Exhuberant play

Exuberant play

Many people say that they can’t have a garden as the dogs wreck it.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  There are many things that you can do to protect your garden from your dog.  Being young and exuberant, puppies put the greatest pressure on a garden.

All dogs, but puppies in particular, sometimes need to let off steam.  They tear around the garden and have absolutely no respect for the plants that you have lovingly put in the ground.  So, how do you manage to keep the plants alive?  Well, the first thing is that I tend not to have delicate plants in my garden – most are ones that are robust and can take some wear and tear.  The next thing is your attitude to your plants.  If a bit gets broken off, well the puppy had a great time doing it.  If it is flowering, put it in a vase and have the pleasure of it indoors.  Fortunately, plants are used to a world where they have to co-exist with animals and tend to re-grow when pruned.  It doesn’t matter if this pruning is done extremely carefully by you, accidentally by your dog or nibbled by a passing herbivore.  However you won’t want to take this to extremes, and there are things that you can do to reduce the impact.

First of all, watch your puppy as he careers around the place.  It is almost certain that he will have favourite routes.  He will tend to avoid big mature shrubs which he will realise are immovable, relatively solid, objects.  It is just possible that the favourite routes will include some of the paths which you have laid out for humans since they will be easy to use.  However dogs tend not to have not read the gardening design books and have little respect for the meandering path you have laid out to take you on a journey round your garden.  He will just tend to choose the path of least resistance and probably the shortest route from A to B.  Once this route is established, it is likely that it will be used for years.  Use this to your advantage.  Know where that route is and don’t plant on it – your dog deserves the freedom to run around.  However, if the route goes through your flower beds, do plant robust plants close to it.  They will gradually grow and hide the route to human eyes, without ruining it as a canine highway.  Your dog will still be able to enjoy letting off steam and so what if a few leaves or flowers suffer in the mean time.

Supports can protect plants from dogs

Supports can protect plants from dogs

So how do you deal with newly emerging or planted plants?  Well, there is a solution.  I use plant supports as a way of indicating to the dogs that this is something that they should go around or maybe in the middle of a game, over.  The plant supports have to be capable of standing up to the mass of your dog as it runs at full pelt.  After many years trying different ones, I have built up a stock of coated metal supports.  You should also ensure that the metal is sufficiently tough for the job they have to do.   Plastic ones just don’t provide an effective enough deterrent.  I particularly like ones that consist of a circular grid with legs attached.  Recently I have also come across some that are semi circular with legs.  These are particularly useful when plants are falling over the edge of my borders.  The L shaped ones that hook into each other just separate far too easily when dogs race into them and therefore provide no deterrent.

When I have finished planting a new purchase, after I have watered it in, I place a support over it to protect it.  I buy these supports in large numbers, and have a great many in my garden.  Once summer comes, I can hardly find any in the garden; they are all hidden by the plants that they used to protect.  I tend to leave most of the supports in the ground year round.  In spring, they are really useful as they indicate where herbaceous perennials should be remerging from the ground.  I therefore can watch and enjoy as the new plants show their heads ready to provide another year of pleasure.  They also show where I have lost plants and need to be replaced.

The most surprising plant that I have treated in this way was a young rose bush that was in danger of being wrecked as it was right in the middle of where two puppies decided to play.  I raced into the garage and grabbed a support.  Once it was added, they ran into the support rather than the rose.  Pretty quickly, they decided to move their game slightly to avoid the plant.  The rose is now seven years old and is can now fend for itself when puppies are around.

Some dogs tend to think that you are not the only one who should be digging in the garden.  You may find that the “ouch” command works as an indication that this is not what you want him to do.  You could also put a pile of stones in the way.  If you are happy to allow him one spot to dig in, you could plant a fast growing arching plant, such as a Fatsia, close to his favourite spot.  This will cover the offending spot from view and allow him to continue with his mission.

Gardening is a matter of looking at your circumstances and making the appropriate compromises along the way.  Having dogs in your garden will provide you with a greater challenge than most gardeners will face, but it is so much more satisfying when you do achieve the balance and have a garden that is designed for and protected from your dogs.

19 Responses to “Protecting the Garden from your Dog”

  1. sally hamerton Says:

    Great blog, Finuala! Thought of you and your comments yesterday as I planted 60 daffodil bulbs – next spring they will NOT be on Rosie’s route around the garden! No more damaged daff’s in the Hamerton garden!

  2. Barhi Says:

    Sounds like you will have a good show next Spring. That route is one of the most important things to find. Be aware that if you plant large shrubs or something else they have no choice but to go around, the route can change.


