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Tips for Pet-Proofing your Yard

With Spring weather here and most of us spending a lot more time at home, why not work on creating your dream backyard oasis? Home improvement stores are open and getting outside is a welcome distraction. As you plan your garden and space, don’t forget about the family member who probably spends the most time outdoors - the family dog. Here are some tips to help create the ultimate backyard for your pup. 

Plant Dog-Friendly Flowers & Trees

It’s important to select plants that are healthy for dogs, especially if you have a puppy or a dog that likes chewing. Avoid popular flowers such as azaleas, rhododendron, daffodils, hydrangea, mums, and peonies where the flowers and leaves can be toxic. Great dog-friendly options are African violets, aster, daylilies, hibiscus, marigolds, snapdragons, sunflowers, and zinnia. Plants like lavender and chamomile are calming to dogs. Most herbs are good for dogs, and things like mint will even help to freshen their breath!

If your dog is not into eating or chewing plants, you might also consider landscaping with urine-resistant plants like the Japanese Spindle Tree and Burkwood Osmanthus which is an evergreen shrub that blooms with fragrant with white flowers. (Note that both these plants are poisonous if ingested, however.)

Consult this list of plants poisonous to dogs before heading to your garden center. 

If you already have toxic plants in your yard, hope is not lost. “You can prevent your dog from getting near them by putting fencing around the plant, keeping your dog on leash, or using the SpotOn system to only allow them in a certain part of the yard that does not contain poisonous plants!” says Dr. Stephanie Magnarelli, DVM, Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire. 

Create a Durable Lawn

Grass creates a great play area and looks beautiful. Kentucky bluegrass is the most frequently recommended grass type for dogs because it is hearty and will stand up to high traffic, as well as the chemicals from urine and feces. It works well for most climates, too. Maiden grass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue are also good options.

Select the Right Landscaping Materials

Landscapers recommend creating paths throughout your yard in regularly trafficked areas to reduce trampling through flower beds. Dogs like to prowl and follow paths so it’s great for their mental stimulation, too. Materials like gravel, pebbles, crushed seashells, and bricks are easy on your dog’s foot pads and won’t get too hot. Avoid jagged stones or large stone slabs.

For flower beds, most mulch is safe, but be sure to avoid cocoa mulch which, like chocolate, is poisonous if a dog ingests it.

Consider using natural or “green” weed killers. Be sure to read the labels, though, as some brands pretend to be green but still contain harmful chemicals. Avoid weed killers that use Glyphosate (Roundup), 2,4-D (Trimec), & Sethoxydim.

“There are no safe fertilizers and pesticides,” says Mark Richardson, director of horticulture at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA. “If you have kids or dogs, I recommend you do not use any fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Typical turf grass lawns are European species and not well suited to our climate or soil. So we prop them up with fertilizers and pesticides. They don’t really want to grow here. If you choose grasses that are native to your region, you will have less need for these. You can also go the organic lawn care route, but a lot of those fertilizers are made out of things like fish or bone that dogs want to eat so they aren’t a great option for dog households, either.”  There are natural approaches that work well such as seaweed, vinegar, grass cuttings, and coffee grounds.  

Create Cool, Shady Spots

Be sure to incorporate some shady spots for your pup to rest and shelter from the sun; this will also stop him from digging holes to get in the cool earth or hide under your deck. If you aren’t lucky enough to already have old growth trees, try growing a vine plant up a Pergola or over a doorway. You can also take on a family project to build a small gazebo the whole family can enjoy. A dog house or ‘tree house’ at ground level can be a great play space for dogs and kids.

If your dog loves water, installing a beautiful water feature can be another great option. A fountain or fish pool can add beauty to your backyard as well as provide a spot for your dog to cool off. Dr. Tracey Hanna, MVB, DABVP, Veterinarian ER Doctor, weighs in: “Generally, a pond that contains fish is going to be safe for dogs, but be careful of algae, which can be toxic.”

 Outdoor showers can be a luxurious home addition and handy for both dirty dogs and people. Make sure to create a drinking water fountain at dog level.

“Try not to let water sit if you can prevent it, but in the case of pools or ponds that cannot be drained daily, remember to give your dog monthly heartworm preventatives. Standing water attracts mosquitos which are a vector for heartworm disease.” Dr. Stephanie Magnarelli says.

Make a Dog Playground

If you have a large space, consider installing play structures or a mini agility course. It’s a fun project for the family to build and gives your pup lots to do. An easy one is getting a ripstop children’s play tunnel. You can stabilize it with tent spikes at each end and watch your pup joyfully run back and forth. It’s also a great hide out from the sun. 

With some simple PVC pipes, you can make the basic jump fence used in agility competitions. Start low and keep moving the bar higher as your dog improves. PVC pipes can also be used to create weave poles, another standard feature in agility courses. A see saw can double as both a dog play structure and a kid’s playground. For more ideas and a how-to, check out these DIY Dog Backyard Ideas.

Keep Your Dog Contained

The most important thing you need when creating the ultimate backyard for your dog is a way to keep him in it. You can invest in a beautiful fence which may cost thousands of dollars and might be impractical if you have an acre or more of space. Another alternative is an invisible fence.

SpotOn Virtual Fence uses GPS technology to contain your dog. Just walk the perimeter of the desired containment area to set it on a collar he wears. The collar communicates with satellites and gives your dog warning tones if they come close to the boundary and ultimately an optional static correction if they try to cross. With the proper training, your dog will be content to stay in his space. The SpotOn Virtual Fence is very flexible, also. You can create a boundary map for summer that excludes your vegetable garden and a boundary map for the rest of the year that includes the whole backyard. The SpotOn Fence can save up to 10 different maps.

Have you done anything special to your backyard just for your dog? If so, snap a picture and tag us on social! We would love to hear about it and feature it on our social media channels.

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