Many people think that owning a pet and having a beautiful garden are not compatible goals but the reality is that they are not mutually exclusive of one another. It is true that overly enthusiastic pets can damage a yard and there are plants that can make your dog or cat ill but if you do just a little research on animal behavior and investigate what plants are not toxic to animals you can have the best of both worlds; a pleasant oasis you can share with that furry member of the family! Here are some tips on creating an outdoor space that both you and your pet will love:

  1. The first step is to think like an animal. I know that sounds silly but the more you understand why your pet does certain things the easier it can be to design your garden with this in mind. For example, most animals need room to roam and patrol their territory. You’ll often see that a dog, for example, will wear out the lawn near a fence as they go back and forth watching for intruders. Rather than try to change the animal’s instincts why not make that well-worn area into a path? Paw-friendly mulch or flagstone can do the trick or you can install a screening material to hide that area from view. If your animal is prone to digging under a fence you can install chicken wire under the ground to keep them in the yard or maybe give them their own sandbox to dig in!
  2. While pets like to bask in the sun it is a good idea to provide them with access to shade and water so that they don’t get overheated. Arbors, pergolas, and tents can provide your pet with shelter from the sun and a pond can be a great place for your pet to cool off!
  3. Your pet needs to relieve itself but that doesn’t have to be on your lawn or in your flower bed. You can designate a corner of your yard for this purpose and train your pet to go there and nowhere else. You can cover the area with pea gravel, bricks or cedar chips to make cleaning easier and perhaps a piece of driftwood or similar material that can be used as a marking post.
  4. How you plant your landscaped areas will be almost as important as what you plant. It is a good idea to plant larger, tougher plants such as shrubs and ornamental grasses near high traffic areas and keep the more brittle plant material away from areas frequented by your pet. Raised beds for vegetables and containers for flowers are another good way to keep your pet out of your garden.
  5. Choosing plants for your yard is perhaps the most important decision in creating a pet-friendly garden. Succulents such as Hens and Chicks as well as groundcovers such as Bugleweed are tough and can stand up to “paw” traffic. Petunias, Cosmos, and Coleus are good flower choices and Bamboo or Crape Myrtles can be good for screening purposes and to keep your pet from wandering off of the designed paths in your yard. Herbs such as Lavender and Rosemary are urine-resistant and can also help reduce flea activity. Finally, it is important to incorporate plants into your landscape that aren’t toxic and won’t injure your pet.  If you go to the ASPCA website you’ll find a wealth of information about toxic and non-toxic plants. 
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