Dog-Friendly Garden Design

Landscape architects are proving that a space for pets doesn’t have to lack style.

By: Holly Aguirre

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of XGrass

Photo By: Image Courtesy of XGrass

Photo By: Image Courtesy of XGrass

Photo By: Image Courtesy of XGrass

Photo By: Image Courtesy of XGrass

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Home & Garden Design, inc.

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Home & Garden Design, inc.

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Home & Garden Design, inc.

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Home & Garden Design, inc.

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Meset Shop

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Meset Shop

Photo By: Image Courtesy of One Dog One Bone

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Sunburst Landscaping

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Sunburst Landscaping

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Barkitecture

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Back Yard Garden Dog Run

When Danna Cain of Home & Garden Design, Inc. in Atlanta was hired to design a garden for a client with a St. Bernard, she had a realization. The dog was more than a pet, he was a family member and she tailored the space to suit his needs as well. “I felt that a dog that large could not be denied, so I designed all walks and trails through the wooded and hilly backyard following the dog's favorite routes, placing people-friendly destinations along the way,” says Cain. “I put a bench here, hammock there and patio deeper in the woods as a destination and gathering spot around a fire pit tucked in a cozy sanctuary.”  We’ve rounded up a few pet runs that second Cain’s emotion. Dog runs can be attractive, safe and fanciful. This dog run was created by FormLA with their client’s Lhasa Apso "Beloved” in mind. 


Given the dangers lurking in many gardens, not to mention severe drought, some dog owners are choosing synthetic grass, like XGrass Pet Grass. It can be a low maintenance solution that drains and dries quickly. This solution allows pet owners to easily wash away animal waste, providing a hygienic area for their dogs to rest and play.

Pet-Friendly Grass in Miami

The community of Coconut Grove, a neighborhood in Miami hired XGrass to revitalize Blanche Park and create a large, clean space for dogs to run and play. The XGrass Pet Grass surface allows the park to stay clean and prevents animals from digging up areas or playing in muddy puddles.

The Perfect Grass

Even though it is made of synthetic materials, XGrass stays surprisingly cool to the touch. The City of Miami chose the product for their new dog run in Coconut Grove’s Blanch Park. Dogs and their owners are reportedly jumping for joy. 

Miami Dog Park

These four-legged friends enjoy Coconut Grove’s Blanch Park that was specifically designed for dogs in mind. 

Mess-Free Grass

This client was looking for a product that would prevent their dogs from digging in the soil and tracking mud into the house. XGrass Pet Grass provides a clean and comfortable surface for dogs to run and play.

Welsh Corgis Dog Run

This dog run in Atlanta was designed by Danna Cain, ASLA and built by Home & Garden Design, Inc. with the safety and comfort of two Welsh Corgis in mind. Previously, snakes liked hiding in the tall mondo grass, and the short-legged pups had difficulty navigating it. It was replaced with a shorter version as well as attractive mazus in between stepping-stones that make up the run. Fragrant plants were used to mask odors, and a bench was installed to create a relaxing area for the owner to sit while her dogs play. 

Dog Run Alley Way

The alley of this Atlanta home linked the rear patio to the front courtyard and was enclosed on one side by the house and the other side by a brick wall. A gate to keep the dogs contained separated the front courtyard. This layout created a perfect area for a dog run, but the owner also wanted it to be attractive. That is where landscape architect Danna Cain of Home & Garden Design, Inc. came in. Cain created a space that is not only functional but also easy on the eyes.

Back Yard Dog Maze

Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping, is an environmental horticulturist and designs optimally sustainable gardens with pets and kids in mind. Her dog-design considerations move beyond plant materials and consider the breed and habits of the specific pet. This dog maze was created by FormLA with the Kingsburys’ Lhasa Apso in mind. “Beloved” enjoys running the permeable trails while her people enjoy the roses and the circulating fountain. The decomposed granite trail stays cool under paw and solved a flooding problem.

