Keeping a dog and looking after them can be quite complicated. Although almost all of us like dogs and we are grateful to them for guarding our properties and us while also providing joyful moments and happiness to the entire family, we need to know a dog that does not ruin flower beds or chew plants is often a rarity.
Name one person who is unfamiliar with the crater like holes, scratched out lawns, dug up plants, the dog created and trodden pathways i and the “special” circle signs caused by dogs’ urine?
However, while digging and naughty dogs can be a real enemy of our gardens, you do not necessarily need to choose between having a dog or a beautiful garden. The two can coexist at the same time if we spend some time with planning and preparation, before introducing our new dog to the garden.
First, we need to try to only use dog friendly (animal friendly) horticultural materials and specifically choose to plant dog friendly or rather dog resistant plants. Beside these fundamental practices, we can also divide or separate certain safe zones for our dog in the garden by creating sand pits and/or fenced off shady play areas where he/she can play or relax.
The steps bellow outline how we can create a garden that looks spectacular and is dog friendly at the same time.
- Plant dog friendly and non-poisonous plants
We all know our plants are not safe when our dogs – especially in younger age – are playing in the garden as they love chewing plants, digging plants up, breaking them as they are running over them. We do not have time to keep our eyes on our pups all the time, so often we have to face the skeletons and remains of our ornamental plants, vegetables etc. As a result, these playful events can be deadly and dangerous for our plants, but unfortunately it can be the same for our dog. That’s why I suggest planting non-poisonous plants. When you select your new plants, try to avoid Rhododendron, Hydrangea, Oleander or Lily of the valley. I know they are impressive and very decorative varieties, but it is better to be on the safe side. There is a website ( https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list ) where the toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs been collected and listed.
- Plant herbs
Try to plant various herbs in your garden, which are pleasing to the eye, useful for cooking and fragranced with strong scent that helps keep dogs away. If for any reason he/she decides to chew on these herbs or pull them out from the ground, they do not cause any harm to our dog. Good choices can be: lemon grass, lavender, thyme, oregano etc.
- Apply dog friendly chemicals
When you need to apply any pesticides or fertilisers, try to use dog friendly ones that are non-toxic and won’t cause any harm to your dog. For instance, organic neem oil is highly affective against bugs, green flies, black flies, and white flies. If you can not avoid applying harmful chemicals, make sure you use the right dosage and wait the recommended time before you let your dog back in the treated area.
- Dog repellents
I understand there are fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants what you want to grow, but your dog may also would like a taste of it and you can not stand a guard next to them. I have a solution for that as well: you can use vinegar or cider vinegar diluted in water and sprayed on those plants you need to keep your dog away from. Dogs can not stand the strong, irritating smells. Also, as a bonus these strong smells keep some insects away too, so they can be used as biological control in our plant protection methods as well. Only those plants we would like to protect this way can be sprayed once a week with the repellent, so we do not need to spray all our plants in the garden. Chilli powder or chilli extract diluted in water can also work.
- Fences and raised beds
Sometimes if your dog is pig-headed, naughty and the above options do not work to keep them away from your beloved plants, you can consider fencing off an area for your dog or creating physical barriers for him/her to get close to the protected plants. For older dogs, normally simple raised beds tend to work well as they cannot or do not like to jump, so if you plant your plants in raised beds they should be alright. But some dogs just love jumping and for them you might need to consider erecting dog fences. There are many different types and materials on the market you can choose from.
- Do not leave your dog alone in the garden
It is quite a wise thing not to leave your dog alone in the garden until it learns what they are allowed or not allowed to do. When you see them try to do something they are not supposed to do, you need to intervene and tell them off immediately until they learn the rules in your garden.
- Dog friendly pathways
Plan and create pathways in the garden what you intend to walk on (especially in vegetable garden) as this would encourage your dog to use these pathways too, rather than walking through the middle of the beds and borders.
- Keep dog toys in your garden
Playing is a very important thing in a dog’s life (especially in younger age) and we need to make sure that they feel safe when outside and that it is an enjoyable experience. The best way to achieve this is by leaving some toys for them in the garden: balls, chewing toys but even larger cut branches or logs would do the trick. They will learn to be active and to play with these toys and at the same time they are not so tempted to chew or dig your plants.
- Dog toilet
The dogs’ urine is very high in Nitrogen and salinity concentration, which causes yellow circle on your lawn and can burn/kill some plants, which are sensitive to it (yew tree, conifer etc.). If we want to avoid the view of these yellow circles in our lawn, the best way if we allocate a fence post or dead tree trunk where we can teach the dog to use it as a toilet, so we do not have unpleasant surprises in our garden.
- Digging area for your dog
Digging is a key activity for dogs. We should not take this joy away from them, but at the same time we do not want to stare at huge soil heaps and upside-down plants in our garden. Probably the best compromise is to fence off (with a short fence or garden edge) an area where our dog can dig freely. The area can be enhanced with a sandpit to make the digging even more interesting.
- Plant therapeutic plants for your dog
Various studies show that certain herbs can improve the dogs general health condition and also reduce the level of stress. For example, hop can calm down hyperactive dogs, while sweet amber (Hypericum androsaemum) has a calming and pain relief effect on dogs.
So, dogs and nice gardens can really coexist, but they both need TLC right from the beginning.