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Dog-Friendly Yards

Coexisting With Dogs in Your Yard

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Give Fido a fire hydrant.

Landscaping with dogs isn't just about solving problems. Have some fun with it, too.

David Beaulieu

On Page 1 we opened with some tips for adjusting your landscaping so as to accomodate dogs, without giving up the quest for a beautiful yard. Below we continue the discussion on dog-friendly yards. In concluding, we'll also switch perspectives and see what can be done on the dogs' end to solve the problem of "dog spots."

Strategy #5: Fences for Dog-Friendly Yards

One way to keep dogs away from the delicate plants in your yard is by building fences around them. Wood picket fences are especially attractive. Plant some perennial flowers behind a white picket fence, and you're well on your way to creating an English country garden.

Strategy #6: Wire Cages

Place wire cages around trees and shrubs to prevent dog urine from reaching their trunks and roots and damaging them. That way, dogs can go about their business and you can relax, secure in the knowledge that Fido's urine won't be killing your favorite specimen. Wire cages are fairly simple to build:

  • Buy a roll of chicken wire, tall enough that your dogs can't jump over it.
  • Drive 4 stakes into the ground around the tree or shrub, about 2 feet away from any foliage or bark. Now measure the perimeter of the square area formed by the stakes.
  • Using that measurement, cut off a length of the wire.
  • Now run the length of wire from stake to stake, tying the wire to the stakes (e.g., with twist-ties).
  • The result is an enclosure that will keep Fido at bay.

Note, however, that this strategy represents a severe compromise for your landscaping. Use it only as a last resort. Chicken-wire is not especially attractive. But you could dress up such a wire cage by using decorative posts for your stakes.

Strategy #7: The Path of Least Resistance to Dog-Friendly Yards

If a fence surrounds your property, do not try to grow any plants in the area immediately adjacent to the fence. Dogs are territorial, and their favorite path in a fenced-in yard will be right along the fence. Unsightly "dog paths" are the result of this predictable behavior.

Rather than fighting it, plan your yard around your dog's predictability. Install stone walkways over existing dog paths. Now everyone will be happy: the dog still has its path, and you get to have a better looking yard. Stone walkways exude charm and are a desirable addition to your landscaping regardless of dog problems.

Landscaping With Dogs: Adjustments to Your Dogs

Finally, consider a strategy that attacks the problem at the dogs' end of it. The following strategy can help with the problem of "dog spots":

Strategy #8: Dog Behavior Modification

Another option is to train your dogs so as to restrict their "toilet space" to a designated area. To facilitate clean-up, make sure that designated area has a surface of dirt or gravel.

Some have suggested that a change in a dog's diet (for instance, mixing a bit of tomato juice into dog food) may neutralize the harmful elements in dog urine before it ever has a chance to harm your grass. As far as I know, however, the evidence that this strategy works is merely anecdotal.

A Final Consideration for Dog-Friendly Yards

If the plantings in your yard possess any significant degree of diversity, there's a good chance that you're growing poisonous plants -- without even knowing it. You'd be surprised at how many of the most common landscape plants and native volunteers contain at least some parts (leaves, berries, etc.) that are toxic. Personally, this doesn't worry me, as I rarely feel the temptation to nibble on my plants as I stroll through my yard. However, if you have dogs, cats, small children, or an uncontrollable appetite, it behooves you to learn more about poisonous plants.

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