The Best Dog Friendly Backyard Landscaping Ideas
Does bringing a furry friend into your life mean resigning yourself to a lawn dotted with holes, pee-spots and scattered dog bones? Not necessarily!
Landscaping with dogs isn’t easy, but it is possible to have a beautiful backyard while keeping your best pal happy. We’re happy to help with dog friendly landscaping inspiration!
How Do Dogs Damage Backyards?
Dogs bring boundless joy to our lives, but welcoming Fido into your home also brings risks of damage to your beautiful backyard.
One risk of landscaping with dogs includes the potential for your beloved pup to eat or chew on plants, leaves, sticks, planters, trellises, lawn decorations…or anything else!
There’s also the chance that your dog will do some landscaping of their own by repeatedly walking or running over the same area, creating a worn path over time. This is particularly common along the fenceline or to and from the potty area.
Or, you may come across your adorable pup gleefully digging holes in the grass, under the fence, in the flowerbeds, on top of underground cables or pipes…basically anywhere their paws reach! Your pal may jump into the water features (startling your koi and goldfish), or decide that your beautiful bed of petunias is the perfect place for an afternoon snooze.
And of course, there’s the inevitable results of your pup answering nature’s call. The pH and nitrogen levels in canine urine kills grass, leaving behind those distinctively ugly brown patches. Piles of dog poop aren’t much better!
What Landscaping Risks Are There to Dogs?
Of course, you don’t want anything in your yard to cause harm to your best buddy. However, backyards can pose a variety of dangers to a curious pup.
For example, anything that might catch on your dog’s collar, leash or longline is a potential choking hazard. You don’t want your pup wrapping themselves around a tree, or getting their collar caught in a bush. If your dog is curious and strong enough to pull over tall plants or decorations, then falling items may become a hazard, too. (Trust us — there’s no winners when your dog plays tug-of-war against a topiary!).
Or, if you have a particularly determined digger, your best pal may even expose and chew on underground wires or cables. Lawn ornaments, decks or siding have the potential to become chew toys if you’re not careful, and any small pieces that break off may be swallowed.
You may assume your pup can doggy-paddle, but any ponds, fountains or swimming pools can still pose a drowning risk. Not all dogs are confident swimmers, and some breeds are built in such a way that they sink like a stone. (As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson discovered when he brought home two exuberant French Bulldog puppies, and had to heroically save them from his swimming pool!).
Be especially cautious with any chemicals you may use in your backyard, such as fertilizers or pesticides. Heavy rain can also wash even more dangerous chemicals off driveways and into your lawn, such as antifreeze.
Finally, one of the most common and dangerous risks that can be in your backyard…is the potential for your dog to get out of it! Many dogs have shocked their parents by being able to jump higher, dig deeper or climb better than anticipated. If you have a Houdini on four paws, they’re sure to find a way out of an insufficiently secured backyard. It’s worth the time to triple-check that even if your dog is frightened by fireworks, storms or other terrors, there’s no way for Fido to run for the hills.
Which Landscaping Plants Are Safe (Or Unsafe) For Dogs?
If you’re thinking of adding to your flower beds and aren’t sure if your choices are toxic to dogs or not, check with the ASPCA’s handy resource to be sure. If you do choose potentially dangerous plants, keep them in an area of the yard your dog can’t reach and always watch your best pal very closely when they’re outside — especially if you know your pup is a plant-nibbler.
Common garden plants that are unfortunately toxic to our canine companions include Irises, Peonies, Hydrangeas, Azaleas, Lilies, Daffodils, Begonias and Dahlias. On the other hand, Snapdragons, Marigolds, Zinnias and Sunflowers are beautiful blooms that are dog-safe.
The sweet scent of fragrant flowers will likely attract bees and other pollinators. Curious pups may eat a passing bee or wasp, and quickly suffer the consequences of these “spicy sky raisins”! Beestings aren’t fun for anyone, but if your dog has a bee allergy, they’re especially dangerous. Speak to your veterinarian about whether you should keep an EpiPen or other medication on-hand when the bees are out.
Any sharp, thorny, pokey or irritating plants (like stinging nettles, burrs or thistles) also have the potential to harm your dog. This is especially true if those spiky bits get embedded in your pup’s soft, sensitive places, such as paws or eyes. Keep your lawn and property free of these painful plants!
Finally, be aware of what goes around your plants as well. Make sure any mulch you are using does not contain cocoa shavings. Like chocolate, cocoa bark can make your dog sick if ingested.
Dog Friendly Backyard Landscaping Ideas
When it comes to landscaping with dogs, the goal is to make your yard secure, safe and comfortable for both pets and people. Consider creating designated spaces for your loyal pup without interfering with your other landscaping goals.
Ground Cover: There are many options for ground cover in your lawn, and each has their pros and cons when it comes to dog friendly landscaping.
