Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Separating plants and pets in a landscape





As you may have heard we brought home a new puppy in about a week ago. A dog can be mans best friend but not so for flowers and plants. You may wonder if it is possible to have an attractive backyard that is also secure enough to keep your pup from wandering off. The answer is “Yes” with some planning.

Here are ideas and tips I’ve learned from raising several Labs and Lab-mix dogs. With some planning I’ve been to make my yard/garden attractive for us and Lab-friendly for the pets. If you have the space, you can divide your yard into two sections, creating a formal lawn and garden next to the house for enjoyment and entertaining and a lawn at the back of the yard where the dog can run and play. This area could be divided using green lattice fencing that separated the areas but allows breezes to flow through. The lattice can also be used to support roses, clematis, and other climbers to add privacy. I considered this option in one of our homes when we lived in Florida but moved before implementing my plan. Instead I’ve gone with an integrated plan where we share the same space. In our latest home we don’t have as much outdoor space as is previous homes so I have developed a plan that has worked for me and might work for you as well.



You can expect a certain amount of wear and tear to your landscape if you have a dog but your dog (my Labs) don’t have to destroy every living green thing in sight. I use small portable fences to protect my delicate and easily damaged plants like Hostas and hydrangeas and to keep them from running through planting areas when chasing squirrels or each other. I use raised beds for my vegetables and herb gardens and use containers for other plants and flowers. Drought-resistant plants are often tough enough to stand up to dogs and I’ve found use tough-trample proof ground covers like mondo grass, creeping jenny and mazus reptans useful in some areas of my yard. (Our new puppy Annabelle loves laying in my dwarf mondo and Maggie the 2 year old like the creeping jenny.) We’ve worked concrete and flagstone walkways and patios into our backyard designs making for a little less time spent on maintaining a lawn. In the open grass area I’ve kept for running and playing I’ve provided a few trees for shade on sunny days. If you don’t have shade in your grassy area consider a shade tarp to provide a protected area for your dog to escape from the hot sun.



Labs and other dogs will resort to digging when left alone maybe because they are convinced there is a small animal deep in the ground or because they are bored. I never leave my puppy alone in the yard and monitor the time my older Lab spends alone outside. There are too many f possibilities or damage to my landscape to leave a pup alone. If you have a dog that likes to dig and keeps returning to the same spots, try fencing the area and remove any rodents that may be nesting in the ground cover. If that doesn’t help you can build a designated digging area. Choose a shady spot with soft soil in a back corner of your yard. To encourage your puppy or dog to use the space bury some favorite toys and plastic bones when your pup is not around. Then later show interest in the spot by digging a few shovelfuls and soon he’ll follow your lead. Use an upbeat voice and using his name say “okay, dig”. If he strays out of this digging area redirect him by hiding another toy or bone. Just remember it may take a little while for your dog to catch on so have some patience.

Perhaps your yard is already established when you get your new puppy and you just can’t wait for him or her to out grow they seek and destroy phase you may want to consider an underground electronic or wireless fencing system to protect your plants and planting beds. When used properly and with consistent training, underground and wireless fences can quickly teach your dog to respect boundaries. Up to now I’ve never needed to use an underground system. My Labs have learned rather quickly my pants are off limits!


When planning your landscape remember that many common plants found in backyards and homes can be poisonous to your dog. You will need to remove the plants or protect your dog from ingesting them. Here is a part list of some plants that can be deadly to your dog. Amaryllis, autumn crocus, azalea/rhododendron, castor bean, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, Daphne, dogbane, English Ivy, foxglove, kalanchoe, lilies, marijuana, narcissus bulbs, oleander, peace lily, pothos, sago palm, schefflera, tulip bulbs, white snakeroot and yew. For a more complete list visit the Cornell website: http://www.ansci.connell.edu/plants

Now I will admit you will find some of these plants in my yard. I’ve found that once my puppies mature out of the mouthy chewing stage they don’t try to eat my plants. So I fence my beds and delicate plants and monitor the time my puppy spends outside alone. A puppy pen in a grassy area away from all plants could help while a puppy outgrows this stage. If they don’t outgrow eating everything green consider a dedicated fenced run area away from dangerous plants Occasionally my dogs will eat grass and so I keep some oat grass also called cat grass growing in a pot and that seems to satisfy their need for greens.

Besides dangerous plants, fertilizers and pest control products can be hazardous to your pet’s health, as many contain toxins in the chemicals. Read the labels on everything you use on your lawn and plants to make sure they are pet safe. It’s not only chemicals that pose a danger for your pet. Even something natural like a compost pile or sweet smelling cocoa mulch, could be harmful and deadly if ingested by your dog. Other outdoor hazards in your dog’s outdoor environment include: sharp gardening tools and supplies, barbeque equipment, citronella candles, pools chemicals and exposed wiring.



Spending quality time with your dog relieves boredom that can lead to dangerous and destructive behavior. Daily walks, playing fetch, dog parks, and dog training classes go a long way to challenge your dog mentally and physically and relieve boredom. Believe it or not eventually your pup will out grow seeking and destroying every part of your landscape/yard.






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