If you’ve ever come home to half-eaten tomato plants, craters in the lawn and destroyed shrubs along the fence, this post is for you. Believe it or not, your dog can play nicely with your landscaping. The trick is knowing your dog first and making a few adjustments to your garden second (unless you’re starting from scratch, in which case, lucky you). Whether your furry little friend is a diehard digger, a fence-running trailblazer or an herb-munching mutt, here’s how you keep the garden intact (and eco-friendly to boot).
Know Your Pooch
Is your dog a digger? Does he blaze trails along the fence line (stomping your prize-winning peonies in the process)? Is she a gourmand, devouring peaches and berries and lettuce like a terrifyingly large locust? Whatever habits your dog has, take careful note. Consider his unique traits and those of the breed too. That’s where you begin.
Then, Plan Your Strategy
A garden designed to keep the peace between you and your pooch works with your dog’s natural tendencies – not against them. Incorporating things like pathways, barriers for off-limit areas, shady areas and sensible plants will help you create a space that’s enjoyable for everyone.
Patrolling the perimeter is just part of the job description for a dog, so make it easy on him (and your plants). You can add a softly curving trail along the fence line – use paw- and eco-friendly materials like smooth river rock or gravel, decomposed granite or even just plain dirt – and plant resilient, native shrubbery in front for camouflage.
Set Up Barriers
If there are certain parts of the garden where Fido isn’t welcome, a sign won’t cut it. Use hardscaping – things like walls, fences and planters – to make access difficult. You can also get the same result with a softer look by planting hedges, rosebushes, thick shrubs or tall ornamental grasses. If you’re going the more organic route, be sure that whatever you plant is safe for pets in case they go in for a nibble.
In the veggie patch, protect your summer bounty with bird netting and plant cages. You can also buy bitter apple and orange sprays from local pet stores to discourage sampling
Add Shady Areas
A shady spot is essential for a dog-friendly garden. If you don’t have the luxury of established shade trees, a patio cover is a good option. You can string up patio covers in sail or rectangular shapes over dog runs or other areas of the garden to provide relief from the midday sun.
Tip: Many dogs dig to create a cool spot for themselves. If you have a digger, make sure she has plenty of accessible shade. And a designated digging area might be a good move – just bury a few treats to get him started. With a little luck, you’ll be able to keep that digging habit contained to one area.
When you’re planting near trails or near the lawn, choose plants that have soft, dense foliage. You want sturdy plants that can handle a bit of canine roughhousing. Save the more delicate foliage for patio pots, window boxes and planters. And when it comes to lawn care, skip the commercial (and potentially toxic) products. Opt instead for organic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to keep your dog’s exposure minimal.
You should also educate yourself on what to plant in your yard. More than 700 flowers, shrubs, vines and trees can be poisonous to your pet. Some of these plants include backyard favorites such as azaleas, begonias, daffodils and oleander. Do a quick search before you get to planting!
Don’t Get Burned
Is your yard spotted with yellow, patchy grass? You’re not alone. Lawn burn is a common problem that’s often caused by a dog’s urine when it contains high nitrogen levels. While a little nitrogen can be good for grass, an excess causes damage. To keep your grass greener, try saturating the spots with water after your dog goes to the bathroom, encourage your pooch to drink more water to dilute the problem or get a high-quality dog food that does not exceed your pet’s protein requirement (high protein diets are more likely to cause lawn burn). If that doesn’t work, train fido to go to the bathroom in an area that’s less visible or apply dog spot treatment products. With a little research and patience with your pooch, you’ll have a lovely backyard to enjoy all year long!