Creating a Garden for Your Dog

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dog in planter

Pets are People Too and They Love Gardens

Dogs and cats love gardens, but our four-legged friends don't always respect your well-tended People Garden; that is unless it is designed for pets as well as humans. Here are some time-tested methods for designing the ideal dog-friendly garden.

Friendly Boundaries

A garden that is dog-friendly includes a special place where your dog is free to be a dog. Of course you can always share your space with your pooch, but he should learn that it's okay to run, dig and play within his own doggie play pen boundaries. It doesn't have be “penned in” either; in fact, a big dog who can jump 8-10 inches, defeats the whole purpose of a fence.

Separate your dog's play garden from the rest of the garden with a border of shrubs, ground cover plants or decorative stones or bricks. Just remember not to block the view completely as dogs tend to be more comfortable when they can see you.

Garden Design for the Perfect Dog Garden

Your dog’s garden play area doesn’t have to look like a garden that's gone to the dogs. On the contrary, if you incorporate good plant design into your dog’s play area, your whole garden will stay harmonious and beautiful.


courtyard garden with gate

Courtyard garden with gate

Here are some ideas:

  • Paths are a beautiful way to enhance anyone's garden including your dog's play area. Although the garden featured in the photo uses bricks, a simple pebble or cedar mulch pathway will add structure and encourage both people and pets to stay off the grass.
  • Install a wooden or metal arbor at the entrance to your dog's play area, or if you prefer, add a small gate to divide your garden from your dog's play garden.
  • Punctuate and divide areas with large plant specimens. Large plants are a lot less likely to incur damaged by your dog especially if they are contained in large planters.


Plants That are Dog Pee Resistance

Trying to train Fido NOT to mark his territory is darn near impossible without using commercial spray deterrents. Urine contains ammonia salts and nitrogen that burns both plants and turf, but the good news is that many plants are more tolerant against “dog watering”.

Here are some recommended low ground cover plants and shrubs. I have also noted the climate zone range for each plant. Don't know your zone? Check out  The U.S. and Canada hardiness zone finder , or Gardenweb Europe's zone finder .

Ground Cover Plants that are Dog Friendly




CandytuftIberis sempervirens – Evergreen- Does well in all regions of the US. Plant this in the sun in well-drained soil and it will grow quickly.

Spring Heath, Erica spp. – Evergreen – Does well in zone 5. This low growing heather plant is a bit tricky to grow. Plant in bright light to full sun.

Shrubby Cinquefoil, Potentill a – Deciduous – Does well in zones 3-7. It's a bit scraggly as a border, however, there's an added bonus!..The dried leaves can be used as a tea. Steep them for 5-10 minutes

Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus – Evergreen -Does well in zones 3-7 Full sun to partial shade.


Hardy Hedges That Will Tolerate Doggie Pee

Rugosa Rose Hips

Rugosa Rose Hips


Rugosa Rose bush, rosa rugosa – Evergreen – Does well in zones 5-6 – A compact shrub that produces roses in summer and rose hips in late summer/early autumn. A variety of colors is available.

American Holly, Ilex opaca – Evergreen – Grows in zones 5-9 – Likes sun and shade. The spiky leaves will keep your dog at bay.

Augusta Gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides – Evergreen – Grows in zones 7-10
– Sun to partial shade; acidic, moist, well-drained soil. Lovely fragrant white flowers in summer.

Rose-of-Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus – Deciduous – Grows in zones 5-9
Perfect for both southern and northern climates; Even a small plant gives you lots of colorful blooms which vary by cultivar.


Other attractive large plants that will stand up to the occasional dog-watering are…

Mophead Hydrangea

Mophead Hydrangea


House hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla – Deciduous – Grows in Zones – 6-9 but some varieties do well in zones 4 and 5. Loves morning sun and afternoon shade. Both the “Mophead” and “Lacecap” varieties are hardy.

Lady Banks Rose, Rosa banksiae – Deciduous -Grow in Zoness – 7-9 This thornless rose is a speedy climber that is great for arbors, trellises and fences. Tiny yellow roses bloom in abundance in early Spring.

Japanese Spirea, Spiraea japonica – Deciduous – Grows in Zones 3-8 – This sun-loving shrub is low growing and has a rounded form. The Japanese Whites are effective as low borders and for separating areas of your garden. They flower off and on throughout the summer months.

If your dog does dog-water a plant, a good hosing will prevent a lot of damage. Some gardeners suggest raking an inch of compost onto grass that has been peed upon. The organisms in the compost helps to neutralize the soil's chemistry. Of course, you'll still need to re-seed.

If you choose to use a dog repellant, remember that it needs to be reapplied several times over the course of the growing season.

Good Plants that Work for You and Your Dog

There are many wonderful plants that actually repel fleas from your yard… and subsequently, from your dog. Herbs like lavender, rosemary and lemongrass not only keep fleas (and mosquitoes) at bay, their scents are delightful.

What Not to Plant

Take caution…..not all plants are safe for pets! Many can be harmful if your dog decides to chew a few leaves instead of his toy bone. The most common plants toxic to animals can be found on the ASPCA Web site .



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