How to Create a Pet-Friendly Garden

Consider these design and safety tips to keep your yard pet-friendly.

By: Holly Aguirre

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Sunburst Landscaping

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Northwest Botanicals, Seattle

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Northwest Botanicals, Seattle

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Northwest Botanicals, Seattle

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Sunburst Landscaping

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Delta Rescue

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Barkitecture

Photo By: Image Courtesy of FormLA

Photo By: Image Courtesy of EP Henry

Photo By: Image Courtesy of EP Henry

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Northwest Botanicals, Seattle

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Pet Peak

Photo By: Photo by Bob Zumwalt

Photo By: Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Deadly Sago

At first glance, this garden is lovely to behold; however, it contains one of the most deadly plants known to animals – the sago palm. In 2009, pet insurers Trupanion paid a claim for a dog that was poisoned by the sago palm.  “The sago palm is particularly toxic to pets causing vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and leads to liver failure,” Dr. Kerri Marshall, Chief Veterinary Officer for Trupanion told HGTV. “An estimated 75% of animals die from ingestion of any part of the plant despite medical treatment. That is why we are sounding the warning bell on this toxic plant again.”  For this garden to be pet-friendly, the sago palms at the right and left and all their debris would need to be completely removed. 

Troublesome Yard

As you can see, this garden in Seattle was once a bit of a downer. Not only was our furry friend here tracking in mud, but also every time it rained, elements of the yard washed down this slope. The owners called in Northwest Botanicals to create a new space for the whole family.   “When we take on a project, we like to go out and meet the animals for which we are designing the garden,” says Pat Reh of Northwest. “And it seems like there are a lot of large dogs here in Seattle. They need special consideration when designing their domain.”  

Troublesome Yard Fixed

Since it rains so much in Seattle, drainage is always a concern. Not only is standing water potentially dangerous for your pet, there’s also mud to consider. This after shot is of a garden created by Dennis Hopkins of Northwest Botanicals. “We advise creating dry streambeds, especially around downspouts, with natural rocks,” says Pat Reh. “We use a lot of mulch, woodchips and bark and especially cedar chips for drainage. Dogs seem to like the smell of the cedar chips.”  Rocks also can prevent your dog from digging.

Shady Paradise

Pet Reh says they pay careful attention to a dog’s personality and their needs before tackling a project. This Seattle pup enjoys the shade in her garden that was designed with her in mind by Dennis Hopkins of Northwest Botanicals.

Thorn-Free Yard

“The most common injuries I have seen associated with gardens are those caused by thorns,” Dr. Gaylord Brown, Chief Veterinary of Delta Rescue tells HGTV. “Both rose and cactus thorns can cause serious injury to the eye and are notorious for becoming lodged in the feet.” This minimalist garden or dog run is the ultimate in pet-friendly as there is very little to threaten a dog or a cat.

Rescue Kitty Enclosures

Some cat owners are now installing elaborate kitty enclosures to keep felines contained. Not only is a cat tempted to run off in pursuit of the next can of tuna, but also they’re often tempted to chase other critters along garden walls. “There are over 700 common plants that can be toxic to pets if eaten,” cautions Dr. Gaylord Brown, Chief Veterinary of Delta Rescue. “The most common toxicity I have seen with plants are lilies being consumed by cats. This may cause death by kidney failure. The entire lily plant is toxic to cats.” This enclosure houses rescue cats at Delta Rescue in Los Angeles. 

Doggie Cool Down

Your pet should always have a source of water and a place to cool down in hotter months. All the vets we spoke to, however, advised not letting your pet free range in the yard if there are risks. They can drown, choke, and fall, just like a toddler. Always puppy-proof your garden and consider consulting an expert landscaper as well as your vet when it doubt. 

Custom Dog Run

FormLA designed this pet-friendly garden in Southern California. The pet’s habits, likes and dislikes were considered and it was placed where the pet could see people and vice versa.  “Keep dog areas near outdoor living spaces,” Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping, an environmental horticulturist advises HGTV. “Dog runs placed far from where humans naturally congregate simply don't get used much.”

Pet-Friendly Patio

EP Henry has been creating gardens that the whole family can enjoy for over 100 years. The retaining wall keeps the grassy area, where the dogs generally make their messes, contained and separate from the area where the family gathers. The patio helps to keep the dirt in check and is easily hosed off. Remember, when gathering out-of-doors, your pet is generally going to want to be where you are. 

Multi-Purpose Garden Patio

This garden patio was designed by EP Henry to accommodate all family members in style. Four-legged ones love it for the cool tile, wide open spaces and shade trees. Humans can enjoy the stone fireplace for generations to come. What’s not to like? 

Scaredy Cat Plant

This garden in the Pacific Northwest was designed with delicate plants inaccessible to large paws. Remember that what you plant is important and cats have a reputation for being mischievous and will dig up potted plants. “Coleus canina, commonly known as Scaredy Cat plant, is a potable leafy plant that cats find offensive and makes a great buffer around other plants that your cat may find more desirable,” Dr. Kerri Marshall, Chief Veterinary Officer for Trupanion tells HGTV.

Pet Peeks

When Carolin Best saw her two terriers competing for the view a knothole provided in the garden privacy fence, she thought a larger hole to accommodate both snouts was in order. She took a circular saw and cut a hole near the bottom of the fence and popped a clear plastic dome into it, improvising with the top of an old rug shampoo machine. Pet Peeks was invented. We think it makes for a pet-friendly garden as it cuts down on fence barking and pups can actually see what’s on the other side of the fence. 

Pet-Friendly Outdoor Living Space

This garden in Atlanta was designed with the owner’s elderly Golden Retriever in mind. The family enjoys outdoor living under the gazebo with four-legged safe an shaded by their side. 

Toxic Yew Plant for your Four-Legged Friends

Yew is highly toxic, causing breathing and cardiac problems, weakness, stomach irritation and can cause sudden death. Keep it out of your garden if designing for pets is on your mind.