Even the healthiest looking backyard can still hide a lot of dangers if you're not careful.
A little work removing some things and adding others to the yard can transform the simplest of spaces into a doggie haven.
Put Away Dangerous Gardening Products
Any products you use that could be poisonous or dangerous should be locked away in a shed or the garage, where dogs can't accidentally get access to them. A good example of this is any garden tools with sharp edges, as well as packages of chemicals such as slug repellents and weed killers, says Gena Lorainne, garden maintenance & planting expert with Fantastic Gardeners. “There are other natural ways to deal with slugs, such as mulch around your plants with seaweed,” says Lorainne. “As for weeds, pour some vinegar and hot water on them, which should be enough to naturally kill them.”
One thing to keep in mind: Don't believe labels when it comes to products, and do your own research instead. “There are chemicals that claim to be pet-safe, but you should always read the full description as some of them become safe only after drying out,” says Lorainne.
Watch Out for Dangerous Plants
If you're moving into a house that already has a live garden (or if you're trying to decide what to plant), one thing to keep in mind is that many common garden flowers, shrubs and trees are actually very toxic to dogs. “When inspecting the yard, dog owners should get rid of foxgloves, oak trees, hemlock, oleander tree, lily of the valley, tulips, alliums, aloe vera, yew and rhododendron shrubs—even tomato leaves are poisonous.” says Lorainne. “Not a small list, but there are plenty of alternatives to boost your garden's aesthetic and still keep it dog-friendly.”
Plant Dog Friendly Herbs
Just as there are many undesirable plants, there are also many pet-friendly ones that can help your dog have a more comfortable, healthier life. “Lemon grass is comparable to commercial mosquito repellents and will give your dog a lovely fresh breath,” Lorainne explains. “It should not be mistaken with Citronella, which also has pest repellent properties, but is toxic to pets.”
Lorainne also recommends lavender, which helps repel fleas and ticks, and mint, which works wonders in banishing mosquitoes. In addition, basil has antioxidants and helps with canine arthritis, so just have a few plants around the garden—very useful if you have a dog who likes to munch on random plants.
Pick the Right Grass
Wheat grass is always a great choice, as it provides your pet with minerals and improves its health overall, according to Lorainne, but you can also use blue oat grass or Japanese forest grass.
One thing to keep in mind: When dogs experience stomach issues they will munch on pretty much anything green in sight—an attempt to induce vomiting and get rid of what's causing the ache, says Lorainne. “This is why I recommend eliminating all dangerous plants from your garden to-grow list,” explains Lorainne. “The creeping thyme does well as a dog-friendly ground cover. Irish Moss, Labrador Violet, Miniature Stonecrop (although invasive, so be careful where you plant it) as well as snow in summer are rather dog-abuse-tolerant and are non-toxic.”
Create Shady and Cooling Spots
If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure he always has access to shade so he can cool down and seek refuge from the sun. If you don't have a covered porch, an easy way to provide shade is to hang some tarp or curtain or place a large patio umbrella in an area your dog can easily access. If you live in a particularly hot area, add a shallow kiddie pool with just enough water for Fido to get his paws and tummy wet.
Prevent the Digging
Sharing your home with a digger? You can encourage your dog to dig in a certain place by providing attractive options. For example, you can build a small sandbox or use a child's plastic sandbox to encourage your dog to dig there. If your dog is having trouble getting the message, bury a couple of toys or bones in the sand pit. Once he discovers he treasure during his digging adventures, chances are he'll return to look for more.
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com