5 Tips for a Dog-Friendly Garden


If there is an image that brings a smile to my face is that of a dog accompanying his/her human as he/she gardens. It evokes a feeling of simplicity and just living in a beautiful moment regardless of how dirty the garden chore is. However, the garden can be a place of hidden dangers for our furry friends, and not just in the form of the plants we grow and unexpected critters. The good news is that with a bit of planning we can create a beautiful garden that is safe for both humans and dogs.

First things, first—a few things about dogs and gardens:

  1. The garden is your dog’s domain. Say it with me—THE GARDEN IS MY DOG’S DOMAIN. You may not like it but it does not make it any less true.

  2. Dogs have a curious nature and they will get into all kinds of mischief because of it. See exhibit A below :)

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

I am sure by now, you have images of your dog (or a dog you know) playing in the garden, digging, chasing a rabbit or bird, eating dirt, and more. And truth is a garden is a fun place for dogs. They are happy frolicking around, and tail wagging. So, what can we do to make it even more fun?

Choose Plants Carefully. Of all the steps to take when planning a garden, to me this is the most important especially if, like me, you have a food-oriented dog or a chewer. This takes some research but there are various sites that provide comprehensive lists of what plants are toxic for pets. The ASPCA’s Catalog of Toxic Plants for Dogs is my favorite but Rover’s Dog People Blog also as a wonderful resource for houseplants check up—the 11 Most Poisonous Plants for Dogs.

Barriers, garden beds and pots. Whenever possible use garden beds. Not only it keeps the doggos out of your plants (especially tall raised beds) but protects your plants and veggies from urine or just walking all over them. And if you have a dog that likes to eat dirt like my previous wheaten, you want to do this. If you are container gardening, make sure you use sturdy pots that are hard to turn over. Yes, dogs will try to do that. And if there is a plant that I just simply must have, but it may be toxic for the dog, then I use hanging baskets to keep out of dog’s reach.

Using barriers is a good way to keep the curious canines from chasing critters (hello my Riley terrier terror), to keep them from running out of the garden, simply to or keep them out of places we do not want them in. A hard fence is always my first choice, but depending on your dog’s temperament, a shrub hedging (think Crepe Myrtle or Hawthorne) may also work for you.

Pesticides and Other Toxic Substances. I mostly do organic gardening in my little plot of land, but if this is not your practice then please make sure that you:

  • Consider products with low toxicity. The level of toxicity varies depending on the pesticide.

  • Store products safely.

  • Follow the product labels exactly as indicated.

  • Most are irritants and if exposed you can expect various symptoms including drooling, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.

  • If ingested please contact your vet immediately or Animal Poison Control for recommendations.

Keep a Tidy Garden. I love a tidy garden not only because it looks good but also for safety. The last thing you want is another opportunity for the dog to get in trouble. Cut back overgrown shrubs, trim dead tree branches, and mow the lawn. Not only is it beneficial for the canines and plants but are also good practices to avoid pests and other nasty insects like ticks and fleas.

This photo taken before we trimmed the underside of our pine trees where Riley likes to hang out. Don’t be like me and let it get like this. It is all nice and tidy now.

This photo taken before we trimmed the underside of our pine trees where Riley likes to hang out. Don’t be like me and let it get like this. It is all nice and tidy now.

Outdoor Life. My dogs have all been inside dogs but Riley loves to be outdoors stalking birds and other critters. If you plan to allow your dog to be outside for longer than normal periods of time, here some tips:

  • Provide sturdy shelter to protect them from the elements

  • Have water available at all times and also keep the bowl clean and with fresh water.

  • Have toys available to keep them entertained. I would refrain from treats unless you want other critters or ants crawling all over it.

  • Provide an area where they can exercise, and a separate area where they can potty. Nobody wants dog poop/urine on their plants.

As I said, the key is having a game plan but truly these are all simple adjustments that you can make to ensure you and your dog have a lovely fun time in the garden. Happy gardening!