Britain is a nation of dog lovers. We’re also a very house-proud bunch and nowhere is this more evident than in our gardens (did anyone else see the three-minute Ronseal fence painting advert the other week?)
The problem is that dogs and gardens can struggle to co-exist peacefully. Whether it’s bouncy dogs digging up the flower beds or the urine-soaked brown patches that can affect your lawn – dogs have a habit of destroying gardens.
Good design can help minimise (but not completely eliminate) doggy damage. But if you design a garden that is wholly for your dog then it can begin to look like a soulless kennel.
These tips will help you design a garden that’s good for you and your pet.
Dog proof fences
Dog-friendly garden design should first and foremost be about protecting your four-legged friend. And your most important safety feature? A suitably high garden fence.
Some families prefer ‘invisible’ dog fences that use audible warnings and electric shock ‘corrections’ to keep pets within a set boundary. But dog psychology experts warn that using electric shocks can lead to pet anxiety.
These fences also don’t protect against another danger to your dog – thieves.
With cases of ‘dognapping’ on the up in many parts of the UK, pet owners need to be aware of the dangers of leaving dogs (particularly sought after breeds) alone without proper protection.
Battersea Dogs Home recommends that prospective owners should take the size of their house and garden into account before choosing a dog. Larger breeds shouldn’t really be kept in apartments or houses with small gardens.
Square footage isn’t everything, though. What dogs need more than anything is space to stretch and run around. Large lawn or artificial grass areas are important to your dog’s health and happiness. So declutter your garden and get a large green space.
Fill it with toys (especially techy toys)
Toys are a great source of stimulation for dogs. Any energy not spent chasing a ball or chewing a doll could instead be spent digging up flower beds.
There are also some more high-tech toys that (in an admittedly limited way) mimic human interaction. For example, the iFetch, is an automatic ball ‘throwing’ machine that will keep dogs entertained for hours. You can also buy automatic bubble blowing machines that can be filled with bacon scented bubbles to help your dogs keep fit and healthy.
Minimise harmful toxins
Whenever you bring something new to your garden, whether it’s a new plant or a new chemical, you should research what effect it will have on your four-legged friend. Remember that risks and toxins come in lots of different guises.
Gardening organically and minimising pesticides is good practice. Even if your dog doesn’t eat flowers, harmful pesticides and toxins could rub off on their coat or paws which might then be licked.
Plant resilient flora
Dogs and flowers can struggle to get on. Even if your dog doesn’t have a taste for flora, the damage they can do running through plants – especially when they are hunting for lost balls – can be devastating.
We recommend planting more sturdy and hard-wearing flowers that will stand up to some of your pet’s punishment. For more advice on resilient planting read the Cheshire Artificial Grass low maintenance garden guide.
Doggy dining area
Caring for your dog’s welfare means you have to keep them well-fed and watered. Putting a water bowl in a shady spot is crucial, particularly as the hot summer weather approaches.
A big meaty bone or chew will keep your animal nourished and entertained throughout the day.
Got a territorial breed? Do they walk around like they own the place? You can combat this by setting up an area of the garden that is wholly for the dog.
Find a spot with some sun and some shade and leave water, toys and a bed there. Your pet should soon set up camp.
You can better define a ‘dog zone’ by designing a split level garden, or else using sleepers or beds to cordon off different areas for human and pet use. This might sound like too much effort, but your dog will thank you for it.
Avoid sharp gravel
We don’t think gravel is great for dogs. It gives little space to run around, it can be uncomfortable and is difficult to clean if your pet decides to number two there (gravel also tends to be a magnet for unwanted cat poo).
If you do decide to use it though, then choosing a finer and more rounded stones, like pea gravel is preferable.
Set up a digging area for excavator dogs
Some dogs like to dig, and if you have an instinctive excavator like a Jack Russel then you have to accept (to an extent).
To minimise the damage to your flower beds, try setting up an area where your four legged JCB can dig his or her heart out.
Train your dog to dig in a certain spot, or bury a few of their favourite toys in a certain patch and let them find them. Over time this will become their preferred hole.
Pet potty problems can be a nightmare for gardens. Pet urine can damage natural grass fibres, and stray dog poo can easily be trodden into the house.
With good training and a well-planned out toilet area, toilet training your dog can be easy. Check out this past blog post we’ve published.
Attract some playmates
Dogs need attention and stimulation. One good way of giving them both is to attract squirrels, cats, birds, butterflies and other distractions that will keep your dog occupied for hours.
Lay out some treats for squirrels or some nice colourful flowers to attract butterflies and other flying insects. Be warned though, this tactic could lead to some seriously happy barking.
Dog-friendly sensory gardens
A dog home in Bath recently planted what it calls a ‘sensory and enrichment garden’ full of plants with healing and de-stressing properties.
The home’s head of behaviour and welfare, Steve Hill said: “We get a wide range of dogs in desperate need of help, some of which find it hard to cope in kennels. The sensory garden is designed to offer something to every dog, to encourage them to become more confident in their surroundings and to reduce stress.”
Among the plants they used were:
- Green Clay (good for its anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial properties)
- Birch (known to help with muscular and inflammatory pain)
- Catnip (good for its relaxing properties and stimulates playfulness in dogs)
- Chamomile (often selected by anxious dogs and those with skin and stomach upsets
- Chickweed (known to help with stomach and skin problems)
- Clary Sage (often selected by highly-strung animals especially those with hormonal imbalance)
- Hops (good for calming the mind and often selected by hyperactive and stressed dogs)
- Lavender (known to encourage scar tissue regeneration)