Dog lovers know that dogs are curious creatures, which leads them to smell, taste, and eat almost anything they find including bark, gravel, mulch, plants, etc. We gardeners have to be careful of their curiosity when designing our gardens. Problems can occur if they ingest something they shouldn’t while out in the yard.
Curiosity can also lead them to eat something in the yard that may not hurt them, but that you just don’t want them to eat. This presents a dilemma for the dog-loving gardener because as much as you love your pet, you also love your garden and need to protect it from your pet too.
Here are some simple things you can do to protect both and to have a happy, healthy dog and garden.
First, think about the things that a dog needs and likes and create some “dog friendly” elements so that your garden isn’t a more attractive place than her own area is. This includes creating designated paths so your furry friend knows where it is okay to roam.
Usually a dog uses the same path over and over and can be easily defined since it is well worn. To make it more formally outlined, use pavers or some other type of solid hard-scape. Gravel, mulch, or bark is loose, and anything loose is just another tempting place for them to dig and bury things.
Another very tempting place to dig is any bare dirt area. And, as any gardener knows, it’s not only tempting to dogs, bare areas are also very inviting to weeds. Put in some pet-friendly plants, grasses, and ground cover to discourage both.
Other elements you can add include designating a separate area of your backyard for your dog to dig and play in. With consistency, if you only play with her in that area and leave her toys in that area, she will get the idea that that is her turf.
You can use raised beds and/or fencing, which is what my husband did for me when he put in my raised beds last summer. It has both a beautiful basket fence around the raised beds and a gate. Not only did it keep our dog out, it also looks nice, and created a separate vegetable area.
If you don’t have room to fence off a separate area, to protect plants from your dog, use tomato cages around them and around small tender plants. Even trellises and teepees will help keep them off the plants and so will growing plants close together; the dog would prefer to go around clumps of plants since it is easier.
If your dog is especially playful and nothing seems to stop her, consider putting your most delicate plants in containers, hanging baskets, or window boxes.
Aside from keeping them out of your beloved vegetables and flowers, one of the most important things you need to do is avoid planting things in your garden that are toxic or harmful to your best friend.
The ASPCA web site www.aspca.org/toxicplants has a complete list of toxic and harmful plants so make sure you check before you plant. For example, some very common plants that are on that list include castor beans, oleander, azalea, yew plant, foxglove, and rhododendron.
Also, think before planting spiny or thorny plants since they are at a level that can cause serious eye injuries to your dog. Take care of weeds or grasses that are overgrown since they can have foxtails or seed heads that are sharp, which can be harmful if your dog swallows or inhales them.
And, as if there weren’t already enough reasons to go organic, if you need another one, treating your lawn or garden with fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides and fertilizers can be harmful to your dog if ingested. Always use nontoxic gardening products such as Sluggo or Sluggo Plus for snails and slugs.