Creating a Dog Friendly Garden

6th August 2019

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For some dog owners, the battle between their plants and their pets ends in the decimation of the garden they worked so hard to create. Newly planted shrubs are overturned and expectant fruit trees pillaged. Even worse is when a much-loved pet is harmed by eating a poisonous plant that seems innocuous but turns out to be lethal to canines. However, there’s no need for dog owners to give up on having a garden that can be enjoyed by humans and dogs alike. With a few landscaping considerations and safe plant selection, a happy balance can be achieved and the greenery can reign once again.

Designing a Garden for Dogs

Creating boundaries, either in physical forms such as a fence, or conceptual boundaries involving training, is the key to a successful garden. Balancing training with physical barriers will depend on the individual dogs, their age, breed, personality and the amount of time their owner spends with them. The following ideas should be helpful across a range of situations.

Creating Paths for Dogs

Most dogs naturally like to follow a path and in many cases will form their own by repeatedly running along the same track. When re-landscaping it’s not a bad idea to use these existing tracks and build garden beds between them, but if that’s not ideal, most dogs can be diverted onto newly formed paths as long as they’re comfortable and easily accessible. Raised beds between pathways help to delineate boundaries and prevent dogs from crisscrossing through plantings and digging to clear the area alongside the fence.

Line pathways with soft material such as mulch that will be gentle on dogs paws and ensure they are wide enough in several places for dogs to turn around. Man dogs like to patrol fences so a path between the fence and garden bed can keep dogs from damaging plants while allowing them to maintain their official route.

A toilet area is also a good idea, and many dogs can be trained to go in one area making it easy to clean up and keep from underfoot. Mulch such as tanbark can be laid in the spot much like kitty litter and replenished when necessary.

Selecting plants for a dogs garden

Dog safety is foremost when selecting plants, so read the section on plants to avoid below. Once the safety of the plants has been established (nothing poisonous, allergy-inducing or spiky) other considerations should be vigour and resistance to breakage. More delicate plants can be partially protected by placing a few large, smooth rocks at their feet to deter dogs from lying on them. Temporarily enclose newly started plants as dogs are drawn to digging up freshly turned earth and even the sturdiest root systems need time to develop.

Plants and garden products dog owners should avoid

Many plants and garden products can be dangerous and even fatal to dogs, so itís important to consider the safety of everything introduced to the garden.

Chemical pesticides and herbicides should be used with caution and ideally avoided. Even organic products can be dangerous and warning labels need to be read carefully. Snail bait labelled ‘pet safe’ is often only labelled so because a pet deterring smell has been added to what is still a poisonous product, and natural products such as ‘blood and bone’ can be dangerous to dogs when consumed in large quantities.

Cocoa bean mulch and coffee grounds both contain theobromine which is lethal to dogs. Timber and timber-based mulches also need to be checked for dangerous chemicals and stay clear of timber treated with CCA. Other landscaping hazards include small round pebbles which can pose a choking hazard for pets, water features which could lead to drowning, and thin staking wire that dogs might not see and injure themselves on. Always place compost piles safely out of reach, and keep deck areas sanded and splinter-free to protect paws.

When selecting plants, avoid anything with spiky foliage or thorns that could damage dogsí eyes. Choose non-toxic plants or keep poisonous plants such as tomato bushes safely fenced off. For a comprehensive list of dangerous plants see the ASPCA’s list of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants or check with a veterinarian. Keep an eye out for dropped fruits because stones are often poisonous and can be a choking hazard, and keep dogs with skin allergies away from plants such as Tradescantia (Wandering Jew).

Remember that gardens are there to be enjoyed, and with a little planning can be a fun and relaxing place for both two and four-legged family members alike.

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