Dogs and Gardens

Bilbo Oct 2015 sm

Can your dogs and your garden co-exist ? I would propose that they can with strategic dog management, careful plant selection and dog friendly design.

From my personal experience having both dogs and a garden that I love and care for, the best situation is if your dogs can be given a separate area of the garden and are only allowed in the “main” garden space on occasion and for limited periods of time. When dogs are first let out in the morning, it is important to take them away from the main garden area so they learn “to do their business” out of the garden area. In my opinion, they also shouldn’t be left in the garden for extended periods of time because that is when they get bored and start digging, chewing on plants and other unwanted behavior.

When designing a new garden or replacing existing plants, consideration should be given to plants that can stand up to dog traffic. Ornamental grasses, sturdy limbed shrubs and most trees stand the best chance of surviving romping dogs. Plants with flexible limbs that will bend, but not break will survive some amount of being stepped on upon by four legged beasts. Certain plants with especially brittle limbs, such as Salvias and Hummingbird mint, should be avoided if you are planning to leave your dog (or dogs) in the garden for any length of time.

When contemplating a new garden that will house dogs, consideration should be given to your dogs typical traffic patterns and perhaps these areas could be hardscaped or have built in raised beds. Special consideration should be given to points of entry or exit into the garden and along fence lines where dogs enjoy “patrolling”. Materials can also be selected for ease of clean up, pavers or a firm surface such as compacted crusher fines can be ideal for this.

Creating a low maintenance garden that can withstand some dog traffic, can reduce stress for both the human and dog inhabitants.


—Peggy Wright (Masters of Landscape Architecture)