How to Create a Dog-Friendly Garden

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

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
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.

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
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.

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
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."

Paul BousquetPaul Bousquet
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.

Allen MandellAllen Mandell
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.

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
Access to water
These lucky Welsh springer spaniels wade into a cool, safe pond in Battle Ground, WA.
These plants can be poisonous to dogs

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
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.

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
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.

Thomas J. StoryThomas J. Story
Easy access
Anastasia, a Tibetan terrier in Shingle Springs, CA, gets to her backyard through a dog door.

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