If you have a canine companion in your life, or expect to have one in the future, dog-friendly landscaping may pique your interest. Like all of our clients, each dog is unique, and while many are the easygoing sorts when it comes to the landscape, others may have quite a bit to say about “their” yards. How do you make a landscape friendly for your best friend and comfortable for you? Here are some tips we have found to create harmonious environments for our human and canine clients to share.
Dogs, like humans, engage in varying levels of activity within the landscape. From lying quietly in the sun, to fence patrol and running, to wrestling, fetch, and chasing squirrels. Knowing your dog’s favorite backyard antics will help you design a space that can accommodate it all. If the flower-beds are routinely crushed, raised planters or a sturdy barrier around them may be a good plan. Creating a separate area for the dogs to play is another option. This can be a large and even beautiful part of your landscape – no design sacrifice needed! If your dog is a fence-runner or patroller, it is much easier to create a “perimeter patrol” path along your fence than to try and keep them from wearing out the grass or crushing a planted border. We have included these perimeter paths on many of our designs and it’s always a win-win. Your dog gets to do their “job” while you can relax and enjoy your garden. If your dog does love to sit among the plants, as Henry does in the photo above, just make sure they are the hardy kind. This Lomandra can be sat on, walked through, and even lightly chewed without being worse for wear.
Dogs’ paws are more sensitive than people think. Hot surfaces and sharp materials (such as some types of gravel) can be downright painful, so providing an alternative surface for your dog to walk on is ideal. Grass is, of course, a favorite, even for bare human feet. But water conservation means that having a big lawn is expensive and environmentally unfriendly. A small lawn for your pup is still a nice idea, and other hardscape materials like decomposed granite, smooth pebbles, faux turf, wood decking, and concrete and stone make for comfortable walking in the areas where your dog will spend time. Providing shade over hardscape is important too, for those hot days when even humans don’t want to be barefoot on concrete!
If your dog is a plant-nibbler (or devourer), it’s important to be careful about the plants you choose for your landscape. Many garden favorites, including these Foxglove, are highly poisonous even in moderate quantities. If your dog has never shown an interest in plants, your risk is low, so don’t tear the garden apart. But for new puppies or adult dogs who seem to have a taste for vegetation, exercise some caution. Thanks to the ASPCA website, you can consult this fairly comprehensive list of poisonous plants. And if you’re working with a Landscape Architect, let us know about your pets or any regular visiting pets so we can do our best to keep them safe when planning your garden.
No dog-related blog would be complete without a reference to your dog’s most regular use of the landscape. While many people walk their dogs to do their business elsewhere, the home landscape is still a #1 spot for relief. One reason lawns are still so popular with dog owners is their self-cleaning nature. Grass and soil break down and absorb odor-causing bacteria, making grass the perfect surface (although too much ammonia can cause grass dieback – hence the brown spots in the yard…) If you do go with faux turf, make sure to use one specifically designed for pets. The porous backing will allow you to hose it down effectively, whereas regular faux turf will quickly become an issue. Finally, smooth gravel and even mulch are options to consider.
Here at J. Montgomery Designs, we create landscapes that are beautiful, playful, and relaxing, for humans as well as for dogs. We would love to hear about your vision for your landscape, or to help you create something totally new. Just have your human contact us. Our first consultation is complementary – definitely something to wag about!