Dog friendly backyard ideas


The Best Dog-Friendly Landscaping Ideas for Your Backyard

You don’t have to choose between a happy dog and a well-manicured lawn. With a few minor changes, you’ll have a dog-friendly yard design that looks great and keeps your pup safe.

Use these dog-friendly landscaping ideas to create a paradise for Fido that you’ll enjoy too.

Dog-Friendly Backyard Design Ideas for Any Home

Install a Fence

Dogs need plenty of space to exercise and love to spend time off their leashes. A fence in your backyard will allow your pup to safely stretch their legs, while also adding privacy and increasing your home’s value.

For a small yard, fence in the whole area to make it feel bigger. For larger yards, fence in a portion of it to create a backyard dog run and allow for fancier landscaping outside the fence.

You can choose an invisible, electric fence for a quicker installation and a lower cost.

“Ideally, dogs need room to roam, a place to run, a spot to hang out in the shade and a safe area they can enjoy. A fenced backyard is a great option not only so you don’t have to worry about your dog running away (or, sadly, being dognapped) but you can also breathe easier about the risk of another dog coming into your yard and starting a fight.”

Paris Permenter | DogTipper

Choose a Dog-Friendly Ground Cover

When it comes to landscaping, brown spots in the grass are one of the biggest problems for dog owners. You can prevent these spots by rinsing the area with water as soon as your dog is finished urinating, but this can be difficult to keep up with. Ditch the grass for another type of dog-friendly backyard ground cover to avoid this task.

For green lawns, choose between:

  • Clover: Clover is safe for dogs to eat and is tougher than grass and less likely to stain.
  • Synthetic turf: Turf is a low maintenance option that will not stain. It also reduces the need for other types of yard work, like mowing, and stops your dog from digging.
  • A more durable grass blend: While no grass is completely immune to stains, tougher types like Buffalo Grass or Kentucky Bluegrass withstand urine better.

For dog-friendly landscaping without grass, options include:

  • Stone: Choose smooth stones that will be gentle on the paws for a potty area.
  • Mulch: A safe, inexpensive option, mulch can be used to create a dog area. Cedar mulch has the added benefit of being a natural bug repellent that can help fight off fleas and ticks. Remember to avoid cocoa bean mulch which is dangerous for dogs if ingested.

It’s also a good idea to train your dog to use one area of the lawn as a bathroom area to help reduce maintenance and upkeep.

Grow Dog-Safe Plants and Flowers

When designing your dog-friendly landscaping, be careful when choosing plants. Some plants can be poisonous if ingested by animals. If you have a beast that’s prone to eating everything, make sure you are only planting dog-safe flowers and plants in your beds.

“Of course, you never want to allow your pets to chew on any plants, but you can feel a little more at ease around plants such as Aster, Corn Flower, Hibiscus, Impatiens, Marigolds, Pansies, Petunias and Snapdragons,” says Karen Uthe Semancik, co-publisher and editor at CLE DOG magazine.

Common Dog-Safe Plants and Flowers to Consider: Common Poisonous Plants to Avoid:
Snapdragons Chrysanthemum
Marigolds Dahlia
Cilantro Iris
Sage Lily of the Valley
Sunflowers Peony
Tiger Lily Begonia
Zinnia Hydrangea

For a full list of poisonous plants for animals, visit the ASPCA.

Fertilize Your Lawn Carefully

When creating a dog-friendly yard design, choose your lawn care products with care. Some fertilizers and weed blockers can be dangerous for animals.

“Fertilizers are great for your lawn and garden but can be deadly to your pets. Be sure to apply fertilizer per the instructions on the label and keep your pets off the lawn and out of the garden until it has been watered or has rained and the fertilizer has dried. To play it safe, consider a pet-safe lawn care service or product, or use natural, organic methods.”

Karen Uthe Semancik | CLE DOG Magazine

Create Shade in Your Yard

Dogs love to sunbathe, but shade is important so they don’t overheat in the summer. Include tall trees, bushes or tall grasses in your landscape design so your pet can find some shade when he’s finished playing fetch.

A decorative doghouse can also be a great addition to your yard design and provide a shady spot for Fido.

Landscaping Ideas to Entertain Your Dog

Want to do more to turn your backyard into a canine oasis? Use these dog-friendly backyard landscaping ideas to add features that will entertain your pup and decorate your yard.

Keep Fido Cool With a Water Feature

If you live in a warm climate, make sure your dog can stay cool by adding a water feature to your backyard. Dogs, especially breeds like Spaniels and Retrievers, love to play in the water.

Water features help your dog stay hydrated when the temperatures rise, provide hours of entertainment and add a unique element to your dog-friendly yard design.

Options include:

  • Decorative fountain.
  • Dog pool.
  • Sprinkler system.
  • Dog watering system connected to your outdoor hose.

Place the water feature in the shade when possible.

Build a Backyard Dog Path

A dog’s natural instinct will be to patrol your yard and protect your home, even if he’s only scaring off squirrels. If your dog already patrols your yard, he may be wearing a path in the grass. Instead of trying to prevent him from patrolling, encourage it by building a pathway that looks decorative and polished.

Using a dog-friendly backyard ground cover, like round pebbles or chunky mulch, start your path on top of the one your dog has already made. If there isn’t a path yet, place it around the boundary of your yard or up against the fence where your dog will naturally patrol.

Design the path with soft curves instead of right angles because a fast-moving dog will cut corners.

Install a Sandbox

Does your dog ruin all your landscaping by digging it up? Install a sandbox to keep him out of your flower beds. Place the box in an unused corner of your yard and fill it with sand or mulch that’s easy to dig up and refill.

Show your dog this is the right place to dig by burying his favorite toys or bones in the box.

“It’s great to include dedicated play areas in a yard, depending on your dog’s interests and life stage. Puppies and young dogs might enjoy a sandbox (bury some treats, chews or toys). a great way to satisfy your dog’s need to dig while at the same time saving the rest of your yard!”

Paris Permenter | DogTipper

With these landscape ideas for dogs, you’ll have a backyard that is both beautiful and fun for your four-legged friends.

Need more landscaping ideas? Check out these articles:

  • 6 Sustainable Landscaping Ideas for a Greener Yard
  • How to Choose the Best Trees for Privacy in Your Backyard
  • How to Redo a Flower Bed

How To Create a Dog-Friendly Backyard using the Top-Rated Ground Covers for Dogs


Dogs are certainly valuable family members, but they sure can wreak havoc on a yard.

Your best bet is to install as much hardscape, like pavers, as possible, but with grass-loving kids at home and a desire for backyard color, this is not always a realistic option.

To help you determine the best options for your situation, we will address issues commonly faced by dog owners, recommend grasses, living ground covers and non-living ground covers, and provide a variety of tips for maintaining a yard that meets the needs of your dogs without sacrificing visual appeal or overall function.

Common Backyard Problems Faced by Dog Owners

Nervous or protective dogs tend to wear paths along fence lines as they pace.

Whether it’s just for fun or another reason, dogs can and do dig up prized plants in a matter of minutes.

Brown spots in grass or stains on concrete appear frequently due to urine.

An inability to grow grass, ground covers or other plants may arise in high traffic areas.

Some ground covers, such as natural grass and some wood products can worsen flea infestations.

Homeowners who need to let their dogs out to play or use the restroom during or after rain may often have an issue with mud being tracked into the house.

How to Find Plants that Are Safe for Dogs

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains lists of plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and/or horses.

Check the list before selecting plants, because if Fido started gnawing on a common calla lily, you’d find yourself with a hefty vet bill.

You might be surprised at just how many common landscaping plants have some level of toxicity for cats and dogs. In many cases the symptoms are limited to vomiting or diarrhea for a short period of time, but in other cases consuming these plants may lead to serious health issues or death. Therefore, all pet parents should thoroughly research any plants they plan to use in their landscaping design.

