How to create a dog-friendly garden

How to design a landscape both you and your pups will love

Dog-friendly backyard

Photo by Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: Think like a canine

If you were a dog, what would you want? Spaniels, terriers, retrievers ― each breed has a different personality.

The better you can accommodate its particular traits, the happier your dog. And the happier your dog, the better your chance of maintaining a garden you'll both enjoy.

This dog-friendly yard includes a running track, border control, comfy mulch, sensible plants, and a piece of driftwood to serve as a marking post.

Dog-friendly backyard: Shady retreat

Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: Create a shady retreat

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.

See how to make a pergola like this

Dogs Path

Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: 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.

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 enough for most dogs. Plant a screen to hide this dog run if you like; pets seem to like having their own "secret garden."

More dog-friendly garden tips

Give them shelter

Paul Bousquet

Dog-friendly gardens: Give them shelter

Dogs will 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.

Here Ozzie the Airedale has a cottage-style house, complete with window box, in Denver.

12 creative doghouses

Install a dig-proof barrier

Allen Mandell

Dog-friendly gardens: Keeping them safe

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.

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

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Dog-friendly backyard

Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: Access to water

These lucky Welsh springer spaniels wade into a cool, safe pond in Battle Ground, WA.

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Dog-friendly backyard

Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: Dining area

Lucy Ball, a chocolate lab, drinks from a raised dining area in Mill Valley, CA.

The platform helps keep the area tidy and serves as a storage for the owner's garden clogs.

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Dog-friendly backyard

Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: Lookout platform

Hester the pug likes to survey the world from her rocky perch in a West Seattle garden.

If you plant landscaped areas densely, dogs will generally stay out. 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.

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Dog-friendly backyard

Thomas J. Story

Dog-friendly gardens: Easy access

Anastasia, a Tibetan terrier in Shingle Springs, CA, gets to her backyard through a dog door.

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