How to create a dog friendly garden – 13 garden safety tips to consider

dog friendly garden
dog friendly garden

Gardens can be a rewarding and stimulating place for both us and our dogs. But they can also contain hazards that cause accidents and make our pooches sick.

Toxic plants, pesticides and sharp tools are just some of the dangers our dogs might face. And because our pups are natural explorers, they can easily land themselves into trouble. To avoid any unnecessary trips to the vets, your garden may need a few new safety measures.

So here’s how to make a dog friendly garden your whole family can enjoy for years to come.

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Avoid toxic plants

dog friendly garden

Many of us love our garden blooms, but many plants are toxic to dogs if ingested. Unfortunately the list is quite extensive, so you may want to explore the Dogs Trust toxic plant list to check which ones are. A few include, Daffodils, Delphiniums, Hydrangeas, Lupins, Rhododendrons, Tulip bulbs and Wisteria.

If your dog is interested in eating your plants, you should consider pulling up the poisonous kinds. You can repot them in a container and put them out of reach or get rid of them altogether. The effects of consuming poisonous plants ranges from mild to fatal. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you see evidence your dog has eaten a toxic plant, always take your dog straight to the vet.


Make your garden secure

dog friendly garden

The world beyond the fence can be tempting to our pups, so make sure your garden fences and gates are secure. Some of our canine friends can jump surprisingly high, and clever pooches can use nearby obstacles as ladders. Ensure your fencing is strong and stands at least 6ft high. If your dog likes to dig under the fence, install mesh at the base of the fence at least 20cm underground.

A secure fence not only stops your dog from escaping, it also keeps out potential dog thieves. Over recent years people stealing pedigree dogs from gardens has risen at an alarming rate. In fact, more than 60 dogs are stolen in the UK every week, and 52% of those are taken from gardens. Keep your pup out of harm’s way – provide a secure environment where they can’t escape or be taken by thieves.


Beware of slugs and snails

dog friendly garden

Slugs and snails are widespread in most gardens but they do pose a risk to dogs. Our pooches can get lungworm if they eat these slimy critters. If ingested, the lungworm will move through the body and live in the heart causing heart and breathing problems. In severe cases lungworm can be fatal if untreated.

Symptoms of lungworm include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding for longer after a minor scrape or cut
  • Abnormal blood clotting

To prevent lungworm, keep an eye on your dog in the garden and dispose of slugs and snails when you see them. This may help keep numbers down. Avoid leaving toys and water bowls out overnight – even if your dog puts their mouth around a toy where a slug has been, they can contract lungworm.

There are medications you can use on a continuous basis to prevent lungworm. Ask your vet to talk you through your options.


Provide shade and shelter

dog friendly garden

Whether the sun is shining or it’s pouring with rain, your dog needs protection from the harsh elements. During the hotter seasons, ensure your dog has shade under a pergola, umbrella or doggie tent. Especially if your dog tends to stay outdoors all day, or even lives outdoors as some do.

For those wet days, provide a canopy, a makeshift shelter or a doggy home. If they stay outside all day or if they’re popping out for a toilet break they won’t be left in the cold.


Avoid harmful pesticides and chemicals

dog friendly garden

Pesticides such as sprays and slug pellets can be harmful to your dog if eaten. If your dog happens to eat a treated plant or a slug they can become ill. Choose dog-friendly ways to control pests in your garden with organic slug pellets and natural insect killers.

Homemade options include mixing garlic powder, chilli powder or ordinary washing up liquid with water. Spray liberally onto your plants to both repel and kill problem insects.

Avoid using additives in ponds and water features that your dog will potentially drink from. Always check the labels if you’re using dyes to ensure they’re safe for dogs.


Use a dog-friendly mulch

dog friendly garden

If you mulch your plants to help with water retention and protection from frost, ensure you use a dog friendly version. Some mulches such as pine needles can be spiky and potentially harm your dog’s sensitive paws. Some mulches can also be potential choking hazards, and spiky or sharp pieces can damage your dog’s intestines.

