6 Tips for Creating a Dog-Friendly Garden

A garden is a great place to spend time with your dog. Here are six steps to take to make sure your garden is dog-friendly before you let your pooch tiptoe (or rampage) through the tulips.

John Woods, All Things Dogs
3-minute read

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you certainly want your dog to enjoy it too. But before you let your pup romp around, you’ll want to make sure the space is safe for them. How do you know what plants are safe and which are potentially dangerous for your pup? How high should your fence be? What other hazards are there to watch out for?

Let's take a look at six clear, easy-to-follow tips for making your garden a dog-friendly space.

1. Avoid toxic plants

There are many common garden plants that are toxic to dogs if ingested. They include (but aren't limited to):

  • Aconitum (wolf's bane)
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Crocus
  • Daffodil
  • Delphinium
  • Foxglove
  • Hyacinth
  • Oleander
  • Pieris (lily of the valley bush)
  • Sago palm
  • Tulip
  • Vinca (periwinkle)
  • Wisteria

The ASPCA website offers a complete list of plants toxic to dogs. Before planting a new flower or vegetable that your dog will have access to, research to make sure it's safe.

Plants that are dog safe

You still have a wide variety of dog-safe plants to choose from! Some popular non-toxic plants include:

  • Camellia
  • Marigold
  • Fuchsia
  • Magnolia bush
  • Creeping thyme
  • Sunflower
  • Rosemary
  • Snapdragon

2. Choose your chemicals wisely

You may have seen your dog eating grass. This is a common behavior, and munching on plain grass is not likely to harm your dog. However, issues can arise if your dog is eating grass that has been chemically treated.

One herbicide to watch out for is glyphosate, a weed-killer commonly marketed as RoundUp. Signs of glyphosate toxicity include lethargy, hypersalivation, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If your dog is experiencing any symptoms of poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately.

3. Secure the boundaries

If you plan on letting your dog run off-leash, you should make sure that your yard is securely fenced. And be picky about what height and material you spring for—a three-foot-tall white picket fence may look nice but will be next to useless for keeping most dogs secure. Many dogs are surprisingly strong jumpers and will need a fence of at least six feet to ensure they don’t escape over the top.

Many dogs are surprisingly strong jumpers and will need a fence at least six feet high.

You'll also want to consider whether you want a boundary between your grassy lawn and flower garden. Raised garden beds are a great option for marking off a garden space that's separate from your dog's play space.

4. Secure the compost bin

For your curious pooch, the compost bin is a treasure trove of interesting scents. If your dog follows their nose into the compost and starts rooting around, you could have a number of problems on your hands.

If your dog decides to use your compost pile as a toilet, this could hurt the composting process.

First, you’ll have a giant and smelly mess to clean up!

Second, the compost pile may contain foods that could be harmful to your dog if eaten, including grapes, raisins, avocados, onions, and garlic.

Third, if your dog decides to use your compost pile as a toilet, this could hurt the composting process. Their feces will eventually break down but also potentially introduce unwanted bacteria.

5. Keep out slugs and snails

Slugs and snails have been enemies of gardeners for as long as people have been growing plants. But did you know that these pests can be dangerous for your dog?

If your dog happens to eat a slug or snail, there is a risk of contracting lungworm. Not all slugs carry the parasite, but if your dog gets infected, they can exhibit a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and respiratory distress. Symptoms are usually worse in puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems.

Be wary of slug and snail bait, particularly if your dog is prone to eating things they shouldn't. Slug baits containing metaldehyde are considered toxic. Copper mesh collars are a safer alternative.

6. Choose sturdy plants

Dogs will be dogs—they'll dig, chew, and pee. You can take some preventative measures, such as setting up raised flower beds or putting a smaller fence around your vegetable garden. However, even the most careful precautions don’t always hold up to a rambunctious dog.

Try to stick to plants that are a bit sturdier and are already fully grown. This way, your dog is less likely to damage young shoots by digging or running through your garden beds.

You can enjoy gardening with your dog

Gardens can be wonderful and stimulating spaces for dogs to play! Make sure your garden is also a safe space for your dog by choosing non-toxic plants, herbicide, and fertilizer; securing exterior boundaries; locking up the compost bin; and eliminating slugs and snails with dog-safe treatments.

Your pooch may not be able to help you with weeding, but they’ll certainly be an enthusiastic companion while you go about your gardening.

About the Author

John Woods, All Things Dogs

John is the founder and editor-in-chief of All Things Dogs. A member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, he has been a dog lover since he was 13 years old. John is the parent to Nala, a working lab retriever. He has also volunteered at multiple animal shelters, where he gained firsthand experience in rehabilitation and force-free positive reinforcement training methods.