How to Design a Dog-Friendly Garden
A green space created with four-legged friends in mind.
DOGS PLUS THE outdoors equals perfection. Wait, correct that. Dogs plus gardens equals complete ruin. Does a scenario of knocked-over pots, matted and rutted lawn, uprooted plants, and minefields of dog unpleasantness sound familiar? Well, it doesn’t have to, if you think of your garden with pets in mind. That’s the mindset behind dogscaping — gardening in a way that respects the most common canine behaviors, identifies problems, and employs creative and green solutions. Fundamentally, it means coming to terms with the fact that you have a dog, relinquishing some control, and forgetting about perfection. You and your dog change over time; let your garden grow and change with you, and it will ultimately become a place to wag about.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERT
Jen Strobel, garden design consultant for Sloat Garden Center, says, “Note that the regular paths dogs use aren’t likely to change with new plantings.” She suggests, “Use hardy ground covers that are soft on paws like Elfin thyme, and use hardier plants like boxwood or ornamental grasses to protect more tender, easily damaged plants.”
OBSERVE YOUR DOG’S HABITS
Regardless of breed, go with what you see: is your dog a digger, an escape artist, a patroller, a fence barker? Then:
- Install strong fences and self-closing gates. Also consider an underground barrier, such as chicken wire, for the tenacious wannabe runaways.
- Add perimeter paths. Let your dog patrol the territory and be social with passersby without damaging plants. Suggestion: add a 3-foot-wide path that is plant-free. Use containers and raised planter boxes. For vegetables or less durable plants, consider pots and aboveground receptacles.
- Replace your lawn. Install as much hardscape as possible, like concrete, brick, flagstone or smooth river rocks.
- Be careful about plant selection. Young dogs and certain breeds chew on anything — including toxic plants — so eschew candidates like those on the list below.
- Practice organic gardening. Avoid pesticides and weed killer, which can be harmful to you, your dog and the earth.
FAVORITE DOG-COMPATIBLE PLANTS
Ferns (not asparagus fern)
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Doggone it! My Garden!”.