Dogs and Gardens

 Now that Spring has finally arrived and the winter snows have thawed revealing the work that needs to be done in the garden, don’t forget that your garden is also shared by your dog who will always be on hand to lend a helping paw to dig up the lawn or to pull out the newly planted  bulbs that would look much better somewhere other than the place you decided.

Can you and your green fingers live successfully with canine gardener ?

Can you and your green fingers live successfully with canine gardener ?

If you are a new puppy owner then it is important that you think DOG in terms of safety. Check the garden that there are no nails etc sticking out of fences etc which may injure the pup. If you are a  keen gardener do any planting well before the pup arrives otherwise it will dig up your newly planted shrubs to get at the smells of the disturbed soil. If you need to use snail and slug baits, place the products in areas that are inaccessible to your puppy. Most baits contain sweet smelling inert ingredients, such as jelly, peanut butter, and sugars, which can be very attractive to your pet.

Check that there are no plants which are poisonous or harmful to the pup.(see below) When treating your lawn or garden with fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides, always keep your animals away from the area until the area dries completely.. Always store such products in an area that will ensure your puppy cannot get near.

Do not leave machinery where the cables can be chewed or damaged by the inquisitive puppy. If your pup is a recent addition then it is important that it is carefully introduced to the noise and fumes of the petrol driven lawn mower. Many dogs first meet the lawn mower in March when they have already been in the garden for many winter months before the “strange invader “appears. The result is the dog which constantly barks at the mower or worse still attempts to attack the lawnmower often with disastrous results for the animal.

Check any water features to make sure that your pup cannot stray into them or if the pond is  deep ensure that there are sturdy platforms so that your pet can step out of the pool. Also ensure that cables leading to pumps or lights are well hidden and cannot be chewed.

Check that your garden is secure  so that your dog cannot escape or if she is a bitch in season that other dogs cannot get into visit her! Good fences make good neighbours  and yours will not be too happy with you if you are exporting your problems. There is no need to keep on raising the level of fences and walls until you have reached Stalag  proportions , all you need is a little thought. Remove any kennels, boxes or woodpiles away from walls and fences so that the dog cannot use them as stepping stones.

Dogs do not clear fences like a race horse. Instead they pull themselves up having put their front paws on the lip of the wall or fence and then run up the wall. If you place brackets 10-20 cm from the wall just below the top edge then run a single strand of wire around the perimeter through the brackets. Effectively your dog Iis trapped since even if it can reach the top of the wall it cannot gets its head or shoulders under the wire and being a single strand of wire  it  cannot pull itself up.

So now we know that the dog is safe , how do you save your plants and lawns ?

The best method is to train your dog to eliminate in one place in the garden and to be relaxed within certain areas (eg. Decking and barbecue etc.) However, if time does not permit or if you have a stubborn animal then there are other methods.

Paths: Like people, dogs make a beeline to where they want to go. If your dog wears a dirt trail into the lawn, install a permanent path with pavers or stepping-stones. In small gardens, playful dogs can easily disturb paths of cedar mulch or pea gravel, so paths of brick or stone are easier to maintain.

Plants: When adding new plantings, larger-sized trees and shrubs and perennials are more likely earn pet respect than little sticks that look like chew toys. If you have sensitive plants or planting area just getting established, try a temporary chicken wire enclosure to keep pets out.

Mass planting: Massing shrubs or ornamental grasses can help keep pets on the straight and narrow. Most will go around rather than through such plantings. Grasses are particularly tough plants that are unlikely to be injured by the most rambunctious of dogs.

Soil: Try to avoid having bare soil - it's a perfect invitation to dogs to dig. Plant perennials close together, and choose tough pet-friendly plants - for example, use ground covers like thyme, cotoneaster, sweet woodruff or periwinkle between larger woody plants.

Mulch: Use inorganic mulch such as potato stones or pea gravel where appropriate. If you're trying to get a new area of lawn to grow, sod is quicker to establish than seed, especially with pets using the yard.

Digging problems: The most pet-friendly garden solution here is to consider giving an unrepentant canine digger  a digging pit. Dig in to the ground a plastic container no smaller than a washing up bowl and fill it with fine sand. On the surface of the sand place favourite toys or pieces of food. Encourage your dog to look there and reward when he goes to the pit. Now you can begin to half bury the toys etc. and make the dog dig out these toys. Once the dog ha learnt this then you can  fully bury his belongings  in the sand ;


Why would your dog wish to dig in hard clay and find nothing when it can dig in soft sand and be guaranteed to find something ?

Dogs and lawns:

If starting a lawn from scratch, go for turf rather than seed. Keep the dog/s off the area for at least a month (2 or 3 is better). If you must use grass seed, then try to keep the dogs off the seeded area for at least 3 months for it to start to establish. You could get around this by turfing/seeding one half first, then the other later, though of course you'll have a problem of  muddy dogs paws.

Once an area has become muddy, then getting back to grass again is particularly difficult

If renovating a muddy area again use turf rather than seed, this can be difficult however as it's not easy to get turf in small quantities, some garden centres do have it especially if ordered in advance. Protect the repaired area with a fence of canes and chicken wire until established..

