Landscaping With Your Dog in Mind --- A Dog Friendly Garden
By: Leah Richman
As a Texas spring is upon us, now is the time you may start thinking of adding pops of color into your garden, or start that landscaping project you’ve been imagining through the colder months. As fur-parents, it’s important to keep in mind that not all plants are pooch-friendly, or sturdy (calling all nut-runners out there).
Safe Edible Plants and Herbs
Lavender, rosemary and mint are not only herb garden staples, they actually keep fleas and mosquitos at bay and are safe if ingested. Basil, oregano and parsley are also standards in any herb garden that can be safely planted with no potential harm to your dog. Basil and oregano both contain antimicrobial and antifungal properties so if your pup should come into contact – have no fear! Blueberry, strawberry and blackberry bushes can add dimension to a yard and also provide you with fresh fruit and are safe for dogs. Avoid aloe as it can be harmful if ingested.
When working with dog-sturdy plants think of ornamental grasses and low lying shrubs. Many woody shrubs can stand up to the majority of canine activities and can bounce back from your dog’s daily exercise through the yard. Red Twig dogwood and forsythia provide year round color, are budget-friendly due to being mostly weather-proof and low maintenance while being non-toxic to dogs. When considering small trees, consider the Smoke tree which has billowy purple to dark mauve blooms and can grow 10-12 feet high and can add focal points through your landscaping or a singular focal point in a small garden. Ornamental grasses can provide texture and interest to any outdoor space and almost all ornamental grasses are safe for dogs with the exception of grass palm and pampas grass which has opposing information that claim toxicity vs non-toxicity so proceed with caution at your local nursery. Consider adding fountain grass amongst mulch for a low maintenance, low water-usage option. Avoid oleander and Sago palm as they are both highly poisonous, though they are frequently used in landscaping in this region.
Ground covering works great in gardens and bigger yards alike and works well between stepping stones and through garden beds. Irish moss, silver carpet, elfin thyme and snow in summer make great additions to your garden and are dog-traffic safe. All the previously listed options are drought-tolerant while snow in summer adds small white blooms that look beautiful between paving stones. When speaking mulch – all natural wood mulches are safe. Avoid cocoa mulch as it can have adverse reactions to dogs when ingested as it can contain theobromine and caffeine from cacao shells. Although manufacturers have stated that their processes have recently changed to not include these two compounds, it is best to avoid this type of mulch all together. When using more “hardscape” materials in your landscaping such as mulches, paving stones and concrete, it is a sure way to lengthen the life of your landscape if you have a high energy dog or multiple dogs.
Non-Toxic Flowers and Flowering Plants
Petunias, snapdragons, violets and African daisies add instant color and are safe annuals while being hardy in the Texas heat. Roses, astilbe and scarlet sage are great options for perennials that add a beautiful punch of color. Avoid morning glory, daffodils, hyacinth, hydrangeas, hosta, begonias, iris and lily of the valley as these go-to landscaping picks are dangerous if Fido consumes them.
More Landscaping Tips for a Dog Friendly Space
Do: Use all natural fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides on plants and lawn
Don’t: Use toxic pesticides and plant care. The National Institute of Health found that toxic pesticides that are professionally applied are associated with a 70% higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma
Do: Train your pup to go to the bathroom in one specific spot in the yard/garden. An option is to create a small patch of gravel that can easily be hosed down. It may take time to train your dog but will be well worth it!
Don’t: Lose it if you find brown spots in the lawn – reseeding is easy
Do: Create a shady spot for your dog to cool off and escape the hot summer sun
Don’t: Forget to provide access to fresh, cool water when the dogs are outside
Do: Consider using pathways with paw friendly materials such as concrete, flagstone and smooth river stones. Dog’s feel it is their job to patrol the yard – don’t fight their instincts
Don’t: Forget to keep your dog safe by using appropriate fencing and barriers
Do: Think like a dog. You know your dog’s personality best – the better you can accommodate your dog’s personality traits the happier you will both be. If you have a digger, consider putting in a small sand box as a digging pit to deter your dog from digging up plants (bonus pet parent points for that one). If you have a watcher, consider adding a flat, large rock as a lookout platform.
Don’t: Give up on the idea that the perfect yard is out of reach! A place where you and dog can enjoy the space is attainable.
For more information on pet-safe landscaping and gardening plants and shrubs, please visit the ASPA poisonous plant page which details every plant type that is hazardous to pets.