Make a Pet-Friendly Garden

Animals and people can coexist with the right garden design.

Strong Fenced in Backyard for Dogs is a Must

Strong Fenced in Backyard for Dogs is a Must

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Provide strong boundaries for dogs so they will not run the neighborhood. Dogs need the exercise of a backyard, but should be kept fenced in for the safety of dogs and neighbors alike.


I’m remembering this totally adorable springtime scene: middle child, age 5, wearing overalls and romping in a pile of Texas bluebonnets and Labrador retriever puppies. He chose the puppy with the green collar and named him Ray. We took a photo of it.

But although it was one of said dog’s favorite things to do in our backyard when he was 5, we do NOT have a springtime photo of Ray chowing down on pink fiberglass insulation.

Your garden, in contrast, can be a “peaceable kingdom” for both pets and people. It just takes a little understanding of the pet’s point of view. Seeing it their way will help you keep them safe, happy, and the heck out of your insulation, not to mention your irises.

Edible Delights

To cats, dogs, tortoises and horses, irises = lunch, the kind worth swallowing a whole lot of geraniums and salvia to get to. Eating flowers (any, all), fruit and foliage washed down with available liquid is how animals roll.

Know what’s on the menu. Get rid of toxic plants from the ASPCA’s list and add healthy treats like wheatgrass, or fragrant herbs like artemesia and tansy that keep fleas down. Fence off your lilies and use natural herbicides. Let water flow rather than stand stagnant and keep it chemical-free for drinking and swimming (and frogs).

A Restful Refuge

For Labradors, big setters and rhinos alike, trampling your plants is an essential part of eating them, but also of napping. With napping, of course, comes digging, preferably in the shade. There’s a routine to all of this, and certain favored routes through the garden, too. Removal of spiny, thorny, prickly plant life is much appreciated.

Relocate your hostas, plant springy resilient things, or lay down some big undiggable stone. Elsewhere in the garden, a patch of smaller round rocks (easier to re-spread than dirt or mulch) or a “treasure island” of sand containing buried toys can divert diggers from shaded beds or the lawn.

Personal Space

Speaking of diversion, you might want to establish a “restroom” of juniper, which male dogs find alluring. That adorable pet condo is too nice to pee on—and besides, everyone already knows who it belongs to—as opposed to parts of the lawn. If you act quickly and hit the grass with lots of water right after it’s been “fertilized,” you might save it from turning yellow or brown.

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