How to Create Dog-Friendly Landscaping

As a dog owner, have you ever looked at your backyard and just sighed in despair? Yellow spots in the lawn, worn paths along the fence, excavations in progress?

Despair not, landscape lovers! There are plenty of things that you can do to make your backyard an oasis for yourself and your favorite canine!

You can narrow down the landscaping dilemma to three main objectives: safety, comfort and stimulation. Most steps you take need to address one or all of these items. Let’s take a look at the common problems and how to correct them.

Fencing: Many owners opt to fence their yard and several concerns will determine what you use. You may live in a neighborhood where covenants dictate the type, style or size of fence. Your concern is going to be making sure that the fence safely contains your dog within your property (while also keeping other dogs from coming onto your yard.) If you have toy breeds, the height of the fence may be a standard size, but if you have an active sporting breed that jumps or climbs, you may have to increase the height to keep them contained.

Paths: If you’ve installed fencing, your dog is likely to be patrolling the perimeter. That’s a given. Dogs are territorial and will want to keep an eye on who’s approaching. Rather than trying to keep your dog from wearing a path through the landscaping, embrace that it will happen and install paths where your dogs frequently tread. Flagstones, pavers or pea gravel can keep paths from becoming a muddy mess. If you already have shrubs, perennials or trees planted, put paths around them to help guide your pooch past plants instead of over and through them.

Plants: It’s important to take time to inventory what plants could be hazardous to your pet’s health and remove or relocate them to other areas of your yard. It’s equally important to avoid planting anything new that could be hazardous. There are comprehensive lists available to help you determine what to plant. If you plan to garden, consider raised beds. Athletic dogs can certainly still get into them, but it may discourage them if there are other, more attractive places to inspect or play.

Lawns: If a healthy lawn is on your wish list, you may need to make some adjustments to keep it green and growing. One option is to set aside an area of the yard for your pets to use for urinating and defecating. If you have a new puppy, it will be easier to train them to use “that spot” but older dogs can learn, too. You may find that male dogs will gravitate to a designated “pee-post,” which can range from a piece of upright driftwood to a washable statue. At my house, we have a cement pad designated for the dogs, which makes it easy to pick up solid debris and hose off liquid waste. If your dog should urinate in the yard, copious amounts of water on the spot will help dilute the ammonia and may save you from brown spots. You can also pickup commercial blends of grass seed that are designed to grow in areas that may have been damaged by dogs. Dogs do enjoy an open area of grass to romp, run, play and roll in, so just designate specific areas.

Digging: Some dogs are diggers, plain and simple. Some do it because it’s in their nature (like terriers, or “dirt dogs,” bred to dig and hunt varmints) and others dig because they want an area that’s cool and comfortable. For the vigorous diggers, set aside a specific area of the yard, and install a mix of sand and dirt. You might plant a few toys or bury a few treats and then introduce your dog to the designated digging area. Encourage them to dig where they are allowed and it may help keep them from digging where they shouldn’t! Keep towels at hand at the back door to wipe off dirty/muddy feet and everyone should be happy.

Shelter/surveillance: Dogs like to dig spots where they can be cool in the summer. Make sure you’ve provided comfortable shaded spots so that your dog doesn’t have to dig a “den” to keep cool, and leave this area alone. Let your dog know that’s his “safe spot” in the yard if he needs to take a break from rambunctious kids. Dogs also like to monitor activity: some people provide an elevated platform that catches the sun on cooler days and allows a good view of the yard. A flat-roofed doghouse might fit the bill for both those demands.

Refreshment: It’s always a good idea to keep fresh, clean water on hand. One option is to provide a filled water bowl and rinse it out daily (especially to help keep mosquitoes from laying their eggs in stagnant water.) Another option is to add a running water feature, like a fountain. Bigger dogs even appreciate the simple addition of an inexpensive plastic wading pool.

Protection: Finally, remember to take steps to treat your yard, your home and your pet to help combat nasty fleas and ticks.

Got any other great landscaping ideas? Share them here!

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