Do you think that small puppies and nice gardens cannot co-exist? Well think again – it is possible; you just need to think a little about the situation.
My dogs have access to every part of my small garden, I fence none of it off from them (except for a couple of days if we have a fledging bird on the ground, then I have to separate the them for the bird’s sake). Obviously very young puppies do need to be kept an eye on when they first venture out into the garden. If I am working out there and am not able to keep an eye on them, then I put them in the playpen until I have time to spend with them. My playpens come from Croft.
Puppies really love exploring gardens, and it is wonderful to watch them do it, but you have to make sure that they are safe out there. I always teach mine the ‘ouch’ command and that comes in very handy when they try to eat plants. The principle behind the ‘ouch’ command is that when puppies are in the nest and play gets a little too much, they not surprisingly go ‘ouch’ and stop moving. Your puppy will have learnt that ‘ouch’ means to stop biting before you got him. So, if you use it too whenever the puppy bites you, he learns not to bite you. Once this is established, I use it when he tries to eat things in the house (not his toys) and once he understands that it applies to inanimate objects too, he can understand that it applies in the garden too.
The one exception I find is that dogs love to eat grass – and they know which plants are grasses, they aren’t confused as humans can be by the look of a plant. One grass is even named after them. Dog grass is more commonly known as couch grass and I have tried to grow it (in a pot) for them. The problem was that I didn’t want couch grass in my garden and in a pot it wasn’t well enough rooted for them to pull it. Nowadays, I quite often find them tugging at one of my ornamental grasses. Luckily, grasses are robust enough plants to survive the process.
Puppies don’t just like to eat plants, ferocious play can mean that they just run over them. Older plants will usually survive the onslaught, but younger ones are more delicate. I use metal plant supports to protect my recent additions. I even put one on a newly planted rose once when two puppies mad playtime threatened to damage it too much. These supports are often green and disappear into the undergrowth as the summer goes on, so they have little long term detriment to your visual pleasure.
The only time when supports don’t work is when the plant is in the middle of a canine path. Just watch how your dog moves around the garden. You will find that there are certain paths that he uses time and again, and not necessarily human ones. The main paths are the ones that they use when they have a ‘mad five minutes’ and just race around the garden. If you watch carefully, you will find that there is a predictable route. My youngsters have two circuits that they do using a mixture of human and canine paths, sometimes these are combined into a figure of eight. Once you have found the paths, then don’t even think of planting on the path – nothing can survive that onslaught. What you can do is plant on the edge of the path, a plant that is six inches off the path will survive and will grow so that eventually only you (and your dog) will know where the path is.
Also watch out for safety hazards in the garden. The most obvious is poisonous plants. The internet is a very good resource when finding out about which plants are the most poisonous to dogs. My Poisonous Plants page give more information on the topic.
Once your dog knows not to eat plants, you should be able to relax a little – I have to admit to having one or two plants on the list in my garden, and have never had any problems with them. Other safety issues will be similar to the sort of things you have to think about with young children. I shut my dogs in the house when I am using my pressure washer or weed wand (flame thrower type) and make sure my secateurs are always closed if I put them down. I have also taught my dogs not to come into the garage where I store all my tools and have my shredder. The stand in the open doorway watching what I am doing and waiting for me to come and join them in the garden.
Ponds are a real draw for dogs. They love paddling in any water, but the additional draw of things you may have put in your pond is far too much for them to resist. I went for a raised pond, which helps a little, but many a time I have found a young dog walking on the edge or with a suspiciously wet head. A quick word, tells them that this is not a wanted behaviour and by the time they are eighteen months old, they rarely bother about the pond. You might want to consider a water feature instead of a pond. I have a four foot high metal pillar which has water running from the top of it and down the sides. Not only does it provide water and movement in the garden for me to enjoy which is totally dog friendly, but also the neighbourhood birds love to drink from it.
Most people feel that a garden just has to have grass and there is little doubt that bitches can have a detrimental affect on a beautiful lawn. There is a product which seems to help (http://www.dogrocks.org/), but I chose the other solution and just got rid of my grass. This decision was made easier by the fact that I can have up to four bitches in the house and my clay soil got so waterlogged at times that the grass was just a mud bath. The added benefit was that I had much more room for plants and the end result was much more beautiful (in my opinion).
With a bit of forethought, you can have a puppy and a beautiful garden – go on, just try it.