Creating a dog-friendly, or dog-proof, outside space can be a complex task, especially depending on the breed, size, temperament, and already established obedience training your dog has. But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or daunting task – with the following guide, you’ll get to create a garden oasis that is inclusive for your furry friend in no time!

First, ask yourself which you prefer: a dog-friendly garden for a dog-proof garden, or perhaps a combination thereof. A dog-friendly garden would be a space that your dog is allowed (likely with supervision only) but is also protected from their trampling paws and chewing jaws. On the other hand, a dog-proof garden would be a space where the dog is not allowed and protective barriers are used around the entirety of the garden space.

Regardless of which type of garden you’d prefer to have, follow these steps to learn how to ensure your outdoor space is safe, fun, and functional for all members of your family.

dog paw balm

  1. Obedience Training

Obedience basics are a must for all dogs, in pretty much every situation. If your dog already confidently listens in your sit, stay, heel commands, the entire process of creating your garden will be much easier in general.

However, if this is not the case for you and your companion, don’t fret, and don’t think you need to spend hundreds on obedience classes either. Consistency is key when teaching your dog the basics. Being attuned to their needs and their moods is also paramount to your success. Allow your dog time to run, play, and even dig in appropriate areas of the yard, and be interactive with them for at least some of this time. This will show your furry friend that you’re not all work and no play, and that the yard is a fun place to spend time.

Once you’ve established play areas in your yard, work on establishing boundaries around non-play areas, like the garden or porch. When your dog enters one of these areas, get their attention with a treat, and walk towards them slowly but firmly and tell them their command (“Get out of the ____”. Your dog should back up as you walk toward them – make sure you’re guiding them directly to an area they are allowed to be in. When you’ve reached the boundary (this could be a fence around the garden or the edge of the porch concrete), ask your dog to sit. When he does, reward him with the treat and return to your task. Repeat this as necessary until your dog learns that they’re not allowed in that area.

  1. Plan Your Plants

Knowing which plants are pet safe and which ones are toxic is a very crucial step in creating a dog-friendly garden. Preferably, your dog-friendly garden would be completely free of toxic plants. Numerous reliable online resources discuss whether plants are toxic or safe for dogs and cats. Make sure you research the plants you’d like to have in your garden before purchasing or planting them. This is information you’ll want to take into account even if you plan on dog-proofing your garden.

If you do need or want to have plants that are toxic to dogs in your dog-friendly garden, protect your beloved pet by utilizing a planting pot, raised garden bed, or another container to keep these plants out of their reach. You may also use strong smells to deter your dog from these plants – scents such as dried crushed peppers, coffee grounds, rosemary, and sage, among others should work well.

For your dog-proofed garden (especially if it contains toxic plants), ensure that your barriers are sturdy enough to withstand the breed and size of your dog. Chickenwire may work for a Westie but is unlikely to be effective against a Husky.

  1. Establish Borders

Using strong and sturdy barrier materials will be especially helpful in a dog-proof garden, but can also help in a dog-friendly garden because it gives a definitive point for your dog to recognize as their boundary. Whether you’re doing dog-friendly or dog-proof for your outdoor space, you likely don’t need to pour a concrete wall around your entire garden. In fact, there are several options for barriers available that appear decorative in nature and may even help create an aesthetic for your garden.

Driftwood, fencing, rocks, and even plants can help protect your delicate plants from trampling and snacking. Put these barrier items around the entire garden, around certain no-go sections, or both. If using plants as barriers, choose plants that are sturdy and grow large enough to deter your dog from trampling over them, especially if the barrier plants will be protecting delicate plants.

If trying to block off part of your dog-friendly garden due to toxic plants, using something more sturdy like chickenwire or actual garden fencing (especially if you have a large dog) is recommended. This will ensure that your dog doesn’t accidentally ingest something harmful to them.

  1. Choose Hardy Starter Plants

Another way to ensure the survival of plants in your dog-friendly garden is by only planting starter plants that are well established and larger in size. This is particularly important for slow-growing plants. Choosing mature starter plants will allow you to establish a root system faster, therefore decreasing the chances of your dog uprooting the entire plant. This also means if they accidentally snap off a branch or two, the plant is more likely to survive. You won’t regret spending a little more money on well-established starter plants.

  1. Maintain the Perimeter

As previously mentioned, create a boundary that your dog is not to cross will help you keep them from trampling on your plants or accidentally ingesting an unsafe plant. Whether your garden is dog-friendly or dog-proof, it’s essential to maintain the perimeter. Teach your dog to “monitor” the perimeter by walking around it, which will help them feel included in your gardening tasks.