When it comes to sharing our lives with our canine companions, one area tends to be off-limits: the garden. That’s a shame! Time spent pulling weeds and planting bulbs is even better with a four-legged friend. Read on to learn the do’s and don’ts of pet-friendly gardening.
Reinforce the Rules
Simple obedience dog training can make life a little easier, especially for you in the garden. Teaching your dog the basics (sit, stay, heel, lay down, and so on) will help you communicate the garden rules. The main rules: no digging and no eating. You’ll also want to keep large dogs from trampling delicate seedlings and tender plants. Believe it or not, dogs love discipline– it helps them know their place and makes them feel secure when you are in charge.
Choose a Dig Zone
Most dogs dig because they’re trying to make themselves a cool, soft spot to lay down. If you choose a space for your dog in the garden where the earth is bare, they will be more comfortable and less likely to dig elsewhere. This is where some simple commands will come in handy. If you want to show your dog how much you love him, make one corner of the yard as “Spot’s spot.” Put in a sand pit where he can dig to his heart’s delight. Dogs are happiest when they have their own territory.
Avoid Toxic Plants
Some of our favorite flowering plants are poisonous to our furry friends. A few popular items to avoid include chrysanthemum, daffodil, delphinium, foxglove, and hydrangea. These flowering plants can cause anything from skin irritation to paralysis, so beware. Asparagus fern and Sago palms can be deadly if ingested, so avoid these in your garden at all costs. The list of plants that are toxic to pets is long but worth reviewing before inviting your dog into the garden. One thing you never need to worry about is dogs eating the grass, which is perfectly normal behavior.
Provide Shade and Shelter
You don’t need to go out and buy a dog house, but like humans, Fido can easily become overheated and get sunburned. Something as simple as a picnic table will provide him with enough shade when he’s tired of basking in the sun. He’ll also need a place to get away from a quick moving rain shower. Keep his water bowl nearby in case he needs a drink to cool off.
Give the Guy a Marking Post
Dogs love marking the same spots, over and over (think fire hydrants). If they find a plant in the garden they fancy as a urinal, beware: dog urine will kill a plant over time. It’s a good idea to erect a marking post. A log set upright or a plastic fire hydrant might deter Fido from urinating on something you’re attached to or planning to eat.
Maintain Defined Perimeters and Paths
Dogs tend to stay on distinct pathways and can usually be contained within dense perimeter plantings and otherwise defined boundaries. This is partly because dogs love feeling useful, and a boundary gives them a border to guard. Stones, wood, dense plants and other forms of edging can create a visual and physical border for your dog to “work” within.
Create a Sniff Barrier
Dogs have sensitive sniffers and are likely to avoid areas planted with certain aromatic plants. To create strong deterrents to your dog digging or eating, consider planting odiferous plant varieties. Sage, rosemary, and other pungent herbs will usually repel dogs. To discourage digging, try dressing the soil with coffee grounds (which happen to be a great acidic fertilizer) or bitter orange. There are also some fragrant essential oils you can use as a non-toxic dog deterrent.
Install Selective Fencing
Some areas of your garden may be too delicate or dangerous to leave to chance. Compost piles can make your dog sick if they eat too much decomposing organic matter. And your precious (but toxic) flowering bulb bed may be a non-negotiable feature of your garden. If you need to keep your dog out of areas like these, then it’s your responsibility to install some solid fencing around them. Even a large dog knows that a fence is off limits. Sometimes the most pet-friendly garden is a garden that has been dog-proofed.
Use Dog-Friendly Mulch
Small stones and pine needles can be tough on your pooch’s paws. Grass clipping may cling to his fur (and get tracked inside.) Consider using fine cedar chips or shredded wood mulch that won’t hurt or be displaced if he steps on them. One mulch to avoid is anything containing coconut fiber or husks, which can actually be toxic to dogs.
In these do’s and don’ts of pet-friendly gardening, it’s possible for you and your pooch to coexist in the garden if you both learn the rules and follow them. When spring comes around, you can share your favorite hobby with your best friend!
Annaliese Olson is a gardening and animal care writer. When she moved to the city from her family’s farm, she decided she needed more nature in her life. She is dedicated to urban farming, and she loves to creatively discover spaces for gardens to blossom in her city home..