Plan For Pet-Friendly Yard Exercise, Fences Can Keep Plants Safe From Dogs.
By Gina Spadafori
Every year more of my yard gets turned over to sustainable projects, from my pet chickens and their fresh eggs to an ever-growing collection of raised beds and containers planted with the veggies I love — and some flowers, too.
This year, I’m taking back a huge swath of lawn, fencing it off and having a contractor really go to town, doubling the size of my garden and putting in drip irrigation and mulched paths to save on weeding and water. The way I’m planning it, my yard will be beautiful and productive — and I’m doing this while continuing to share my life with my dogs.
And you can, too. That’s because dogs and lush gardens — whether productive or decorative — aren’t mutually exclusive.
You can’t just plant whatever you want where you want it and throw a bored, unsupervised dog into the mix. Instead, plan your yard to take your dog into account, and mind your dog’s needs to get him to leave the plants alone. The basic guidelines:
• Exercise your dog. A dog with too much energy isn’t one you want to leave alone all day in a nice yard — and yet that’s exactly what many people do. If you don’t take care of your dog’s exercise requirements, he’s going to take care of them on his own, by digging a hole to China or by removing the shrubs in your yard.
Dogs who don’t get daily exercise are likely to expend that energy and cure boredom by doing things people don’t like — digging, chewing and barking. Dogs who are well-exercised are more likely to sleep while you are gone. When you leave, you should also offer your dog alternatives to choosing his own amusements: Provide him with chew toys. You can make them more appealing by praising him for using them and by stuffing hollow toys — such as a Kong — with something delicious, like peanut butter.
• Work with your dog’s habits. Observe how your dog uses your yard, and plan accordingly. For instance, many dogs consider it their duty to run the fence line, leaving a well-worn trail where many people hope to put flowers. Instead of fighting with your dog, go with his natural instincts. Place your beds and plantings away from the fence line, and let him do his guard-dog patrolling behind those plants.
• Consider giving your dog a yard of his own. At my house, the dogs are never let out in the main yard without supervision — and the veggie garden and chicken areas are fenced off — but they come and go at will into a side yard that’s just for them. A low fence covered with climbing roses hides from view both the dog yard and the chicken/veggie areas.
• Redirect digging. Some breeds were developed to dig, and expecting them not to indulge in it is unfair. You can find most of these digging dogs in the terrier group — the word terrier comes from terra, for “earth.”
You can keep many dogs from digging if you keep them exercised, limit their access to dirt and make the digging experience unpleasant. Sometimes, putting the dog’s own stools in the hole and covering them with dirt deters them. Many dogs won’t dig if their own mess is under the surface.
Another option is giving your dog a dig zone. While hardly clean fun, it is good fun, especially for dogs who are happiest with their noses in the dirt and their paws flying.
• Put special plants in safer places. Raised beds and hanging planters are the place to put your most precious plants. In borders, put the plants that can take being stepped on in front. What are some dog-friendly plants? Mint is a good one. This plant is nearly indestructible and greets each assault with a wave of cool mint smell. Some lilies are tough enough to be stomped or sat on, as well, and your gardening center may have suggestions for others that are dependable growers in your region.
Dogs don’t know a wisteria from a weed, and they never will. That’s why it’s up to you not to leave them unattended around plants you want left alone. When you leave for work, limit your dog’s space for his safety and to protect your plants. Most of a dog’s time alone is spent sleeping anyway, so he doesn’t need to have the entire run of the house and yard. Outings — for jogging, walking, fetch or swimming — should be done with your supervision.
If your dog is allowed in your yard under your supervision only, the chance of his digging or chewing is just about nil — you can stop him before the damage is done. And you can enjoy your beautiful yard together.
I know at my home, we do.