Can landscaping be done when you have dogs?

 In Garden Design, Landscaping, Uncategorised

Garden design is all about making your outdoor spaces work for every member of the family.  Can landscaping be done when you have dogs? Absolutely it can!

Landscaping your garden with dogs in mind

Don’t believe anyone that tells you that landscaping when you have dogs is pointless. In fact, I would say exactly the opposite.  Your dog may use your garden very differently from the human members of the family, but with clever landscaping, everyone’s needs can be met – or even exceeded.

two dogs peeping through metal railings

What do dogs need in a garden?

With any garden design, my first question is “how do you want to use your garden.” Obviously, your don’t won’t be able to answer for themselves, but together we can take a good guess.

  • Security – to stop your dog wandering and keep them safe from anyone who might want to harm them.
  • Toiletting – somewhere to relieve themselves that won’t impact on humans enjoying the space
  • Play – room for physical exercise
  • Mental stimulation – lots of sniffy sites and interesting features to explore
  • Shade and shelter – somewhere to hang out when the weather is too hot to be indoors
  • Safe surfaces – slip free zones are comfortable for bare paws on hot days
  • Mud free – OK this one is for the humans who don’t appreciate muddy paw prints on their nice clean floor.

Landscaping features for dogs AND humans

Your garden design brief should embrace your pet’s needs, but not be solely about their enjoyment.  Remember that YOU will want to enjoy your garden too.  So lets include some features for the human family too. In fact why not build features that everyone can use, no matter what their species.


I know – it’s not the most exciting thing about a garden, but if you want to rest easy, knowing that your canine companion is safe, fencing is a must. 

Think whether you want your pet to have access to your whole garden.  Maybe you’d prefer to keep some parts of it dog free?  If that’s the case then we can use some really attractive screening to create an outdoor room for the dogs.  Consider too, how they (and you) will access that area.  Do you want to open the back door and let them out, or will you walk them to their doggy sensory area? Will you need a path?

garden for dogs with several garden rooms

Creating different zones within your garden will provide interest for you and for your dogs. Use screening and gates if you want to restrict your dogs’ access to some areas.


Hot weather can make dogs really ill. It’s important that they have some sort of shade, whether it’s from a garden structure or from a shady tree.  You will probably appreciate a place where you can escape from the heat of the sun too.  

Think about the surfaces in this area.  A natural lawn helps to cool the atmosphere but won’t thrive in heavy shade. Pavers don’t mind shade per se, but they can get really hot and may be susceptible to algae in really damp corners.  How about decking? It’s a natural product, it’s slip proof and it’s attractive.

Open spaces.  If your dog is prone to the zoomies, or likes to play chasing games, you can’t beat a grass lawn.  The surface is really good at acting as a shock absorber to protect those joints. And for you – it’ll look good too.  Many people worry that dog pee will ruin their lawn but with careful management that needn’t happen.  Robbie Lynn from Premier Lawns in Belfast has penned an excellent blog on lawns for dogs. Read it here.  

Mental stimulation

Every dog, no matter how young or old, small or tall, needs something to occupy their mind.  For puppies, it’s all about learning about the world. For oldies, mental stimulation becomes a substitute for long walks when their bodies start to get tired.  Whilst we humans crave relaxation in the garden, dogs appreciate having something to explore.  And their favourite exploration tool is of course, their nose.

Using different surfaces, levels, plants and hiding places gives your pet something to think about every day.  To us, unless there are some particularly fragrant plants, it all smells the same. But your pet will be able to detect changes in the scent every single time he or she goes out.

Try to put some plants at nose height – perhaps in a raised bed or planted close to a retaining wall.  Have a variety of plants – especially ones that might attract interesting garden visitors such as cats, birds or even foxes.  These will leave a tantalising scent trail that your dog will want to investigate.

Scatter feeding is a great outdoor activity for dogs too. Simple spread some kibble on the lawn, in the borders and on the patio.  The more places you have to hide food – the more mental stimulation you’ll provide.

If you have a ‘digger’ – protect your beds and borders by building your pet his or her own sand pit. Honestly – they love it.  I would advise covering it when it’s not in use.  Visiting cats love sandpits too but for entirely different reasons (yuk).  Your pet can share his digging pit with your toddler. And when both of them get too old for it – you can use it to grow veggies or flowers.

Having platforms, tunnels, ramps and other play equipment allows your dog to expore in different ways.  Some pets love to sit on a plinth and watch the world go by, others want to hide under a bush.  Give them choices.

garden design trends

Artificial grass can be an option for a doggy garden but it will need regular disinfecting to keep pongs at bay

Dogs and mud

Oh gosh, some dogs can make a real mess of the garden IF they don’t have anything better to do.  That’s where mental stimulation comes in. But sometimes muddy paws are inevitable.  Think very carefully about the surfaces you choose for your garden, and how much access you allow your pet to them. I’m going back now to the idea of having garden rooms with screening or fencing between them.  If you need to, you can restrict access to mud-prone areas in winter.

Of course, getting the drainage right will help to make sure that lawns and borders don’t turn into a pudding after prolonged rain. Landscaping can do a lot to help with water management.

It helps too to have an outdoor tap somewhere near the back door so that Fido can have a quick wash down before coming into the house.  It’s a rotten job on rainy days, so you might want your landscaping to include a shelter near the tap – and a drain.  Personally, I like the look of the Mud Daddy – it’s like a portable dog wash that uses warm water…..its great for muddy boots too!

Can landscaping be done when you have dogs!

Yes, it can. In fact, landscaping can help to enrich your dog’s life as much as it will enrich yours.

Want to share ideas? Call or email me today

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