Dog Friendly Gardens

Sharpe, smiling at the weeding having been done, border collie, dog

Why a blog on dog friendly gardens?

Well, this is Cruft’s week, when the world is watching dogs of all breeds strut around the show arena.

Some of the dogs will be pampered pooches, some will share kennel living with other dogs. But many will muck in with the family who own them, just like your own dog.


Making your garden dog friendly could mean, for example: –

  • A total re-design and landscape of your garden where the brief specifically includes ‘dog friendly’ as a priority.
  • That you’d like some dog friendly elements and plants included in an overall design when we’re carrying out a garden makeover.
  • We may only be adding a few dog friendly features and planting to your existing garden.
  • That you want a Garden Advice Visit, to review your garden plants so you’re sure they’re not poisonous to your pooch.

Then there are certain questions to ask that are relevant regardless of the size of your garden or how much re-design you want carried out. For instance: –

What breed is your dog?
This is about the size of your dog, but also general characteristics which are likely to be found in different breeds. For example, the majority of terriers love digging.


What age is your dog?
Old dogs can certainly learn new tricks, but their needs are going to be different to those of a young dog. For instance, they’ll appreciate a range of sunny and shady spaces to snooze in more than a huge open space for running around. And they may not require such high fencing. My border collie wouldn’t dream of scaling a 6-foot fence now he’s reached the age of twelve.


Dog Friendly Gardens – City Gardens and Small Gardens

I have noticed that many articles on dog friendly gardens seem to assume that you have plenty of space to spare. So one thing I will do is re-visit this topic and consider dog owners who have small gardens. If you can’t wait for me to write that as you need to sort out your dog and your garden now, do please get in touch!


Dog Friendly Gardens – Good Planting

An element that deserves its own blog (so I’ll write one). This covers both poisonous plants to avoid and plants to increase your dog’s enjoyment of the garden.

Many of the poisonous plants are also toxic to humans, so should be avoided if you have small children. As with all of these things, you need to use your own judgement. Knowing your dog and your dog’s behaviour is crucial as a dog that is largely unattended in the garden may get bored and be more likely to dig up and / or eat plants that aren’t good for them.

Some of the more commonly found toxic plants in your garden

Cherry laurel, Prunus laurocerasus – stomach upset if eaten in quantity
Clematis armandii – nervous system affected, dermatitis
Elephant ears, Bergenia – burning and irritation in the mouth, tongue may swell and block air passage
Foxglove, Digitalis species – nausea, vomiting
Holly, Ilex – berries – upset stomach, loss of balance
Primrose, Primula vulgaris – leaves – upset stomach

Also see Six Poisonous Flowering Bulbs

If you are in any doubt as to which plant your dog may have eaten and they are unwell, ring your vet immediately.

Eowyn in the garden, Alsation dog, flower border, german shepherd dog

Some favourite dog plants you may already have in your garden

Lavender, Lavendula – relaxes dogs as well as humans
Marigolds, Calendula
Peppermint, Mentha piperita – digestive aid and cooling
Willow, Salix – a natural pain relief
There are other planting considerations and design ideas, such as making a ‘jungle’ effect for wolf type prowling.


Dog Friendly Gardens – Paths, Patios, Pavers, Decking, Mulch

A run through some of the options available. Plus a few design ideas to please you and your dog.


A path through ornamental grasses leading to a shady spot adds interest for dogs young and old.

Brick paths and crazy paving paths are as suitable for your dog as they are for you. Gravel paths are fine where the stones are not so small that they would get caught in your dog’s pads and be painful.

black labrador on garden path, pet dog

Patios and Pavers

Now I’m not suggesting you create a patio purely for your dog’s use! However, you may like to consider your dog’s access to the patio for toileting purposes. By which I mean, if you have just had a beautiful, expensive porcelain patio installed, your dog will treat it in exactly the same way as they did the old paved area you had previously…

A couple of options: –

  • Pick up and wash down wee and poop as soon as your dog has finished. This will reduce staining which can happen even when the patio has been pre-sealed if the stone is a pale colour.
  • Fence off a separate toilet area for your pooch. Ensure the paving is easy to clean and disinfect and has a drain. You could add a doggy septic tank as well.



