a good idea to invest in at least one book about your own particular chosen breed.
Layout The Garden Base On Established Dog Routes & Pathways
When planning changes to the layout of your garden, it is a good idea to take into account the established routes and pathways favored by your dog.
Dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit, and it is a lot easier to plan around the paths your dog uses rather than redirect your dog.
Borders around the periphery of the garden are generally much less likely to incur damage from dogs crashing through them than flower beds in central areas.
Damage often occurs in borders situated between open areas of lawn or paving. Dogs often charge straight through these to get from one area to another, and plants may be trampled and crushed. Likewise, flowerbeds situated between the back door to the house and the main area of the garden often suffer as dogs run through them in the excitement of being let outdoors.
In such cases, there are several options to be considered for easy maintenance.
- You may decide the easiest option is to remove flowerbeds from central areas. Laying such areas to lawn will reduce maintenance and also provide more space for play.
- Another solution is to create a formal pathway through a border. A path made of bricks, stone or slabs along the route your dog normally takes can resolve such issues, allowing the majority of the planting to be intact.
- As a third option, you could try using robust plants in flowerbeds that your dog passes through.
Some plants are remarkably resilient and will stand up to dogs crashing around in them.
Cheryl S. Smith, in her book DOG-FRIENDLY GARDENS – GARDEN FRIENDLY DOGS notes how she found success in planting a lavender garden in a border between her back door and main lawn area.
She found that the lavender not only stood up to her dogs running through it but also had the added bonus of making the dogs smell nice when they did so!
In the long run, many dog owners find it best to pave routes that dogs use frequently. Lawn maintenance may become an impossible task as paths become worn to bare earth and muddy in wet weather.
To conclude, be sure to consider the following 4 key elements when designing the layout of your dog-friendly garden:
- Think carefully about the basic layout of your garden. Take your dog’s established behavior into account. Consider the routes around the garden that your dog uses the most, and plan pathways accordingly.
- Frequently used grass paths are likely to become worn and muddy in wet weather. Try using bricks or paving stones along the routes your dog uses most frequently rather than grass cover. By doing so, you can greatly reduce the maintenance levels of you garden. Hard materials such as brick, slab or stone can also be easily hosed down if your dog pees on them.
- Be sure to make movement around the garden easy and enjoyable for your dog. Beware of slippery surfaces, especially in wet weather. Cover slippery steps with mesh or some other material to increase traction.
- Take your dogs’ age and physical condition into account and make adjustment accordingly. Ensure they have easy access to the house, their kennel, water bowls, shaded areas and their favorite spots in the garden. If your dog has difficulty climbing steps, provide a ramp or additional means to help them. Ready-made ‘Doggy Steps’ are available from pet suppliers, or you can construct your own.
Provide Shelter From The Sun, Wind And Rain For Your Dog
A well-designed dog run can serve several purposes. Most importantly, a dog run can keep your dog secure and safe from hazards in the wider garden (and the outside world if your dog is prone to escaping). Confining your dog to a limited area – at least while it is unattended – will also keep the rest of your garden safe from your dog!
Ensure that, wherever you decide to house your dog, they always have access to clean, fresh drinking water, and shelter from the rain and sun. If you leave your dog alone outdoors, be aware that patches of shade will shift as the day progresses. You must make sure that your dog will have adequate shade and shelter at all times.
Ensure Your Pet Always Has Access To Clean, Fresh Drinking Water
Use Plant Pots For Decoration & Dog Safety
Your dog has some basic garden requirements that you will need to meet as a dog owner. These can be taken as a starting point when thinking about adapting your plant pots to include your dogs’ lifestyles:
- Plant pots, troughs, tubs, barrels and baskets may all be used to grow plants in relative safety. Containers offer protection to plants that may be trampled and damaged if grown in flowerbeds and borders. Pots themselves can provide added colour, with lots of attractive designs and styles available.
- Be aware that plant pots and containers can be attractive marking posts for male dogs. Plant pots are very useful to dog owners, in that they provide a relatively safe growing environment for plants and flowers. Male dogs may use pots as territorial markers, and plants may suffer for the high levels of nitrogen in dog urine. To avoid this, invest in taller pots where the plants will be ‘out of range’.
