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Special Feature

Pet-Friendly Gardens

by Scott Broecker

prince with daffodils

A lush green lawn surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers. A safe, secure and durable yard where my dog can play and lounge. Two ideal visions that are not always compatible.

With proper planning and the right materials, it is possible to have both a pet-friendly and beautiful, low-maintenance yard and garden. Whether you are making small improvements or doing a complete yard makeover, there are many things to consider when designing your ideal pet-friendly landscape. A good plan is one that protects your garden from your dog and vice versa.

Having a secure yard is essential to keeping your dog safe. Inspecting and repairing gaps in your fence by adding garden boards or bricks is important, especially if your dog is one of those who may be prone to digging, like Terriers and Dachshunds.

It is always a good idea to make sure your gates are fully closed before letting dogs out into the yard. A great way to help insure that is to install a self-closing spring hinge to each gate. Once your yard is secure, you can focus on your hardscape and plantings.
When dogs are having fun, they are likely to disregard your fine plantings; garden beds may get dug up, flowers can get trampled, and delicate stems and branches may be broken off.
Large plants and shrubs are less vulnerable when they are planted close together forming a dense barrier that your dog would just as soon go around. Delicate plants might best be protected in raised beds and containers. That way, during games of fetch, Fido can rocket right past them without doing them harm.
As far as plants that might harm your dog, some of the more common ones are aloe, azalea, daffodils and even daisies. Plants that drop seeds and fruits that can easily be ingested pose a bigger threat and include the common holly tree and English ivy. For a more complete list of toxic plants, please check the ASPCA website at www.aspca.org .

Other garden hazards for dogs include pesticides, bait traps, snail bait, and fertilizers which could all be lethal, Many non-toxic alternatives for these products are available, such as using white wine vinegar to kill weeds. There are also non-toxic substitutes for Roundup, such as BurnOut, which utilizes the properties of clove oil.

A good way to discourage digging is to keep bare soil covered with bark or leaf mulch. Another danger to be aware of is the use of cocoa mulch.  Made from cocoa shells, it smells like chocolate and, like anything that smells like food to a dog, it is likely to be eaten and can be very toxic. (National Animal Poison Control Center 800-548-2423)


Most dog owners have experienced the frustration of trying to maintain a nice green lawn, only to end up with a patchwork of green, brown, and yellow. One less frustrating alternative is to install an artificial lawn. A quote attributed to Thomas Edison says, “Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge.” Well, with the latest advances in producing a realistic artificial turf, that day may be here, and that is great news for families with dogs, especially those with multiple dog households.
Visiting one of those multiple dog households recently after some of our heavy rains, I was amazed that after crossing a large expanse of synthetic turf, my shoes stayed completely dry. The owner said her old lawn, which sat on hard clay, took forever to drain and was hard on her enthusiastic dogs’ hips and joints. I was surprised to find out that this lawn had already been down for three years, but still looked like new, despite being pushed to the limit by her four playful Labs. Another great benefit of artificial turf is that it is practically maintenance free, requiring no watering, weeding or mowing. This gives you a lot more time to hang out, play with your dogs and enjoy your very own great outdoors.



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