  3. I love it… I have clients that are always asking how to keep there dogs from harming their gardens… I usually say get rid of the dog! But now I’ll refer this post. :)

    1. Barhi Says:

      Thanks Dirty Girl Gardening :) Please let me know if there are any particular issues that you come across that I haven’t covered yet.

      1. Barhi Says:

        You may also want to point clients to my “Whose Garden Is It” post – more and more I am realising that a key factor is the attitude of the garden owner and what they choose to let their dogs do in the garden.


  4. [...] Do you think that a dog and a garden are not reconcilable? You do not have to do without one of it: http://j.mp/bO9Ewr Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Hello world! [...]

  5. Delia Says:

    I seriously fell out with my Dalmation puppy when she tore my garden apart. It wasn’t a question of exuberant play, it was more a question of tearing everything I planted out of the ground and then using the plant as a toy! I was in despair and thought about rehousing the dog, however, I discovered chicken wire; ugly but functional. I placed chicken wire on the ground around the plants and covered it with compost as a mulch. When she (and the neighbourhood cats) tried to dig, she couldn’t. Some beds I totally surrounded with wire on the basis that even though it was ugly, at least the plants were alive on the other side. She’s 6 now and over her destructive youth, so no more wire.

    1. Barhi Says:

      I’m glad you found something that worked for you Delia. It’s a really great idea :)


  6. [...] Protecting the Garden from your Dog Gardening…May 12, 2010 Many people say that they can't have a garden as the dogs wreck it. It doesn't have to be this way. [...]

  7. Vanessa Escalera Says:

    I have a blue nose pitbull and he constantly keeps trying to reach my peach tree , he has never done this before and I have to keep tieing him up and give him a good smack to stop . I’ve had my peach tree for 3 years and its my heart and gold . But now its braches and leaves are gone cause of him , he even broke half of the whole stick off it , I’ve put chicken wire over it and bricks , and even sticks . My tree was going to bloom with pink beautiful flowers in spring but now its gunna spend years healing again, Help me please !!!

    1. Barhi Says:

      Take a look at my pages on Whose Garden Is It? If that strikes a chord. then the pages on Training and Recall should help. Certainly a friend of mine stopped her dog digging using these ideas. Please let me know how it goes.


  8. I tend to leave most of the supports in the ground year round. In spring, they are really useful as they indicate where herbaceous perennials should be remerging from the ground.

  9. Teddy Says:

    More than worrying about protecting my plants from my dog I worry about protecting my dog from toxic plants. It turns out everything from Mums, Lilies, Rose of Sharon, Clematis, Hostas, Datura and Morning Glory are toxic to dogs. At this point I may end up with nothing than a bunch of roses.

    1. Barhi Says:

      Hi Teddy – There is a huge range of plants that you can grow and still have your dogs in the garden! I do not have a list of toxic plants as I am not an expert in this area, but there are links to specialist websites (http://gardeninganddogs.com/gardening/poisonous-plants/). Some articles which may give you some ideas are http://gardeninganddogs.com/dogs/protecting-your-dog-from-the-garden/, http://gardeninganddogs.com/dogs/training/ouch/ and http://gardeninganddogs.com/dogs/whose-garden-is-it/. If all else fails, then my planned article on separate areas of the garden for humans and dogs may be useful. Best wishes – Finuala.

  10. Pat Says:

    My big challenge right now is protecting my lawn from my five month old Golden Retriever’s morning needs – the grass is showing the burn marks after a couple of months – and the even slope and character of the lawn is also showing alot of wear and tear and running through the lawn in the rainy season. I’m looking for a plan for an enclosed dog run which I think might be the answer. Any ideas for the composition of a run or a web site with plans? Thank you!

    1. Barhi Says:

      Hi Pat – I totally understand your issue. It’s partially why I decided to get rid of grass (http://gardeninganddogs.com/gardening/to-grass-or-not-to-grass/). It is impossible for me to give designs for a standard garden. Each of us wants something different from our garden (in addition to accommodating our dogs:) ). However, I am going to do an article on considerations for separate areas for dogs and humans in the near future. Maybe that will help you. Best wishes – Finuala.

  11. Carol Says:

    Thanks for your helpful comments on gardening and dogs- I have a mischievous Golden Retreiver who loves our garden but has caused the lawn to look like a wild meadow and loves chewing woody plants and digging……
    Is it worth using picket fencing to divide the garden or is it a wasted venture?

    1. Barhi Says:

      Hi Carol – Thank you so much for your kind comments and your very interesting question. I thought that I had written on this topic, but I have just realised that it is something that I included in my lecture for the horticultural students (http://gardeninganddogs.com/2011/01/27/exciting-challenge/), but not here. I think it is a much larger topic than something I can answer in a quick reply. Give me a couple of days and I’ll put something together. Best Wishes, Finuala

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