Creating a Pet-Friendly Yard for Your Fur Buddy
Keep your pet safe and happy while protecting your yard.
Whether you use your yard as a quiet retreat or the ultimate entertaining space, time spent with family and friends is likely a top priority. It goes without saying that this includes furry members of the family, too.
Dogs are our best friends, so why not design your backyard with your four-legged friend in mind? Consider these pet-friendly features when working with a landscape professional to design your ideal backyard.
After a round of fetch in the hot sun, there’s no better way for a dog to cool off than splashing around in a pool or fountain made just for him. Sure, a hard plastic kiddie pool would do the job, but that probably doesn’t align with your yard’s aesthetic.
A low fountain or shallow pond lined with smooth stones is perfect for taking a quick dip. Not only will this provide your dog with entertainment and a place to cool down, the feature also enhances the relaxation for homeowners through its soothing sights and sounds.
If your dog really enjoys making a splash, let him take a dip in the family pool. Most dogs can learn how to enter and exit an existing pool with a staircase, but if you’re installing a new one, consider adding a sun shelf. This flat, elevated section of the pool floor is raised just below the surface of the water — a perfect spot for people to lounge and for dogs to get in and out of the pool easily. Be sure to discourage Fido from drinking chlorinated pool water, and have a garden hose nearby to rinse fur when he’s done swimming.
Sandbox for Digging
While all dogs dig, some breeds — like terriers, beagles, basset hounds and dachshunds — were born for it. For dogs that dig when bored or anxious, providing a designated spot can help save your flower beds from being excavated. Rather than trying to force your dog to stop digging, give him a designated space to get the behavior out of his system where he won’t hurt the lawn, soil or your plants.
A simple doggy sandbox should be eight to 12 inches deep and large enough for your dog to comfortably lay down inside. Line the bottom and sides with concrete or stone to prevent weeds from working their way in (leave a few holes for drainage), and fill the finished pit with playground sand. Cover the sand pit at night to keep other animals out.
Plenty of Pathways
Anyone who’s ever walked a dog on a leash knows that they love to explore — and patrol their territory. In the backyard, however, walking the same path over and over again tramples the grass and compacts the soil, creating thin or bare patches of grass.
Integrating pathways into your backyard landscape design keeps dogs entertained while moving throughout the yard. It also defines portions of the landscape, so dogs stay away from flower beds and other plants. Use pavers or pea gravel that are comfortable for paws and don’t get too hot in the sun.
Lawn Space for Playing
Turfgrass is a naturally soft, durable play surface, but remember to treat it with your pet’s well-being in mind. Consider using organic products, compost and limiting chemical pest control. If you’re planting a new lawn for your dog, look for native turfgrass that will thrive in your area.
Other options include synthetic turf or grass alternatives. For example, non-toxic ground cover plants like Irish moss, silver carpet, labrador violet or creeping thyme grow low to the ground and spread out horizontally, creating durability and a similar appearance to a turfgrass lawn.
Dogs need shade to relax and cool off, especially in the warmer months. Underneath a shade tree is a natural choice, but if that’s not an option, a tepee or doghouse that offers plenty of ventilation will fit the bill. You can also place an elevated dog bed under an awning, pergola or other covered outdoor living space.
Preventing fleas goes hand-in-hand with dog ownership. Luckily, there are many ways to repel them in your yard, including the use of certain plants. Plants that naturally overwhelm fleas’ senses and steer them away from your lawn — and are non-toxic to dogs — include catnip, marigolds, rosemary and sage. Using cedar chips as mulch in a flea-repelling garden provides even more potency.