December 15, 2012


Dog has torn up the outside of the yard

I think we’ve all seen yards like this… a barren line at the fence.

Rather than fighting with your dog over “their” area of the backyard, why not make it a safe, entertaining place for you both? Utilizing the wealth of information on dog behavior and some knowledge of your own dogs’ habits, you can create a space that is useful and beautiful. “Dogscaping” is a new trend in landscape design, taking into account the needs and desires of the family dog.

First, you should observe your dog(s). Watch where they like to run, play, sleep, dig, go to the bathroom, etc.. It’s usually quite apparent where your dog’s usual routine takes him- it’ll be the bare strips of land criss-crossing your yard. You need to decide which of these you will let him keep, and which to train him around. Second, consider your dog’s personal quirks- they all have them. To help you plan out your dream yard, I’ve split this article into three sections: Basic Design, Designing for Different Types of Dogs, and Common “Problem Areas”.

Basic Design


Your dog wants access to the whole yard. Making paths for your dog based on his habits will help both of you enjoy your yard more. Many dogs will prefer to run on grass rather than on hard concrete pavers (who could blame them ?),  so consider this before investing in paving materials. There are many other attractive options available, often at a fraction of the cost of brick or stone. A simple dirt walkway that contrasts with the surrounding areas can make much the same impact as an expensive brick path.

Garden area/Plants

First of all, do NOT plant anything poisonous to your dog. The ASPCA has a wonderful site devoted to toxic plants here.

If your dogs are anything like mine, they will probably want to dig up your freshly-planted flowers, or eat them. I suggest fencing off all newly placed plants. Replanting is hard on the whole plant, and even dogs that don’t intend to harm your new trees or bushes can trample and kill them. If you have a garden, you may have to just keep them out of your garden entirely. This is easily done with attractive permanent fencing, or by walling off a portion of your yard.

Seating/Living Space
Dog friendly outdoor furniture

Even if your dog does knock over this furniture,
it’s doubtful that anyone will get hurt.

If you want to have an outdoor entertaining area, try to understand that you’ll probably use the area once a week at most. Your dog LIVES here. With that in mind, try to limit “your” space to only what you need, and try not to take over your dog’s favorite sunny spot, or shady nap area. If you do want to use the same space your dog loves, I’d suggest getting your dog an outdoor bed.  In hot areas, I suggest beds that lift off the ground so that your dog doesn’t have to dig in your flower bed to cool off.

As for the seating itself, metal furniture is probably the safest choice for the yard because it isn’t easily broken by marauding Golden Retrievers, doesn’t splinter in the sun like plastic, and doesn’t taste good like wicker.

landscaping backyard for dogs

A foot or two of space behind these plants would
make for very happy dogs.

The fence line

Most dogs (especially sporting breeds) love to run the perimeter, just inside the fence line. This usually results in an ugly, over-trodden path right at the outskirts of the yard. So- don’t put plants there! Make sure the ground provides stable footing, such as pavers, or packed dirt. If you want to hide this barren border, plant taller plants about 1.5-2 feet inside the fence, so that your dogs still have room to do their thing. You’ll also want to make sure you have breaks in the plantings so that your dog has easy access to their fence.


Designing for Different Types of Dogs


Look familiar?
Maybe it’s time for their very own sand pit.

If you have a dog that won’t stop digging, maybe you should quit fighting it and simply provide a place for your dog to dig! This principle is very similar to a sand-box for kids. Choose an area and get a clean play-sand from a material supply company (the same ones that sell gravel, etc). You’ll want to have some sort of a barrier to keep the sand in that area- decorative rocks, pavers, or even an actual kid’s sandbox. For really vigorous diggers that end up flinging sand in every direction, I’d suggest making a “backstop” to make sure the flung sand only ends up in one general direction. It’s then pretty easy to just push the sand back into the digging area.

To help your dog adjust to the new digging suite, try burying a few bones, outdoor toys, or even dig with your dog! Once they realize that they can (and that there are rewards to digging there) you won’t have nearly so many holes in your lawn.


Dogs that climb can be a huge safety problem. For dogs that climb chain link, I am a huge fan of Havahart small animal electric fences . The jolt of electricity is a psychological deterrent, and not at all painful. (I would know, I’ve hit mine a million times- usually followed by a squeal and giggling.) Once your dog is safely contained, you might consider a few play obstacles for your dog. (Think agility A-frame). I do not suggest this option if you have more than one dog, however. They could easily hurt one another playing on the obstacle. Usually if your dog is climbing, they are bored or want something on the other side of the fence. If it is an option, try to screen the fence so that your dog cannot see out. If your dog is food-motivated, you might also want to try stuffing a few kong toys with treats, and hiding the toys around the yard.

Bully Breeds/ Pullers

Most dogs that love a game of tug-of-war will play by themselves, if given the chance! Those these toys were once stigmatized because of their use by dog-fighting groups, but springpoles are finally making a comeback. These toys should only be used while under supervision, but it is important to have a strong place to hang them from- so consider adding a super-strength arbor that can withstand the tugs of a full-sized dog. If you already have a strong tree or other support structure, make sure to leave the underlying area open so that your dog can enjoy their toy.

Hiding a kiddie pool behind rocks

This would hide a kiddie pool rather nicely.

Water Dogs

Kiddie pools may not be the prettiest, but water dogs will love them, especially during the hot summers. If you have some larger rocks in your yard, you might consider making a “border” for the pool, both to keep it in place and to cover up some of the ugly blue plastic.


Problem Areas

Well-worn bare ground

If there’s a path straight through your yard, you’ll need patience, and an obstacle. I’d suggest a large obstacle such as a rocky hill, a tree (with a barrier fence), garden benches, or the like. Try to anticipate where your dog will veer around this new addition, and plan for it.

Bench safe for dogs

This would deter most pets from running straight through the yard

The Peeping Tom

We have one that will cry like a banshee if she sees us inside the house in the dining room. Although I like being able to look out and check on them easily, I do not like Sammie knowing where I am. A simple window film will turn your glass door into a one-way mirror AND help make your home more energy-efficient.


About BredByBitch

Hello! My name is Dani, and I've been in the "dog world" since I was 8 years old. My mother raises and breeds Irish Wolfhounds, which was my introduction to the show ring. I showed in Junior Showmanship for many years before aging out and getting my first German Wirehaired Pointer. I live in Tucson, AZ with my German Wirehaired Pointer, Luke. Luke is my man, from my first home-bred litter of wires.

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One Response to “Dogscaping”

  1. Taylor Hicken Says:

    I liked it when you shared that it is great to make the lawn a safe, entertaining place for you and your pet. My friend just mentioned the other day that she is worried about her dog that once got lost after running away from home a few weeks ago. I will suggest to her installing fences around her house to keep in safe in the compound.


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