When we’re all out in the garden, it’s easy to forget that our dogs have different needs to us. But if you want a happy and healthy dog, you need to be sure that your garden or yard is dog friendly.
It can be difficult to combine your needs with those of your dog when designing a pet friendly landscape. But with a little bit of consideration, you can create a garden for dogs that will also be welcoming for us humans. Not only that, you can make a space that looks great – even good enough to invite friends over without feeling embarrassed!
This post will give you twelve ideas on how to make a safe garden for dogs that you can enjoy too.
- MAKE SURE THE GARDEN OR YARD IS SECURE
- NON-TOXIC, DOG FRIENDLY PLANTS
- CREATE A SENSORY DOGGY GARDEN AREA
- ADD A DOGGY DOOR
- YOUR DOG’S PREFERENCES
- A DOG FRIENDLY GARDEN FOR PLAY
- ADD VARIETY
- INCLUDE AREAS TO RELAX
- EASY ACCESS DOG GARDEN
- HAVE A SECURE STORE FOR DANGEROUS GARDENING ITEMS
- CREATE A DOG TOILETING AREA OR MARKING POST
- URINE AND POOP
- BUILD AN ENCLOSED AREA
- DOG SAFE RAISED BED FLOWER BORDERS
- A PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED AND LANDSCAPED DOG FRIENDLY GARDEN
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MAKE SURE THE GARDEN OR YARD IS SECURE
Install fences around the perimeter of your garden to keep your dog from running out of the yard or getting into the street. If you can’t fence the whole area, at least close off any gaps with chicken wire or mesh.
If there are gates from the garden to the street, put bolts on them so they can’t easily be opened from outside. Many dogs go missing from their homes because someone left a gate open.
Plus, with the increase of dog thefts these days, having a secure garden is all the more important. Read more about how to protect your dog from theft in this article.
NON-TOXIC, DOG FRIENDLY PLANTS
If you can, get rid of any plants in the garden that are poisonous or harmful for dogs.
This doesn’t mean your garden has to be bare. There are lots of beautiful, dog-friendly garden plants that will allow you to create a pretty, dog friendly landscape.
See these suggestions of non toxic plants that you can include in a dog-friendly garden.
If you are unable to remove poisonous plants, consider how you could protect your dog from them. Could you fence off that part of the garden, for instance?
For UK readers – you can shop for dog-friendly plants at Crocus
CREATE A SENSORY DOGGY GARDEN AREA
A dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than ours, but they also have an acute sense of hearing.
A well-designed dog friendly garden would include items that will stimulate your pup’s senses such as scents from flowers or herbs. Of course, these are fantastic for us too!
You can also use the garden as a place to play nose work games and do scent work. Sniffing is so important for dogs, so any garden that gives them opportunities to do what they do naturally has to be good for them.
Try to incorporate different textures. Softer surfaces such as bark mulch make for great pathways for dogs and humans alike (make sure you don’t use cocoa bark though!)
A patch of lawn, even if it’s small, is the ideal soft surface to lie or walk on for your dog.
A dog-friendly water feature will provide you both with calming water sounds.
A decorative fountain would also be perfect for any dog who loves to drink from the hose and an occasional splash never hurt anyone!
What’s more, if your dog is a fan of water, then you could have a doggy-sized pool or pond that she can play in without risk. Some dogs adore playing in water!
If you do install a water feature, make sure that it has a sturdy base that can’t be pierced by your dog’s nails. It also needs to be non-slip so it’s safe to walk in, and low to the ground so your dog doesn’t struggle to get in or out of it.
One final thought about water features: I’ve heard of too many cases of dogs that fell into swimming pools and couldn’t get out… This doesn’t bear thinking about, so make sure your water feature is shallow so no one can drown in it!
ADD A DOGGY DOOR
Dogs really benefit from being given more choice in their lives – they get to make so few decisions for themselves as we decide just about everything for them. What could be better than installing a doggy door so they can go out to the garden whenever they like, without needing permission or help from you?
Pet doors come in all shapes and sizes these days, and with a variety of features. You can even get electronic pet doors that work with electronic collars – no need to worry that the neighbour’s cat will sneak in!
Putting a doormat outside and another inside will help limit mud or dirt being brought in.
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YOUR DOG’S PREFERENCES
Dogs are not all the same, they have different likes and dislikes. If you already know some of the things your dog enjoys, it will be easier to incorporate those features in to the garden for her. If you can’t avoid things she dislikes, try to find alternatives so that she isn’t uncomfortable in the garden.
For instance, I like pea gravel paths as they are easy to maintain and make a lovely noise when you walk on them. My dog however really dislikes walking on gravel. I noticed that instead of crossing our gravel patio, she always used to walk around it.
I put a simple slab path through the middle and she took to it straight away!
Dog paws are more sensitive than we realise and can get easily cut on sharp, stony surfaces. If this happens to your dog – especially in the colder, winter months, try this DIY paw balm.
A DOG FRIENDLY GARDEN FOR PLAY
You could also include areas for more interactive and playful activities, for instance, scatter feeding games on a lawn (tossing treats for your dog to sniff out).
Add agility-type features, such as tunnels and benches. Perhaps an old tyre hung from a tree would be appealing to dogs that like to tug!
Some dogs love to dig. Lots of pet parents complain that it’s hard to keep a garden looking nice because their dog digs it up.