Alternatively, try raising smaller pots by placing them on bricks, tree stumps or other raised surfaces.
- Plant Theatres provide a lovely way to display potted plants, especially in areas where space is limited. Delicate plants can be placed on the upper tiers out of your dog’s reach. Trailing plants are effective if placed on upper levels. Try Nasturtiums or trailing Impatiens varieties.
- Remember to ensure that plant pots are stable, and situated away from main through-routes. This should reduce the chances of pots being knocked over. Pots with wider bases are preferable as they are naturally more stable than those with wider brims that narrow towards the bottom.
- Arrange pots in groups along walls or beside structures and other features. Grouping pots provides protection and is also visually effective.
- Try surrounding pots with large stones, pebbles and other objects. This will provide further stability, protection and can also look very attractive.
- To avoid damage to pot-plants from dog urine, invest in taller pots where the plants will be safely ‘out of range’. Alternatively, try raising smaller pots to safe positions by placing them on bricks, tree stumps or other raised surfaces.
Hang Plant Baskets To Protect Flowers & Dogs
Hanging baskets can provide the ultimate safe planting space out of your dog’s reach. They can be hung from many site; try hanging them from tree branches as well as man-made structures.
Hanging baskets can be hung on special hanging basket brackets which can be secured to walls and fence posts. You can also hang them from your porch, awnings, or from tree branches.
Window Boxes – like the ones shown here – and Deck Planters are a useful option for growing plants out of reach of your dog.
Hanging Baskets such as these pretty Ceramic Hanging Basket and Victorian French Design are useful for growing plants safely out of reach of your dog.
Learn To Design Dog-Friendly Flower Beds
Flower beds in central areas of your garden are vulnerable to damage caused by your dog running through them or playing in them. Damage often occurs in flower beds separating two open areas of lawn or paving. Dogs often charge straight through these to get from one area of the garden to another, and plants may be trampled and crushed.
Likewise, flowerbeds situated between the back door to the house and the main area of the garden often suffer as dogs run through them in the excitement of being let outdoors.
Flower borders around the periphery of the garden are generally much less likely to incur damage than flower beds in central areas. You may decide the easiest option is to remove any flowerbeds in the middle of your garden. Laying central areas of the garden to the lawn will reduce maintenance and also provide more space for your dog to play.
Another solution is to create a formal pathway through a border. A path made of bricks, stone, or slabs along the route your dog normally takes can minimize damage, allowing the majority of your plants to remain intact.
As another option, you could try using robust plants in flowerbeds that your dog tends to pass through. Some plants are remarkably resilient and will stand up to dogs crashing around in them. Cheryl S. Smith, in her book ‘Dog-Friendly Gardens – Garden Friendly Dogs’, notes how she found success planting lavender in a border between her back door and the main lawn area of her garden. She found that the lavender not only stood up to her dogs running through it but also had the added bonus of making the dogs smell nice when they did so!
Add Colors By Container Planting
Planting containers designed to be attached to walls or fence posts are also useful for adding color.
Container planting is a useful way to grow plants in the garden in relative safety when dogs are around. Plants can be grown in hanging baskets, in containers attached to walls, fences, or railings, or in simple plant pots, tubs, barrels, or troughs.
Be aware that plant pots and containers in the garden can be attractive marking posts for male dogs.
Male dogs may use pots as territorial markers, and plants may suffer from the high levels of nitrogen in dog urine.
You can grow many different plants in containers, from colorful bedding plants to herbs, fruit, and vegetables.
Strawberries grow well in containers. Special Strawberry Garden Hanging Basket Kits are available to help you get started. Growing fruit and vegetables hanging baskets or other raised planters is visually effective, and also prevents your dog from snacking on the produce!
Many flowering plants are particularly effective when plated in containers, especially colorful bedding plants such as Nasturtiums, Alyssum Impatiens Plants, which are all plants listed by the ASPCA as Safe for Dogs.
You may choose to use a variety of colors of plant in larger containers, or stick to a particular color scheme. Trailing plants look lovely spilling over the sides of baskets and pots.
