What's the most pet-friendly way to landscape?

Dog-friendly Landscaping

How terribly cute.
How terribly cute.
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­One way to reclaim your yard from the grip of a rambunctious pet is simply to train it. Should you have a perfect storm of a busy schedule, a fabulous yard and a less-than-intelligent dog, however, here's some advice on creating a landscape that you and your dog can enjoy.

­You might consider adding a pond for your dog to wade in for laying or cooling down (more on that soon). If your dog has created a dirt track to run on in a particular area of your yard, you can cover the track with mulch or shredded bark, and disguise it with a row of shrubs to provide an attractive barrier. It's important to create a landscape that will prevent bad behavior as well.

Digging is perhaps the most widely-known and annoying dog behavior. It's among the most destructive. Dogs dig holes for a variety of reasons; knowing why your do­g digs can help you address that in a pet-friendly landscape. If your dog digs holes throughout your yard, you're in luck. This is the easiest type of digging to address, since your pet is in search of something it smells buried in the ground [source: Estep and Hetts]. Establish a digging area in your landscape, filled with sand and soft soil and topped with wood mulch for easy digging. You can easily train your dog to dig only in its digging pit by burying bones and treats in the pit. Keep an attractive rake or shovel nearby so you can easily refill your dog's holes and smooth them over.

Other types of digging, like those near fences and gates, may mean your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, fear or excitement. You can address these issues by providing your dog a safe, comfortable outdoor shelter like a dog house in your landscape. Holes that your dog then lays down in usually indicate that your dog's looking for a cool place. By providing more shade in your yard, especially by planting trees, you can curtail your dog's digging for comfort. Digging along your foundation can be especially damaging, since it allows rain and moisture into the ground beneath your house, which can cause settling. You can keep your dog from doing this by laying a 12-inch wide piece landscape fabric between your house's foundation and your yard and planting beds. Top the fabric with a 12-inch wide strip of chicken wire laid flat over the fabric, then cover with ornamental rocks. This will keep your dog from digging, since dogs don't like how rocks and chicken wire feel against their paws, and experts recommend a 12-inch border between your house and any mulch or ground cover plants to prevent termite infestation and rot [source: NYTNS, Polinski and Russ]. It's a win-win.

Since dogs don't really like digging for rocks, it's a good idea to use them as much as possible as ground cover in planting beds and around plants. Well-established plants present the most challenge to a destructive dog; using rocks around young plants will give them a change to mature without molestation from your dog. Creating raised beds is a good idea as well. This creates a digging position your dog will find uncomfortable. Selecting good edging around ground-level planting beds is important; you want sturdy, non-metal edging that won't cut your dog's paws if it does decide to dig.

Plant selection is important in a pet-friendly landscape, whether your tailoring it to your dog's or cat's needs. We've got some pet-friendly planting tips and more on cats on the next page.