A small area of elevated decking, accessed by a ramp, gives your dog an elevated spot to survey their territory from.

If you have a dog, a cat, small children or walk on your decking barefoot, you should be vigilant in checking for splinters in the timbers.



Word of warning: do not use cocoa shells as a mulch. Dogs find it irresistible to eat and it is highly toxic to them.

Bark chippings – I feel these should be ideal, if only because of the pun! However, some dogs may be allergic to the microbes / bacteria within the bark chippings. If this isn’t an issue, then you’ve found another surface material to use around your garden.



Dog Friendly Gardens – Real Lawns and Artificial Turf

Artificial Lawns

We have installed artificial lawns for dog owners and parents with young children for very similar reasons: –

  • It allows access to a play area even when the ground is wet
  • There is no mud from a soggy lawn to be brought into the house
  • Access is year round; except when very heavy frost
  • A short sward is easy to maintain
  • Time saved by not mowing can be turned into quality time with your dog in the garden

old dog, artificial lawn, artificial turf, dog friendly gardens, pet dogs, collie cross

Turf Lawns

A real grass lawn has its own advantages, and we have laid these in child friendly and pet friendly gardens too: –

  • The texture of real grass is pleasant under paw and foot
  • A hard wearing seed mix and good drainage ensure a lawn is usable for most of the year
  • A robot mower can free up your time to play with your dog
  • Some dogs may find artificial lawns get too hot; real turf doesn’t retain heat the same

Dog Friendly Gardens – Water, water everywhere

Dogs will appreciate having access to water in the garden.

As dog owners we know they’re likely to drink from the muddiest of puddles whilst out on a walk and then refuse the clean water in their dog bowl at home. This is not as daft as it seems. The unfiltered tap water may have too strong a chemical taste.

So an outside water bowl may be a popular item. You could turn this in to a play item by having a bubble fountain that your dog is allowed to drink from.


Dog Friendly Gardens – Fencing and Boundaries

You need to consider both the physical barriers surrounding and dividing your garden; and also the training you’ve given your dog. By which I mean that active dogs may be capable jumping over a 4-foot high fence but don’t. This is because you’ve trained them not to.

The garden fencing is going to be individual to your and to your dog. It will need to take into consideration any local by-laws. Is your dog going to be left unattended in the garden for any length of time? Security for your pooch is critical for your peace of mind.

front garden, border collie, dog, trellis fence, rosemary, garden gate, sharpe

Fencing off a section of the garden whether to keep your dog out of particular area or enclosed in a certain space is a different issue to boundary fences.
For example, you may want to keep your dog out of your vegetable garden when they’re not with you. If your pooch has the run of the rest of your garden, then fencing off the kitchen garden makes sense. It also prevents canines from eating the strawberries, peas, runner beans before you can harvest them!

Alternatively, you may like to surround a ’play area’ with fencing. You could train your dog that within this space only are they are allowed to dig and run around through dog friendly, dog resilient planting. This is particularly useful if you have two or more dogs, as it contains the destruction zone.


Lastly – Dog Friendly Gardens and Garden Friendly Dogs

Yes, you can have a beautiful garden when you have a dog or even two canine friends. Even a small garden and medium – large breed dogs can happily co-exist.

Train your dogs from puppyhood to be garden friendly.

And most of all, think like a dog. If there is a hole under the fence that your inquisitive terrier can scramble through, then block it up.

Dogs are sociable pack animals. If you have a seat in the middle of a sunny herb garden, allow room for your dog to lie near you. Then they can enjoy the relaxing aroma of the herbs as well as your company.

Would you like a dog friendly garden? Ask about our garden design service.


Some Related Gardening blogs you may enjoy

Pets in your Garden – Questions and Answers
Cat Friendly Gardens
Six Poisonous Flowering Bulbs
Inspiration for a Courtyard Herb Garden
Should I plant a Garden Hedge?

German Shepherd dog, lawn, surrey, plews garden design

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garden designer, gardening writer, gardening teacher, garden advisor

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