Be aware that plants in containers need watering regularly. Containers can dry out very fast in hot weather and may need daily watering in the summer months.
See our pages on planting schemes for more dog-friendly garden and planting suggestions.
Get A Strong Greenhouse That Will Not Be Damaged When Pets Run Into It
Greenhouses and cold frames with polycarbonate glazing, rather than glass, are recommended for gardens with dogs and other pets.
Polycarbonate panels are much stronger than glass, and much less likely to break if a dog or cat runs into them. When space or finances are limited, a smaller growhouse may be a good option.
Choose Pet Friendly Ornaments For Gardens With Dogs
Lots of Dog-themed garden ornaments are available, such as this Digging Terrier Statue.
There are many attractive garden ornaments and decorations available. Having a dog shouldn’t restrict your choices too much, but do make sure to keep your dog safe:
Be careful that any ornaments you include in your garden do not pose a danger to your dog.
Sharp corners and edges at ‘dog height’ should be avoided, especially if your dog is inclined to run around the garden at high speed.
Also, be aware that if you have a male dog, he may decide to use your garden ornaments and statues as marking posts.
You can try and avoid this through positive training methods that encourage your dog to pee elsewhere, or you can even designate a particular ornament for the purpose. A Fire Hydrant Statue may be particularly appropriate!
Train Your Dog To Respect The Garden Rules
Just as it is important to consider the design of your garden in relation to the needs of your dog, it is also important to make sure you manage the behavior of your dog when it is out in the garden.
Basic training can be very helpful, and prevent a lot of problems before they arise.
You can discourage dogs from walking over flower beds by erecting low boundary fences. Once the dog has established alternate routes around the garden, such barriers can usually be removed.
Train The Dogs For Better Outdoor Toilet Habits
- The high nitrogen levels in dog urine can lead to scorched patches on lawns and damaged plants. To some extent, this is simply part and parcel of dog ownership. However, there are measures that can be put in place to minimize damage.
- Dogs can usually be trained to use a certain part of the garden for ‘doing their business’. As with house-breaking, a little time and patience is required, but it is worth putting the effort in.
- If you have a male dog, it is a good idea to provide a ‘marking post’ for it to pee against. An old tree stump can provide an attractive solution. You also can buy products designed to encourage your dog to pee in a certain spot.
With a bit of time and patience, most dogs can be trained to go to the toilet in one particular area of the garden.
This will not only make the task of cleaning up after your dog much easier but will also reduce urine damage to your lawn.
There are several products available to help with toilet training, and encourage your dog to ‘go’ in a particular spot. These include Potty Rocks and ‘Pee Post’ Pheromone-Treated Yard Stakes.
It is probably wise to pick a quiet corner of the garden, away from the house and most frequented areas, to designate as the “toilet area”. If you decide to use a Dog Waste Disposal System, you can place this here too.
Install Outdoor Dog Toys & Equipments
You should provide outdoor dog toys, play, and stimulation for your dog in the garden. The more you entertain your dog, the less likely they are to get into mischief! This means your own time and attention, as well as toys and treats.
Further to these basic points, the adaptations necessary to provide an appropriate, safe garden for your pet will depend very much on the breeds, ages, and numbers of dogs you keep.
We look at ways to help your dog enjoy your garden, through play, and also at kennels, platforms, and structures that you can include in your garden for your dog. We conclude our best tips in this guide.
Double Check To Ensure A Secure Garden
Make sure those areas your garden your pet has access to are free from poisonous plants, toxic chemicals, and other hazards.
Other than tips on basic dog-friendly garden design, as well as providing adequate shade, shelter, and secure fencing for your dog, you should also double-check the following common hazards to dog safety, and ways in which you can avoid these.
- Toxic plants should be removed from areas that dogs have access to, and replaced with safer alternatives
- Beware of overhanging plants from neighboring gardens or street planting that may drop toxic fruit, seeds or nuts into your garden.
- Avoid prickly plants with sharp thorns. These may cause serious eye injuries.
- Keep garden sheds, garages and greenhouses securely locked, and chemicals and garden tools stored away safely.
