Your Dog And Backyard Landscaping: Tips For Achieving Compatibility

STILLWATER — As a homeowner, you want a neat, landscaped yard. But you also may want a dog for security purposes and for loyal companionship for you and your family. Can you succeed at having both?

Yes, but some considerations in planning for both the dog and the landscape will keep both objectives more compatible, advises Al Sutherland, Oklahoma State University area Extension horticulture specialist at Chickasha. Remember, he says, that to function as a backyard watchdog, a dog needs to be able to roam throughout most of the yard.

He adds that one of your first considerations in trying to maintain compatibility between a dog and landscape should be the natural tendencies of a dog’s breeding. Some breeds, such as beagles or bassett hounds, are much more prone to digging. Others such as dalmations can be extremely hyperactive. In addition, each dog of any breed will develop individual personality traits. However, some basic dog traits can’t be changed, and the landscape will have to be adjusted to fit with a dog, Sutherland says.

Anyone who acquires a puppy needs to be ready to endure some challenging times the first two years, he advises. While a puppy’s teeth are developing, it will chew up just about everything it can find.

Therefore, some types of landscaping or building projects may need to be delayed, and specialty plants and beds will need to be fenced. A dogowner should remember that a dog will patrol its territory, reminds Sutherland. In a fenced backyard, a dog will cruise the entire perimeter, and if delicate plants are in this pathway, they are likely to be trampled. A dog will investigate every time it hears a noise. Yard areas closest to outside-the-yard walks, doorways, gates and vehicle parking quickly begin suffering from high dog traffic and are not the best locations for landscaping projects. Neighbors and their pets also will attract a dog to the same spots at a fence frequently.

A common way for an outdoor dog to try to cool off during hot weather is to find a shady spot and dig away topsoil to expose moister, cooler soil in which to lie—even if the excavation encroaches into a prize-winning iris bed. Those traits can’t be changed, Sutherland says, so a homeowner may as well plan landscaping to anticipate a dog’s behavior and reduce impacts on ornamental plants.

Boredom also can lead to destructive behavior from a dog

When a dog is left in a backyard for days at a time without getting out for a walk or some exploring, it may start digging in areas or tearing up items it had ignored previously. On the other hand, Sutherland suggests, landscaping can be designed or altered to accommodate the natural tendencies of a dog. First, analyze how high-traffic areas for people correspond to natural high-traffic areas for a dog. Consider how a dog can make the rounds of the yard perimeter. Consider how an 18-inch-wide path can be left open along a fence.

Select types of plants and locate them so a dog can move between the plant and the fence. Taller shrubs that will spread foliage above the height of the dog can provide greenery without obstructing the dog’s travel. Evergreen shrubbery can be full on one side and trimmed back on the side near a fence. Plants that can break easily will need to be fenced off from the dog. Fencing certainly will be needed to keep a young, curious dog out of a vegetable garden. A water garden without some kind of decorative fencing also will be too much of a temptation.

Stakes can be used to keep a dog from trampling or lying on young, small plants until they have achieved some size.

Plastic wraps can be effective at protecting small trees from dogs. Landscape mulching is useful to cover bare soil areas where a dog is likely to lie down, but would crush nearby flowers or groundcover. Growing flowers in pots is an effective way to get delicate plants out of the way of a dog, yet retain color around a patio or deck.

Sutherland offers some suggestions of relatively tough plants to consider putting in a landscape that must remain compatible with a dog:

  • Deciduous shrubs: barberry, crapemyrtle, winged euonymus, rose of sharon, spirea, smoke tree, cutleaf sumac, staghorn sumac and chastetree. Evergreen shrubs: silverberry eleagnus, American holly, Burford holly, Foster’s holly, Nellie R. Stevens holly, yaupon holly, winter jasmine, juniper, Hollywood juniper, Saybrook juniper, Oregon grape, leatherleaf mahonia, nandina and mugo pine.
  • Vines: crossvine, trumpetvine, English ivy, coral honeysuckle, Boston ivy, Virginia creeper and wisteria.
  • Groundcovers: English ivy, trailing juniper, Parson’s juniper, Wilton’s carpet juniper, tam juniper, lirope, purple Japanese honeysuckle, mondograss and vinca major.

What you have in your mind?