While outdoor spaces are typically designed for the humans using the space, it’s also important to remember the pets of the family and how they use the space. As with any other design, you want to think about who or what uses the space, the flow of the space, materials, and of course plants.
If you’ve noticed your dog pacing or patrolling the perimeter of your yard, you’ve probably also noticed that the grass may be dead in those areas. This is a great area to add stepping stones or a gravel path. This will keep the area from looking barren while still providing a patrolling path for your dog. Choosing lighter colored steppers will help keep paws cooler in the summertime as well. In general, the smoother the material, the more comfortable it will be for your pets to walk on. You’ll want to avoid using lava rocks wherever your pets may have access to as the jagged surface of the rocks can cut up animal paws. Some dogs even like eating lava rocks which can cause an even bigger issue so best to just keep them out of the garden. Smooth river rock is a good alternative.
Whether for hydration or play, water is a must for our furry friends. A simple hard plastic kiddie pool is a great place to start for all sizes of pets to enjoy. If you’re putting it on lawn, just remember to move it around periodically so you don’t accidentally kill the grass. If you want to step it up, you can create a doggy splash pad area. This can be accomplished with bubbling rocks or basins, or even just a regular ole sprinkler. Bubblers can double as both a place to drink from and to play in. Keep in mind that if your dog loves splashing around in your water feature, you’ll need to check your filter more often to clear any built-up hair and make sure not to use any harmful chemicals in your water feature.
Dogs love sunning themselves, but they can also get overheated easily which is why having a shady space they can access whenever they need to is important. Shade structures like arbors and pergolas are great but definitely come with a high price tag. If you’re looking for options that are less expensive, think about adding shade trees to your garden or even a doghouse or covered dog run area that allows for air circulation. Add in a waterproof dog bed or cot and you’ve got a relaxing place for your pet to spend time outside.
Despite what a lot of people say, you can have a nice, usable lawn with pets. Between yellow patches and holes, it can be hard to keep up a lush green lawn with pets running around. If you have the time and patience, it may be worth it to teach your dog to pee/poop in a designated area. If that isn’t an option there are some grass types that can handle dogs better than others. These include tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.
If you have a digger, providing an alternative such as a sand box may help curb that behavior from happening in the lawn. One of the reasons dogs like digging is to cool off so keeping water and shade nearby will help. You can also keep the sand box damp throughout the summer to give a similar cooling effect. If you choose a sandbox, it’s a good idea to have a cover on it when not in use so neighborhood cats and other animals don’t use it as their litter box.
If you have a snacker, it may be wise to build raised planters to help curb them from munching through your garden. If you have taller pets, fencing around your veggie beds will be your best bet. For mulch, cedar woodchips are a good choice as it’s smooth for paws while also being pest resistant meaning fleas will generally stay away from it. Steer clear of cocoa mulch as it comes from the same plant that makes cocoa beans so it is still just as toxic to pets. You can also use river rock in your planting beds as well.
If you have both pets and farm animals, you’ll know that they sometimes don’t mix well. Just like with your veggies, it’s best to put up fencing between where your dogs, cats, etc will be playing and where your chickens, ducks, etc spend their time. While fencing keeps our pets safe, it does block them from the world. If you have a curious pet who likes seeing what the neighbors are up to or who’s walking by the house, consider adding a window to your fence (check to make sure it’s ok with your neighbors first). You can build your own or buy pre-made windows specifically for this purpose that you can attach to your fence. This will keep your pets safe and contained while letting them see the outside world a bit more. If you live in a wooded area and want to keep wild animals out of your yard, you can look into Coyote Rollers which attach to the top of your fence and roll the animal off the fence before they can vault over it. You can read more about them here.
There are a host of plants that are toxic to pets and the best place to check for that is the ASPCA website. Some of the more well-known plants to stay away from are daffodils, ornamental onions, azaleas, rhododendrons, and dahlias. You’ll also want to keep plants with thorns out of any beds where your pets may walk through. Things like Coreopsis, Echinacea, Japanese Forest Grass, Mahonia, and Rosemary are typically safe for dogs and cats. If you’re concerned about fleas, there are some plants that will help repel them. These include plants like rosemary, lavender, marigolds, sage, and catnip. Those plants in combination with cedar woodchips will give your garden even more defense against fleas.
How do you make sure your pets enjoy your outdoor space as much as you? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!