Padme, Border Collie Puppy, 8 weeks old

How to Puppy Proof Your Garden

How to Puppy Proof Your Garden – those cute eyes and squidgy nose are adorable, but unless you already have a small active dog, your garden may not yet be the safe haven for your puppy that you’d like it to be.

Read on for helpful tips on checking your garden is puppy ready, from the obvious, to the less obvious from your friendly Garden Consultant and Garden Designer. Who is also a puppy owner again. And let me say, their needs in the garden are substantially different to those of an elderly dog!


How to Puppy Proof Your Garden – Questions to ask Yourself

What breed of dog is your puppy?

This is about the size of your puppy, when you first bring him / her home and how quickly they’ll grow.

All puppies are small, but some breeds are ‘cat-sized’ for longer as they are smaller adult dogs. For example, compare the size of a Jack Russell puppy to an English Springer Spaniel to a German Shepherd Dog.

The dog breed also relates to the general characteristics which are likely to be found in different breeds. For example, Labrador Retrievers are notoriously food-orientated. For which you could read they’ll eat first and throw up later…

What time of year will it be when they venture outside?
For example, if its winter and cold, your puppy may not want to stay outside very long at first. This also raises the question about open doors in warmer weather and keeping an eye on your puppy as it runs in and out.

millie digging next to dogwood, border collie puppy, cornus, lavender

Millie, Padme’s litter sister, investigating how well the dogwood (Cornus) has been planted…

Do you already have an older dog?
Then you may think your garden is puppy safe. It may not be. Always check your garden with a fresh eye; the needs and habits of puppies and adult dogs can be very different.

How big is your garden?
I would recommend restricting a puppy’s free access to the whole garden unless it is really small. That way you can more easily keep a watch on what your bundle of cuteness is up to.
This can be done with fencing and / or on lead access.

Who else uses the garden?

If you have children who play in the garden, or have a bowling green lawn, you may like to restrict the puppy’s toilet area.


What is your budget for making your garden puppy proof?

It is a very good idea to look around your garden in puppy proofing mode some weeks before bringing home the fluff ball. You may need time to make the area safe, whether you’re doing it yourself or getting a landscaper in. For example, whilst you could patch up holes in the fencing temporarily, if the overall condition isn’t wonderful, it may be easier to get the whole fence replaced before there is a puppy to bounce into your neighbour’s garden and escape!

how to puppy proof your garden, dog friendly garden designs, plews


How to Puppy Proof Your Garden – Plan Ahead of Getting Your Puppy

Do you have cats and a cat flap?

If your cat has constant access to outside through a cat flap, your puppy is extremely likely to follow them through the cat flap and into the garden.
This will make it difficult to manage your puppy’s ability to access to the garden unless the cat flap is the locking type.
I would suggest getting your cat used to managed access to going out (free access back into the house) before getting the puppy. One less thing that’s different when the puppy actually arrives.

Poisonous Plants

Rather than repeating a list, I direct you to this section in Dog Friendly Gardens.


Garden Fences, Hedges and Boundaries

A few thoughts about the boundaries and possible escape routes from your rear and front gardens. These are likely to include: –

  • Garden fences (solid)
  • Trellis fences, horizontal slatted fences
  • Garden walls
  • Garden hedges
  • Gates

Garden Fences and Trellis

Critical point – puppies can squeeze through smaller spaces than you might think. Soft plants do not form a barrier.

When checking fences for puppy proof-ness, remember to check behind shrubs, trees, sheds and greenhouses. You’re looking for holes, loose bits of fence, and weak spots that could develop into holes.

Do you have a wildlife friendly garden? There may be a hedgehog sized gap in the fence that puppy can also get through. Easiest thing is to block off until puppy grows too big; which for many breeds won’t take long. Alternatively, you’ll need to section off an area of the garden which the hedgehog needs access to.

Height of fences – not generally an issue for young puppies, but some of them develop a kangaroo gene early on.

welsh springer spaniel puppy, border collie, allotment gardening, grow your own puppy, sharpe, amy

Garden Hedges

Not sure if these are puppy proof? If there are any gaps low down, presume they’re not. Fix temporary fencing until pup has grown. This could be chicken wire or decorative border edging, depending on the height needed and how visible it is.

I have, before now, scrabbled through to a hedge and tried pushing a duster through gaps. If that can easily pass through so might a small puppy (or kitten) with a bit of effort.


Gates with self-closing hinges should reduce the likelihood of puppy following you when you don’t want that to happen.

Or get some geese. They’re great at keeping puppies where they should be.


Ponds and Water Features

If you only want a temporary cover for your pond, there are pop-up ones available. Quicker than fencing off the pond or adding a grid just below the surface. Aesthetically, a grid is probably the best and practical too.

You may like to keep your puppy away from the pond anyway until they’ve had their Leptospirosis vaccination. I know this relates to stagnant water and rats, but hey, just being cautious.


How to Puppy Proof Your Garden – the Reality of the Chewing, Digging Escapologist

Puppy Safe Area

If you are able to section off a smallish area of your garden solely for puppy use, this could be a good way to start. Many people would say this is critical in larger gardens, which it is, so you don’t lose your puppy in the shrubbery! But it is just as valid with smaller gardens, which may already be well-used by your children.