Use hard surfaces wherever practicable, especially near the house. A patio will protect the most highly trafficked region where the dog/s go out. Paving slabs set into the lawn beyond this in the next most worn regions will help protect these too.

Instead of reseeding Rover's favourite pathway, why not place stepping stones in it first to reduce wear or even just turn it into a proper path

Bitches and urine spots

an overabundance of nitrogen 

an overabundance of nitrogen 


This is a fairly common problem with female dogs of large breeds. Bitches tend to deposit all of their urine in one place, hence the die-back of the grass, where you will find yellow circles appearing.  It's not such a problem with males as they spread it around a lot more and the smaller quantities in any one place are not usually a problem. The cause of this is an overabundance of nitrogen and although there are additives which can be given to the dog’s food or water the simplest and cheapest solution is to dilute the nitrogen by pouring a bucket of water over where the dog has urinated or {cke_protected_1}{cke_protected_2}use the garden hose/ sprinkler on a regular basis. Do remember to put the hose away unless you want it chewed!

There is no simple solution and water is the best way of neutralizing the urine. The real problem is being around when the dog urinates and seeing where she has done it, if you can do this, then keep a hose handy and spray the area, alternatively a bucket of water will do the same job.

This tends to be a summer problem as in the winter, the soil and grass are already wet, so the urine is more diluted. You can repair damaged areas by replacing the top layer of soil, 1-2" and re-seeding or replace with new turf.


Cocoa Shell Mulch: A Little-Known Danger

{C}{cke_protected_1}{C}{cke_protected_2}{C}{cke_protected_3}Most people don’t realise it, but those increasingly popular cocoa shell mulches used for landscaping can also pose a serious risk to dogs in the same way that chocolate does. Theobromine, the “poison” in Chocolate can be removed from cocoa mulch pretty easily, and some manufacturers do this and others do not but at the moment there is no way for the consumer to know if the mulch they are buying has been treated.

Ask your Garden centre or supplier to ensure you won’t inadvertently poison your dog.


Some Poisonous Plants by Category


Bulbs: Amaryllis, Autumn Crocus, Daffodil, Day Lily, Elephant Ears, Gladiolas, Hyacinth, Iris, Lily of the Valley, Narcissus, Orange Day Lily, Tulip


Ferns: Asparagus Fern, Australian Nut, Emerald Feather (aka Emerald Fern), Emerald Fern (aka Emerald Feather), Lace Fern, Plumosa Fern


Flowering Plants: Cyclamen, Hydrangea, Kalanchoe, Poinsettia

Garden Perennials: Charming Diffenbachia, Christmas Rose, Flamingo Plant, Foxglove, Marijuana, Morning Glory, Nightshade, Onion, Tomato Plant, Tropic Snow Dumbcane

House Plants: Ceriman (aka Cutleaf Philodendron), Chinese Evergreen, Cordatum, Corn Plant (aka Cornstalk Plant), Cutleaf Philodendron (aka Ceriman), Devil's Ivy, Dumb Cane, Golden Pothos, Green Gold Nephthysis, Marble Queen, Mauna Loa Peace Lily, Nephthytis, Peace Lily, Red-Margined Dracaena, Striped Dracaena, Taro Vine, Warneckei Dracaena

Lillies: Asian Lily (liliaceae), Easter Lily, Glory Lily, Japanese Show Lily, Red Lily, Rubrum Lily, Stargazer Lily, Tiger Lily, Wood Lily

Shrubs: Cycads, Heavenly Bamboo, Holly, Jerusalem Cherry, Mistletoe "American", Oleander, Precatory Bean, Rhododendron, Saddle Leaf Philodendron, Sago Palm, Tree Philodendron, Yucca

Succulents: Aloe (Aloe Vera)


Trees: Avocado, Buddist Pine, Chinaberry Tree, Japanese Yew (aka Yew), Lacy Tree, Macadamia Nut, Madagascar Dragon Tree, Queensland Nut, Schefflera, Yew (aka Japanese Yew)


Vines: Branching Ivy, English Ivy, European Bittersweet, Glacier Ivy, Hahn's self branching English Ivy, Needlepoint Ivy


Miscellaneous / Uncategorized: American Bittersweet, Andromeda Japonica, Azalea, Bird of Paradise, Buckeye, Caladium hortulanum, Calla Lily, Castor Bean, Clematis, Fiddle-Leaf Philodendron, Florida Beauty, Fruit Salad Plant, Golden Dieffenbachia, Gold Dust Dracaena, Heartleaf Philodendron, Horsehead Philodendron, Hurricane Plant, Mexican Breadfruit, Mother-in-law, Panda, Philodendron Pertusum, Red Emerald, Red Princess, Ribbon Plant, Satin Pothos, Spotted Dumb Cane, Sweetheart Ivy, Swiss Cheese Plant, Variable Dieffenbachia, Variegated Philodendron, Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow