Designing a Dog-Friendly Landscape


Here’s the culprit! Fresca, the Wonder Dog. This little rascal has decimated our backyard fenced-in area. It was fenced in specifically for her before we ever brought her home. We used to have grass back there along with brick-bordered flower beds. However, I read that many plants are poisonous to dogs, including some of the small shrubs and plants that were in those beds so I dutifully pulled them all out before Fresca arrived. In the excitement (and fatigue) of owning a new puppy, I just never got around to replanting anything more suitable to inquisitive canines. Then, the first day I let her outside in the enclosure to do her “business”, I looked out there and saw dirt flying everywhere. By the time I got out there, she had almost dug a hole big enough to slip out UNDER the fence. I grabbed a few planters and stuck them strategically over the hole and took to standing at the sliding glass door in our sunroom whenever she was out in the back. Luckily, Fresca no longer digs holes but I’m still her observer, mainly to make sure she doesn’t decide to roll in anything obnoxious.


Because Fresca’s yard doesn’t get much sun except for a short stretch every afternoon, not much readily grows back there and things tend to stay damp. It isn’t a problem in the winter because the ground tends to stay frozen and Fresca can just be let out to do her bathrooming and then head on in with no problem. However, when it gets warmer and the rains begin, the fenced yard becomes a mud hole. I keep a towel by the back door so that I can wipe her paws off as soon as she comes back inside. Further complicating the situation is the fact that our neighbor has two dogs. If they are out, Fresca feels that she has to run straight out from the house to the side fence to “warn” them to stay away. Barking isn’t enough. She has to give them some attitude, too…..flipping her back leg out again and again as the mud flies backwards. It looks like a bull pawing the ground except she uses her hind paw. That practice has just about uprooted any grass we had surviving along the one side of the fence. Of course, the other dogs have never shown any inclination to come over to see Fresca but to her mind, that means that her methods are working.


My husband has tried to reseed Fresca’s yard several times, despite my protestations that it wouldn’t work, and each time, it hasn’t worked. Now it’s my turn. I’ve looked through several books, perused countless websites, and clipped out articles over the past years. It’s time to put my ideas into action. As I see it, I’ve got several choices. I can:
1. Brick the back area, making it into a courtyard that could be hosed off for cleanup.
2. Put a smaller chain-link dog run along one end of the fenced area and confine Fresca to this whenever she needs to go out to potty. The problem I see with that would be that I’d have to get suited up in cold or bad weather to take her to the entrance to the run and to get her back out of the run.
3. Kill off what little grass remains and bring in sand to cover the fenced area. We could put down flagstones to make a path from sunporch to the gate. I’m just not sure if the sand would get muddy or not.
4. Kill off the grass and put down crushed rock/pea gravel. Build some raised flower beds in a geometric layout, thus creating paths that will “herd”, er, encourage Fresca to do her business along set routes. I think the urine would just seep down through the pepples and the dog poo would be able to be picked up without taking most of the pepples with it. Right now I’m leaning towards this option. I envision four raised planter boxes maybe 4 foot by 4 foot square and a foot high made out of wood. They would be filled with planting soil and I could plant flowers in them that enjoy shade. Being raised like that, Fresca wouldn’t wander through them or do anything in them plus I wouldn’t have to bend way down to weed in these beds. I’d put them in a square arrangement with space between them forming paths kind of in the shape of a cross.

I’d love to hear any of your ideas, especially if you’ve wrestled with similar problems yourself. Drop me a comment and let me know what you would do.


One Response

  1. Hey Dee-
    We had a fenced in pen for my last dog when I was growing up….and for the ground covering we got some kind of stone..they were like 1 inch or so in diameter and smooth edges. We picked up the poop easily and hosed it down every few days to wash away the residual poop and pee. Worked really well. She actually wouldn’t go anywhere BUT rocks….it was a issue when we moved and she didn’t HAVE them anymore.

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