Spring is here at last! Gardeners, as you start tending to your perennials, planting new flowers and working in your vegetable garden, it is important to keep in mind the other member of your family who is itching to get back outside after the long winter – your dog. Here are four tips to help you create a safer garden for your dogs (and outdoor cats), as well as how to keep your beloved pets from stomping on, digging up, or otherwise destroying all that hard work!

1. Select Your Plants and Mulch Carefully

We all know dogs love to sniff and explore, but dog owners should know that a dog’s gardening penchant can be hazardous. Many beautiful plants, and the fertilizers and mulches that we use to nurture a beautiful landscape, can be harmful to our dogs. Irises, tulips, daffodils, and many other bulb plants are toxic to dogs and cats, as are azaleas, rhododendron and foxgloves, which can cause heart problems. For a more comprehensive list, check out this searchable database of poisonous plants affecting dogs and other animals, created by Cornell University.

Margo the Golden Retriever sits next to the flower bedsPet owners should also be aware that certain types of fertilizer or mulch are also dangerous to dogs and cats if ingested. When using fertilizer, be sure to select a more pet-friendly option (see list here) and follow all instructions regarding wait times when pets should be kept off lawns or away from treated areas. Be sure to store your fertilizer bags out of your pet’s reach, or in tamper-proof plastic containers.

As Master Gardener Susan Patterson explains on the website Gardening Know How, cocoa bean mulch is particularly toxic to dogs, and should be avoided in favor of pet-friendly varieties, including pine, cedar, and hemlock. She adds that, even with these safer mulches, they can still be a choking hazard. Pets – especially puppies, who are often voracious chewers – should be supervised in areas with mulch, or kept out of these areas entirely.

2. Contain Your Garden

As a dog-loving gardener, there is an easy way you can keep your dog away from flower beds, bushes and vegetable patches, without building an expensive fence that hides the beauty of your garden. Hidden underground pet fences (also known as “invisible fences”) can be used in a variety of ways to keep your pet safe in your yard. DogWatch Hidden Fences are customized to your home, and can be configured to keep your dog out of your garden, as well as other specific areas such as the children’s sandbox, BBQ pit or swimming pool.

DogWatch Hidden Fences Garden Loop - Before and After

Bo the Jack Russell Terrier, before and after his DogWatch Hidden Fence Garden Loop

If you already have a DogWatch Hidden Fence and want to block off an area of your yard for a new garden, contact your local DogWatch Dealer. He or she will go through the best option for your yard, be it adjusting your existing wire to add a “garden loop” or installing a Groundskeeper system, which can be turned “on” and “off” should you wish to allow dog supervised access to the area.

3. Stop the Digging!

A lot of dogs love to dig, which can be nightmare for avid gardeners and those who like their lawns pristine. If your dog is a digger, the first thing to do is to try to figure out why the dog is digging. Is he looking for a cool spot to chill out when it is hot? If so, you may want to create a cool sanctuary in a spot where he cannot dig. When it is hot out, leave plenty of drinking water for him or perhaps even a shallow kiddie pool in the shade where he can cool-off (better wet than holes under the flower bushes!)

Ralphy the Corgi who loves to digIs she trying to get at critters that may be just beneath the surface of the yard (moles, chipmunks, etc)? If so, then the critters need to go. For that, you may need to consider using live traps or a pest removal service. Or is he just bored? If so, then he may need more exercise, new toys, or a playmate to share the yard. Digging may just be part of what your dog does with his excess energy. More walks, runs, or trips to the dog park can work wonders with certain unwanted behaviors, including digging.

Some dogs are by nature tenacious diggers, and will require training to reduce this problem behavior. DogWatch Dealers can help you with this issue as well – ask them about the BigLeash Remote Trainer, and how it can help distract your dog from digging and discourage the behavior. For more tips on how to stop your dog from digging, check out our recent blog post on the subject.

4. Watch Out for Chemicals in Lawn Treatments

Jack loves the freedom he has to play in his yard thanks to his DogWatch Hidden FenceFinally, it is important that dog owners also keep their lawns pet-friendly. As inviting and innocuous as they seem, lawns require maintenance that can create health hazards for your pet. Lawns that have been treated with nitrogen-rich fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are unhealthy for your pets, as are such things as slug and snail bait. When walking in public parks with your dog, keep an eye out for cocoa mulch or toxic plants. Always walk your dog on a leash in public areas and avoid formal, manicured lawns that are likely to have been treated with a blend of chemicals.

We hope these tips will help you cultivate a beautiful garden AND raise a happy, healthy dog. Now get out there and enjoy Spring – you’ve earned it!

Image Credit, second from bottom: “Digging is one of Ralphy’s favorite things to do” by Shawn Kirton is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.