There’s nothing better than spending quality time outdoors with your family, including your dog. Follow these tips to create a backyard oasis that keeps your entire family happy, healthy, and sound.
You’ve probably received a chain e-mail once or twice touting the dangers of Cocoa Mulch in your yard. Most often times we reject these warnings as urban myths or legends, but the truth here is this: the warning is true. Cocoa Mulch, commonly sold at many big box stores and garden supply stores, can be extremely toxic to your dog if ingested in large quantities. The best course of action? Avoid it completely. Instead, opt for organic mulch that comes from a reliable local source. If your dog has a tendency to chew, go for a more finely-shredded mulch than one with large chunks. Cedar mulch is a natural insect repellant. However, essential oils contained in such mulches can cause irritation if ingested in large amounts, so never leave your dog unattended near mulched areas of your yard, or consider a small fence or barrier.
Everyone loves having a lush, green lawn to enjoy, but after all of your hard work, what do you do when pesky yellow patches dot your lush landscape? These urine stains on lawns come from the pH of your dog’s urine. We don’t recommend using over-the-counter medications as these can adversely affect your dog’s system and lead to urine crystals. The problem here is likely in their diet. Consider changing their food to a more natural diet and you’re likely to see some sort of improvement. The best solution is to train them to use a specific area of your yard when they need to go the bathroom.
There are also many alternatives to a traditional grass lawn. Recently we’ve seen beautiful clover lawns and synthetic grasses as attractive options to choose from. For those who like low-maintenance, consider investing in an artificial turf for your yard. These environmentally-friendly alternatives to natural grass are gaining in popularity and have specific traits that make them a great choice for dog-friendly yards. You may also want to investigate xeriscaping, or creating a landscape that is designed to minimize the need for additional irrigation. Xeriscaping often includes using flat stones or crushed granite/pebbles to create walkways along with areas of plants and grasses that are native to your area, and can naturally withstand the environmental conditions. Opting for landscaping such as xeriscaping has many benefits: in addition to saving the environment by not depleting it of one if it’s most valuable resources (water), you’ll have less to worry about without the need to maintain a lawn—providing you with much more time spent enjoying your yard with your pooch!
Continue reading for information on pools, plants, and fencing!
Pools can be as fun for your dog as they can for each member of the family. Unfortunately, pools pose a huge risk to dogs just like children. If you are not able to fullyenclose your pool with a fence that your dog cannot get through—or over!—then you absolutely must train them on what to do in case they slip or fall over the edge. Train your dog by getting in the pool with them and showing them over and over where the steps are until they understand how to swim straight to a safe exit. Even if your dog hates getting in the water, if you have an accessible pool this is an absolute must.
Some of the most commonly-used plants utilized in landscaping are unfortunately extremely toxic to our companion animals. If a dog ingests just one seed from a sago palm, it can be fatal very quickly. In addition to the sago palm, other plants from the cycad family—as well as many types of mushrooms—can cause liver failure. Many additional plants (that are commonly available at all gardening stores) can affect your dog’s heart such as oleander, azalea, rhododendron and foxglove. Additional plants to avoid include begonias, aloe, dahlia, elephant ears and more. For a full list of toxic plants and printable lists to take with you to your local nursery, visit www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/.
Of course, there are many beneficial plants to include in your yard and your gardens. Why not look into planting an herb garden in your yard or on your patio in containers? Many herbs have beneficial effects on dogs, just like humans. Fresh parsley added to your pup’s meals can help fight off plaque. Most herbs are natural flea and mosquito repellants and include mint, catnip, sage, rosemary, chamomile, lavender and lemongrass. While these plants won’t kill fleas and mosquitos, they will naturally repel them, so carefully place them throughout your landscape to reap the greatest benefits. Certain herbs and plants in this list can be quite invasive, so if you don’t want an entire yard full of mint plants, we suggest planting them in containers, even in your yard. (Note: citronella plants, a member of the geranium family, pose a toxic risk to your dog and should be avoided.)
It goes without saying that if you have a dog in your yard, you should have a fence. Many breeds are instinctual roamers and once they catch a scent, they are off to the races. It is hard for a dog to fight their natural instincts, and it only takes one bird or squirrel to have your dog running full speed down the street and into dangerous traffic situations. When installing a fence or making repairs to your existing one, make sure that there is no space for escaping. Make regular checks to the bottoms of your fence to ensure no one has been digging and there are no holes to squeeze through. If you are installing a picket-style fence, make sure the gaps in between the pickets are smaller than the size of your dog’s head so they won’t get stuck.
Dogs are naturally territorial and will often establish a pattern of monitoring the perimeter of their domain. Therefore, if you’re installing a new fence, we recommend not immediately following up with landscaping. Give a little bit of time for your dog to establish their routine and path around the yard, and work with it. Install pavers along the path and put flowers and shrubs on the other side of the path so that Rover can continue to roam, and you can have peace of mind that he won’t be traipsing through your newly planted pansies.