no, my puppy ate the yard!”
“Why does my dog dig so much?”
“How can I prevent my dog’s urine burns from killing
These problems, among
others, have been addressed by my company, Pawfriendly Landscapes, for
the past ten years. We are a pet friendly landscape company that
successfully deals with complaints like, “the dog ate the yard,” by
creating beautiful yet functional landscape designs for clients and
their pets. I just released my first book, “Pawfriendly Landscapes –
How to Share the Turf When Your Backyard Belongs to Barney,” which is a
compilation of the past decade and is co-authored by Judith H. Spurling,
I started my company in the late nineties because
landscape companies were not addressing dogs’ habits. I felt it was a
necessity because dogs use their backyard more than any other family
member all year round. Their needs were not being addressed and many
people were frustrated with what they saw as “destructive behavior” and
were relinquishing them or keeping them chained up so they didn’t ruin
their yard. However, much of their “destructive behavior” was actually
just their habits- such as wearing down the sod when they ran to the
fence for “squirrel patrol,” running along the fence with the neighbor’s
dogs, jumping up on the fence to bark at people walking by, etc.; so I
set out to create solutions for dogs and their owners by respecting
their dog’s habits and learning to use indestructible landscape material
so the homeowner did not have to redo their yard every year.
I was also determined to create pet friendly landscapes
because dogs were being exposed to many dangers in their own yard, such
as edging that slices paws, toxic or bee attracting plants or inhumane
dog runs. Many people unknowingly were exposing their pets to these
hazards, so I decided to incorporate dog friendly features into the
Upon creating pet friendly yards, I discovered their habits
actually added interest to yards; nobody knew we were using certain
material and incorporating organic shapes for doggie runways or bathroom
areas. Since there were no other resources for pet friendly yards, I
turned to my childhood veterinarian, Dr. Judith Spurling, for solutions
to dog problems. Together, we combined our knowledge of landscape
material and animal behavior.
philosophy is plain and simple: “leave it to the dogs.” When I’m in a
client’s yard, I let the dog be my muse and create a functional and
beautiful landscape based on his or her habits – both good and bad. I
insist dog owners do not clean up after their dog prior to my visit
since it’s very important I see their habits. Not only do their habits
add interest but another bonus to creating pet friendly yards is it’s
year round, regardless of climate. All the material we use can be
installed during the off season. Dogs escape, dig, kill sod due to
urine burns or foot traffic all year round, not just in the summer, so
homeowners can create a more interesting yard any time of year.
beautiful yards is one of the goals for dog owners, I only use organic
material that creates an interesting yard, such as different rock,
textured plants, elevated gardens or lattice to prevent dogs from
digging, escaping or destroying yards. Shock collars and re-training
dogs is not part of their process since they do not add beauty to yards.
One of the biggest problems is dead sod due to urine burns or foot
traffic. Since plants will not tolerate these problems, I create
bathroom areas made of mulch (if dogs do not eat wood or rock mulch).
If dogs eat rock or wood mulch, then artificial turf, pavers or concrete
can be used in their bathroom area. Wood mulch is always a better
choice since it neutralizes odor, however, there is a lot of maintenance
(top dressing) since wood mulch ages. Most of my clients do not enjoy
maintenance so we stick with rock, pavers or concrete.
Pawfriendly Landscapes - How to Share the
Turf When Your Backyard Belongs to Barney.
on the book to purchase a copy)
Various rock mulches
are used for “doggie runways.” To determine the correct rock mulch, I
need to know how many dogs are using the yard, their breed and ages. If
an owner of two young German shepherds needs a “doggie runway,” then
1.5” round river rock is used rather than pea gravel or .75” river rock
since they will migrate due to heavy foot traffic. Round rock is always
used instead of granite, which is jagged and hurts dog’s paws. I
literally see dogs cringe as they walk on the granite. When creating
running paths or new bedlines for bathroom areas, we incorporate organic
shapes which make yards more appealing. In other words, dog’s habits
are creating prettier yards and their owner didn’t even realize it.
Designs and material based on their habits actually eliminate that look
of “box of sod” that is so common in backyards.
Another type of rock
mulch that adds interest to yards is large cobble. Large cobble deters
dogs from entering gardens or digging since it is large and chunky.
When dogs walk on it, it feels awkward and is difficult to maneuver.
Cobble can be used as an accent on berms or along bedlines to break up
a large scale of mulch. It can also be used as a dry cobble river bed
with dog resistant plantings. Many times we install it around a tree to
prevent dogs from running up to the trunk of a tree and barking at
birds, squirrels or other critters that trigger them.
Dog resistant plants
are textured or thorny. For obvious reasons, dogs do not like thorny
plants, such as barberry or evergreens. Unusual textures also deter
dogs, like lavender or rosemary. Many of these plants are beautiful
winter features which can also be planted in front of the dog’s bathroom
creating year round beauty and hide their waste when the dog owner
cannot clean up due to inclement weather.
Since non textured
gardens such as vegetable, annual or perennial beds seem to get
destroyed by dogs, planting them in raised beds is a great solution.
Elevated gardens also add interest and, in return, less weeding is
required and easy harvesting is achieved.
Other tricks include
securing lattice to a fence in order to prevent dogs from escaping.
This is especially important since the most frequent emergency seen by
veterinarians is dogs being hit by a car. Lattice with vines or
climbing roses not only looks attractive, but keeps dogs safe in their
If a dog is digging to
escape, then chicken wire is secured with nails or staples to the bottom
of a wooden privacy fence and held into the ground with fabric pins.
When the dog begins digging, he’ll hit the texture with his paws and
will stop digging. If a fence has chicken or mesh wire, edge pins are
used at the bottom to secure his premises.
Another solution to
prevent dogs from entering gardens or chewing plants is to spray the
area with a homemade pepper spray solution. A dog owner can buy
jalapeno peppers, blend a few of them with water and pour it in a spray
bottle. Dogs will have the same reaction to the area that they have to
textured or thorny plants – once they taste it, they will not go back.
However, pepper spray needs to be re-applied if it rains or the
sprinklers are used.
My company also supports local animal charities like the
Denver Dumb Friends League and Good Samaritan Pet Center. I lecture on
the subject at the Arapahoe Community College, Denver Botanic Gardens,
Denver Dumb Friends League, Colorado Free University, and Pro Green
Conference among other events.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when a client tells me they
did not realize they could stop the destructive behavior and actually
share a beautifully landscaped yard with their pet. Instead of
relinquishing their dog, they live harmoniously with their dog. If we
can help decrease the number of pets received by shelters every year,
then everything else is gravy.
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