Living, Dog-Friendly Ground Covers

Keep in mind that there is no truly pet-proof ground cover, but if you are looking for something to plant between stepping stones or in small backyard areas, these are good choices that will stand up to light or moderate pet and human traffic.

1. Silver carpet (dymondia margaretae)

The dymondia margaretae in the above photo gets trampled by children, adults, and a 70-pound dog on a daily basis in La Jolla, CA. It is also perpetually run over by scooters and tricycles.

This silver-green leaved ground cover sprouts yellow flowers in warm weather and grows low to the ground, so be sure to plant it exactly at the level you would like it.

If planted in an area where the dog runs, expect it to look patchy, but it will do its best to survive. It is best to use this option in smaller areas, such as between stepping stones, for the most satisfactory result.

2. Irish moss (sagina subulata)

This soft, mat-like ground cover can take partial or full sun and requires consistent watering that will need to increase with temperature.

Durable Irish moss grows about an inch tall and sprouts little white flowers in the spring and summer.

While this is an attractive, popular alternative to natural grass, it should be noted that mosses are not drought tolerant and, therefore, are a better choice for areas that receive regular rainfall. If you live in a drier area, such as Southern California, you can save water by installing an irrigation system and setting it for deeper, less frequent watering sessions.

3. Elfin thyme (thymus serpyllum “elfin”)

This ornamental herb smells nice and is completely edible.

Elfin thyme grows to two inches tall and is a gorgeous addition to rock gardens and container gardens, where it cascades over the sides.

Thyme’s dense, hardy nature allows it handle light to moderate human and animal traffic; however, it will not fare as well in areas where children or pets play, roll around and roughhouse.

As an added bonus, elfin thyme produces pretty, purple flowers in the summer.

4. Miniature stonecrop (sedum requieni)

This tiny, lesser-known sedum (hence, no photo) can take quite a bit of foot traffic and reseeds itself, if damaged.

Tiny leaves form a tight mat with small yellow flowers appearing in the summer.

You can purchase miniature stonecrop by the flat and place plants no more than one to two inches apart in order to encourage it to form a mat and cover the area.

Miniature sedum works well in drought-tolerant gardens.

5. Labrador violet (viola labradorica)

Labrador violet sure has a fitting name for the purpose of this article!

Use it as filler between stepping stones, not larger scale applications, because it is slow to spread.

Native to Greenland, this plant does well in colder climates with purple flowers blooming in spring.

Labrador violet grows to roughly eight inches tall and wide and can take daily, light foot traffic, which makes this a good option for those in search of a taller ground cover with blooms.

6. Snow in summer (cerastium tomentosum)

This relatively drought-tolerant ground cover grows well in full sun or partial shade.

Its hardiness makes it a more pet-friendly ground cover. In fact, this option can grow and spread so well that you might want to consider installing a landscaping border to contain it.

White flowers and silvery-green leaves mimic winter tones when they bloom in early summer, hence the name.

Snow in summer grows to six inches tall and is excellent choice for between pavers.

The added bonus with this one is that it is deer resistant, so if you find that the local wildlife is eating your landscaping, you may want to replace other ground covers with deer-resistant options like this.

7. Winter creeper (euonymus fortunei)

The experts at Lowe’s like euonymus fortunei in yards with pets because it is tough to destroy and can grow in either shade or sun.

Yes, that is a cat, and evidently they love laying in euonymus fortunei, which can grow up to six inches tall.

This option is relatively easy to find, grows quickly and can withstand traffic well.

Four Live Grass Options for Dog-Friendly Ground Covers

No live grass is immune to brown spots, digging and excessive play.

If you share your home with one or more dogs and really want to keep a natural grass lawn, you may have to dial down your expectations of a perfectly manicured, golf course-worthy lawn and consider one of these options for the best results.

1. Buffalo grass

Buffalo grass is now marketed in places like Southern California as a low-water, drought-tolerant grass.

You can buy buffalo grass as seed or in plugs by special order at many local nurseries.

