Dog playing in hole in garden

8 Dog-friendly Garden Ideas and Yard Care Tips

Your yard is a place you can get outside and enjoy nature without leaving home, and your dog wants to enjoy doing the same. Dogs love it outside as much as we do — planning a healthy, safe outdoor space for them in your yard doesn’t have to be a chore! 

Gardening and taking care of your lawn in a dog-safe way helps keep your home and yard safe for both your dog and your plants, and means far less worry for you. That means less frustration and more outdoor enjoyment for you and your dog! 

Here are some ways to plan your garden and lawn care with your dog in mind: 

corgi laying on back in grass, enjoying the outdoors and back yard corgi laying on back in grass, enjoying the outdoors and back yard

Dig a Digging Pit Away from Your Garden

Give dogs a place to practice their excavation skills without disrupting your garden beds, preferably in a shaded location. You might entice them to use it by lightly burying a treat-filled chew toy (as they watch you).

Create a "Patrolling" Area

Leave a plant-free zone (grass and ground cover are fine) around the perimeter of your yard for your dog to patrol the area. Dogs instinctively cruise boundaries and fence lines, so plan your layout accordingly and move the delicate, not-to-be-pawed plants farther from the edges. 

westie dog outside in the garden, smelling daffodil flowers westie dog outside in the garden, smelling daffodil flowers

Find Dog-friendly Garden Plants

Just like houseplants, plenty of plant varieties aren’t safe for dogs, either because they are toxic to their systems (like azaleas, rhododendron or calla lilies to name a few) or because their natural defenses may harm dogs (like thorny roses or the chocking-hazard pits in plums or apricots).  

Remember it’s not just the fruit or flower of a garden plant you have to be mindful of, but the whole plant from root to stem. Take care when selecting plants for your garden that you understand any toxicity they might have and stick to plants that are safe for dogs. 

Be Careful with Mulches

It’s best to avoid mulches that contain cocoa beans — their chocolaty smell makes them pup catnip, but they contain theobromine just like chocolate, which is toxic for dogs. Dyed mulches can also be a problem for dogs depending on the dye used. Always check the content on the label of your mulch or ask a landscaping specialist about the contents of your mulch to be sure it won’t harm your dog. 

Keep the Fertilizer Closed

Plant food is great for plants, but it shouldn’t become a meal for your dog! Follow the instructions on whatever fertilizer you choose to use in your yard about application and timing. And of course, keep all fertilizers closed and secured when stored. You don’t want a curious pup to end up with an upset stomach! 

Say No to Snail Bait

Snails may be a plague for your plants, but avoid using snail bait products containing metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to dogs and cats. Copper barrier tape is a good alternative; slugs and snails are deterred from crossing it by the tape's tiny, harmless electric charge. If you prefer a chemical-free approach, options like crushed eggshells, lava rock and horticultural grit are worth looking into. Soft-bodied snails and slugs avoid crossing these materials because of their uncomfortable texture.

dog happy in garden of pink flowers dog happy in garden of pink flowers

Protect Your Garden Plants with Dog Barriers

Excited wagging and pawing is a sign your dog is enjoying being outside, but it can be less exciting for you when it happens in your flower or vegetable beds. Make it harder for your dog to reach plants that you want to protect by building barriers with materials like chicken wire or by installing raised beds to elevate your gardening pursuits. For young trees, you’ll also want to be sure they’re staked careful and check the stakes often — just in case your dog has managed to nudge them out of position. 

Avoid Any Chemicals You Wouldn't Want Tracked in

Your dog will want to explore and enjoy your yard, so make sure they won’t be walking through chemicals that could harm them (or you if they carry them into the house by contact). Even if your dog is unlikely to ingest anything, chemicals can be absorbed right through their paw pads. 

If you do need to use chemicals, be sure to check the labels on your lawn care products about how long to wait after treating your lawn before letting your dog out to enjoy. Many are considered safe for pets so long as your dog doesn’t go out to enjoy the yard for at least 24 hours after application.

Dogs and humans alike benefit from getting outside to enjoy the yard. By keeping your yard safe for dogs, and keeping plants and supplies that aren’t safe for dogs out of your design (or at least out of your pup’s reach), you’ll be making a safe space for them to roll around and play. And what more could any dog wish for? 


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