What about including a tucked away spot where your dog would be free to dig? You could leave it as bare dirt, or make it into a sand pit for digging in. That has to be better than your dog digging up the flower borders! Indeed, every time your dog is digging in her area, praise her for it – she’s less likely to dig anywhere else then!
Place elevated surfaces like logs, benches, or large rocks around the yard so that your pup can comfortably change positions during playtime.
If possible, have densely planted areas as well as open areas. You could even play hide-and-seek together!
INCLUDE AREAS TO RELAX
Every dog is different: some love to lie out on the grass, some go for cooler tiles or slabs. My princess prefers to be up on her doggy sofa!
You know your dog best, so try to accommodate her needs by making sure the garden has somewhere appealing for her to relax and lie down.
All dog friendly gardens should include cooler spots to shelter in during the warmer months. Shrubs and trees provide lovely natural shade. A pergola or gazebo is great for the human occupants too!
EASY ACCESS DOG GARDEN
Some dogs don’t cope well with stairs, especially older dogs or those with physical limitations. If your garden is on different levels, or has steps down to it from the house, add a ramp so that your pet can easily walk up and down without stumbling. Be sure to put non-slip material on the ramp!
HAVE A SECURE STORE FOR DANGEROUS GARDENING ITEMS
Keep all outdoor chemicals in a secure shed or locker so that your dog can’t eat anything poisonous. The same goes for dangerous gardening equipment such as sharp-edged tools.
This will benefit not only your dog but also any little 2-legged visitors to your garden (also known as children!).
Where possible use organic, natural repellents and deterrents for pests such as fleas, lice, coyotes, raccoons, possums, skunks, deer or mice. Here are lots of ways to control fleas and ticks naturally.
CREATE A DOG TOILETING AREA OR MARKING POST
This will require a little extra training, as you’ll need to reward your dog every time he goes potty in the area you want him to (but don’t scold him if he goes anywhere else!).
If you already have something in the yard that your dog tends to pee on, trying moving that item to where you want him to go toilet.
In our new house, my girl quickly identified an area of the garden where she clearly preferred to do her business, so instead of trying to landscape that spot, I left it unchanged. I don’t even cut the grass there, I let it become more of a meadow, which I also like to look at.
URINE AND POOP
Make sure you clean up after your dog every day. Poop scooping immediately will help keep down any worm load, not to mention a garden is much nicer to look at when there’s no poop in it!
The urine is harder to deal with. A small grass area is likely to end up with urine patches if you have pets. You can get some natural products to help avoid lawn urine burn, such as Dog Rocks. They work OK for dogs fed on kibble, but they won’t help you if your dog is raw fed.
In my last house, the lawn was very small and urine burns were unavoidable. I needed to water the area where she’d peed straight away to avoid it.
Here, the lawn is enormous so lawn burns just don’t happen. She also has a particular lavender plant that she likes to pee on (she hovers over it, crazy dog…).
If your dog has already identified one spot where she likes to go toilet, be grateful that it’s not the whole garden. Through training, encourage your dog to use just one area of a garden for toileting.
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BUILD AN ENCLOSED AREA
If it is impossible to make your entire garden dog-safe, consider fencing off the dangerous areas.
Alternatively, do it in reverse: rather than fence off areas of the garden so your dog can’t reach them, make an enclosed, designated area for your dog.
This could be useful if you need to protect certain plants from your dog, as well as protecting your dog from certain plants!
Erect some sturdy fencing and a solid gate, leaving an opening that’s wide enough for your dog to enter easily.
NOT A DOG PRISON!
This isn’t with the intention of leaving your poor pup locked up in an outdoor enclosure all day where she would go crazy from boredom.
Rather, it might provide her with the chance to get some valuable time outside without being able to get to things that are dangerous for her health, or that should would destroy.
Let me give you an example: in our new house there is a stream at the bottom of the garden. I noticed that when my dog ate grass in the area by the stream, she was often sick afterwards.
So, I erected a fence to separate the higher part of the garden from the lower part.
The higher part is much smaller, but it is big enough for her to sniff lots of plants and lie in the sun or the shade. Although it doesn’t include grass, it is still a far cry from a bare, boring dog run.
She gets to go in ‘her’ part of the garden whenever she likes. She can enjoy the larger part when I am outside with her to make sure she doesn’t eat the grass by the stream.
DOG SAFE RAISED BED FLOWER BORDERS
If your pup is a determined digger and plant destroyer, design attractive raised beds – still with dog friendly plants – but make the raised beds high enough that your dog can’t easily jump into them. That should make it easier for you to enjoy your gorgeous plants without your pet turning them into dog chews!
A PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED AND LANDSCAPED DOG FRIENDLY GARDEN
The Royal Horticultural Society in the UK has incredible garden shows every year. It includes work by different designers and sponsors. One such garden was the “Dogs Trust: A Dog’s Life Garden”.
It includes sculptures, a fantastic, large water feature, and a pavilion. It’s not only beautiful to look at, it’s also great for dogs and their humans alike!
Your garden or yard is a place where your pup will want to spend much of their time. To make sure that it’s dog friendly means considering various factors, such as having non-toxic plants, plenty of variety to stimulate their senses, a space that’s safe to play in, and a secure perimeter so your best friend can’t sneak out.
Which ideas did you find most helpful? Do you have any other tips that you’ve put in place in order to maintain a safe haven for your pet?