Do you want a great landscape but have the digging-est dog in town? Are you dreaming of wildflower vistas while you gaze out over your muddy-colored lawn? If your family includes a canine member, a beautiful landscape may seem like no more than a passing fancy. And if you’re thinking of adding a fur-baby to the family tree, you may already be resigned to little more than grass and a backyard fence.
We’re here to tell you that you can have both! A whole host of playful pups and a great landscape, too – one that is safe and fun for the dogs, and a lovely place to relax and play for the human members of the family.
Here are some ideas to get you started thinking about how to combine beauty and function so your yard will be a place the whole family can love and enjoy.
Have a cat instead? Find out how to create the purr-fect space for them!
Avoid Toxic Plants
The list is long! It may seem like danger is lurking in every petal and root, and it’s true that some human favorites are not best for dogs. Begonia, daffodil and foxglove to name a few, are all beauties but are not ideal in gardens where you dog may find and ingest them.
But that doesn’t mean your stuck with that muddy lawn. Plenty of native plants and flowers will look fantastic and keep your dog safe. Asters and daisies, bottlebrush and day lilies, zinnia and crepe myrtle, plus many garden edibles – cilantro, sage, and squashes like butternut and zucchini just to get started – will add color, texture and beauty to your space without harming your furry friends.
While you’re planning a dog friendly garden – one that offers you a beautiful view and maybe a few tasty plants, too – consider adding a few plants that are noted for their flea-repellent capabilities.
Be cautious, though – some plants that repel fleas are still toxic to dogs. But others, like rosemary, sage, and marigold are excellent additions for taming the flea population and for adding beauty and visual interest to your yard.
Cedar chips are another great option, both as a landscape choice and as a natural flea, tick, and insect repellent. This type of mulch makes great ground cover in your garden and has the added bonus of being cleaner than grass. Your dog can roll around safely and won’t come into the house covered in mud.
Designate Digging Areas
Let’s face it: a dog’s going to dig. The question is, *where*? Left to their own devices, dogs will dig up just about anything, anywhere, any time. And it wouldn’t be fair to suppress your pet’s natural urges. But that doesn’t mean you have to be resolved to a yard full of shredded lawn. The same way that children need play areas (or they might romp through your flower garden, too!) dogs need places that are designed for their exercise and amusement.
Unless you want your yard constantly looking like a meteorite landed there, try adding a designated digging area or sandbox where your dog can practice their digging skills. Like any training, your dog can be taught that certain areas are off limits, and other areas are just for them.
A sandbox area offers a great summertime option, too. Keep it damp and cool and your dog will love lounging there in a cool hollow.
Tame The Trample
Have you noticed your dog walking around the perimeter of the yard, or traveling the same path over and over and over again, until it looks like a permanent rut has ben worn in the ground? That’s because dogs are territorial and will patrol and survey their space.
You can’t change the nature of your beast, but why resign yourself to trampled grass and bare patches of yard? There’s another option, and it looks as great as it is functional – walking paths! Paving stones, bricks, other natural stone and even mulch make excellent pathways that you can weave through your landscape design. And they work just as well for humans as dogs.
Build zones into your space – gardens, a pond, water features, that digging area you worked on – and tie them together with designated walkways. It will look a whole lot more visually interesting, and will have the added benefit of keeping your dog’s paws cleaner than a dirt path. Choose the right kind of stone and it can even provide a cool (and dirt-free!) option where your dog can stretch out and relax after a busy day.
Include A Place For A Potty
Do you *really* follow your dog around with a plastic bag and a bottle of water for keeping your lawn looking like a green shag rug? You don’t have to answer that! But consider that the same way you can teach your dog where to dig and even where to patrol, you can also teach them where to take a potty break.
Pea gravel is a good choice for a potty station. It is far more forgiving than grass, and can be an interesting visual element when not in use. You still have to keep it clean, but unlike grass it won’t turn brown and die, leaving your outdoor space looking less-than-lovely.
Make It Livable
What goes for humans, goes for dogs. A great landscape doesn’t just look great – it suits your lifestyle and works for your outdoor enjoyment.
A hot summer day, for example, would not be very enjoyable – or safe – without shade. Just as you might add a gazebo where you can get respite from the sun or a trellis that blocks the wind, make sure your dog has a safe and friendly place to rest.
Make it comfortable, and make it pretty. There is plenty of outdoor furniture that is pet-friendly and will add a lovely aesthetic to your space. And dogs can appreciate a comfy spot under a beautiful tree just as much as you can.
Just as you enjoy the outdoors – perhaps in your pool, with a new spice rub at the grill, or curling up in a cozy chair with a good book – your dog needs to enjoy their time, too. Turn natural elements into an engaging space for your dog, like wood beams for walking and balancing, some stumps or small boulders to jump on or over, even a water feature like a small stream, bubbling fountain or waterfall where your dog can splash.
Any of these things can be a source of enjoyment for your dog and source of beauty as part of a human landscape.
So whether a dog is already a member of your family, or one is thinking of adopting you, consider how your outdoor space can accommodate the lifestyle you live together.
If you’re interested in exploring ways to create a dog-friendly space that will be as safe and fun for them as it is beautiful for you, contact us for a consultation. We’ll work with you to design, plan, and build the space of your dog’s dreams… and yours, too!