Though the slender grass looks fragile, in fact, it is far from it and grows to three inches tall while requiring very little care.

2. Kentucky bluegrass

This grass can reseed itself and withstand high traffic, though its more suitable for cooler climates.

Kentucky bluegrass seed is also used to patch bare spots in other types of lawns because it grows quickly. This, of course, is always a plus when trying to maintain a balance between happy dogs and an attractive lawn.

3. Tall fescue

University of California, Davis issued a report stating that tall fescue tolerates lawn burn from pet urine better than other grasses, which is great news for dog lovers.

Because tall fescue is deeply rooted and has wider blades than other grasses, it can also take serious traffic.

Reseed patches with Kentucky bluegrass, since tall fescue is a slow-grower.

4. St. Augustine

Because St. Augustine grass has deep roots, this might be a good alternative if you have a dog who loves to dig.

This grass, however, will not tolerate high traffic or excessive pet urine.

  • Tip: If you catch pet urine quickly after it happens on the lawn, water it down to decrease the intensity of the brown spot.

Consider Artificial Grass: Pet Turf

If you do not want to hassle with maintaining a live lawn, consider what many dog facilities are installing: pet turf.

Dog lovers who choose artificial grass never again have to worry about brown spots or bare patches, and digging is rarely an issue. Additionally, it is easy to clean after your pets use it as a restroom and provides a level, smooth surface with fewer tripping hazards for safer play time for pets and children. If you are the one who generally cleans up after the furry or little ones, you will also love that there are no wet blades of grass or mud to mop up off the floor when they come in from playing on your lush, green lawn — even right after it rains.

Make sure your turf installer applies a deodorizer to help absorb pet urine odors along with a membrane to allow air circulation between the turf and base. Also, have the installation team add deodorizer to the top of the installation for added protection.

And, no, pet turf does not look anything like old-school Astroturf — it looks like natural grass!

Other Non-Living, Dog-Friendly Ground Covers

Living ground covers are often the first choice for homeowners, whether or not they have dogs or other pets. However, they are not always worth the hassle and require more water and maintenance than non-living options. Therefore if you would also like to have drought-tolerant landscaping, want to worry less about digging, or would rather spend less time maintaining your yard and more time enjoying it, you may want to choose a low-maintenance option, such as the above-mentioned artificial grass, gravel, wood chips or mulch.

The trick is to find the best solution for your particular situation. It is often the case that the best solution is a combination of ground cover options. For example, you may find that you can meet your needs and your dogs’ needs best by having a lawn area, gravel area and dirt area. Or you may find that your dog enjoys spending time on hardscapes, such as a paving stone patio or a wood deck, and only needs a small softscape area for playing and bathroom purposes. Another solution that works for many dog lovers is use pet-friendly ground covers in most areas of the yard, while adding island flowerbeds or borders along the fence where you can add the texture and color of more interesting plants to enhance your yard’s visual appeal.

Here are a few non-living, dog-friendly ground covers to consider for a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance backyard.

Gravel: Gravel may or may not be a good option for your dog, depending on a few factors. Dogs often enjoy sunbathing on warm gravel on sunny days, but if you do not have adequate shade, an area that is entirely gravel could burn your dog’s paws or cause them to feel the heat more intensely on hot days. Yards with shade are good candidates for using gravel as a ground cover over larger areas.

You may find that some larger dogs will have issues with small gravel getting stuck between the pads of their paws. This is not always an issue but should be considered.

A bonus to choosing gravel is that it is easy to pick up solid waste and liquid waste will drain to the soil beneath.

Wood Chips or Bark: Wood chips and bark are a bit of a mixed bag in terms of dog-friendly landscaping. On the one hand, they offer a low-maintenance, durable option that can easily withstand heavy traffic and can simply be raked back into place once your dogs have created regular pathways where they patrol or chase each other. They are also inexpensive, attractive and drought tolerant.

