Have the best of both worlds—a bountiful garden and a dog that's able to play around it. Like their sensitivities to chocolate and grapes, dogs are sensitive to certain aspects of the garden. With this in mind, dogs are as curious as they come, and the garden can be a go-to spot for digging up—and tasting—mischief. Creating a dog-friendly garden in your backyard will not only keep your garden safe, but man's best friend, too.
When landscaping for dogs, keep in mind that you want your dog to feel as comfortable as possible in the space where it wanders. This means avoiding surfaces that get too hot, scratchy bushes, sharp rocks, and small pebbles that can get stuck in their paws.
With that in mind, create dog-friendly garden designs, filling your garden with smooth stones, ornamental grasses, and other soft foliage that will make your dog feel at home. Also consider filling your yard with outdoor dog toys like tennis balls and chewing bones, or an obstacle course if space is available.
The most important step to creating a welcoming landscape for your pooch is to include only dog-friendly outdoor plants in your garden. Avoid using plants toxic to dogs. A few common toxic plants for dogs include:
For a complete list, visit ASPCA's list of nontoxic and toxic plants for dogs. If weeds and pests are an issue in your yard, use only natural weed killers and pest deterrents. Some at-home solutions for weeds include a solution of salt and vinegar or boiling water (pour this on weeds when your dog is NOT around). Beneficial insects and worms also help prevent unwanted pests eating your plants.
High levels of nitrogen in dog urine can be extremely harmful to grass, so create a space with gravel or mulch where you would prefer that your dog do its business. Something vertical (a more attractive replacement for a fire hydrant) can help your dog identify the area quickly. As with any potty training, be sure to reward your dog when it uses the correct area, and reprimand it when it doesn't.
Keep your dog in your yard with a dog-proof gate and fencing. Whether it's a traditional wood fence, farm fence, iron fence, or an invisible fence with an electric collar, there are plenty of options to choose from. If you're afraid of a fence being an eyesore, plant flowers and shrubs to soften the fence.
Throw your dog a proverbial bone by using dog-friendly garden plants to give it a sense of boundary. Space plants close together in areas you want to designate as off-limits, and understand that the rest of the yard is fair territory. If you leave enough space for the dog to run and play, accept that that's precisely what it will do.
Just as you would put in a sandbox for kids, consider putting in a digging box for your dog. Fill it with soil or a soil-and-sand mix, and create some sort of border as a visual cue. If the dog digs outside of the boundaries you've set, be sure to admonish it and show it to the digging box. Bury chew toys in the soil to make the dig even more fun!
Dogs need fresh water, and what better way to do it than adding an eye-pleasing water feature to your garden? There are plenty of options available for dog-friendly garden designs. Whether you want a splash fountain, a salvaged container-turned-doggie bowl, or a freshwater pond, the possibilities are endless. These accents will ensure that your pooch is freshly hydrated as it enjoys playing in the yard.
After a day of running wild in your sunny yard, your dog is going to want some shade to cool off. Like humans, dogs can get sunburned or even fall victim to heat stroke when in hot temperatures for too long. Some options for providing proper shade and shelter for your dog include an arbor or pergola that both you and your pup can enjoy, an awning over the back porch, a large tree, or a doghouse in the yard.
Paths are perfect for allowing your pets to run and explore their territory in your dog-friendly garden. Dogs also have a patrolling instinct, so a territorial path will satisfy their need to fend off squirrels and chipmunks. Not only are paths and walkways fun for your dog, but they add charm to any garden space. Be sure that path materials are paw-friendly—think about using cedar gravel, stepping-stones, or walkable groundcovers in your path.