The Benefits of Dog-Friendly Landscaping

Dog running in water sprinkler in a backyard

You might think dogs and professional landscaping don’t go together. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories about dogs digging up gardens, treating bushes as chew toys, or poisoning themselves by eating the wrong plant. 

That’s why it’s important to design a dog-friendly landscape. Dog-friendly landscaping keeps dogs healthy, your yard intact, and can even lower the risk of dog bites.

Here we’re going to run through the do’s and don’ts of maintaining a healthy, thriving outdoor living space for you and your pooch.

Landscaping to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy

First, we’re going to cover designing the optimal landscape with an eye to your dog’s well-being. 

Here are some tips for a landscape that will help your dog live his or her best life.

Give Your Dog Plenty of Space to Run Around

Exercise is essential for a dog’s physical and emotional health. While it varies from breed to breed, most dogs typically need between half an hour to two hours of exercise a day. That’s a lot of walks.

That’s why your dog needs plenty of room to run. While you don’t control the size of your yard, you do control the number of obstructions. Don’t plant a thicket of shrubs or a maze of hedges to slow down your pup.

Don’t Plant Anything Toxic to Dogs

Some plants will make your dog really sick. Unless you want to take a trip to the vet’s, avoid planting any of the following shrubs, trees, or plants.

  • Thorn Apple 
  • Jimsonweed 
  • Castor Bean
  • Cyclamen 
  • Yew 
  • Hemlock 
  • Dumbcane
  • English Ivy
  • Mistletoe 
  • Oleander 

Keep Your Dog Safely Enclosed

Whether you opt for invisible electric, wooden privacy, or ornate wrought iron, a good fence can contribute a lot to your dog’s well-being.

Here are the two major benefits:

Fences Keep Your Dog from Running Away

If you ask your dog, it might see the entire town is a great place to explore. We know there are a lot of dangers for a runaway pooch, namely cars. Many dogs don’t know how to avoid cars and some want to chase them down like a rabbit. 

A loose dog also can be stolen. Thieves will make off with pets to resell them for profit. An estimated 2 million dogs are stolen every year in the U.S. Thieves generally target dogs that have a high resale value but a difficult time running away. Terriers, bulldogs, chihuahuas, and Pomeranians are especially at risk.

If you live in the country, you have to worry about skunks and porcupines as well. Most rural dog owners know what it’s like to see their pet come home with a painful face full of quills or a reeking blast of skunk spray to the face. 

Depending on where you live, there may also be bears or wolves lurking around that could look at your dog as a snack. Deer hunting season is also a dangerous time for unsupervised dogs to run around in the woods, as hunters might mistake certain breeds from far away. A good fence will keep your dog safe in your yard where they belong.

Fences Prevent Encounters with Strangers 

Even for friendly dogs, encountering strangers can be stressful. Especially for dogs that have had bad encounters with people in the past, an unknown person can become a cause of worry, excitement, even fear.

A good privacy fence will keep your dog out of these stressful situations. A fence also helps to keep your dog in the backyard instead of the front. This will prevent random strangers from hassling your pooch.

How Dog Friendly Landscaping Lowers the Risk of Dog Bites

Can a good landscape design prevent dog bites? Not completely, but it can lower the risk by mitigating some of the contributing factors.

Dogs are more likely to bite when they are sick or unhealthy. You lower the chance of your dog getting sick by avoiding toxic plants. You also keep your dog healthy and happy by giving them plenty of space to run around. A less stressed-out dog is a safer dog.

Lower the risk of your dog biting someone else by preventing encounters with unfamiliar people. Unfamiliar encounters often stress out dogs and can create an aggressive response. By installing privacy or electric fencing around your yard, you’ll create a much safer environment for your neighbors.

How Dog-Friendly Landscaping Improves Yards

We’ve discussed how dog-friendly landscaping can benefit your dog and prevent dog bites. But how can we keep the yard itself beautiful with a dog running around? Here we’ll cover the important steps you can take to keep your furry friend from destroying your yard.

