What is the Best Way to Create a Pet-Friendly Landscape?

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Lawn & Garden

Some dogs dig because of their natural instincts. Sweetie, for example, dug herself out of her grave after being buried alive by her family who thought she was dead after being hit by a car. So, what’s your dog’s excuse for digging up your yard?
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As a pet owner, you know the feeling of coming home to a destroyed yard and a guilty-looking pet. But there’s a solution: creating a pet-friendly landscape. This is especially important for dogs who spend most of their time outdoors, but it can also benefit indoor cats. But how can you create a pet-friendly landscape?

The key is to take into account your pet’s natural tendencies, such as digging, and plan your landscape accordingly. By focusing your attention on areas where your pet tends to misbehave, you can prevent destructive behavior and create a yard that both you and your pet can enjoy. After all, your pet probably spends more time in the backyard than you do.

But a pet-friendly landscape doesn’t have to mean a wasteland of mud holes and beaten paths. With some creativity and attention, you can create an attractive and functional yard that your pet will love. Here are some tips for creating a dog-friendly landscape:

Dog-Friendly Landscaping

How adorable!
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If you have a busy schedule and a less-than-intelligent dog, training may not be enough to prevent destructive behavior. In this case, you may consider adding a pond for your dog to cool down in. You can also cover dirt tracks with mulch or shredded bark and disguise them with shrubs to create an attractive barrier. The key is to create a landscape that both you and your pet will enjoy.

Digging is a common and destructive behavior in dogs. Dogs dig holes for various reasons, and understanding the cause behind it can help in creating a pet-friendly environment. Creating a designated digging area in the landscape filled with sand and soft soil topped with wood mulch can encourage the dog to dig only in that area. Providing a safe and comfortable outdoor shelter like a dog house can help address digging near fences and gates, which may indicate separation anxiety, fear, or excitement. If the dog digs along the foundation, laying a landscape fabric between the foundation and planting beds and topping it with chicken wire and rocks can prevent settling and termite infestation. Using rocks as ground cover in planting beds can also prevent the dog from digging. It is essential to choose pet-friendly plants and sturdy, non-metal edging to ensure a pet-friendly landscape. Indoor cats can also benefit from spending time outside in a protected environment.

Many common plants found in backyards can be harmful or deadly to cats, similar to how some plants can affect dogs. The ASPCA warns against lilies, crocus, narcissus, tulips, castor beans, yew, English ivy, and many others. These plants can cause various symptoms in cats, such as diarrhea, loss of appetite, convulsions, and even death. To protect your cat, it is best to keep these types of plants out of areas where your cat may roam.

If you want to add plants to your landscape that your cat will enjoy, cat-friendly options include catnip, mint, cat thyme, and valerian. Valerian acts as a sedative for both cats and humans.

Since cats are agile and can easily bypass fences, you may want to consider adding on a kit to your privacy fence to keep your cat in and other animals out. Owls are also a potential predator, so it is best to keep your cat indoors at twilight.

To prevent your cat from destroying your landscape, you can plant thorny shrubs and keep planting beds moist but not overwatered. Palletized chicken manure can also deter cats, but be aware that dogs will happily roll in it. Alternatively, garlic or pepper oil sprays can be used as a deterrent.

Ultimately, surrendering your backyard to your beloved pets can be a heartwarming gesture that makes both you and your pets happy.

Additional Information

Related Articles on HowStuffWorks

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  • How Landscaping Principles Work
  • How Urban Landscape Design Works

More Useful Links

  • List of Plants That are Toxic to Dogs
  • ASPCA’s List of Pet-Toxic Plants
  • Pet Landscaping Video on YouTube


  • Estep, Daniel, Ph.D. and Hetts, Suzanne, Ph.D. “Why dogs dig.” Rocky Mountain News. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.animalbehaviorassociates.com/pdf/RMN_dogs_digging.pdf
  • Russ, Karen and Polonski, Bob. “Low-maintenance landscape ideas.” Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. Accessed December 2, 2008. http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC1703.htm
  • “Landscaping for dogs.” HGTV. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/landscaping-for-dogs/index.html
  • “Pet-friendly landscaping keeps animals safe, happy.” New York Times News Syndicate. August 20, 2008. http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/fea/pets/stories/082108dnlivlandscaping.390ef70.html#
  • “Portfolio of pet-friendly yards.” Pawfriendly Landscapes. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.pawfriendlylandscapes.com/portfolio.html
  • “Prized pet plants.” Mountain Valley Growers. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/mvv1-98.htm
  • “Top tips for gardeners keen on feline-friendly deterrents.” Cats Protection. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=82604
  • “Toxic plants for dogs.” CyberCanine. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.cybercanine.com/toxicplants.htm
  • “17 common poisonous plants.” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Accessed December 4, 2008. http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pro_apcc_common


1. What are some pet-friendly plants?

When landscaping with pets in mind, it’s important to choose plants that are safe for them. Some pet-friendly plants include sunflowers, marigolds, roses, and lavender. These plants are non-toxic and won’t harm your furry friends if they decide to nibble on them. It’s also a good idea to avoid using plants like azaleas, lilies, and daffodils, which can be toxic to pets.

2. How can I create a dog-friendly lawn?

To create a dog-friendly lawn, consider using a durable grass like Bermuda, zoysia, or fescue. These grasses can withstand heavy foot traffic and playtime with your furry friends. You can also add a designated potty area for your pets to minimize brown spots on the lawn. Be sure to pick up after your pets regularly to keep the lawn clean and healthy.

3. What are some pet-friendly mulch options?

When it comes to mulch, it’s important to choose a pet-friendly option. Some good choices include cedar, pine, and hemlock mulch. These options are non-toxic and won’t harm your pets if they decide to take a nibble. Avoid using cocoa bean mulch, which can be toxic to pets.

4. How can I create a safe outdoor space for my pets?

To create a safe outdoor space for your pets, consider adding a fence around your yard. This will help keep your pets contained and prevent them from running off. You can also add a designated play area for them, such as a sandbox or agility course. Be sure to provide plenty of shade and fresh water to keep your pets cool and hydrated during hot weather.

5. What are some pet-friendly insect repellents?

When it comes to keeping insects at bay, it’s important to choose a pet-friendly option. Some good choices include citronella, lemongrass, and lavender. These natural options are non-toxic and won’t harm your furry friends. Be sure to avoid using products containing DEET, which can be toxic to pets.

6. How can I keep my pets from digging up the yard?

If your pets are prone to digging up the yard, consider creating a designated digging area for them. You can fill this area with sand or soil and bury treats and toys for them to discover. Be sure to praise and reward your pets when they use the designated area, and discourage them from digging in other areas of the yard.

7. What are some pet-friendly lawn care products?

When caring for your lawn, it’s important to choose pet-friendly products. Some good choices include organic fertilizers, which are non-toxic and won’t harm your pets. You can also use natural weed control methods, such as pulling weeds by hand or using a vinegar solution. Be sure to avoid using chemical pesticides and herbicides, which can be harmful to pets.

8. How can I keep my pets safe from outdoor hazards?

To keep your pets safe from outdoor hazards, be sure to keep them supervised when they’re outside. Be aware of any toxic plants or substances in the yard, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and antifreeze. Keep these substances out of reach of pets, and clean up any spills immediately. You can also add barriers around hazards like pools or ponds to prevent your pets from accidentally falling in.

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