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If you have a dog, you know the damage they can do to a landscape. Digging under shrubs, pounding out a dirty path by the fence, or even eating your delicate (and potentially poisonous) flowers. Lets face it… dogs are quick to turn your beautiful landscape into their own personal playground… but we still love them. That’s why I put together these dog-lover tips for landscaping.

Figuring out your dog’s personality is the easiest way to plan your garden. Is your dog a patroller, a digger or a chewer? (Or are you the lucky person with a trifecta combination?)

Planning out your dog-friendly landscape

What’s Your Dog’s Personality?

Before you start planting, it’s important to note your dog’s traits and behavior. Different breeds have different instincts, and no two dogs are the same. So… is your dog a patroller — constantly circling the yard to protect her property? Is he a digger… constantly burying toys or digging holes that you later twist your ankle in? Does he like to chew, or does he typically leave plants alone?

All of the above?? I feel you.

Start by writing down the most common behaviors of your dog so that you have a good idea of what to plan for. Lets face it — your dog isn’t going to change his instinctual behaviors. Remember that:

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Plan around the expected

Just because you want a pretty yard does not mean that your dog is going to stop patrolling for burglars. So, YOU need to plan ahead.

Dogs will investigate noises

Most dogs will investigate when they hear a noise. Think about the areas close to walkways, doors, gates and driveways that your dog gravitates towards.

Dogs are creatures of habit

Noises from neighbors and their pets will also attract your dog over and over to the same area in your landscape. Where are these areas?

The key takeaway is that as long as we know what our dog likes to do, we can incorporate him into our new landscape, rather than stressing him out with changes that affect all the fun he has in his yard! This seems like common sense, but I’ve seen the opposite so many times. There are many ways to have a beautiful landscape… let me show you!

“Patroller” Dog Personality

Tip for the patrollers: Don’t plant along the perimeter of the yard or other high-traffic areas.

If your dog patrols the yard (especially if the yard is fenced) you need to plan around it. Here are some basic rules to follow:

Don’t plant where your dog always goes

Keep high-traffic and patrolling zones open (no landscape). If it’s a path that your dog patrols, leave about 18” of walkway. If it’s where he barks at your neighbor’s dog or waits when your son pulls into the driveway, create an open area and landscape AROUND it rather than where your dog will be.

Landscape can enhance or hide areas

Use landscaping to either hide or enhance worn areas. What are your options?  Wooden decks or brick paver walkways are a more permanent, low maintenance solution. If you don’t want to go that route, you can mulch the area(s). Large bark mulches hold up to the traffic and are easy to find and work with. You can also try a stone mulch such as rounded pea gravel. Stay away from sharp-edged mulches that could hurt your dog’s feet. Mulch is a less permanent option than brick or wood, so you’ll have to do some maintenance from year to year when it starts to look shabby.  While mulch is a great choice for a garden and mostly soft on paws, steer clear of cocoa mulch. The smell may be great, but if your dog eats it, it can cause the same bad reactions as chocolate.

Plant tall foliage that will grow ABOVE your dog

Use tall plants or shrubs that will spread foliage above the height of your dog

  • Tough evergreen shrubs are an excellent choice if you need a year-round screen (like along your fence).
  • If screening isn’t an issue, deciduous plants and shrubs are often more ornamental, but will shed their foliage in the winter.
  • Containers or raised planter boxes are a great option if you want to plant more colorful and delicate flowers

“Digger” Dog Personality

Tip for the diggers: attempt to deter the digging

In all seriousness, there are a few tips I have for you here.

fencing can keep your dog in or out

Fencing to keep the dog OUT or IN

Adding a low (or high) fence around an area you don’t want your dog to dig is a good solution. An alternative is to create a fenced in dog area of your yard that will separate him from the gardens he likes to dig up. (Image Source)

Cover digging areas using hardware cloth

Cover digging areas

This is a neat trick that I recently discovered. All you need to do is find the area that your dog digs, and place a screen of hardware cloth underneath the dirt or mulch, then cover it back up. Hardware cloth is a metal fencing that comes on a roll and kind of looks like chicken wire. If your dog tries to dig in that area and comes across this screen, he likely won’t want to dig there anymore. Obviously there are stubborn dogs that this won’t work for, but it worked for me and it’s worth a shot!

installing linked garden stakes or rounded garden staples could curb your dog's digging

Add Deterrents

Another option you can try is installing linked garden stakes or rounded garden staples. If your dog likes to lie down in your beds of flowers or soft patches of ground cover, push these short rounded stakes just below the foliage.

building a sandbox for your dog

Create a Sandbox

If your dog loves to dig, the solution may be to redirect him to his own digging area. I suggest a sandbox because sand doesn’t get muddy, dries quickly, and shakes off easier. For maximum impact put the sandbox in the area your dog already likes to dig, and landscape around it with some rocks or very tough plants. If you don’t want it where your dog is already digging you can try putting the sandbox in a shady area of the yard. You may have to do a little coaxing to get your dog to use this new area.

“Chewer” Dog Personality

Certain plants can be toxic and create health problems for your dog. The ASPCA has a very extensive list of toxic plants for dogs (and other animals). Just a note that toxic does not imply that the plant is fatal and the ASPCA website will give you more information on each plant so you can do your research. Some plants may only cause stomach ache or mild irritation of the mouth, while others are severely toxic. There are also a number of variables that determine how severe the poisoning symptoms may be, such as your dog’s age and weight and the quantity of the plant ingested. Just something to think about when choosing your plants.

Tip for the chewers: make sure your plants are non-toxic and safe for dogs.

Tips for All Dog Types

Here are some universal tips that any dog-owner can use for the perfect landscape and a happy pooch.

Give your dog his own space where he can be a dog.

We love our dogs. We shouldn’t have to yell at them every time they are in the yard. There are ways to happily coexist, and this begins with taking your dog’s needs into consideration when you are creating your backyard oasis. Dogs are animals that need space: space to roam and space to play.  Embrace open areas for your dog to be a dog.

Drinking out of faucet Image

Give them access to fresh water

How about this self-serve Cool Pup Faucet Waterer? It attaches to any outdoor faucet and the waterer is activated when dogs lick the lever—once they stop licking, the water shuts off.

Create a “Potty Area”

Creating a potty space is a great way to stop your dog from going all over the yard, and destroying your lawn in the process. Here are a few links that may help you with creating a potty area:

Wrapping Up

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my tips for a dog-friendly landscape. Plan ahead by noting all of the common behaviors of your dog and follow the tips in this post to find the best solutions. Some of the key takeaways are:

  • Consider your dog’s patterns of movement when placing plants and making walkways
  • Deter your dog from digging by using fence, garden stakes or hardware cloth
  • Keep delicate plants safe with containers or raised beds
  • Choose plants that are non-toxic and safe for your dog
  • Give your dog their own space to dig, play and roam
  • Remember that even with the proper planning, your landscape will not be perfect.

This guide is not the be-all end-all to dogs making mischief in their yards. Trust me if I had all of the answers I wouldn’t be sitting at the computer writing to you right now as I’d be on permanent vacation in the Caribbean!! Just know that even though it won’t be perfect, if you plan your landscape with your dog’s needs in mind you can minimize problems and maximize your chances of getting the lovely backyard oasis of your dreams.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you have any great tips for planning a dog-friendly landscape? Please share your ideas and photos below. Hope you have a great day!

–Amy

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