Make a Pet-Friendly Garden

Animals and people can coexist with the right garden design.

Friendly Dog in a Garden

Smiling Dog in Pink Daisy Garden

This adorable pup flashes a smile to the camera and he rests in a garden filled with pink daisies and other assorted floral plants.


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.

Next Up

How to Stop Your Dog From Digging in the Yard

Digging is unwelcomed and destructive behavior. Determine your dog’s motive and then follow these steps to prevent additional backyard damage.

Karen E Laine Takes It Outside in the HGTV Special 'Good Bones: Better Yard'

Karen E Laine, Master Gardener and co-star of the HGTV hit series Good Bones, follows her true passion of renovating clients' outdoor spaces in the network's new special Good Bones: Better Yard.

How to Make a Combination Outdoor Planter and Privacy Screen

Gain some privacy in style with this easy-to-build privacy screen great for small decks or patios.

25 Budget-Friendly Buys You Didn't Know You Needed for Your Garden

Add a special touch to your outdoor space with these beautiful and functional finds under $50.

35 Best Bird Feeders and Accessories for Your Yard

Want to attract songbirds to your yard and garden? Check out our recommendations for the best bird feeders, including window feeders, stylish handmade feeders, squirrel-deterring feeders and more.

How to Make Planter Posts for String Lights

Extend the party into the night with these wooden whiskey barrels made into planters with posts that hold string lights.

How to Keep Rabbits Out of the Garden Without Harming Them

Fed up with rabbits damaging your garden? Follow these tips on how to stop rabbits from eating plants in your garden.

How to Make a Wood Planter Box With House Numbers

Up your curb appeal with this stylish planter featuring modern house numbers and a bold color.

How to Make a Raised Planter With a Trellis

Learn how to build a mobile planter box with a built-in trellis. It's perfect for a small deck or patio, and once your plants grow big and tall, the trellis can also serve as a privacy screen.

Simple Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

This easy and inexpensive hummingbird food recipe will have these beloved pollinators making return visits to your garden for your DIY hummingbird nectar.

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