On the other hand, some wood products can harbor flees, give dogs splinters or become your dog’s favorite snack. Cedar wood chips are a product that actually repels fleas, which makes this a popular choice for dog runs and dog-friendly yards. However, if you are considering going with cedar, be sure to bring in just one bag at first to make sure that it does not irritate any allergies or respiratory ailments that your dog might have. For most dogs, cedar wood chips to not cause breathing issues, but it is worth testing out before you fill your yard with them, and then find out your dog cannot tolerate them.

It is commonly believed that the dyes used to color many widely available wood chips and bark is not toxic to dogs; however, it is best to choose wood products that are not dyed if you have a dog that likes snack on them.

Dirt: Yes — good, old-fashioned dirt is an option. While you may not want your entire yard to be dirt — and we certainly do not recommend that — you may find that leaving a designated dirt area for your dogs is the perfect solution for your yard. This provides them with a place to roll around, use the restroom and dig as much as they please without harming the rest of your landscaping.

Dog-Friendly Ground Covers: Tackle The Digging Problem

There is no grass or ground cover that can survive a digging dog, so let’s discuss how to solve this tricky problem.

Dogs dig to find cooler soil when they are hot, to chase the scent of a rabbit or other animal, when they hear insects below ground, when they are bored, or if they are nervous.

Experts agree that a well-exercised dog is a calmer dog; therefore, a solution as simple as more frequent trips to the dog park or a longer walk or two during the day just might bring digging to a halt.

If frequent exercise does not get to the root of the problem, observe your dog to see if you can figure out a pattern.

For example, if your dog digs on hot days, make sure there is a cool bed available. If she or he tends to dig only on days when you are away from home, it could be triggered by separation anxiety.

Digging is more prominent in some breeds, like terriers and dachshunds, and there may be nothing you can really do to curb that behavior. When this is the case, create a designated digging area in the yard that your dog will find appealing and where they can fulfill their need to dig without destroying your landscaping.

You can then work on redirecting undesirable digging to the designated digging area or by providing them with toys to keep them entertained and occupied.

General Dog-Friendly Yard Tips

Make sure there is enough shade, as well as a cool spot for your dog to rest, especially in order to prevent digging to find cooler soil.

Train your dog to relieve himself or herself in a designated area (we know, easier said than done).

Use natural pest control methods to avoid accidental ingestion of chemicals.

  • Tip: When moving into a new home or getting a new dog, observe your dog’s behavior for a few weeks before investing in new plants or hardscape.

For example, if there are areas where he or she likes to pace, consider adding pavers or gravel there.

It is easier to maneuver around the dog’s current habits than it is to teach them new ones!

Your Turn…

Do you have any dog-friendly ground covers or backyard solutions to add?

Photo credits: dichondra, Flickr: Macleay grass man; snow in summer: Flickr, hunda; dog on wood chips: Flickr, Bad Apple Photography; labrador violet: Flickr, wallygrom; euonymus fortunei: Flickr, wallygrom

Pet-Friendly Backyard Landscaping

Pets love to nibble on plants, but certain foliage can be dangerous. Here’s how to create a safe yard for your clients’ four-legged friends. If you’re working with clients who love their pets as much as their yard, it’s important to customize landscaping decisions to ensure you keep the garden — and the pet — safe and sound.

The first and most important element of pet-friendly backyard landscaping to keep in mind is plant selection, as many seemingly harmless plants can be toxic to both pets and children. The ASPCA is an excellent resource for finding out which plants should be on your watch list. It provides an exhaustive list on its website of which plants are unsafe for pet owners.

Some Plants Are Poisonous to Cats and Dogs

Among the top plants that pet owners should avoid are: all members of the lily family; bulbs like tulips, narcissus and amaryllis; azalea/rhododendron; oleander; crocus; chrysanthemum; castor bean; cyclamen; kalanchoe; yew; sago palm; English ivy; pothos and schefflera.

“Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats,” according to the ASPCA. “It is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.” The entirety of the sago palm is toxic, but the seeds in particular are problematic. Ingestion of even just a handful can cause liver failure in pets. In short, while the type of toxicity — from vomiting and diarrhea to cardiac arrhythmia and death — varies from plant to plant, none of them are a good idea for pet owners.