Pet Safe Dog Run

Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping advises that dog owners evaluate hardscape options.  “Asphalt is hot and harsh on paws. Synthetic lawns hold heat as well. Gravel can get lodged between large dog paw pads, and small dogs may choke on it,” said Aoyagi. “Decomposed granite stays cool and is not a chewing hazard.” The Kingsbury family wanted a garden that not only gave them a place for meditation and reflection, but also a place that their four-legged family member Beloved would feel at home, too. FormLA designed a dog maze that is low maintenance, attractive and safe. 

Slate Nugget Dog Path

Creating a run for Bailey, a Golden Retriever in Atlanta, proved a natural transition. The large dog had already worn a favorite route in her owner’s backyard so designer Danna Cain of Home & Garden Design, Inc. laid medium slate nugget gravel on the established paths. Not only is it easy on dog and people feet, but also it doesn't get stuck in paws. 

Relaxing Environment for Dogs

While there is not too much running around for Bailey who is a little long in the tooth, he loves hanging out watching the birds, butterflies and chipmunks with whom he shares his fountain and shade. His owners are thrilled that he no longer tracks dirt back into the house and that he is happy. 

Modern Dog House

When pressed to find stylish and suitable housing for his own dogs, Francisco Loren, a Decatur, Georgia-based architect, decided to build his own. The result was so well received that Loren hung out a shingle under the name of Meset Shop and began taking custom orders. Materials that make up the surrounding runs are carefully considered in an effort to complement the home’s design. Pet-friendly rocks surround this modern doghouse.

Sleek Back Yard Dog House

This is a doghouse worth sleeping in. Designed by Loren Francisco of Decatur, Ga., it not only provides your best friend needed shelter and shade but is also an attractive addition to any backyard. 

One Dog One Bone

This backyard has really gone to the dogs, in a good way. A pool by One Dog One Bone was installed on the patio that functions as a dog run to provide these best friends a respite from the heat. The durable pools are constructed from the same material used to line truck beds. It stays cooler than other pools and has a UV inhibitor. Your dog will be cool and look cool. 

Beautiful Synthetic Grass

Sunburst Landscaping of Arizona relies on synthetic EasyTurf for their clients in the Southwest where there are serious water shortages and drought. There is also no need for potentially harmful pesticides or dangerous weed killers. And if you’re greening your home, installation earns LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points. 

Pet Spaces for Confined Areas

Even if your home is short on outdoor space you can still design an attractive space for your pet. This condo patio designed by Sunburst Landscaping features synthetic EasyTurf and succulents and other drought-resistant plants meaning there is very little need for water. EasyTurf is even endorsed by pet trainer Caesar Milan. 

Dog-Friendly Grass

This run was designed by Southern California landscapers FormLA and is made up of carex pansa, a species of sedge. Visually, a carex pansa lawn is not that distinguishable from a traditional lawn. It is an IdealMow lawn alternative, which needs no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Additionally, this grass will not need constant mowing and it requires 70 percent less water to stay alive. It is hearty enough for large dogs to give it a run for its money. 


Barkitecture is a doghouse-centric design competition that began in 2005 to raise funds for Austin’s pet rescues. The event was conceptualized by Animal Lovers of Austin, Inc. and brings together some of the city’s best architects who compete for categories such as Best in Show, Best Backyard Bungalow, Greenest Design and the People’s Choice Award. Attendees can then bid on the designs for their furry best friends and the money goes to help dogs in need. Win/win.

Terracotta Dog Run

FormLA designers incorporated the existing Terracotta tiles at this Santa Monica home’s entrance with a dog run made from decomposed granite allowing their pet to have the run of house. The lawn is a variety of IdealMow grass that needs very little water and is low maintenance. 

Cool Granite Dog Run

The owners of this Santa Monica home and their pet enjoy the fruits of FormLA’s labors – literally. Not only is this garden edible, but it is also friendly to creatures with any number of legs. The fragrant citrus trees provide shade for pets and treats for humans. Growing in the raised bed is chard and Sequoia strawberries. The decomposed granite run stays cool under pup’s feet.

Orange Tree Dog Run

We like how this dog run’s Lilac Verbena creates contrast against the butter yellow color of this Santa Monica beach bungalow and guesthouse. The orange tree provides both shade and nourishment. The scents and the juxtaposition of all these garden elements offer a sense of tranquility for visitors as well as a pleasant place for furry friends to roam. 

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