The Q&A Archives: dog friendly landscaping

Question: I have two dogs that distroyed my back lawn of St Augustine. I need to know how to landscape my back yard to make it both dog friendly and pleasing to the eye with out spending a fortune.

Answer: Effective landscaping with dogs begins with the recognition that a business-as-usual approach won't work. If your dogs are to be allowed to run about in your yard, you'll probably have to make adjustments to your landscaping. Landscaping with dogs primarily entails making concessions to the dogs, as you'll see from the strategies below. I do, however, offer one glimmer of hope that you can, instead, adjust the dogs to the landscaping. Either way, if you fail to make some sort of adjustment, then dogs will make a mess of your yard.

Here are some suggestions:
Strategy #1:
Dogs and lawn grass don't mix well. For small areas, consider switching from a grassy expanse to hardscape. The advantages of hardscape go beyond solutions to landscaping with dogs, since hardscape offers a low-maintenance alternative to grass that obviates lawn care. Stone and masonry are especially useful for landscaping with dogs, because they minimize the mess dogs make through urination, digging and plain old wear and tear.

Strategy #2:
But what if you reject the idea of incorporating hardscape, sticking stubbornly to your wish for a "green carpet" of grass? At the very least, consider switching to a different type of grass. Some grasses hold up better to foot traffic (and paw traffic!) than others. Among the warm-season grasses, Bermuda grass is among the toughest. If you need a cool-season grass for landscaping with dogs, try Kentucky bluegrass.

Strategy #3:
But installing a tougher type of grass will solve only one lawn-care problem encountered in landscaping with dogs: namely, wear and tear on grass. It will do nothing to solve the problem of "dog spots." Dog spots are the unsightly yellow spots on grass caused by the nitrogen and salts in dog urine.

But there is a type of "green carpet" that solves the problem of dog spots: clover. Clover lawns have many advantages over grass lawns. If you're landscaping with dogs, you'll especially appreciate the fact that clover doesn't stain the way grass does after being subjected to dog urine.

Strategy #4:
If you can't bring yourself to renounce grass, you can still prevent dog spots by vigilance. When you see your dog urinating on the grass, rush to the garden hose. Turn it on and bring it over to the area where your dog has just urinated. Douse the area with water, thereby flushing it and diluting the harmful elements in the dog urine.

Strategy #5:
One way to keep dogs away from the delicate plants in your yard is by building fences around them. Wood picket fences are especially attractive. Plant some perennial flowers behind a white picket fence, and you're well on your way to creating an English country garden.

Strategy #6:
Place wire cages around trees and shrubs to prevent dog urine from reaching their trunks and roots and damaging them. That way, dogs can go about their business and you can relax, secure in the knowledge that Fido's urine won't be killing your favorite specimen.

Strategy #7:
If a fence surrounds your property, do not try to grow any plants in the area immediately adjacent to the fence. Dogs are territorial, and their favorite path in a fenced-in yard will be right along the fence. Unsightly "dog paths" are the result of this predictable behavior.

Rather than fighting it, plan your yard around your dog's predictability. Install stone walkways over existing dog paths. Now everyone will be happy: the dog still has its path, and you get to have a better looking yard. Stone walkways exude charm and are a desirable addition to your landscaping regardless of dog problems.

Hope this information is helpful!

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