Letting Your Landscape Go to the Dogs

Everyone that has a dog agrees their pets are family members too. And just like kids, your pet’s energy and needs should be considered when developing your gardens. Whether you have an “only” dog or a pack, here are a few things to consider to ensure their happiness and safety when enjoying their outdoor space:

  • Think about your dog’s age, breed and individual personality. Do you have a young border collie or terrier that will run all day long, a Lab that’s a tank and eats everything, or a smaller breed or senior dog that’s not likely to be steam-rolling their way through the pansies and peonies? Old dog, new tricks? Just sayin’...
  • Is this a new home so your dog’s behavior doesn’t have to be modified? Or has this been Sparky’s home for years in which routes and routines are firmly established so that physical changes in the garden are going to require training?
  • Does your dog have play dates through the fence with the neighbor dog? Is there a pattern of running back and forth? As a doggy parent, it’s hard to deny that kind of fun. Why not create a 3’ wide path along the fence? Cover with canine –friendly mulch that is easy on running paws, doesn’t stick to coats and isn’t interesting to eat. Wood bark-based products or pea gravel may be the most indestructible solution. Never use cocoa bean mulch which can be toxic to dogs!  Be sure to use an underlayment of weed control fabric before placing the mulch. It’s more work, certainly, but consider using edging to contain mulch flying from the path.
  • Building on the above (literally) think about increasing the width of the path at the corners or ends to create an arc where high speed turnarounds require more width than straightaways.
  • If you decide to screen the “track” with shrubs, be sure to consider the mature radius of the plant. When planting, center the stem of the plant at its expected mature radius from the outer edge of the path. That way width isn’t lost as the plants grow toward the path. If you are not sure about your plant's mature radius or spread, you can search for the plant within our online selection and it will tell you there.
  • When buying annuals, consider buying more mature 6” or 1 gallon-sized pots. With perennials, use 1-gallon or larger perennials rather than quart-sized plants. Bigger plants are more likely to rebound from paw traffic.
  • With rambunctious pups, plant perennials closer together than you ordinarily would so they grow together creating a visual wall. Leave occasional openings. When faced with a wall, dogs may use an opening rather than running through the wall. Notice “may” is underlined.
  • Research plants that are flexible. Observe plants that have good movement in wind without breaking. Example: Ornamental grasses like Panicum ‘Northwind' (buy online) are tall and relatively strong-stemmed, but resilient, making them somewhat forgiving of crashing canines.
  • With young, active or omnivorous dogs think twice about thorny plants like roses, barberries, and raspberries that can get in eyes or paws, or not be great in digestive tracts.
  • Got a digging dog? You might try to beat them at their own game by creating a decoy “sandbox” where they can dig to their hearts’ content without creating destruction in beautiful garden beds.
  • Raised beds are increasingly popular because you control the soil mix and you have more positive drainage than ground beds. In the case of older, smaller and less aggressive dogs, they may provide just the additional height needed to discourage cut-through habits. Larger, active dogs may run around rather than on top of a raised bed.
  • Finally, if you’re a composter, make sure access to the bins is fenced or gated so your furry family members can’t gain access where mushrooms might be growing. Many are toxic so don’t take that chance.  

Dog friendly landscapes = happy dogs!