5 Tips for Dogscaping Your Yard

Woman and her dog sitting on a lawn surrounded by potted flowering plants suitable for dogscaping.
My Garden Life
May 4, 2019
Table of Contents

You love your dog. You buy him the tastiest, healthiest treats; walk her rain, shine, or category five hurricane; and fill your house with designer dog beds, rubber squeaky toys, and plush stuffed squirrels. But what about his outside R&R area? Consider dogscaping an open-air, dog friendly space where your pet can run, play, and nap in comfort and safety. Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Know Your Dog

Everything about dogscaping a space – from where you locate it to how you fence it to what groundcover and plants you put in—will depend on what sort of dog you have. If you’ve got a pup who likes to dig, you may want to forego the delicate plantings and go for a more durable surface. If Fifi is an escape artist, you’re going to have to pay more attention to fencing—its height and strength–than you would if she were a mama’s girl, unlikely to stray more than a few feet from your side. Active dogs need room and a place to run while the lazier ones are happy with a smaller space and perhaps an outdoor cushion on which to snooze. As you make your design decisions, remember, you’re building a garden, not just for any dog, but for your special pet.

A young woman on her knees in the lawn playing with a Pomeranian dog.

2. Choose a Groundcover That’s Dog-safe and Paw-friendly

Keep in mind your dog goes barefoot all the time, so you want to avoid sharp gravels or materials that tend to heat up. Smooth stones, like pea gravel, and most mulches work well. Cedar chips are even said to repel fleas. But avoid any mulches made from industrial waste or dyed with harsh chemicals that could make your dog sick. And no mulch made from cocoa shells because any form of chocolate is toxic to dogs.

Dalmatian dog leashed to a tree surrounded by bark mulch.

3. The Tougher the Grass the Better when Dogscaping

Dogs do love fresh grass to roll, run, and snooze on. Unfortunately, some also enjoy digging in it, and if that describes your pet, you may be better off with artificial turf or smooth gravel. There are several new products available that look natural and are easy to clean. Otherwise, choose the toughest grass that grows well in your region when dogscaping and don’t let your pup loose on it until the lawn is well established.

Good dogscaping includes a space for dogs to run. A brown and white dog having fun rolling in the lawn.

4. Keep Your Pet Safe with Adequate Fencing

Even the most well-behaved or well-supervised dog can run off, and quickly, if the right squirrel or the neighbor’s cat wanders by. There are plenty of attractive yet sturdy fencing options available that will contain your pet and blend into the snazziest landscape design.

Two puppies looking over a short wooden fence.

5. Choose your Plants Carefully

Your dog’s most powerful sense is the sense of smell, some ten thousand times more sensitive than a human’s. Plants that pups love to sniff include rosemary, sage and thyme. But be careful, there are many plants harmless to humans but dangerous for pets. It would be a good idea to research the safety of any plant additions you are considering before you make the investment.

Don’t forget that your dog is likely to work up a thirst when playing outdoors so providing a source of fresh water will help keep them healthy and hydrated. The Grounds Guys have some great ideas on how to incorporate water features that your dog is sure to love!

Dog Friendly Landscape Plants

Here’s a list of a few common garden plants that are safe to grow in the areas where your dog runs:

A golden retriever lying next to packs of zinnia plants waiting to be planted.

Plants to Avoid for a Dog Friendly Landscape

The following are plants not considered safe to grow in spaces where your dog runs and plays. They can cause a range of illness if ingested by your dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers a great resource for looking up plants that may harm your pet; identifying whether they are toxic or non-toxic to dogs. Here are just a few common landscaping plants you may want to avoid when dogscaping:

Close up of a French bulldog chewing on the leaf of a plant.

You love gardening and you love your dog. You can combine the two when dogscaping a space that you and your pet can enjoy. Check our list of  Pet Friendly Houseplants to find beautiful indoor plant selections that are safe to have around your dogs inside your home.

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