How to Create a Dog-Friendly Garden

If you’re a dog owner, you probably love to watch your pup run and play in your yard. However, they can be destructive, whether by wearing down a path through the grass or digging in the garden beds. You may feel like you have to choose between having a nice garden and letting your pup run free in the space, but that’s not true. Here are some tips to keep your pup and your garden safe.

1. Choose the Right Plants: Dog-Safe and Durable

A puppy sitting next to Lo and Behold Pink

When creating a garden you’d like to share with your pup, it’s important to choose plants that your dog will be safe around. 

The ASPCA has a list of toxic and non-toxic plants you can reference, but keep in mind that this list is not all-inclusive, and just because a plant isn’t on the list doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic. If you want more information on plant toxicity and symptoms to look for if your dog eats a plant, Google can be a great resource, but to get the best information, search using the plant’s scientific name and add “site:.edu” to the end of your search so that all the results come from reliable university websites (many results will be from veterinary programs). It’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian if you are at all unsure about the toxicity of a plant and the safety of your pup.  

Remember to discourage your pup from chewing on any plants, even if you only have non-toxic plants in your garden. Any plant ingested in excess can cause gastrointestinal upset, blockages, or choking, so it’s best to train your pup to leave the plants alone altogether. Try getting them dog toys that they can bring outside to keep them busy and away from your plants.  

If your dog likes to lie on or trample your plants, it’s a good idea to get durable plants. Woody shrubs are a sturdy choice, and bigger shrubs tend to dissuade your dog from plowing through your garden beds. In this case, it’s also best to avoid plants with thorns and spikes.

6 Dog-Safe Shrub Options to Consider

2. Learn Your Dog's Habits

A puppy lying down and chewing on a plant

Observe your dog in the yard. You can learn a lot about their habits just by watching how they interact with the space. If you know your pup’s habits, you can better cater your garden around their natural patterns. 

Some dogs are guard dogs; they run the perimeter of your yard when they’re outside (they may stop and sniff around it as well). If this is your dog, avoid planting delicate plants around the perimeter, as they may fall victim to your dog’s patrol. 

Other pups are chewers that are constantly finding things to munch on, like sticks, leaves, or tall grass. In this case, try using barriers to keep them away from plants, and ensure all plants are non-toxic and durable in the event your pup does take a bite of them. If you do any maintenance in your garden, such as pruning or trimming, give your garden a good clean-up afterward and make sure any branches or spent flowers are out of your pup’s reach.

There are also dogs that like to dig. They’ll often find an area of the yard that is easy to dig in, like a garden bed with loose mulch. If your pup is an avid digger, consider adding a designated area where they can dig, like a sandpit, or try adding barriers around your garden beds to keep your pup out.

3. Use Fences and Containers

A dog walking along a fence line

This may seem obvious because, of course, putting up fences around your yard is a great way to keep your dog in your yard, but you can also use them to keep your dog out of an unsafe space in your garden. If you have an area that has toxic or even delicate plants, use fences and gates to keep your pup at a safe distance. 

To protect your plants from being trampled by your pup, plant them in containers or raised beds that are elevated off the ground.

4. Avoid Chemicals

A puppy lying on their back in the grass

Avoid using harmful chemicals in your garden, as even if your dog isn’t a chewer, they may run through, lie on, or roll in areas that are being treated with chemicals, and when it comes to the health of your pup, it’s best to play it safe. 

If you use a lawn care service, communicate with them to confirm they are not using harmful chemicals to treat your lawn or for weed control. Many lawn care services will work with you to create a plan that ensures you and your pup are safe. 

Make sure that any fertilizer you use is non-toxic, and read the label carefully before use.

This goes for mulch as well; read the labels to see if it’s safe for use around pets, and if your dog likes to chew on mulch, be sure the mulch you use doesn’t present a choking hazard if your pup were to swallow it. 

5. Give Your Dog Their Own Space

Two dogs standing beside a wood fence

Share your garden with your dog by giving them a space where they can run, play, and even dig to their heart’s content. This is a great way for your pup to get the exercise they need without putting your plants at risk of being walked over. Try training your pup to use this space to get their energy out and relieve themselves (yellow patches in grass and on plants are not the prettiest). 

If you have a dog that likes to patrol your yard, make some paths through your garden for them to follow. If you don’t give them paths, they may end up making their own. 

Running and playing outside in the summer sun gets hot, so be sure to give your dog some shade to cool down in. Tall shrubs and trees are great for creating shelter from the sun.

Keep these tips in mind so you can create a safe, beautiful garden that both you and your pup can enjoy!

Written by
Samantha Huisman

Samantha Huisman

I’m still pretty new to gardening, but I’m eager to learn more as I grow my USDA Zone 6a garden. I share my space with two very energetic German Shepherd dogs, and I'm happy to share my experiences building a garden that is beautiful and safe for my pups. As I learn and grow in the gardening world, I’m excited to give you tips and inspiration that may just help you on your gardening journey.

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