Tips for a Dog Friendly Yard 

We love our pets and our yards, but the two don’t always live in harmony. The key to a dog friendly yard is to combine functional space with beautiful landscaping both you and your dog will enjoy.

When planning a dog friendly landscape, think of the yard as a house, with different rooms for different purposes. Although each area has a specific function, with good design you can seamlessly meld them together into a cohesive space.

Create Rooms

The Bathroom. Ideally you can designate an area just for pet waste. If you have a puppy train them to use this area only.

The Playroom. We all know how most dogs like to run and play. This space could be an area of grass or even your patio. Creative use of space may even allow for a dedicated dog run connecting your door to a fenced area just for the dog.

The Living Room. Dogs want to be with their people, so think about your pet’s needs in the outdoor living area. Do you need to add a shady spot so they can get out of the sun? Or a sunny space for napping? Just like people, pets want to be comfortable and relaxed.

If your dog loves water, you may consider creating a water feature. All water features requires upkeep, especially as you want to keep it free of algae, chemicals and harmful bacteria.

As you think about your new pet friendly back yard design, remember that dogs are creatures of habit, so if they already have favorite areas it’s easiest incorporate them into your new design or be prepared to train.

Address Behavior Issues

Does your dog dig? Bark? Pace? These habits are often a result of too much stimuli or boredom. According to dog trainers, a pet-friendly landscape can actually alleviate behavioral problems.

For example, take a homeowner with a large, fenced backyard that borders a path leading to an elementary school. As the children passed by, the dog would go into a frenzy, barking and lunging at the fence.

As a solution, the homeowner created a physical and visual barrier by adding a new picket fence about 10 feet inside of the original fence and planting large, spiky junipers in between to block the sight and sound of the children.

The addition of a heavily planted second border along the inner fence created beautiful landscaping while discouraging the dog from pacing the area.

Beware of Toxic Plants

Most dogs can eat the same plants as humans, but some like to chew on whatever is available.

Some common landscape plants and trees pose some danger, but some of the more common highly toxic plants to avoid are narcissus, foxglove, periwinkle (vinca minor and major), English and Japanese yew, ligustrum, lantana and English ivy.

Unfortunately, these are all typical landscape plants, but the good news is that toxicity is relative to the plant, the animal, and the actual parts and amounts ingested.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a searchable database and a downloadable list of toxic plants.

Be sure to use organic lawn care products to keep your pets (and the environment) safe.

A Doghouse with a View

If you have a doghouse or shelter for your pet, remember that dogs like to know what’s going on around them, so the doorway should open toward the rest of the landscape.

If the house faces south or southwest, you’ll want to make sure that the sun doesn’t shine directly into the doorway. You can plant shade trees or even erect a canopy over the house.

If you live in a windy area, be sure that cold winter winds don’t enter directly through the opening.

Hire a Professional Landscape Designer

Once you’ve observed your dog’s behavior and analyzed your site for the placement of each “room,” you’re ready to create a landscape that will accomplish your goals.

Harmony Design Northwest would love to help you create the perfect outdoor space for both you and your pets.