The Best Landscaping for a Yard with Dogs

Dogs are naturals when it comes to digging.
i digging terriers image by Edsweb from

Let's face it. Dogs like to dig. They also like to run through flower beds, mark territory on your bushes and roll exactly where you would rather they didn't. Having dogs and having a well-manicured yard do not exactly go together, but with some compromise, you can both be happy.

Lower Expectations

You probably aren't going to have prize tulips with a dog around. That is an undeniable fact of life that all dog parents eventually come to accept. However, if a casual, comfortable garden suits your style, those slightly bedraggled blooms and occasional bare patches merely add to the charm. The fact is that your dog needs space for activity and relaxation as much as you do, and if the two of you can do those things together, so much the better. Keeping that in mind, try to live with some untidiness if it means having a happy dog who interacts in a healthy way with his environment and his family.

Make the Best of It

Dogs don't use sidewalks. If low spots form where your long-distance runner has worn a track, think of it as a helpful outline of your dog's activity areas and design your regions for lawn furniture, flower beds and other features adjacent to, but not across, those lanes. If he has a favorite bone-yard, consider outlining the area with landscape timbers and making a large doggie sandbox there for him to bury his treasures. Place an outdoor dog cot under a shade tree to give him an alternative place to lounge so he doesn't make his own bed by digging. You might even put in an agility course for your dog in an out-of-the-way corner to give him a special place to work off energy so he leaves your herb garden alone.

Dog-Friendly Planting

Between all the digging and running your dog puts in, lawns take a beating. Plant hard-to-kill grasses commonly used on sports fields, like zoysia or bermuda in full sun, or for shady areas use fescue, bentgrass, turf rye or bluegrass. If you have a large yard, think about putting in a wildflower meadow area. The combination of hardy perennials and grasses will give your pup a wonderful place to frolic and the free-and-easy growth habits of a natural landscape disguise damage from trampling better than neat rows of single-species shrubs or flowers. Use hard surfacing like flagstone or concrete pavers to reduce the necessity for greenery in paths your dog frequents, and put super-tough ground covers like the many thymes (Thymus species), Corsican mint (Mentha requieni) or Laurentia blue star creeper (Isotoma fluviatillis) between stones. Always research any flowers and other landscape plants before putting them in your yard to ensure they do not pose a poisoning hazard to dogs who like to sample the vegetation.

Let the Games Begin

A good landscape for a dog includes lots of area for play. A rough-and-tumble area of lawn is a must for playing ball or tossing a disk, but there are other possibilities as well. If your dog is a water lover, an artificial stream or shallow pond will delight her to no end and serve as a never-empty drinking source as well. A densely-planted shrub maze may satisfy the urge to explore and problem-solve for the more intellectual canine who bores easily. Toss a toy into the middle of it and let her solve the puzzle to retrieve it. Even creating an uneven topography with hills and dips will help your dog to get necessary exercise and provide opportunities for hide-and-seek with other dogs or children.

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