Every dog loves a garden to frolic in, but some gardens are much better suited to pooches than others. Whether you’re revamping your space, introducing your dog to a new garden or preparing to bring a new pup into your home, planning a dog-friendly space keeps your dog safe and well and ensures your garden can withstand your pup’s frolicking with minimal damage. Here’s how to make your garden a dog-friendly sanctuary.

Dog Standing Beside Tree

How Dogs Interact with Gardens

Dogs are naturally curious creatures who love to poke around in nature. With some forethought, your garden can offer far more than just a space for them to run! 

Just as we humans love to meander through a well-kept garden and enjoy the different sights, smells and textures of plants, your dog will gain the most stimulation from a well-planned landscape with various plants and pathways to explore. Dogs are less sensitive to colour than most humans, so prioritise scents and textures for them to enjoy. Planting a range of sturdy ground covers, not just lawn, creates exciting options for exploration, and planting a range of different herbs can keep your pooch engaged in the olfactory exploration for hours.

As many of us know all too well, some dogs love to dig. While excessive digging can be a symptom of boredom or anxiety, it can also be your dog’s natural instinct. If you’ve got a tunneler on your hands, consider creating a designating digging zone full of dirt, bark or sand. You can teach your dog to dig there – and make it a fun game – by burying treats for them to unearth.

Benefits of a Dog-Friendly Garden 

We all know that dogs benefit from fresh air and exercise, so if you can provide your pooch with a dog-friendly garden, you’re setting them up for optimum health and well-being. Aside from the physical health benefits of having space to run and play, being outside can also improve your dog’s mental well-being by providing a stimulating environment, thereby reducing boredom-related behavioural issues that can come with being cooped up indoors all day. 

Having a dog-friendly garden can benefit you as a dog parent, too! Spending time in the garden is scientifically proven to provide a whole host of health and wellbeing perks for us humans, so creating a space you and your dog can enjoy together will leave you both better off.

Lastly, while it’s always best to supervise your dog outdoors, a secure, dog-safe, dog-proof garden may allow you to leave your well-trained dog outdoors unattended for short periods, which can be preferable to being locked indoors in some instances.

Cute Labrador Dog Sitting in a Garden

Common Garden Hazards for Dogs

While they can be welcoming sanctuaries, gardens are also full of potential hazards for dogs. The good news is that most of these dangers can be easily avoided once you’re aware of them.

First off, stay on top of pests and other garden visitors. Slugs, snails and even frogs can cause illness if ingested by your dog, so it’s important to maintain pest management if your garden attracts these critters. You must also be careful about dealing with your pests and avoid using chemicals that may harm your pooch.

Generally, it’s best to avoid harsh chemicals in your dog-safe garden. Choosing organic pest control methods, mulches and fertilisers is usually safer. That said, even some organic substances can be toxic to dogs – take cocoa mulch, for example, which is dangerous if ingested. So, always do your research before introducing a new substance to your yard.

Lastly, you’ll need to avoid toxic plants. As we all know, many curious dogs will happily take a nibble at just about anything, so you’ll need to ensure that your plants don’t pose a risk if ingested. Some very common plants are, in fact, toxic for dogs and need to be avoided – we’ve listed some of those below.

person with Corgi looking through branches of a pink blossom tree

Dog Safe Plants

While many plants are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, many common species are toxic to dogs. 

Toxic varieties include chrysanthemum, wisteria, begonia and foxglove, to name a few. Dog-safe options include common herbs like basil and fragrant flowering shrubs like lavender. You should always do your research to determine whether a particular plant is toxic or safe before planting it. This is especially important if your dog is roaming your garden unattended, as you won’t be around to watch what they happen to nibble on.  

Beyond choosing nontoxic plants, you should also consider planting robust varieties that will withstand any rambunctious behaviour from your pup. This is particularly true if you have a larger dog or one who loves to explore, as they may inadvertently trample more delicate stems, petals or leaves. Sturdier hedges, perennials and robust groundcovers are a safe bet.

Tips for Making a Dog-Safe Garden

Whether you already have a garden or plan to create a new outdoor sanctuary for your dog, safety is key. In addition to avoiding toxic plants that could harm your dog if ingested, you should also consider the following safety considerations.

Fencing and barriers

Secure fencing is essential to keep your dog safe and sound inside your garden, particularly if you live in an urban environment surrounded by roads and other hazards. The type of fencing you choose will depend on your dog’s size and their level of escape artistry! Some dogs are surprisingly capable of jumping high objects, while others are tunnelling masterminds. If you have a large, established garden that you want to preserve, you might choose to only fence off a smaller, designated dog-friendly area. Once you’ve decided on the fence for you, you can choose to DIY or call in the professionals.

