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Designing A Garden With A Dog – Or Cat – In Mind

By Dr Katrina Warren on September 9, 2011 in Other

A well-presented, pet-friendly garden can be achieved with some planning at the outset and by selecting plants that are suitable for your pets and lifestyle.

You do need to make sure that your pet knows what the rules are and, for very active or larger dogs, provide plenty of stimulation and exercise so that the garden doesn’t become a way of beating the boredom blues.

Of course the other important aspect of planning a pet-friendly garden is making sure there are no risks to your four-legged friends’ health. Unfortunately, it is all too common for pets to chew on dangerous plants or to find a packet of something poisonous.

The Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) offers the following tips for establishing and maintaining a pet-friendly garden:

• The first step is to make sure that the area where your pet will be allowed is properly enclosed. While you may wish to allow a dog free access to the entire back garden, some people prefer to restrict a cat to an enclosure with free access to and from the house.

• Set aside areas in your garden where your pet can lie in the sun or use the toilet without destroying your precious plants. Another toileting option, especially well suited to smaller spaces, is a litter tray for cats or a pet loo for dogs.

• Dogs love to run and, in particular, they love to run around the edges of ‘their’ territory. Raised beds are a great way of keeping dogs off plants, or hardier plants can be used to create borders that will keep dogs off ground-level beds. You can even create a track around the edge of your property so your dog can access this area without destroying plantings.

• Although there is a trend away from large expanses of lawn, many people still want some lawn area. Starting with instant lawn is a good option as it will mean you do not have to keep pets off while the grass is young and tender. You should also talk to your nursery or lawn supplier about the hardier types of lawn that can withstand pet urine.

• Shade and water are vital to every pet that spends time outdoors. Be sure to provide a number of areas where your dog or cat can keep cool during the hottest part of the day as well as have access to water at all times. Similarly, make sure your pet has a warm, dry area if it is not able to return freely to the house.

• Dogs and cats both love to eat certain grasses and they can provide nutritional and medicinal benefits. Talk to your nursery about the best grasses for pets and grow them in low pots with frequent re-planting to ensure the grass remains soft and palatable.

• Many common garden plants can be poisonous to pets and should either be avoided altogether or planted in areas that your pet cannot access. Daphne, asparagus fern, aloe vera, jasmine, chrysanthemums, azaleas, rhododendrons, most bulbs and even sweet peas and daffodil bulbs are dangerous to dogs. Other plants such as wandering jew, cactus and nettles present the same risk to dogs as they do to humans and should be kept out of the garden.

• Some garden mulches contain particular ingredients, such as cocoa bean shells, that can be lethal to dogs and cats. Mulch bags do not always carry a warning about risks to pets so always check whether the product you’re purchasing is potentially toxic.

• Both cats and dogs can be destructive if they are bored. Provide plenty of exercise for your pets and your garden will have a much greater chance of staying intact!