Gardening with Dogs: PugetPets’ Top Ten Tips

Spring is approaching and it’s time to start thinking about the garden! We all know our furry friends love the outdoors, too. Dogs want to help, and we want them to join us outside for all our gardening activities. But gardening with our canine companions can be a challenge. How can you have that beautiful yard or productive vegetable garden without your flowers getting trampled, your pole beans being “watered,” or a bone getting buried in your strawberry patch? Luckily, we at PugetPets have a few tricks up our gardening gloves!

1. Start dogs young with obedience training

If you’ve invested time in your dog’s training, you’ve already got a leg up (so to speak!) on your gardening success. If your dog is young, now is the time for establishing good training habits. But as the adage goes, even an old dog can learn new tricks, and spending some time working with your young or adult dog on garden-appropriate behavior will pay off.

2. Set aside special digging and/or toilet areas

One way to garden-train your dog is to set aside a special area or areas for canine needs. Many dogs who love to dig can learn to use a special area for this activity. Use a “go dig!” command and make digging in this area a part of your play routine. Similarly, some dogs can be trained to use only a certain area of the yard for their potty needs. Some dogs dig in imitation of their gardening guardians, so if your dog is one of these, try to avoid planting when they can see you. They may dig because they think they’re helping out!

3. Include “legitimate” marking posts

Use ornamental grasses and vertical structures that are okay for a scent-marking male to use as “communication central.” Be sure to keep plants you do not want marked separate from these.

4. Use a low barrier fence or landscaping element

Even a low, decorative fence is often enough to deter your dog from entering an off-limits portion of the garden. Driftwood, rocks or branches pruned from trees are attractive elements that can also act as barriers for your dog.

5. Grow barrier plants

Plants themselves can also act as barriers. Hardy shrubs that are twiggy or prickly can effectively dissuade your dog from venturing into your food or flower garden. One gardener we spoke with said a barrier of roses was his secret to keeping his Irish wolfhound/Newfoundland mix (!) out of his vegetable garden.

6. Plant landscaped areas densely

If you have larger, landscaped areas, make sure they are landscaped densely. Closely planted shrubs, flowering plants and tress, hardy ground-covers, rocks and raised features will help deter dogs from making unauthorized pathways.

7. Leave an uncultivated space around the perimeter

Dogs want to patrol their perimeters. Leaving an 18- to 36-inch uncultivated border between your garden and your fence will allow your dog to engage in this natural behavior without harming plants.

8. Build raised beds

Raised beds eliminate the opportunity for your dog to wreak havoc in the garden. They are also a great back-saving solution that works especially well for growing vegetables.

9. Plant container gardens

If all else fails, plant in containers. Container gardens are great for decks, balconies, and smaller yards. Many herbs and vegetables, including tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and even pumpkins, can be successfully grown in containers and your local squirrels will be the only ones tempted to dig there!

10. Play with your dog

Your dog is more likely to terrorize your garden if he or she is bored or restless. As always, making sure your dog has plenty of stimulation and activity from play and walks is the best prevention. Make garden-time interesting and enjoyable for both you and your canine friend by keeping toys available for outdoor use and including your dog’s play in your gardening activities.

A little work and a few modifications can make your garden a sanctuary for both you and your dog. Always remember to consider your dog’s health and safety when composting, mulching and choosing what plants to grow. The Burpee seed company offers some good pet safety tips. For more information, you can also visit the Pet Poison Hotline. Join your dog in enjoying the sights and smells of spring! Happy gardening from PugetPets!