black and white collie dog resting on pink phlox flowers

How to have a dog friendly garden

Make your garden dog friendly and avoid any future problems

If you keep dogs then you will probably have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re never going to have a perfect garden, but there are several steps you can take to keep your pet safe and the garden looking as good as possible. First of all you need to secure the garden to prevent your pet from escaping. For a large active dog you need a 180cm (6’) fence and gate and it must come down to rest on the soil. If there is the slightest gap underneath it could be just the invitation your dog needs to start digging to freedom. Having a solid fence also removes the temptation of the ‘grass being greener’ on the other side, an alliance with an attractive dog or the chance for a fight. Wire fencing with an attraction on the other side could be just the impetus needed to jump over or crawl underneath. Don’t forget to lock the gate just in case they get the hang of opening the latch!

Try and keep your dog off the flower beds, they not only wreck the plants but also bring a lot of mud into the house too. You can do this by making clearly defined paths which are quite smooth underfoot, so no sharp gravel, and which are durable, brick setts and paving are ideal. Try and define your path with a low hedge; ideal plants would be Taxus baccata (Yew), Lavender or Sarcocca (Christmas Box) which smells gorgeous in winter when there is very little else of interest. Creating raised beds can also help keep the pooch on the path, they are also easier to garden if you have a bad back!

dog running down grass path

Why not create them a place of their own where they can go to the toilet and rest in the cool shade when it gets too hot; writing this in the middle of winter with snow on the ground this seems like a distant fantasy! If you have a lawn it pays to train your pet to urinate in a specific spot as urine from a bitch will kill the grass and you will end up with it covered in brown patches. Equally it will stop male dogs killing your favourite plants. If your dog does urinate on the lawn try and dilute it immediately with a couple of watering cans full of clean water. Training your dog to go in the same place and worming regularly reduces the risk of the faeces spreading Toxocara canis (Dog roundworm) which can cause Toxocariasis in humans leading to loss of vision and respiratory problems.

Plant soft leaved plants next to a path to reduce the risk of any spines or thorns getting into your pets eye. Also try not to plant grasses with barbed seeds as they get stuck in the coat. When introducing a new plant buy an established specimen as it will be much more likely to survive being trampled. Choose robust plants which will come back if they do get flattened; try Rudbeckia hirta (Blackeyed Susan), Lavender, Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy) or the perennial geraniums. Plants to avoid include: Ranunculus (Buttercups), Narcissus (Daffodil), Daphne, Delphinium, Hydrangea, tomatoes, Wisteria and Taxus baccata (Yew) as they are toxic to dogs. If your borders look like an impenetrable jungle then your dog will think twice before entering so try and pack in the plants. If you suspect that your dog may have eaten a harmful plant take them to the vet straight away.

When it comes to chemicals try not to use any, but if you have to, make sure they are stored out of harm’s way, behind a secure door and too high to be accessible. If you are using slug pellets make sure that they are an eco-friendly brand and not toxic to pets. Alternatively use sharp grit, beer traps, bran, crushed beech leaves or orange skins. Don’t add any chemicals or water purifiers to ponds and water features in case they drink the water. When it comes to mulching the borders just use home-made compost, leaf mould or chipped bark, don’t use the coco shell mulch as this smells of chocolate which could lead to the dog eating it and becoming ill. If you have a compost bin where you put food scraps make sure that it is not accessible. If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool or a large pond make sure that your pet can’t get in as it will be unable to get out of a pool and could become tangled in the vegetation in a pond.

It just takes a little thought and time to make your garden a safe secure place for your pet to play but not doing so could prove fatal. It’s also easier to fence the garden as soon as you get a new dog than it is to retrieve it from all over the neighbourhood.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas