Jennifer StackhouseSurviving dogs in the garden

When I was growing up we had a red chow dog called Tanya. Chows have a thick furry coat so keeping cool in summer is a priority. Tanya made a shallow dug out area in the cool soil under the crabapple where she could stretch out on hot days. Some months after she died we noticed a mass of flowers under the tree right where she used to lie. Looking at them my mother remembered she had planted bulbs there many years before, but assumed they’d died.

We realised that Tanya had actually flattened them every year so they’d never flowered. Each year the flowering bulbs are a reminder of our wonderful dog, however their appearance underlines the basic incompatibility of dogs and gardens. The flowers couldn’t grow and bloom while we had the dog, but thrived when she’d gone!

Butterfly the pug enjoys relaxing in the garden

Butterfly the pug enjoys relaxing in the garden

My pug Dora

Dora the pug likes digging in the garden

Planning for the dog
Dogs love to be in the garden where they can dig, run, jump or just lie about. In the process, plants get trampled, broken and squashed.

So how do you have a garden and a dog? My solution was to get a bigger garden, but that’s not always practical and doesn’t necessarily solve the problems. Even in bigger gardens, the dogs still ran through hedges and garden beds, lay on top of precious plants and foraged for strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

Dogs like to get up high to watch their territory

Dogs enjoy a high vantage point from which to view the world

When I am working in the garden, they love to lend a helping paw – often digging up the plants I’ve just put in. I get them to dig planting holes for me so they are help rather than a hindrance.
As well as redirected digging, zoning helps our garden survive the dogs. We erect barriers to prevent the dogs from romping where they’ll cause damage. Gates make the vegie patch a no-go area while temporary wire keeps them away as hedges grow or a plant gets established. The barriers also train them, as they stay clear even when the fences are removed.

Temporary fence

A wire fence with room behind for dogs to run

Dogs also love running along the boundary lines – especially if they can bark at the dogs next door. Normally plants are trampled. With careful planting you can leave a dog zone along the fence that’s concealed with shrubs. Plant the garden 60cm to a metre out from the fence to make a mulch path for the dogs to run along.

Minty

Dogs like Minty like to run then sprawl in the garden

Cooling off
I’ve also learnt to leave space for the dogs to have their summer dugouts like the one Tanya created under our childhood crabapple. If a plant looks as if it is going to be damaged by over zealous digging or languid lounging, it is easier to dig it up and move it than to have a turf war with the dog.
One spot my dogs have zeroed in on in our new garden is a patch where the wandering jew (Tradescantia alba) has gained a foothold. The dogs love its lush cool stems, but it’s a skin irritant so I am working on removing it completely.

[Note – this blog was first published in Jennifer Stackhouse’s garden column in the TasWeekend in The Mercury.]

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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

5 thoughts on “Surviving dogs in the garden

  1. Lovely story Jennifer. I would recommend rescue greyhounds. We have one. he sleeps 23 out of 24 hours, is gentle, loyal and NEVER steps on the garden.

  2. Kaye Browne on said:

    Love your article – and it’s so true about dogs enjoying the ‘cool’ of the sub-surface soil.

    I”m even MORE interested, in fact, absolutely and desperately awaiting an update on the key point (for me) of your article…how to PERMANENTLY get rid of the Wandering Jew weed!!!

    It would make my little rescue gal’s life sooo much less irritating!

    • Hi Kaye,

      Do you own chooks?
      From what I’ve read & having had a friend of mine who fed her chooks’ wandering jew which was wild in her back yard.
      Although their are varying opinions it appear to not have an effect of them. It is also used in some permacultural practices instead of using harmful chemicals.

    • Hi Kaye,

      Do you own chooks?
      From what I’ve read & having had a friend of mine who fed her chooks’ wandering jew which was wild in her back yard.
      Although their are varying opinions it appear to not have an effect of them. It is also used in some permacultural practices instead of using harmful chemicals.

      • Kaye Browne on said:

        Thank-you for your kind thought – however my very spoilt bantams (2) and chook are so well fed -and alas I have so many other weeds and greens that when I let them free range they don’t destroy the wandering Dew! Great idea though!

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