- Ensure any weed-killers, plant feeds or other treatments you use in the garden are safe for pets.
- Avoid the use of slug pellets and insecticides that may harm your dog.
- If you have a pond, make sure it is safe for your dog. Pond water may contain chemicals and bacteria that may harm your dog if they drink it.
- If you have a pool, make sure to keep your dog safe from drowning. Many dogs drown in back-yard pools every year. Even if your pool is fenced off, it is wise to install a pool escape ramp to ensure your dog is as safe as possible. Make sure your dog knows how to escape from your pool – teach it how to and run through the exercise regularly to be sure it remembers.
- Make sure your garden is secure. This means ensuring that your dog cannot get out, as well as doing your best to make sure that other animals or intruders find it difficult to get into your garden. Take a look at our pages on fencing and boundaries for more information and ideas.
- Gates should always be kept shut. Make sure all members of the household and visitors are aware of this. Sign that remind people to “Please shut the gate” are helpful. Self-closing mechanisms are also a good idea.
- Put signs on any gates or other entrances into your garden to alert visitors that there may be dogs loose in the garden.
- Keep a First Aid Kit in your home and have emergency contact numbers, including your vet, written down near the telephone.
Define The Boundary Of Your Garden For Your Dog
Keep Learning By Reading Useful Dog Friendly Gardening Books
If you’re serious about designing or redesigning your garden to meet the needs of your dog, it is a good idea to buy a book on the subject. We highly recommend the books shown below – we have used ideas from all of them to create our own dog-friendly gardens.
- Dogscaping: Creating the Perfect Backyard and Garden for You and Your Dog
- Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs
- Pawfriendly Landscapes: How to Share the Turf When Your Backyard Belongs to Barney
The more garden space you can provide for your dog the better. (Bonus: Here is how to get a dog park funded by your government.)
In deciding to share our homes, lives, and gardens with a dog, we accept that adaptations will have to be made.
There are many ways that these changes can be positive ones – having a dog as a companion can open up a whole world of new experiences and enjoyments. We have certainly found much pleasure in designing and developing beautiful, safe, gardens to keep our dogs and ourselves contented and happy.
Dog ownership involves compromise, and finding a balance that allows us to enjoy our gardens together with our dogs is our main goal. We have found over the years that it is best to recognize the natural behaviors of our dogs and try and accommodate them in the design of our garden.
Some dogs are, of course, more demanding than others. Many dogs will want nothing more from the garden than a sunny spot to laze around in and a kennel to shelter from the rain. Other dogs will have lots of energy and enjoy running, digging, chewing, and partaking in other ‘doggy’ activities that may upset the sensibilities of many gardeners.
By creating specific areas of the garden where our dogs can play and run about, we have found that damage elsewhere is kept to a minimum. This has proved much easier and made us and our dogs much happier than would be the case if we were engaged in a constant battle trying to prevent any kind of ‘natural’ behavior on the dogs’ part.
It must be realized that if you want a dog to refrain from certain activities, you must provide it with an alternative option to keep it happy and entertained. Lots of suitable, fun toys in the garden should keep your dog occupied and prevent them from finding other things, such as plants, to chew on. Make sure you spend time with your dog in the garden and engage them in play and games.
Ultimately, we must accept that instinctual behavior is a natural part of our dog. Behavioral traits were the reason specific breeds of dogs were developed. All dogs, cross-breeds and pedigrees alike, will tend towards certain behavior, be it digging, hunting, pulling, herding, guarding, etc. Without these traits, they would not be the dogs we know today, and we must respect this. We find it is easier and more satisfying for all involved to allow our dogs to enjoy being ‘dogs’ and doing what comes naturally. This means giving them time and space in the garden to play, burn off energy, investigate new and interesting things, and laze around in the sun. This is not in any way incompatible with having a beautiful, interesting garden for humans to enjoy too.
We love our gardens and outside spaces, but most of all we love our dogs. We want to help people to create beautiful gardens that they can share and enjoy safely, together with their families and pets
We aim to offer useful tips and advice for creating safe, beautiful gardens for both you and your dogs to enjoy.
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Continue to read important tips for the friendly garden and landscape design for dogs.