The Q&A Archives: Dog friendly Backyard

Question: I have 2 great danes and 2 smaller dogs and find it difficult to maintain the lawn. Due to the lack of grass the dogs track mud in the house in the rain and snow and are covered in dust/dirt in the dry seasons. I need some suggestions on how to redo the back yard. I thought about putting in mulch with small

Answer: 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.

Here are some ideas for incorporating hardscape into your landscaping:

Make liberal use of crushed-stone mulch. If you grow plants in such mulch in a sunny area, select drought-tolerant plants, since stone gets hot in the summer. Don't place the stone mulch directly up against the plants.

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.

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.

There are lots of other ideas for dog friendly landscapes on the web and in books at your local library. The key is to start small and add elements as your time and checkbook allow. Enjoy your garden!

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