Gardening with dogs

Having a garden and having dogs: Is it possible?

New garden beginnings and dogs

We love dogs, and we love gardening, and sometimes, I feel like these two loves are at cross-purposes with one another.

Exhibit A: I planted a forsythia bush and two blackberry bushes in our yard. My naive self thought, Hey, the dogs aren’t too interested in watching me plant these things; they will probably leave them alone.

Result: I go inside for 30 minutes. Come back out. Little Demon Child (aka Eden Loretta) has ripped out a blackberry bush, strewn it across the yard, and chewed the root ball in half.

Solution: Guion fenced off the back portion of the yard to make our garden area.

New garden beginnings and dogs
New garden fence.
New garden beginnings and dogs
Raised beds in progress. Right now, it looks like we’re making mass graves.

He also installed tree cages around our fledgling shrubs in the dogs’ part of the yard. For now, the cages have seemed to deter the dogs from getting at the plants. My only fear is that when we take the cages off, once the plants are mature, is Eden going to go back after them?

New garden beginnings and dogs
Dog-proof (hopefully) cage around forsythia bush.

I really want to plant along this side of the fence, because the neighbors have, like, 30 children and several terriers who run around off-leash and make Pyrrha CRAZY (and the kids terrify her). As Jessica (My Imperfect Dog) predicted, Pyrrha is unleashing her fear/anxiety about the kids/dogs beyond the fence onto unsuspecting Eden. So, I want to create a hedge, and we’re now contemplating making that side of the fence solid (e.g., so the dogs can’t see through the slats at all).

New garden beginnings and dogs

All that to say, this crazy yard is still a work in progress. The garden fence is very sturdy, and the dogs are respectful of it, so that’s something. But how do you handle this tension, between your yard and your dogs?

New garden beginnings and dogs
Don’t trust this one.

Do you garden? If so, what are your tips for salvaging your garden while still allowing your dogs to frolic in the yard?

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15 thoughts on “Gardening with dogs

  1. My Shepherd learned to hate small dogs as we used to have a small dog next door that would consistently stare at Stormy and dare her to fence fight with her. Soon after- Stormy hated every little dog she saw. We planted the largest, fastest growing, fattest cypress trees I could find. While they were growing put up easy/cheap/temporary garden fencing so she could not get in between them to fence fight the dog. The trees are huge now and seem to work. I have also been able to recondition her that not all little dogs are evil.
    If we had the extra money- I would do a large privacy fence.
    When my dogs were younger they would dig up newly planted trees/shrubs. They like the mulch, fresh dirt and cow manure. The temporary fence should deter them until the trees grow and then your pups should ignore them.
    Another- less attractive, however faster- option is to use fence screening (like you see on tennis courts). You can put that on your fence while your trees grow and it will deter somewhat.

    Good luck!

  2. Sadly, we just don’t garden at this point. This year we are investigating vertical gardening though and I think that just might work for us. Our dogs don’t want to dig things up or eat things, but they love to pee on the plants :(.

    1. Erin, we have the same problem as you.
      Dixie is very good about leaving plants and shrubs alone – she has no interest in them. Our small dogs though, the boys, have a strong urge to pee on everything in the yard. Including the vegetables. We partitioned off a separate spot in the yard using chicken wire. Not very attractive but it worked! Then we had trouble with squirrels getting into the garden. So we put netting over the top of the garden. Didn’t work as planned. Squirrels still kept getting in somehow, so we finally gave up.

  3. At least they don’t dig! Both Tala (when in sudan) and my Irish wolfhound were ferocious diggers and sadly it could not be harnessed into a helpful activity when I actually wanted to plant plants! I once went to an Irish wolfhound owner’s house who had two and there were graveside holes all over his garden from the dogs…

  4. Oh yes, it is a perennial struggle! I make liberal use of various kinds of chicken wire and plastic mesh and garden fencing stuff, and pretty much fence off anything I don’t want trampled.

    My Fozzie is actually the first dog I’ve ever known who digs helpfully–he gets really into it only in a spot that I am also digging with a shovel, so I can stop digging and just watch him work. But he and the fosters also love to run around and over and through anything beautiful and blooming, so fencing is our friend.

