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Creating a Dog-Friendly Backyard

creating a dog friendly backyard

With Guest Author Jessica Larson of SolopreneurJournal.com.

Dogs love a backyard. The sights, the smells, the freedom to do their business. The squirrels.

For dog-loving homeowners, it makes sense to tailor the backyard to our furry friends.

We love to see them happy and frolicking across the yard as we watch on, snapping pictures for social media.

Here are some simple steps that any homeowner can take to ensure their backyard is dog (and person) friendly.

Create Specialized Dog Areas

Designing a dog-friendly backyard begins with who else: your dog! Remember to keep their needs at the center of their yard areas.

Tailor the Yard to Your Dog

dog cat in backyard

Just as every dog is different, every yard idea will be different. One dog’s tall fence is another’s jumping hurdle, so be sure your yard features are customized to your dog. Sensitive paws might do better on grasses or mulch, in place of hot paver stones. 

Likewise, if you have an adventure seeking pup, a GPS dog fence may be a better fit for you than a traditional fence or even an invisible fence.

Keeping dog-run areas on a perimeter can also help save your yard from worn paths. Use heavy-duty grasses or durable living covers to fill in the inevitable patchiness. Dog-runs can also tie into a bathroom area to create a dog-safe space for all their needs.

If your dog has a favorite corner they like to use as a bathroom area, then keep it! Replace the grass with mulch or gravel to keep odors at bay.

If you have a senior dog, you might need specialized landscaping to help them. They still need plenty of exercise, and a safe backyard is a great way to keep them moving. Focus on senior-safe features, including:

  • Gates to keep vision-impaired dogs in safe areas
  • Ramps to help dogs with joint issues
  • Lots of shade and water
  • A scent post to help blind dogs find the bathroom
  • Plant pest-repelling herbs like fennel and rosemary

Your pets are already telling you how they like the yard; you just have to add the finishing touches.

Keep the Yard Clean and Safe

Let’s face it, the bathroom and dog-run areas are going to get dirty. Between the dog’s business and post-rain playtime mud, keeping these areas clean will need to be a priority.

For dog-runs, it is easiest to start smart. Use hearty grass that can avoid damage and mud. Include an area of stone or mulch to act as a “paw wash” section. Keeping a dog-run away from the home will also help knock off as much dirt as possible.

Although artificial turf may promote a tidier yard environment, we don’t recommend using it due to concerns about possible toxicity from “crumb rubber” used in the top layer. In addition, pets (and you) can’t connect with Earth’s natural healing energy when atop artificial turf!

Bathroom areas will need a bit of extra cleaning. If you’ve already avoided grasses, use the following tips to keep things clean:

Most deodorizing treatments will damage grass, so don’t use them on areas that you don’t want to burn and turn yellow. However, they are perfect for stones, mulch, and many artificial kinds of grass. Remember, too, that building your yard around the high-traffic spaces will keep problem areas out of sight and out of the way.

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Use Dog-Approved Materials

Once you’ve landed on a layout, make sure that the yard itself is safe.

Check Your Plants

Examine the flora of your yard. Many common plants are dangerous to your pups. Some of the most dog-toxic plants include:

  • Azalea: Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure
  • Ivy: Vomiting, abdominal pain, drooling
  • Mums: Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, skin irritation
  • Sago palm: Vomiting, liver damage, death
  • Tulips: Vomiting, depression, drooling
  • Wisteria: Vomiting, diarrhea, depression
  • Garden alliums: garlic and onions

These are just a handful of dangerous plants that are common in many backyards. There are more than 400 toxic plants, not to mention any allergies or sensitivities your dog might have. To ensure dog safety, identify all plants. If you don’t know what is growing, then use an identifier app and do the research.

If it’s dangerous, toss it out or donate it if you can.

Change Your Ground Covers

Different ground covers can be essential for a dog-friendly yard. Grass is usually the safest option, but it is far from the most durable. For active dogs, this can lead to worn-out areas and mud puddles when it rains. And we’ve already hinted about those dreaded urine spots.

Why not ditch the grass? You don’t have to turn to hardscaping. There are many living ground cover alternatives, including:

  • Clover: Stays green, even if peed on. It’s not too resilient, but it grows easily and without much care.
  • Creeping thyme: Dog-safe and purple, it smells great and you can cook with it! It is stronger than clover, and grows without much more than natural care.
  • Irish moss: soft and short growing. It provides many small, white blooms every spring, but it isn’t as durable as clover. As well, it must be watered more than grass.

Mulches and gravels allow for easily-defined yard areas with great drainage. Mulches are soft on paws and absorb odors. If used in a bathroom area, change it out somewhat regularly to keep it clean. Most mulch is completely safe, but you want to avoid cocoa mulch because it has the same toxicity as chocolate.

Gravel and other stones are very durable and clean. However, they aren’t the nicest on dog paws, and they come with their own issues. Small gravel stones might be choking hazards. And paver stones can reach up to 40° hotter than the air above them. If using stones, understand the hazards, and keep paver stones in the shade whenever possible.

The Bottom Line

Designing a backyard with your dog in mind is smart and easy. Design pet-special areas of the yard to keep them safe and happy. Remove dangerous plants and materials, and replace them with dog-friendly ground covers and pest-repelling herbs.

Lastly, don’t forget to make room for yourself. With a little planning, you can turn your backyard into a dog-friendly oasis.

© Jessica Larson and Vervana, LLC. All rights reserved.

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