Landscaping with Dogs in Mind

Gardens are for people and the pets they love. When you come home they are always happy to see you. Doesn't matter what kind of day it's been, they are there for you. So it stands to reason that we would want to make their little corner of the world as interesting and comfortable as we can.

I'm working with several homeowners right now that have dogs in the family. Their goal is to provide a dog-friendly landscape that is beautiful, safe and has enough mental stimulation to keep them occupied during the day. If you have a dog, here are some tips to remember.

Each dog is different. Banjo, a yellow lab owned by a friend, loves to play the fetching game with his favorite toy. He needs lots of exercise and objects to chew on. His yard has room to play and a box of toys that he can carry around in his mouth.

I'll need to consider several breed traits and personalities in a Ben Lomond garden that I'm updating. Sunny Boy is a timid pit bull mix who has bonded with Pippy, the cocker/doxie mix. Along with the beagle, Brandy, they all love to tunnel and chase each other. In this garden there will be a dog tunnel made from wire winding between plants. The plants will grow over the top and can be tied to form a roof. This way the dogs have a fun activity that comes naturally to them.

These owners also have a very old rescue chihauhua, Rico Suave, receiving hospice care for a brain tumor. He needs a quiet, private spot with warmth. In a out of the way spot, we are going to add several flagstone to soak up the heat of the sun where he can lay.

Creating a garden to meet your dogs needs is the best way to avoid future problems. Most dogs prowl the perimeter of their fence to investigate noises so instead of a plant border consider paving stones, gravel or mulched paths along the fenceline.

If you dog is a digger like Brandy the beagle, create a special area in a shady spot where they can dig to their heart's content. The spot can be a sand pit or earth.  Entice them to this area by burying a favorite toy or bone. They will return again and again to this one spot and not dig up your flower beds.

Picking plants is important in backyard landscaping with dogs especially if your dog naturally nibbles on greenery or berries. Some plants are lethal while others can cause illness or vomiting. I was surprised to see so many common plants on the ASPCA website that could cause problems. From carnations to primroses to geraniums, I'll be checking the list to make sure all my dog friends are safe.

Plants near paths should have soft foliage without thorns and spines which can cause eye injury.  Brittle plants like salvia should be in the center where they'll be protected.  Densely planted areas are usually avoided by dogs but planting in raised beds or mounds help, too. Pieces of driftwood placed at the front of a border will discourage them, too.  Start with one gallon or larger plants that can stand up to a little roughhousing .

If your dogs have already created their own path through the garden, don't try to redirect them. Instead turn their well-worn routes into pathways covered with a mulch of small wood chips which are easy on paws yet large enough so they won't cling to fur coats.
Provide your dog with an area to relieve himself.  Since you only have about 8 hours to water a spot after your dog goes on the lawn it's better to set aside a corner covered with pea gravel, cedar chips or flagstone and train your dog to go there.  It's also a good idea to install marking posts like a piece of wood or log along a path.

Dogs can get bored in a space.  Dog friendly gardeners incorporate barriers, arbors, pathways and raised beds to channel dog's energies to things they enjoy, like running and away from delicate plants and veggies.They also need places that provide shade like trees, arbors and pergolas.  Eliminate weeds, especially foxtails, which can get in your dogs ears or be inhaled.

Keep theses tips in mind and both you and your dog will be happier for it.