Toilet area

A hard surface makes cleaning up easy; use puppy friendly detergents of course. If the area is part of your existing patio, be sure to clear up promptly, to avoid staining the surface.

Safe Play area

This is not instead of playing in the garden, but as well as. To discourage digging in the flower borders, you could give your puppy a digging pit here. This could be soil, but personally I prefer play-pit or soft sand. In fact a play-pit, bought or home-made is the ideal digging pit.

Be sure to cover it up in between use to prevent cats delighting in a new toilet area! If you have already provided your cats with an outdoor toilet (see cat friendly gardens link below), you’ll need to prevent puppy from digging in that…

And if you really want to go to town, add an outside dog bed with creeping herbs – ‘thyme for a nap’ you could say.

Padme, Border Collie Puppy, puppy asleep on bed of thyme, herbs

Greenhouses and Garden Sheds

Letting your puppy join you in the shed or greenhouse is one way of giving them a different environment to explore before they’re allowed out for walks. It’ll also make you clear any unsafe items off the floor!

Compost bins smell incredibly exciting – you have been warned…

Flower and Shrub Borders

Plants – poisonous or edible?

Poisonous Plants
Check the links below, rather than my repeating lists. Word of warning, some of the lists you’ll find on Google are not accurate as they’ll name a whole plant as toxic when it may only be the flowers.
If you need more help, please get in contact for a Garden Advice or Consultancy visit on toxic plants in your garden. A lot of it, once you know, is common sense as to how accessible the plants are.

Edible Plants
Puppies mainly chew things because they’re teething and learning about play boundaries. Like babies they use their mouth to learn about the world and new objects. I like to offer them a herb twig with the leaves mostly removed; Rosemary and Lavender are particularly good.

low gothic style border fencing, metal trellis fencingBorder Edging

Training the puppy not to go on your borders is outside the remit of this blog but adding barriers to make it difficult does help.

Do you have an aromatic edging of herbs? Expect a few breakages as your puppy tries to climb or jump over. Think of it as extra pruning…

Lowish decorative fencing can be used on its own or in addition to existing planting. This may be bought or home-made. If the timing is right, woven living Willow hurdles are very satisfying to make and look at. Temporary fencing could be plastic netting or jute bird netting. Much depends on the breed size of your puppy!


How to Puppy Proof Your Garden – the ‘Teenage Puppy’ period

When your small bundle hits the ‘teenage’ era (anything from 6 months – 2 years depending on breed) wilfulness may take over.

Early training should have made your puppy basically a garden-friendly animal. Now you’ll just need to make a few alterations to accommodate the change. As you would when children grow.

For example, the Safe area can be useful to keep an excited puppy out of children’s football range.


Raised beds

So you thought these would keep your veggies safe?! Training should already be instilled to prevent most leaps onto raised beds, but there will always be the occasion when your older puppy is chasing something and jumps up anyway.

Is temporary fencing around the raised bed edges a possibility? Or perhaps you need a tie-out stake to restrain your pup.

Photo by Tim Golder on Unsplash o fhis own pup, puppy running by sturdy garden fence

Tim Golder’s 6 month old puppy

Fences, Garden Walls

Six-foot-high boundaries are usually claimed to be sufficient for most breeds. I would qualify this by asking you the following in relation to your garden: –

Is there a ‘run-up’ to the fence? Or is there plenty of planting around to make access more difficult?

Are there any lower elevated areas near the boundary, such as raised beds, water butt, outside sofa, table on the patio? Yes, puppies can be that clever – especially Border Collies and other herding breeds. Huskies are notorious escape artists and you may need dog fence brackets for the top of your existing fence. These tilt inwards

What breed is your puppy?
Some larger breeds are more agile than others. In my experience, Huskies and German Shepherds are particularly good at scaling 8-foot fences, whereas determined English Bull Mastiffs will just crash through it…

How to Puppy Proof Your Garden – Training Your Puppy

It is possible to have a lovely garden with bowling green lawn, trampoline for the kids, fruit trees, strawberry plants, colourful dahlias and salvias – and have a puppy.

Ok, so depending on the layout of your garden, its size, the breed of puppy and all the other demands on your time the garden may look different for a while. But if you started off your garden with just 2 of you, then had a child or 3, you’d need to amend the garden design to suit your changing needs. You just need to do the same with a puppy.

It can be an eye-opener, but there are so many amusing moments that you’ll back on as your puppy grows into an adult dog.

From the beginning, Padme has charged up and down the garden paths. And then followed one of the cats onto the flower border…So border edging was in order. She’s learnt that where there’s dense planting or a low barrier not to go on the borders. But as we haven’t been able to newly edge all the garden, she will walk through on those bits. We’re training her not to but as I write this she is only 10 weeks old and 3 weeks of living with us so it’s a gradual process. I may have the experience of many dogs, including other Border Collies, but Padme is already a character in her own right.

We have a long and exciting gardening life ahead of us and I’m looking forward to all of it.

If my expertise can help you with puppy proofing your garden or creating a dog friendly garden, please get in touch!

Padme, Border Collie Puppy, holding leaf, aged 7 weeks, granite patio

Related Gardening Blogs from the award winning Plews Potting Shed

Dog Friendly Gardens
How to Kitten Proof Your Garden
Cat Friendly Gardens
Six Poisonous Flowering Bulbs
Raised Beds in the Garden
Pets in your Garden – Questions and Answers