About the author: A former veterinarian’s assistant, Jasmine Patel has parlayed a love of animals into a career of advocating for and writing about her furry friends.
See Spot Run. See him jump. See Spot whine because he’s cooped up inside all day while his parents are at work. Dogs need space to run and play outdoors for mental and physical stimulation. You wouldn’t think twice about putting up a playground for your children, so why not create a fetching yard for your pup? Here are 10 easy ways to create a dog-friendly backyard.
Fencing provides peace of mind for doggy parents. Your pooch can run loose and explore their territory while safely enclosed. Animal experts at Michigan State University say different breeds prefer different types of fencing. But most dogs enjoy a sturdy fence they can see through as they patrol their territory.
They also suggest creating a 3-foot “run” around the perimeter, so your dog has room to patrol. Choose fencing with narrow slats so that your animal can’t get stuck between the rails. Most owners will opt for something that matches their landscaping.
Pro tip: Be careful about purchasing an invisible fence that gives your dog a slight jolt when they cross the boundary. Those barriers keep dogs in, but they won’t keep predators out!
2. Give Spot His Own Spot
It’s no secret that dogs love to dig! But you can keep them from digging up your flower beds and yard by creating a digging pit just for them. Dig out an area in the yard and fill it with sand, bones, and other treasures for your dog to find. Each time your dog digs in the pit — and not your garden or other spots in the yard — praise and reward him for using the designated digging spot.
The same goes for his potty area. Spot’s pee spots can leave unsightly brown circles in your yard. And you don’t want to be picking up dog waste all over. Give him a designated area to relieve himself and reward him for using it.
3. Provide Shade and Shelter
Like people, dogs can get sunburn and heatstroke. It’s essential that they have a place where they can get out of the sun. You can build or buy a nifty doghouse and some straw. A large tree will also provide shade from the elements.
4. Choose a Hardy Grass
Plant a grass type that will keep your pet comfortable and happy. Bermuda grass is popular for those who live in warmer climates because it has a high heat tolerance. It’s also great for doggy paws. Kentucky bluegrass is another grass able to withstand dogs trampling on/in it.
5. Add Water
A fresh supply of drinking water is crucial, but a water feature in the yard will provide hours of play. It can be as simple as filling up a small, plastic kiddie pool for your dog to cool off in on those dog days of summer.
Add a small fountain and watch him frolic. If your yard is large enough, you can dig up an area to create a small pond. Make sure your pond or pool is shallow enough so your pup can get in and out with no problem and you must keep the water clean so it doesn’t get dirty and become dangerous to your pet’s health.
6. Create a Designated Area for Food and Water Bowls
Don’t forget to leave out bowls of drinking water for dogs to quench their thirst. Choose a designated spot outside where they can go for a gulp of water or a quick snack. After all, exploring and digging can leave a pup pretty thirsty!
7. Remove Toxic Plants
As you create a playland for your dog, be sure to remove any toxic plants. Plants including lilies, mums, azaleas, American holly, and daffodils are poisonous to dogs. Many cause vomiting and cause gastrointestinal problems. You should also remove any thorny bushes and plants.
Consider planting some dog-friendly medicinal herbs. Oregano, ginger, and garlic are full of antioxidants and will relieve a pup’s upset stomach. Parsley and thyme provide vitamins and freshen his breath. (He made need it after the garlic!).
8. Eco-Friendly Landscaping
Landscaping that’s eco-friendly is also dog-friendly. Use natural fertilizers for your lawn, such as grass clippings. Most commercial brands of fertilizer contain harmful chemicals, so be sure to choose organic options. And while mulch will protect your plants, be careful when choosing the material. Cocoa mulch smells great but, when ingested, can cause the same reactions in your dog as if he ate a giant chocolate bar.
9. Add Pathways
Dogs love to sniff and patrol their territory. Adding in pathways that wind through your yard will give them places to explore without trampling on your flower beds. A direct path to his potty, digging, and dining area also helps set boundaries. Exploring is mentally stimulating and will keep dogs busy. Plus, pathways are fun and add a nice touch to your landscaping.
10. Create a Backyard Obstacle Course
Another option is to create an obstacle course in your backyard where your dog can run and burn off energy! You can create one without breaking the bank. Check your garage or basement for scrap wood, pipes, or old tires to create a fun maze for your animal. Or you can buy outdoor tunnels for them to roam through.
If you have small children, they will love chasing their furry friends through the tunnel. A tunnel could also be a place for an animal to cool off on hot days. Another idea? Create an agility course for your dog. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest to help get your creative juices flowing. Once you have accomplished this task, you’ll see your dog become happier and healthier as he/she runs and jumps through the obstacles.
Whether it’s chasing squirrels, digging up sticks or splashing in the pool, dogs need a yard where they can explore. Keep in mind, even the most elaborate obstacle course or toys won’t take the place of his favorite plaything: you. There are plenty of affordable or free options to create a dog-haven and low-maintenance backyard. Make sure you make time to enjoy it with him.