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.
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.
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.
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!