While you’re at it, be sure to fence off any potential hazards. You might like to put up a barrier to create a separate area for garden essentials that you don’t want your dog to access, like your tools and your compost bin. Dogs love to dig in compost piles, but they often contain food scraps that are dangerous to pups, like onion and corn.

 Safe pest control

Common garden critters like slugs and snails aren’t just bad for your plants; they can be dangerous if consumed by your dog. But some chemical pest control methods, like slug pellets, can also be toxic to your dog. It’s important to manage pests with an organic and dog-safe control method. Always ensure your product is non-toxic before introducing it to your dog-friendly zone.

Hot weather protection

Like humans, dogs can quickly become dehydrated or suffer heat stroke when exposed to hot weather or too much sun. Ensure your garden has areas of shade that your dog can retreat to, to cool off during the summer. 

Always leave plenty of water out, with multiple water bowls available in case one gets tipped over. You can even fill a paddling pool or clamshell with water for your pooch to splash in on hot days—just be sure you’re around to supervise any bathing and store it upturned when not in use.

Pack away tools and chemicals

Keep any potential hazards, like gardening tools, mulches, manures and compost piles away from your pup. Consider storing these in a locked garden shed or, as mentioned above, in a fenced-off area your pooch can’t access. While we’re on the topic of tidying up, don’t leave any potential stepping aids leaning near your fence – overturned pots and waste bins are common culprits!

Soaked wet Long-coated Dog Opens Mouth at Water Streams on Green Grass

Designing a Dog-Friendly Garden

If you start thinking like your dog, designing your dog-friendly garden becomes easy. Remember, dogs need a combination of space to run and play for their physical health and sensory stimulation to engage their mental faculties. 

Consider designing a dog-friendly layout with a mix of paths and open space for running, play areas, and shaded and sunny spots to relax in. While a lawned area can be great for getting the zoomies out, there’s so much more fun to be had in a garden that combines open space with different types of plants and play zones to explore. If your dog loves to dig, a designated digging zone can be a fun and practical garden saver. 

Planting various shrubs, flowers, herbs, and groundcovers with different textures and scents is another sure way to stimulate your space. Choose dog-friendly plants that are safe and interesting for your dog to explore, avoiding any toxic plants and substances in your design.  

As mentioned above, you should plan your fencing to suit your dog’s size and temperament and your existing garden layout. Consider whether you want your dog to access all garden areas or if it would be safer for them to stick to particular zones. You might create a separate fenced-off area to prevent your dog from accessing hazards like gardening tools, potting mix and compost piles. A lock-up shed could also do the trick!

Woman working with soil in garden with a black dog beside her

Maintaining Your Dog-Friendly Garden

Establishing a dog-friendly garden is only just the beginning. Maintaining your space to remain a dog-friendly haven for years to come is important. 

Stay on top of your pest control using dog-safe organic methods. As we’ve mentioned, common pests like slugs and snails can be dangerous for dogs, so it’s important to keep them at bay using dog-friendly, non-toxic methods. 

Keep things tidy. Check your fencing and gate latches regularly for faults or potential escape routes, and avoid leaving objects nearby that could act as assistive platforms for curious escapees. Always pack away your tools, especially anything sharp. 

When it’s time to top up your mulch, fertilise your plants, change up your gardening products or introduce new species, always remember to do a quick internet search to confirm that they’re dog-safe. Similarly, if you enlist the help of a hired gardener, be sure they’re well-informed and careful not to use any toxic substances or products that may harm your pooch if ingested.

Lastly, you may need to hose down your lawn regularly to prevent yellowing. Dog pee can cause patches of die-off on lawns, so if you want your space to look green, it’s important to wash away any urine.

Many green thumbs abide by a seasonal maintenance routine to keep their gardens in shape, with a list of jobs and activities to get stuck into whenever spring, summer, winter and autumn roll around. You might like to add this list of dog-friendly checks and maintenance tips to your own seasonal to-do list.

Whether you’re preparing to bring a new pup home or revamping your dog’s existing outdoor space, you can make your garden safer and more stimulating for your pooch. From small tweaks to big landscaping overhauls, if you have a garden, you more than likely have a dog-friendly project waiting to happen! So, get out there – your mind, body and pooch will all thank you!