  5. Dammit, I did not want to be right about that.

    With Silas we have the other problem–I plant something, and it creates a new vertical surface for peeing on. No plant can handle that. We have some old, established ferns and ornamental grasses that do okay. Otherwise, nope. We just have a patio, perfect for intensive gardening. My neighbor’s looks like something from a magazine. One side of ours is bare dirt, where Silas tore out the shrubs as a puppy. One side is the ferns. One side–the biggest area where we could plant–has been taken over by a spreading native ground cover, which is at least an improvement over dirt. I tried potting some plants, but Silas pulled them up.

    On the privacy fence: ours is fully opaque. Silas still barks at sounds, but he’s MUCH better than he would be if he could see.

  6. Kaya & Norman used to chew on things in the yard(mostly the wood fence) but working from home gave me ample opportunity to catch them in the act, scold them and then reward them for leaving it alone and coming to me. They also barked a bit at people and dogs going by(a solid fence) but with the same zero tolerance I was able train them not to.

    German Shepherds are another story though. I can’t get Zoey to stop barking to save my life! I just have to bring her inside. That being said, I did not raise her and she’s 10 now so who knows what could have been accomplished way back when…

    I think the fences are your best bet to curb chewing and trampling. For chewing I used to mix cheyenne pepper and water in a spray bottle and coat the fence areas they chewed on…worked like a charm!

  7. If you can put in a privacy fence as well as shrubs along the terrier side, I think that would help Pyrrha a lot! My mother uses the pepper and water mix on shrubs as well. I am sure you are being careful to not plant any toxic shrubs where the dogs might be. We nearly lost our puppy when she chewed/ate my mother-in-law’s hydrangea. Thankfully I had the good sense to insist that we take to her an emergency vet clinic on the way home. We spent the night in a hotel just two hours from home, but I know she wouldn’t have survived another two hours.

  8. Until you are able to establish a row of screening shrubs by your fence, I suggest you go to the hardware store and get rolls of dark plastic (similar to tarpaulins) and place this along your fence. Once it is up there, you get used to it and it will help reduce the tension with the neighboring dogs. Raised beds are definitely the way to go, but avoid the use of fertilizers that contain blood & bone. These smell great to dogs and encourage digging.

    When my dog dug holes, I placed pieces of chicken wire mesh over the holes. This helped by making digging unpleasant and they quickly stopped.

    Finally, beyond fencing off new trees and plants, try sprinkling cayenne pepper around the plants. This helps deter the dogs from wanting to dig or interfere with the plants.

    I love gardening and, as time has gone on, my dog has established boundaries of what is hers and what is mine. Good luck!

  9. With two high energy Dobermans I pretty much gave up. I mulched most of my yard because they turned all the grass to mud. I have some beds, but they are all filled with hostas, because that’s the only thing that holds up to the dogs’ constant trampling. Some day I will have flowers again!

  10. When Shelby was a puppy she used to dig holes like it was her job. Seriously. These were not ankle-breaker holes, these were riding mower breaking holes. One day I was out planting about 150 bulbs of various kinds and she was out digging holes. I decided, hey, I have holes to dig and she likes to dig holes – I wonder if I could teach her to dig the hole where I wanted? So I put her on a leash and brought her over to where I was digging. I pointed to the ground and she proceeded to dig. I clicked and dropped some treats in the hole. She ate and continued to dig, when it was deep enough, I told her leave it, click and treat, put her in a sit stay, planted my bulb, then brought her a few feet to the next location and pointed. 150 bulbs later I had my flowers planted and Shelby had gotten in all her digging for the day. She doesn’t dig as much now that she has a real job, but every year when I plant new flowers (because I can’t seem to keep my stupid bulbs alive for more than a year), we play the planting game and she still remembers it!

  11. I do not at all have a green thumb and very little interest in getting one. Though, this year we’re going to need to re-sod the back yard because it’s a bit of a mud pit (we had an elaborate ramp set up for a summer while Moses recovered from spinal surgery, and the lack of sun killed a lot of the grass – said ramp is now down and ugly back yard is now bane of my existence).
    I have attempted planting flowers in the front (dog-free), but the jack rabbits eat them, so that resolve doesn’t last past May (noting our planting season here begins in May…).
    But I definitely still envy those will the tenacity and skill to make and maintain great gardens!

  12. I want a flower garden – I want tulips and dahlias – I’m going to email this post to J to see if he can build something similar, because I know the puppies won’t leave the plants alone.

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