Dog-Friendly Landscape Design Ideas

Posted December 19, 2019 in Landscape Design

Do you struggle with keeping your lawn and garden adaptable to your canine friend? Well, as Scooby-Doo says, “ruh-roh!” Living in landscape harmony with your pets just got easier with these following tips for a pet-friendly backyard landscape. We’ll give you ideas that can transform the way you and your dog interact with each other and your environment!

Observe Your Pet’s Habits

Each breed has particular traits, along with agility, exercise requirements, and habits. Take time to study your dog. Watch where he goes…you know…to do his business; is it in the same vicinity each time? Is there a specific path he wears out patrolling the perimeter of the property? Make notes and watch them as they wander throughout sniffing and smelling their surroundings. Over time, you’ll see a pattern to their preferences. For example, some breeds like hounds like to dig to China for small rodents, while other dogs like to dig in the soft, cool earth to find respite from a hot summer day. This small yet critical information will give excellent clues on how to landscape around these habits. With these observations, we can accommodate a suitable environment and meet your favorite canine’s needs when redesigning the space to be both dog and people-friendly.

Consider Pet-Friendly Yard Amenities

Dog- Friendly Landscape Materials

Yellowing urine spots on the lawn don’t make for an excellent English croquet game. Lawn care can become very expensive when a dog is involved, and using more fertilizers and pesticides on the ground can spark health concerns. So what is a homeowner to do? Well, the addition of a hardscape is a great way to pull double duty. For starters, a patio addition is a perfect scene for summer grilling, lounging, and fun for the family, which acts as a subconscious barrier to your furry friends doing their business elsewhere. Pavers or flagstone on a path or close by a fence should minimize your dog’s digging. Also, in certain areas, grass can be substituted with plant groundcovers, mulch, pebbles, or decorative stone to enhance your backyard oasis, yet be soft on your canine companion’s paws.

When observing your playful pooch, is he picking up mulch nuggets or rocks and trying to chew or eat them? Letting your landscape designer know important habits about your dog will give them insight into which mulches or not to use for your pets to maneuver safely. Some dogs won’t mind the rocks or even notice them at all, where puppies might think they’re something to gnaw on while cutting their baby teeth or even swallowing them! Each dog is different, so it’s especially important to observe and avoid those materials that could cause harm later.

Potty Corner

To avoid the dreaded spotty yard, consider designating a ‘potty place’ and train your pet to go to this area, be it a mulched or graveled area. Often, pets want privacy too, so adding shrubs that are high enough to give them a bit of privacy and security helps promote the activity quicker. Male dogs would appreciate a piece of driftwood or a post to mark their territory, so why not make it decorative to blend into the garden? Let’s persuade them to use it instead of your favorite plantings!

Cleanup is easier to achieve if done in one spot. Setting this spot up away from the house in the corner of the yard is best to avoid odors. Of course, removing debris from this area should be done every day and hosed off periodically, so rodent infestations won’t occur. It should go without saying, but avoid playing in this area, and use it only for the designated potty break.

Lawn Alternatives

“Dog spots” cause burning on the grass due to nitrogen and salts in the dog’s urine, so another lawn alternative is to change over to a clover lawn. It’s been found that clover does not react to a dog’s business as grass does.

While some think clover is a weed, it was mixed in with grass seed until the ’50’s because it helped the nitrogen levels in the soil. It was considered a prestigious plant because of it’s attractive, low-maintenance, and flowering components. It stays lush and green all summer long, and it is drought-tolerant due to its long roots to access water at deeper levels. Clover’s low maintenance nature also lends to cutting it less! With no fertilizer needed, clover tends to aerate the soil, so you don’t have soil compaction. Your pet’s paws will love it because it’s soft, like a carpet, and it attracts beneficials. Clover remains predominantly pest-free, so you will not find the need for pesticides or sprays, and you may even be lucky enough to find a 4-leaf clover in the bunch!

Dog Runs & Fencing Alternatives

Dogs like to investigate, prowl, and do their essential “paw patrol” to protect their territory and their humans, so be sure to plan for enough space around the boundaries of your yard. If you want them to stay away from a specific area, a fence will undoubtedly do the trick. Not sure what type of fencing is the best option for your needs and your home? Your landscape designer will be able to assist with the function and aesthetics, but keep in mind that a picket fence will fit more of a cottage design. In contrast, horizontal planks designate a more contemporary look.