Cocoa bean mulch contains high traces of theobromine which is also found in chocolate and is toxic to dogs if eaten. Unfortunately, it can be fatal as there is no treatment for theobromine poisoning other than inducing vomiting.

Leaf or bark mulch is a safe alternative, or you may want to block access to mulched areas if your dog is particularly intent on chewing.


Keep your garden tidy

dog friendly garden

If your garden is tidy there’s less opportunity for your dog to hurt themselves or eat something they shouldn’t. Never leave hazardous objects like sharp tools lying around that could hurt your dog. If they’re running around or you’re playing fetch, they could land on one and seriously injure themselves.

If you’re dining alfresco, ensure you clear away plates quickly or keep leftovers out of reach. As many human foods are toxic to dogs, you don’t want to run the risk of accidentally poisoning your  pooch.


Keep your shed locked

dog friendly garden

Sheds can also contain many dangerous objects that could easily harm an inquisitive pooch. With many garden tools and chemicals around, that’s no place for an unsuspecting pup. Keep your shed locked at all times to prevent any spontaneous explorations.


Keep your dog safe around BBQs

dog friendly garden

BBQs are one of the best things about summer, but they can be a potential danger to our dogs. Keep pup away from burning coals and dispose of them safely afterwards. If you’re using a disposable BBQ which is low to the ground, find a way to elevate it to avoid burnt paws and noses.

Keep food out of reach – onions in particular are a BBQ staple but are toxic to our dogs. Keep kitchen utensils up high to prevent your dog from cutting their paws when they’re walking around.


Restrict access to ponds

dog friendly garden

Ponds can pose a serious health risk to dogs. Blue-green algae is a type of bacteria that most often occurs in hot, summer weather when there’s limited rainfall. It forms in stagnant water and can’t always be seen by the naked eye. When the algae clumps together and blooms, it forms a blue-green scum.

If your dog likes to drink from your pond and you have blue-green algae, (also know as cyanobacteria) it can be fatal. Not all types are dangerous, but if it is the variety that produces harmful toxins, this can cause your dog’s liver to stop functioning properly.

If your dog shows signs of the following symptoms after drinking or swimming in your pond, take them to the vet immediately.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Collapse or weakness
  • Seizures
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion or disorientation

The best way to avoid algae poisoning is to prevent access to your pond. Simply grate or mesh your pond so your dog can’t drink from it. As a bonus, this will also make your pond safer if you have children or grandchildren around.


Fence off newly seeded lawn areas

dog friendly garden

Grass seed can get stuck in your dog’s paws and cause painful swelling. If you’re seeding a bare patch of lawn, make a barrier with posts and chicken wire to stop your dog walking over the area.

If grass seed gets stuck between your dog’s toes, you may notice the paw is red and swollen. They may also lick their paws constantly and walk with a limp. Take your dog to the vet if you suspect your dog’s paws are aggravated by grass seed. They will remove the seed safely and likely prescribe antibiotics to combat the infection.


Secure your compost bin

dog friendly garden

Compost bins are a fantastic way to create nutrient-rich soil for free. But they can also contain many human foods that can be harmful to dogs. If you’re throwing peelings and old food into your compost bin, those smells may attract your curious pooch. But foods such as grapes, onions, rhubarb, mushrooms and avocados are toxic to dogs, so it’s best to make your compost bin dog proof.


Create a safe dog zone

dog friendly garden

You could create a fenced area within your garden to minimise dangers to your dog and tackle problem behaviours. If your dog likes to dig under the fence, their safe zone could have a sandpit to satisfy their digging urges.

You could plant a dog-friendly sensory area to stimulate their senses, and it won’t matter if they sneak a taste. Oregano, Rosemary, Peppermint, Basil and Parsley all smell amazing and are perfectly safe if your dog has a nibble.

Provide lots of toys to stop them chewing your garden furniture. Ensure your pup is comfortable and hydrated by providing water and shelter. A dog zone can become your dog’s favourite place, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’ll be safe, happy and entertained.


What kind of safety issues do you have in your garden? Have you decided which problem area you’ll tackle first to create your dog friendly garden? Let me know in the comments below…

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