Keep Your Dog from Digging Holes

Dogs dig up yards for a number of reasons. They might be bored, trying to escape, or even digging for shelter or shade.

Here are a few tips to keep your backyard from looking like a gopher village:

Secure Your Fence

Sometimes dogs dig to get under fences and run away. Prevent this by placing large rocks along the base of the fence. You can also secure the bottom of your fence with chicken wire. This will remove the option of digging out, and hopefully the enticement along with it.

Give Your Dog a Shelter

While it may seem strange, dogs sometimes dig holes on hot days to escape the heat. Either plant a nice shade tree somewhere in the yard or build a dog house where your pooch can take shelter. This will give your pup a better way to stay cool in the “dog days” of summer.

Keep Your Dog Entertained

While not exactly a landscaping tip, dogs will tear up a yard out of boredom. Give your dog plenty of walks throughout the day. If your job requires you to be away most of the time, consider hiring a dog walker or leaving your pup at a doggy daycare center. This will give you canine companion something to do besides tearing up your soil.

Plant Durable Grass Types

If your dog runs around all day on the grass, you’ll want a grass type that stands up to foot traffic. Here are the 5 best grass types for heavily trod-upon yards.

  1. Tall Fescue
  2. Perennial Ryegrass
  3. Kentucky Bluegrass
  4. Bermudagrass
  5. Zoysiagrass
Dog urinating on lawn
Photo by Daniel Ray / LawnStarter

Protect Your Grass from Lawn Burn

Many dog owners are all too familiar with lawn burn. Dog urine has a high alkaline pH and often kills patches of grass. Fortunately, there are several good strategies for prevention.

Have a Designated Potty Area

This will take a little training, but if you consistently reward your dog for using a designated potty area, you might not need to worry about lawn burn. Fill the spot with gravel or mulch to maintain an attractive appearance.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

The more concentrated your dog’s urine, the greater risk of lawn burn. Lower the concentration by keeping your pup hydrated. Place plenty of water dishes around the house and yard. If you’re still worried about your dog’s hydration, consider adding water to their food dish.

Choose Hardy Grass Types

Some grass types fare better against high alkaline levels than others. Choosing the right grass type could mean the difference between dead patches and a thick, green carpet of turf. The best grass types for standing up to urine include:

  • Fescues
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Centipedegrass

Keep Your Lawn’s pH Low

Lawn burn is caused by bringing pH to levels that stress out your grass.

Here are three ways to keep your lawn’s base pH level low: 

Keep your grass regularly watered: Water by itself is pH neutral and will dilute your dog’s alkaline urine. We recommend about 1 to 5 inches of water a week, either from rain or watering.

Don’t over-fertilize: Fertilizers are high in alkaline nitrogen. Overfertilized lawns are much more likely to experience dog urine spots. We recommend no more than 1 pound of nitrogen or mixed fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.

Lower the pH of your soil: You can also acidify your soil by adding sphagnum peat, organic mulches, or fertilizers that include elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or acidifying nitrogen. Just don’t overdo it, since highly acidic soil can kill your plants too.

Why a Dog-Friendly Landscape Makes Sense

Having both a dog and a landscape requires consideration. Keep your dog healthy by giving them room for exercise, avoiding toxic plants, and building a strong enclosure. A healthy dog will live longer, be happier, and have a lower chance to bite and cause infectious diseases. 

We also discussed how you can keep your dog from destroying your lawn. Plant the right grass types, create a designated potty area, and give your dog a cool shelter. Hopefully, this information will make life easier for you, your dog, your neighbors, and your plants.

When to Hire a Landscaping Pro

If this all sounds like a lot of work, you might consider hiring a professional landscape planner to design the perfect yard for you and your dog. We’d be more than happy to connect you with an experienced landscaping pro near you.

Main Photo Credit: Pxhere

Cory Ferrer

Cory Ferrer

Cory Ferrer is a LawnStarter writer with a background in communication, creative writing, and education. He spends his free time exploring Denver, taking long bike rides, and browsing used bookstores.