If you happen to notice a dog path being worn down, it certainly would be more aesthetic to install a proper walkway over the current path. The walkway can be nestled flush with the groundcover and become inconspicuous yet keep the grounds tidy! We, at MasterPLAN, can offer sound advice and material samples to suggest the best options for you and your furry friend!

Underground wireless fences are used by many and keep a curious digger out of your flower beds or other areas you don’t want them sniffing around. After training with a flag system, they hear a beeping noise coming from their collar several feet within range that will remind them to stay away. They are a perfect alternative for properties where above-ground fencing is not allowed or considered unsightly.

Creating long winding paths with a dog run will make it interesting for your dog. If your pup isn’t a barker but curious, you can undoubtedly install dog windows on wooden fences to peer from so they can observe what’s going on beyond the borders. This view can discourage them from trying to dig their way out or jumping the fence.

Play Areas

Does your best friend ring the bell to go outside to play ball because “mom won’t let us throw balls in the house?” Accommodating your ballplayer with enough area to exercise can alleviate boredom and getting into trouble. Building a stretch of space that you can throw the ball at one end, and they can retrieve it will give you both the added Vitamin D and exercise.

Some dogs like to take a drink while wrestling and playing outside while others want to dive into the deep end of the pool. If you have the later, consider adding a water feature, be it a bubbling fountain surrounded by pebbles for a quick drink or a small pond. When building a pond, take into consideration the entry and exit and allow for a smooth transition, be it a gentle slope or shallow steps.

Dogs like to meander and jump on and off things, much like an agility course. Consider adding landscape rocks big enough for your size dog if it works naturally into your landscape. Some love to get higher to look out as they survey their territory and protect the premises. Large boulders can fit in naturally and give your four-legged friend a place to sit on his throne while surveying the ‘kingdom.’

Providing Shade & Shelter

On those hot dog-days of summer, it’s important to make sure there is enough shade and shelter. When selecting trees for this purpose, be aware of the fruit or seedpods that drop. If your dog is a puppy and is a fur-ball vacuum cleaner, then you’ll want to think twice about an oak tree or sweetgum. Acorns and sweetgum seed pods could wreak havoc in your dog’s intestinal tract. Landscape designers can assist you in choosing not only the right type of tree for shelter and shade, but what will give everyone enjoyment and less maintenance while keeping the sun off your back during the hottest days.

Toxin-free Zone

It stands to reason that rodent poison open baits placed in areas where pets wander are not a good idea. Request from your pest-control company alternative treatments that are pet-friendly. Adding chemicals on shrubbery or around a water source should be avoided too. Integrative pest control methods should be the first options for eliminating pests in a pet-friendly lawn and landscape. If fertilizing is needed, we prefer organic fertilizers that are naturally found in the soils with microbes in them to improve your soil health. Keeping your pet out of these areas for a short time is recommended. For the DIY’ers, read and follow the instructions on the packages for safety around your pets.

Plants to Avoid

Knowledge is power, and so is avoidance. Avoid plants that might prick or attach to the fur of your animal. For instance, thorny bushes like barberry, blackberry, flowering quince, or roses all have thorns and could cause eye or paw injury. It is always a good idea to consult ASPCA’s poisonous plant list for pet-friendly landscaping plants before taking on a project if a pet is involved, and you want to remain on the safe side.

If you’ve just gotten a new puppy or have several long-time canine friends and tired of looking at your worn-out backyard and the mess they have created, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living would love to partner with you to take your yard back! Beauty and function should go hand-in-hand when it comes to backyard transformations, and adjusting your master plan to include your pets is a no-brainer! Just imagine relaxing outside, knowing your special pooch is not getting into trouble and has ample room to romp and play safely; it is possible!. Reach out to MasterPLAN to open the conversation of what a custom outdoor living space would look like for your property, ideally suited for every family member, your home, and your lifestyle! Together, we can create a backyard for you all to live your best lives outdoors!


Join Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with what is happening with MasterPLAN Outdoor Living.

Affiliates & Partners
Lehigh Valley Style
Lehigh Valley Business Association
Pennsylvania Builders Association
Qualified Remodelers
The Designer