Pets in the West

Great ideas for pet-friendly homes, gardens, trips, and outdoor adventures

How to landscape a dog-friendly garden

Create an outdoor space that you and your pet will love

  • Like humans, dogs enjoy basking in the sun. So by all means, give them a deck or a patch of lawn for sunbathing.

    But remember that dogs can overheat easily, so it's even more important to provide them with cooling retreats.

    Here, 4 retrievers (liko, Lexi, Andy, and Morgan) enjoy resting under an arbor in Oceanside, CA.

    More: See how to make a simple square pergola

    Dog-friendly backyard: Shady retreat

    Thomas J. Story

    Click to Enlarge

  • Install a dig-proof barrier

    A fence underlined with boards keeps four Welsh springer spaniels from tunneling into the front yard in Battle Ground WA.

WHAT DOGS NEED

Paths to run and patrol

Dogs need exercise; paths give them a designated space to do it as well as a venue to perform their perceived job ― to patrol your property line and keep out intruders. Readers suggested sacrificing a few feet along the fence for a perimeter path to simultaneously satisfy both needs. If your dogs have already created their own paths through the garden, don't try to redirect them. Instead, turn their well-worn routes into proper pathways.

A 3-foot-wide clearance is sufficient for most canines. Plant a screen to hide this dog run if you like; pets seem to like having their own "secret garden." If you have a Houdini and need to keep your escape artist from tunneling under the fence, you may need to install an underground barrier made of rebar, chicken wire, or poured concrete.

A place to answer nature's call

Your dog needs a spot to relieve himself, but it doesn't have to be your lawn or flower bed. Set aside a corner of your yard as a toilet area, and train your pet to eliminate there and nowhere else. This learning process may take a puppy about three weeks and an adult dog longer. Consult a dog-training manual for instructions.

Cover the designated area with material Fido will accept and that you can clean easily. Flagstone, pea gravel, bricks, and cedar chips are all good choices. If you have a male dog, consider adding a marking post so he can define his territory (Stuckey set up a driftwood stump).

Shade and shelter

Like humans, dogs enjoy basking in the sun. So by all means, give them a deck or a patch of lawn for sunbathing. But remember that dogs can overheat easily, so it's even more important to provide them with cooling retreats. They'll happily share arbors, pergolas, and other shade structures with their owners. But most dogs seem to appreciate having a shelter of their own, such as a doghouse.

Plant densely and wisely

If you plant landscaped areas densely, dogs will stay out, our readers say. Still, most dog owners recommend additional precautions: Plant in raised beds or on mounds, and start with 1-gallon or larger plants. Put up temporary fencing around newly landscaped areas; when you remove it, add a rock border or low fencing as a reminder to stay out.

Plant romp-proof shrubs and perennials like ornamental grasses around the edge of the garden. Put brittle plants like salvias in the center, where they'll be protected.

Pet-safe landscaping

Avoid thorny and spiny plants, which can cause serious eye injuries. Be very cautious about growing poisonous plants, like castor bean or hellebore, in readily accessible areas. Visit www.aspca.org/toxicplants for a complete list.

Many wild mushrooms produce afla-toxins, which can be fatal if ingested by dogs; if mushrooms appear, dig and dispose of them immediately. Your compost pile should be off-limits for the same reason. Weeds can be dangerous, especially foxtail grasses with barbed seed heads, which dogs can accidentally inhale with serious consequences.

Slide show: Photos from dog-friendly gardens

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