Tips & Techniques
Betterdays in Full Swing

Use Dog-safe Plants & Flowers to Create a Lush Landscape for Your Dog-friendly Garden


By Jane Milliman

We’ve all heard those stories about dogs destroying flower beds, digging huge holes in the lawn or eating potentially harmful foliage. But your dog is your best friend and a part of the family – isn’t there a way to keep Fido happy and your yard looking lush and gorgeous?

Are dog-friendly yards even possible? You may think the only options are a bare yard or keeping your beloved four-legged friend inside. Don’t give up just yet – there are ways to create dog-friendly landscaping that will keep your dog safe and your yard beautiful. You won’t have to be constantly wondering “are petunias poisonous to dogs?” or worry about your pup pulverizing those pretty petunias. With our handy guide, your worries and frustrations will be a thing of the past!

Steps to Creating a Dog-friendly Landscape

Provide your best friend with a fun and safe place to explore and relax without sacrificing the beauty of a well-thought-out yard. With a little prep and caution, you can create landscaping for dogs.

  1. Choose Dog-safe Plants & Flowers
  2. While most dogs won’t eat flowers and leaves, lots of them love sticks and digging up plants. Before adding new plants to your landscape, consult the ASPCA’s database for toxic plants. Some common garden plants toxic to dogs include:

    • American holly
    • Apricot trees
    • Apple trees
    • Daffodils
    • Daisies
    • Foxgloves
    • Garlic
    • Tomato plants

    Most people are surprised about the number of plants that are considered toxic to dogs. This doesn’t mean you can’t plant your favorites in the garden. Instead, create dog-free zones using raised beds, hanging containers, window boxes and fencing to protect your dog from your plants – and your plants from your dog.

    You can eliminate all reservations by creating a garden full of dog safe plants. Pansies, violets and roses all have dog safe flowers, stems and foliage. Herbs are completely safe and are scented so strongly that most dogs will avoid them. Creating borders of lavender or rosemary may encourage your dog to stay out of your flowers. In addition to warning you of the toxic plants out there, the ASPCA also lists dog-friendly plants.

  3. Arrange Your Plants Strategically
  4. Dogs are creatures of habit. Build your pet-friendly landscapes around their predictability. Well-worn paths will generally appear as four feet travel around the yard on a regular basis. Take note of your dog’s paths and install mulch, pea gravel or sand pavers where your dog likes to walk. This eliminates patches of dirt and mud – keeping your landscape more attractive and your dog’s paws cleaner.

    Arrange plants and garden beds around these paths to create a cohesive landscape. Dogs will often travel perimeter areas of a yard. Installing a path area between your fencing and shrubs or garden border will prevent damage to your dog-friendly plants.

  5. Protect Your Irrigation
  6. Many dogs love to destroy the things they shouldn’t touch. Sprinklers and in-ground emitters often encourage chewing and digging – especially if you have a dog who loves to play in water. Gilmour’s elevated sprinklers stand above the ground, providing an attractive water source out that’s conveniently of your dog’s reach.

  7. Designate a Dog Bathroom Area
  8. Your lush, green yard is dotted with yellow blemishes. Many dogs develop bathroom habits and tend to navigate to specific areas. Gradually train your dog to use a designated area for bathroom needs by providing exactly what he needs, and then rewarding him for using his special space. Consider the type of material your dog prefers – some like high grass, while others like no grass. Some ground covers, such as clover, will not yellow or die and require zero mowing. A cute statue of a fire hydrant of a hardy shrub provides something special for male dogs to enjoy.

  9. Create a Border
  10. The best border for your dog-friendly gardens and yard depends on your dog. Some dogs are respectful of boundaries and require minimal fencing, where others seem to see this as a challenge. In general, the larger your dog, the higher your fence needs to be. If your dog loves to explore the neighborhood or is something of an escape artist, consider a tall wood fence for both protection and privacy. Some dogs escape through tunnels under fencing. Installing a fence with a flagstone or brick border at the bottom may help prevent digging.

  11. Use Comfy Mulch
  12. You might think you can just tell your dog to stay out of your flower garden areas, but chances are they will still venture into these cool and moist areas. Choose mulch with your dog’s comfort in mind. Some dogs will pick up pieces of mulch to chew on. If your dog is a wood muncher, use pine straw – it doesn’t stick to fur or encourage digging. For the dog unaware of how tasty mulch can be, cedar chips can repel fleas and other pests.

    Attractive and soft, cocoa mulch may contain chemicals toxic to dogs. Inspect all mulch packaging to see if the one you’re considering is “dog-safe” before installing.

    If you use landscape fabric under your mulch, make sure it’s completely covered. A little corner sticking up through the mulch can become a “fun” activity for your dog. You can almost see their little minds at work – pull, dig and destroy whatever this thing is. Secure your mulch fabrics and plastics with landscape pins before mulching to keep it secure at the edges.

  13. Create a Space for Play, Shade & Shelter
  14. Protecting your landscape from your dog can be as simple as creating areas specifically for your dog’s needs. Large areas of lush grass give a safe place for play. Avoid using sharp stones, such as granite, in paths and garden areas as they can cut paws.

    Got a digger? Most dogs navigate to flower beds because the soil there is usually light and fluffy – perfect for tossing in the air. Create a digging space just for your dog by filling an area with sand and burying toys and treats around it.

    Sometimes dogs create their own special places for comfort. If you find your dog making a bed right in the middle of your pansies, it’s likely because he craves a cool and relaxing place to rest. Installing a well-mulched area in the shade will encourage your dog to stay out of the flower beds.

By using these and other dog friendly landscaping ideas to create a beautiful dog garden, you’ll spend less time repairing damage, and more time relaxing and playing with your best friend.

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