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Growing A Dog Friendly Garden

For those of us who love our four-legged friends, it can be hard to reconcile their rambunctious, digging ways with maintaining a beautifully landscaped garden. But it’s not impossible! At the same time, it’s very important to avoid plants and flowers that can be dangerous, even deadly, to our fur friends.

The key to growing a dog friendly garden is to train your dog and do a little homework. Since we can’t help you with the first part of that statement, we’ll give you what you need for the second part!

Potty Train With Purpose

If you’re lucky enough to be starting with a puppy or younger dog, you can leverage a true fact about dogs: they don’t like to mess where they live. That’s the foundation behind crate training, and it can be extended to the garden too. Designate a certain patch of grass as the ‘potty zone’. As you are training your dog, always, always, always take them to that spot. Consistency with training is everything and there are a couple of advantages to taking the time to get this done right:

  1. You will avoid yellow spots of dead grass due to dog urine ALL over your lawn.
  2. You will know exactly where to go to pick up to pick up the little bombs that doggo has left behind, before the yard can be enjoyed by everyone.
  3. Your dog will learn quickly, if you are consistent, that this is the place to go.

If you’ve already got burnt grass from pet urine damage, check out this earlier post on how to manage the damage!

Supervise All Yard Play

Particularly while your dog is still learning where they can play, and where they can’t, make sure they aren’t left alone in the yard. You can’t train them to not dig holes in the middle of your recently sodded green space or in the raised garden beds if you aren’t there to see them attempt it! Like sneaky toddlers, they’ll test the limits of what they can and can’t do, so consistency is important here too.

Part of a dog’s natural personality is to get into trouble when they’re bored, so ensuring that they get plenty of exercise through walks and play makes it less likely that they’ll try and burn off extra energy by digging holes!

Protect The Parts You Particularly Care For

If there are parts of your garden that you really want to keep safe from digging paws, consider putting up a decorative fence, at least for the early days, while your dog is learning. It doesn’t have to be taller than them: even a low fence will stop most dogs and it makes a visual reminder as you train the dog, that they can’t pass that fence!

You can also use plants on your garden borders that are fairly sturdy and give the appearance, at least from doggo’s point of view, of being a fence. Other options? Consider larger rocks or pieces of elegant driftwood to block the way. Container gardens are also a good way to keep your favourite blooms safe from digging paws.

Beyond protecting some features, it’s also important for your dog to be safe. Water features could be problematic with a small puppy, if they were to fall in. Consider all the elements of your garden from their height and age.

Have Some Toys Ready

Just like kids have indoor and outdoor toys, it’s a good idea to have a few outdoor ones handy for the furkids. They might get bored watching you pull weeds, so some toys or a ball you can throw between pulling clumps is a good idea!

Garden Elements To Avoid

If you’re using mulch, avoid any brand based from cocoa bean hulls. These contain the same chemical as chocolate—theobromine—which is deadly if your dog eats it. As to plants and shrubs, here’s a list of some of the more common ones that are found in local Mississauga gardens but which are toxic to dogs, if ingested.

Common yet dangerous plants for dogs:

If you love these, consider planting them at the front of your house, where your dog doesn’t necessarily roam free.

  1. Iris
  2. Ivy
  3. Autumn Crocus
  4. Hydrangea
  5. Azalea
  6. Daffodil
  7. Tulips
  8. Amaryllis
  9. Clematis
  10. Cyclamen
  11. Lily of the Valley

This list isn’t exhaustive but covers some of the more common plants you might be considering for your garden. If you want to see a full list, the ASPCA maintains one here, including the common and scientific names. As you’re making your list for your spring planting, if you’ve got a dog, cross reference it to make sure you’re keeping your fur friend safe!

The garden should be an oasis for the whole family, so don’t forget to provide your dog with fresh, clean water when they’re outside for a while—garden hose water can contain several toxins that aren’t good for humans or dogs—and make sure there’s a shady spot, so they can get out from under the sun. Most of all, enjoy your garden this season, with your WHOLE family.

Raccoons, Rabbits And Pets In Your Garden…Oh My!

If it’s like Wild Kingdom in your garden, you can take steps to protect your green space, and the animals who use it!

