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Garden Design

How to create a dog-friendly garden

Phil Dudman

Phil Dudman

December 11, 2012

Can a dog, a garden and a gardener live in harmony? My immediate thought is no. Dogs love to dig in places where you don’t want them to… and they naturally have an insatiable attraction to smelly things like blood and bone and animal manures, which I use a lot of in my garden.

Ralphy – our new Australian terrier puppy

So why on earth would I contemplate getting a dog? Dunno… I’ve never been a dog person, and I can’t stand being licked by other people’s dogs… but over the last few months, something weird has happened. I seem to have developed this sudden realisation of the joys and benefits of being a dog owner… the friendship and bond, the fun and play, the daily walks to the park (which incidentally, I need too at 47).

Is this just puppy love? Am I having some sort of midlife crisis? We’ll have to wait and see, but whatever it is, I need to learn how to make my garden a little more dog friendly… and I need to learn quickly, because I’ve picked up Ralphy … the little Aussie Terrier… just this week… and already he’s proving to be a handful… but very sweet.

OK. So I’ve done a bit of initial research… and all reports indicate that doggie boredom is a recipe for disaster. They are social beings and rarely destroy the garden when you’re at home… apparently, so you’ve got to keep your canine busy while you’re out. Your garden layout will help… and the advice is to try creating different sections for your dog to explore, places to hide, undergrowth, sunny spots, shady spots. They are nosy blighters, and like to see what’s going on down the street, so it’s good to create gaps or peep holes in front fences to allow them to peer out. One of the best bits of advice I received was, ‘Give them lots of toys’… old tennis balls are great I believe…. And I’ve seen those chewable toys that you can put treats inside… it keeps dogs entertained for hours while they try to open it up. Don’t give them old shoes to chew on… they can’t tell the difference between old shoes and good shoes… and use rewards. Reward your dog for playing with a particular toy so he will play with it while you’re away.

Hmmm……….should I ??

It’s also worth sacrificing or setting up a place in your garden where you can allow your dog to dig… and you can encourage your dog to dig there by hiding edible treats and toys in the soil as you leave the house. And sure, there are sensitive areas in my garden which I will restrict access to when I’m out through fencing … and others I can protect with a few prickly foliaged plants on borders.

Oh yes….who could resist those strawberries?


OK… so what about the business end of having a dog? I’m not too keen on yellow circles on the lawn… or poos for that matter. Apparently it’s easy to train your pet to use a ‘doggy toilet’… a soft sandy spot that’s away from the house… in a private area surrounded by shrubs. All you do is lead them there after meals and first thing in the morning and praise them when they do it in the right spot. I’ll be getting straight onto that one! I believe a ‘peeing post’ in the doggie loo works well too.

Anyway, I’ve done it! I am now an official gardening dog owner. If you’ve got any more advice for me… please share your comments below. You might think my garden is on the eve of destruction? Whatever your thoughts, let me know and I’ll get back to you. Woof!

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11 years ago

Hey Phil! Good on you for doing your homework. So many things to think about in the garden when it comes to introducing a very curious alien and you usually think about them after the event. Let me recount a story going back nearly eight years. Our very old dog who was eighteen, finally went the way of all old dogs. This is always a sad event and generally leaves a big (metaphoric) hole. We hadn’t planned on looking for another dog quickly but fate led us to meet the next love of our lives – a black labradoodle pup who we called Jasmine. We brought Jasmine (Jas) home and proceeded to become acquainted with the new pup. It was eighteen years since we had had intimate dealings with a pup and most of the trauma was forgotten. Our dear departed dog had little interest in the garden and I had pots everywhere… I had fuchsias, orchids, and a large number of recently repotted bromeliads. Please note the use of the word “had”. On a daily basis, I’d come home and find another plant having parted company with its pot – bits of the plant strewn around the deck, potting mix carefully and strategically stuck between the timbers of the decking, and the plastic pot unrecognisable with tooth marks and cracks and sometimes in several pieces. It looked like Jas had had a great deal of fun and spent quite some time on this activity – I wish there was video evidence. All the time this was happening, the fairly expensive chew toy lay quietly on the bed being ignored….. When I was down to 2 bromeliads (having started with probably 15), I decided it was time to develop a different management strategy. I created a fenced area where the plants were to be kept away from miss playful puppy. Plant destruction stopped. The moral of the story is that I was the slow learner. If your puppy shows interest in something you don’t want it to be interested in, remove access to it. Dogs learn from repetition. In the case of the bromeliads, the more often Jas had the opportunity to play with the plants and pots, the greater the chance that it would become a problem behaviour (it was only a problem behaviour for me, I have to say). After a couple of months of no access, we ‘tested’ her with putting a couple of plants back on the deck. We were careful not to put long leafy bromeliads out but Jas no longer had an interest in plants in pots. Phew! By this time we were heavily into the drought and I didn’t want lots of pots but the whole business taught me a bit about dogs.
Next time I’ll share my watering system saga with you….
Regards, Hound Advice – train your dog before it trains you

Phil Dudman
Phil Dudman
11 years ago
Reply to  Houndadvice

Thanks, that’s great advice… I’m hoping I won’t have to fence off my vegie patch… so far so good. Love to hear about your watering system saga!! Best, Phil

11 years ago
Reply to  Phil Dudman

Ralhpy is just gorgeous. A real little sweetie.
We have had both male and female desexed dogs and neither have ever left rings on the lawn. It may be undesexed animals that do this.
As a puppy Archibald really loved paper bags that had lots of things stuffed in them, like old milk cartons etc. Of course when you arrived home there was always the mess to clean up but it had kept him preoccupied for ages while we were away.
Through patience Archie now responds to ‘Get off the garden’ which he responds to quickly because he knows that it is a no-go zone. We have distinct garden vs paths or lawn which enables him to understand.
You will be a dotty pet owner like so many in no time Phil.
As for the story from ‘Houndadvice’, this just reinforces the laughter and joy that animals bring to our lives. Everyone should at some stage in their lives be able to experience the pleasure of animal ownership.

Phil Dudman
11 years ago
Reply to  AliCat

Thanks Alison, Ralphy is a pure delight and very well behaved in the garden… so far. Finger’s crossed! Phil

11 years ago

Hi Phil, I have had a string of second hand, medium sized, older dogs that really haven’t caused too many problems in the garden. Of course the vegie beds get all the lovely sun and with a layer of pea straw make for a great dog bed, small seedlings don’t really get in the way. I use a lot of empty wire hanging basket upside down to protect seedlings, tent pegs can secure them nicely. Also ‘dog sticks’ small stakes strategically positioned to interrupt any thoroughfares, digging spots or lying spots work really well. Looks better than fences. Good luck, it’ll be great fun.

Phil Dudman
11 years ago
Reply to  Anna

Hi Anna, thank you for sharing your tips. You’ve offered some great advice and I’ll certainly be giving those ideas a go. Ralphy is proving to be a great joy! Best, Phil