Gardens can be wonderful, stimulating spaces for dogs. But dogs can potentially cause havoc, too, digging up plants and urinating on lawns.
Gardens also contain hazards – some plants are potentially toxic to dogs and there are other dangers too, from harmful chemicals to sharp objects.
There are lots of things you can do to ensure you live in harmony with your four-legged friend, including planting non-toxic plants, creating dedicated dog areas and keeping the garden secure.
Here are our 12 tips for a dog-friendly garden.
Make the garden stimulating
Creating different routes through the garden, such as clearly defined paths and designated play or digging areas will keep your dog stimulated. Differing textures of the surfaces can be stimulating underfoot, and plants such as salix and ornamental grasses dance and sway, providing entertainment.
Plant robust plants
Boisterous dogs can damage young plants, or those with delicate stems, either by digging them up or running through them. Plant large, established perennials and choose robust plants such as nepeta, astilbe and hardy geranium (avoid Pelargonium species, which can be toxic to dogs and, confusingly, have the common name geranium). Use a good backbone of sturdy shrubs such as viburnum or shrub roses. Robust lavender is ideal at the front of a border.
Avoid toxic plants
Many garden plants are potentially toxic to dogs. They include chrysanthemum, aconite, buttercup, daffodil, daphne, delphinium, foxglove, hydrangea, oak, tomato, wisteria and yew. If you notice any worrying symptoms and think your dog may have ingested part of a plant, take your pet to the vet. Watch our video on plants that are toxic to dogs.
Protect your plants and lawn
Dogs can ruin lawns and borders so create a designated area for play or digging, using sand or bark. To prevent a dog running through your borders, you could create paths through them, or create clearly defined boundaries, such as a low-growing box hedge. Raised beds are a great option, too.
Plant dog-friendly plants
You can still have a beautiful garden if you have a dog – many plants pose no threat to dogs. They include snapdragons, Michaelmas daisies, camellias, honeysuckle, lavender, rose, sunflowers, elaeagnus, centaurea (cornflower), impatiens and calendula.
Make sure your garden is secure
Some dogs will dig under fences, or escape through holes in fences, so make sure your borders are secure at the base. Dogs can jump surprisingly high, so make sure your fences are at least 6ft high if you have a medium-sized dog. Keep gates secure at all times.
Keep dogs away from slugs and snails
Keep an eye on your dog and make sure that it doesn’t eat slugs or snails. Avoid using non-organic slug pellets, as these are toxic to all wildlife. Lungworm can be contracted by eating infected slugs, snails or frogs. Signs include difficulty breathing, coughing, lethargy and bleeding for longer than normal.
Keep your shed secure
Sheds can contain harmful chemicals and sharp tools – make sure they are kept securely closed at all times.
Avoid using chemicals such as non-organic slug pellets, which could be harmful if your dog eats a slug or snail. Discover how to deal with slugs and snails organically. And do not add additives to water features or ponds, as dogs will be tempted to drink from them.
Avoid cocoa bean shell mulch
Like chocolate, this by-product of the chocolate industry can be harmful if eaten – and the chocolatey smell is tempting. Use an alternative mulch such as bark chippings.
Secure your compost bin
Compost bins containing food scraps can potentially be attractive to dogs, and may contain contents that can harm them. Some foods, such as avocadoes, grapes, raisins and onions can be harmful, so make sure that they can’t get into your bin.
Dog wee on lawns
Weeing on lawns can create yellow patches. Train your dog not to wee on the lawn, or hose down the area afterwards. Discover more about dog urine on lawns.
Better safe than sorry
If you suspect your dog has eaten a plant, slug or snail in the garden and is showing signs of illness, don’t hesitate to take it to the vet.