A beautiful garden filled with lovely plants and flowers is basically an open invitation to the animal world to pay you a visit. That might be a daunting thought but you can create an inviting outdoor space that is safe for the animals you love and less interesting for those that you don’t.

What’s Dangerous To Your Pets

There are a variety of plants and flowers that are toxic for pets so if you plan to have them as part of your garden plan, you might want to consider keeping them in raised beds or away from bed borders, or install some cute picket or lattice fencing, to minimize the chances of your pet coming into contact with them.

Here’s a short but by no means complete list of common plants that can harm your pets:

  • Lily of the valley—they contain cardiac glycosides, which are used in human heart medication!
  • Daisey
  • Tulips
  • Holly—Christmas can be a dangerous time of year!
  • Azaleas
  • Birds of Paradise
  • Fall Crocuses—while the Spring crocus might cause an upset stomach if ingested, the Fall version is highly toxic
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis
  • Lavender
  • Lilies—cats are in danger with tiger, easter or day lilies, among others. Even a small amount of pollen or a petal or two can cause liver failure.

In addition to plants and flowers, there could be other things in your garden, which could harm Fido. Mulch, for example. Some types of mulch are made from cocoa bean by-products. The result is that they have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but, as anyone with a dog knows, chocolate is toxic. Dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary in their bodies to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which are found in cocoa bean.

A good alternative mulch is hemp mulch. It’s effective as a mulch in keeping the soil moist, avoiding erosion, keeping weeds down and promoting seed germination BUT it is completely pet friendly!

Other concerns?

  • Fertilizers—any fertilizer that contains blood or bone meal can be both attractive to and dangerous for pets as the iron levels they contain, if ingested in sufficient quantities, could be harmful.
  • Pesticides—pesticides generally can be harmful but you particularly want to watch any that contain organophosphates, as many products produced for the care of roses do. Even small doses of these can seriously harm your pet.
  • Compost—yes, that earthy goodness can be dangerous if consumed by your pet directly from the compost heap or container. Why? One word: mould. As the compost breaks down, some mould does naturally develop. It will eventually break down as well but during the composting process, it can still be active and make your pet quite sick! Keep your compost area fenced off and away from your pets.

It goes without saying that if you do have chemical based products for your lawn and garden around, they need to be out of reach of not only children, but pets too!

 

Damage By Pets

The most common kind of damage in the garden caused by pets, aside from the digging of holes where you didn’t want them, is patches of burnt lawn, where the animal has urinated and the grass has died.

You can solve these in specific areas of your lawn by either seeding or sodding. How? Check out another of our posts, on this very topic!

If you’re just planning your landscaping, another way to avoid the problem is to work in more hardscaping! Yes, your doggo will love a good patch of lawn, but if you replace some of your planned lawn with stone, brick or flagstone, it’s that much less that you have to worry about patches on!

 

Damage By Other Animals

As cities expand, we humans are coming into closer contact with a wide range of wild animals and our gardens provide some great feeding grounds!

Raccoons and skunks—These are grub diggers! Your lawn might get dug up in parts as these two animals search for grubs underground. Your best bet for dealing with this issue is to minimize the grub population, utilizing a non-toxic, enviro friendly pesticide designed for that purpose! As for vegetable gardens, covers will stop most of their activities. Either cover individual plants or use netting to protect a larger grouping of plants.

Rabbits—How do you know if rabbits are eating you out of lawn and garden? Check the ends of the greenery that has been eaten. If they are neatly clipped, odds are it’s rabbits! You can also look for tell tale small round droppings. The only real solution for rabbits—and deer, if you’re farther out in the countryside—is fencing. You’ll have to dig down a few inches to avoid them going under and chicken wire won’t do the trick. You’ll need a stronger wire fencing to get the job done!

Squirrels—Squirrels LOVE to dig holes in lawns, as well as dig up and eat bulbs in flower beds. The only protection is a wire mesh cover. But here’s a tip: squirrels don’t like daffodil bulbs, so an investment in a few more of those will mean more flowers next year!

Whether your animal filled yard is by choice or by force, you can live peaceably with four legged creatures by taking the time to plan your landscape and hardscape so that everyone can enjoy the space, safely!