I've written this page in response to many enquiries and questions received by email from people who have found that having a lovely garden and a lovely dog (s) are not always two compatible aims.
There are no simple answers unfortunately and no magical products that will provide a quick fix. It is possible to have both a dog and a garden and to be proud of each of them. It just takes time to get there, here's some help along the way.
The approach is one of a combination of damage limitation and training the dog, you may also have to just accept that there are certain things you can't have in your garden along with the dog. Younger dogs are more damaging than older dogs, so part of the answer is that things will get better in time.
Dogs and Lawns
The number one question, usually goes something like "My dog has destroyed my lawn and now I want to repair it, but I also want to keep the dog and let it have some exercise".
Dogs (especially large dogs and more than one dog) and lawns (especially small lawns) just don't go that well together. I have a small dog and a large lawn and now in mid-March after a winter of no grass growth, there's a definite path down one side of the lawn where my dog goes on her regular rounds. It's not down to the soil and when I start mowing, and the grass starts to grow again, the path will all but disappear. It could easily become a permanent muddy path if only the garden was a little smaller and the dog a little bigger.
Once an area has become muddy, then getting back to grass again is particularly difficult
Hopeful solutions, but short of the mark:
Bitches and urine spots
This is a fairly common problem with female dogs of large breeds. Bitches tend to deposit all of their urine in one place, hence the die-back of the grass. It's not such a problem with males as they spread it around a lot more and the smaller quantities in any one place are not usually a problem.
There is no simple solution and water is the best way of neutralizing the urine. The real problem is being around when the dog urinates and seeing where she has done it, if you can do this, then keep a hose handy and spray the area, alternatively a bucket of water will do the same job.
Long term, you could try keeping an area as the "dog toilet", say put bark chips down and try to train your dog to use that area, though this is not as easy with dogs as with cats who take to a specific toilet area better.
This tends to be a summer problem as in the winter, the soil and grass are already wet, so the urine is more diluted. You can repair damaged areas by replacing the top layer of soil, 1-2" and re-seeding or replace with new turf.
Dogs and Plants
Dog proof plants? - well it's usually one of scale, large plants are more dog-proof than smaller plants for obvious reasons. Some dogs just take a liking to digging up plants I once had a black Labrador that really liked to dig out large intact grass plants from the lawn - very frustrating. This is a question of training more than anything, and most dogs will grow out of the habit anyway, it may be a sign of boredom or frustration and maybe the dog needs more exercise than it gets from being enclosed alone in a small garden.
Generally thorny or plants with scented leaves will be avoided, so, Holly, Pyracantha, Berberis, Rosemary, Lavender etc. are safe bets. A low growing lavender hedge could even be used to protect flower beds beyond it (though I've never tried).
Low fences and edging are a great way of training a dog to stay off areas where you don't want them - flower beds in particular. Of course the dog won't know this to start with and will need to be trained so that they know to stay on the grass or patio side of the barrier and are not allowed onto the soil side. These are available in a whole variety of materials and designs from about 4 to 8 inches in height.
Raised beds can be a good way of protecting particular plants such as herbs from dogs and their bodily fluids. A bed of 2-3 railway sleepers depth or made of brick and filled with topsoil is a good way of keeping your plants safe. They also make good design features and bring aromatic plants in particular closer to our level for ease of sniffing, cultivation and gathering.
Protect new plants - newly planted specimens are more interesting than older mature ones and newly disturbed earth hugely more fascinating. If your dog like to dig up newly planted introductions then try protecting them for a few weeks until the soil has settled and they are not so novel. Wooden boxes or planks pegged in place or chicken wire and cane barriers won't look pretty in the garden, but they will only be temporary arrangements and the chances are your plants will be safer when you take them away.
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