Last week we looked at overall tips for gardening dogs as well as specific suggestions for dealing with digging.
High Traffic Foot Paths
Some dogs are “patrollers” and will regularly patrol the edge of your fences. Other dogs just pick the most direct route from the back door to some area of interest to them. Either way, if your dogs are wearing paths through your turf or plantings, consider turning those paths into permanent ones with landscape fabric and mulch. Use a mulch that will be comfortable for them (and you) to walk on – gravel, pine needles, finely shredded bark. If you use something uncomfortable, they may just find new paths! If making their paths permanent isn’t possible, then you’ll need to place obstacles and rearrange some interactive dog toys around your yard. This will encourage them to take different paths through the yard and garden.
If plants are getting trampled, then they are either in the direct line of your dogs’ favorite path or your dogs don’t have “regular” paths and just run everywhere. If the problem is the former, then making permanent paths and moving some plants may be the best way to go. If the trampling is indiscriminate, then we go back to the idea of not allowing your dogs access to those areas either by fencing or somehow enclosing the plantings or by providing an exclusive area for the dogs. Again, this is a problem most often if the dogs are outside for long periods by themselves. If you are out with them, you can work to train them to avoid certain areas of the landscape.
Some plants will quickly discourage dogs from trampling them. Plants with thorns, such as shrub roses or barberries will usually need to send their message only once or twice. Planting these along property edges or corners and can discourage stray dogs (or humans!) from taking shortcuts across your yard or garden. Consider buying larger shrubs when you plant them as they will more easily tolerate being brushed or nosed by your dogs. Vigorous low-growing groundcovers will also deal with being run over and cannot be knocked over or out of their planting holes.
If you don’t want your dogs leaving solid waste all over the garden, you’ll have to train them to go in a specific area. If, like all gardeners, you have the occasional “present” left for you by a stray dog or, even worse, a dog being walked by a neighbor, there is not much you can do except let it dry and clean it up. Planting some of the above mentioned thorny plants can discourage them from choosing your particular yard to their business in, but if their owner isn’t considerate enough to clean up after them, it will be an occasional problem for you to deal with. (Just a quick “Thank you!” to all you considerate dog owners who DO clean up after your pets when they go in our yards!)
Dog urine can actually be a problem in a garden or yard as well. It has a high concentration of salt and will eventually cause yellow spots in turf or weak plants in the garden. In addition to training your dogs to go in a specific area, you can hose down the area as soon as possible after they urinate. This will dilute the salts and help reduce damage to plants.
Poisonous Plants and Pesticides
Dogs can be poisoned by plants or by pesticides applied in the yard and garden. The ASPCA maintains a good web site with information on frequently encountered toxic plants. If your dog likes to chew on plants, please visit it at
As for pesticides, carefully read the labels of any herbicide or insecticide you are considering using in your yard or garden. Some suggestions for pet-friendly and non-toxic alternatives to some pesticides can be found in the “yard safety” section of the “Partnership for Animal Welfare” site: www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_WarmWeatherSafetyTips.php
Text and photo contributed by Carey Harrington, Certified Colorado Gardener