Some species of grass are more resistant to canine urine than others, although your options may be limited depending on the climate where you live. Artificial turf can also be a surprisingly effective and aesthetic solution, as “fake grass” has come a long way over the years.
One option preferred by many doggy day cares and shelters is pea gravel. These small stones are relatively soft on a pup’s paws, and they make cleaning up after your dog easier than it would be on grass or turf. However, some dogs enjoy chewing on the stones and may even swallow them. The gravel can also get caught between paw pads on occasion, and may get too hot on summer days.
In the end, you may decide to forget the manicured lawn entirely and go all-natural with a yard of wildflowers. But, be aware that tall grass may hide disease-carrying pests like ticks. Keep your pup up to date on their vaccinations and flea-and-tick protection and regularly check every inch of your dog for a sneaky insect hitchhiker.
Fencing: It’s up to you how you provide a safe barrier that gives your dog freedom to romp and play while also preventing roaming. Remember that wooden fences should be at least four feet tall (if you have a big dog, we recommend five or six feet!) and also include below-ground chicken wire a foot deep, to deter diggers.
When it comes to invisible fences, there’s some debate on the ethical use of shock-based corrections. If you do opt for an electric fence, do so responsibly: take the time to put out flags and train your pup where the boundaries are, use shockfree corrections such as tones or vibrations when at all possible, and don’t purposefully lure your dog over the barrier “so they know what it feels like.”
Or, you could opt for a similar but shockfree option. For example, the Wagz dog collar uses tones and vibrations only and is GPS-based, therefore not requiring an extensive underground installation.
Fence Window: Why not let your dog see if the grass really is greener on the other side? Use a built-in window or a fishbowl-shaped peephole in the fence to give your dog a glimpse of the outside world, or even allow them limited interactions with the doggy next door. (Assuming your neighbors approve and your pups are polite playmates, of course!)
Paved Dog Paths: If your dog is a patroller and starting to wear a trail along their normal route, why not give in and make it an official path? (Then it looks like it’s YOUR idea, not Fido’s!)
Designated Potty Spot: When landscaping with dogs, one of the best ways to protect your creative efforts is to give your dog their own “business space,” and be consistent about leading them there with every potty break. This minimizes damage to your lawn as well as the chance of any humans stepping in an unpleasant surprise.
Dog-Safe Sandbox: Digging is a fun, natural behavior for dogs, so it’s a tad unfair to expect your dirt-happy dog to never indulge ever. A canine-friendly sandbox can be the perfect compromise! Bury treats, toys and other goodies in the sand to encourage your dog to dig there. Dogs are gamblers, so once they know the sandbox potentially contains a nice surprise, they’ll keep coming back to dig and check — just in case.
If you’re consistent and lead your dog over to the sandbox every time they try to dig elsewhere in the yard, they’ll understand that this is the place they can get dirty to their furry heart’s content.
Doggy “Flop Spot”: Dogs like to lay on something cool on hot days, and mud or dirt is generally cooler than the surrounding grass. Sometimes that may be the reason why your pup is digging up the dirt: to make themselves a cool place to sit. Save them the trouble (and save yourself the cleanup) by making an appealing “flop spot” for them intentionally!
Doggy Pool: Some dogs aren’t thrilled about getting wet — but many pups love a good splash, especially in those hot summer months! If you don’t have a swimming pool (or would rather not have dog hair clogging the filters), an inflatable or plastic “kiddie pool” is the perfect solution to let your pup cool off in the water, while keeping the clean-up easy for you.
Outdoor Shelter: Gone are the days of the family dog living exclusively in a doghouse in the backyard — but it’s still good to have one available for Fido whenever they want it! Some outdoor dog shelters are elaborate three-story sanctuaries, while others are a humble overhang. Either way, it’s nice for your dog to have some shade or protection from the wind.
Obstacle Course: Active dogs love to jump, climb, weave and leap! Any sturdy object that your dog can safely interact with, such as a bridge, jump or tunnel, breaks up a boring lawn with something a little more interesting in your pooch’s eyes.
Mental Enrichment Games: Some canine “brain games” are large items that can be built or positioned outside, such as the Spin-Out Dog Treat Game. Use your pup’s favorite freeze-dried treats to REALLY motivate Fido to solve the puzzle!
Paw-Washing Station: As much as your dog loves the great outdoors, they will eventually want to come inside and snooze on the couch — and nobody likes muddy paw-prints on the carpet or floor! Save yourself the hassle and expense of carpet cleaner by setting up a convenient paw-washing station just outside the door.
Yes, Virginia, dogs and lawns CAN co-exist. By investing in dog friendly landscaping, you’ll be able to craft a cozy outdoor haven for both you and your best pals to safely enjoy!