There also are some common fruit trees that you may want to avoid, like avocado. “Avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark contain a toxic principle known as Persin,” the ASPCA says. “The Guatemalan variety, which is the most common variety found in stores, appears to be the most problematic.” Issues with oranges, apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, lemons, limes and grapefruit may also exist for pets.

Keep Pets Away From Insecticides

Another area that should be carefully monitored is the use of baits and insecticides. Slug and snail bait, for example, are a real concern. “Certain products used for the control of slugs and snails contain metaldehyde, which can potentially be very dangerous or even lethal to pets,” cautions the ASPCA. And systemic insecticides, such as those used for roses, can cause the same neurological problems in pets as the bugs they are meant to eliminate.

If you want to incorporate plants that aren’t animal friendly, work with your client to create an area of the yard that pets can’t access. Using a fence — real or invisible (electric) — is another way to make sure pets are safe.

Creating a Pet-Safe Lawn

We all know that pets can wreak havoc on the lawn. “Dog urine is so acidic, no grass or groundcover can withstand it,” says Andria Post-Ergun, a senior landscape architect with the City of Boston. “However, watering grass or groundcover after a dog urinates on the site can lessen any damage,” she says. Post-Ergun also suggests using a hardy turf that can stand up to pets. “There are some groundcovers that are pretty tough like euonymus. It’s invasive, but it’s pretty tough. You could change your oil on it and it wouldn’t die.”

Or consider an alternative ground cover like Joe Wex Memorial Dog Park at Peter’s Park, the first official dog park in Boston. “They’ve come up with a play surfacing for dogs — rice stone, which is smaller than pea gravel — is gentle on their feet, permeable, but it’s not like grass,” Post-Ergun says. “That could potentially be a great alternative for people who have dogs that exercise all the time to use in a dog-run.”

Keep Your Dog Cool Outside

It’s important to create a design that helps family pets protect themselves from the elements. “A lot of people will leave their dogs out in enclosed sunny yards where they have no shade, and shade is really important,” Post-Ergun says. She recommends incorporating an indented area in a cool, shady place in the design plan. “A dog will just create that for himself if you don’t create it for him.”

Water features are a creative way to keep dogs hydrated and add visual interest, Post-Ergun says. Just make sure to use the kind with circulating water to avoid mosquitoes, because the ones with chemical additives to kill larvae are bad for household pets.

Fall is just a few days away, but gardening season isn’t over yet. We’re still getting plenty of questions to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?

Corsican mint does well in full sun to partial shade, but is not drought-tolerant and needs consistent watering.

Will this groundcover work for dog run?

Q: We are looking for a good alternative to grass for a side yard/dog run area. I have attached a photo of a ground cover my boss saw and liked. Can you identify the plant in the photo? Would this work? The final choice needs to be non-poisonous to pets, hopefully not attract bees, and work in part sun/part shade.

– Clackamas County

A: Creating a comfortable and attractive environment for dogs can be a challenge. Considerations include the size of the area, number, size, breed and activity level of the dogs. Ground covers must be tough enough to stand up to constant use, easy to clean, non-toxic, and safe. Often a combination of materials works well, like paving stones surrounded by ground cover plants. This article has a good discussion of the factors in choosing a substrate for a dog run.

We think the plant in your picture may be Corsican mint. Corsican mint does well in full sun to partial shade, but is not drought-tolerant and needs consistent watering. Its leaves are generally non-toxic, but large quantities of mint leaves can be toxic to dogs. Thymes are another good ground cover that are non-toxic to dogs. Some are very low growing, ground-hugging plants. They do like lots of sunlight, however. This article has additional suggestions. This article from ASPCA has an extensive list of plants toxic to dogs, followed by a list of plants safe for dogs. You can check if a plant is on either the toxic or safe list. I found individually searching for a plant’s toxicity was more helpful. Some plants are OK to eat, but can be irritating to skin.

– Anne Schmidt. OSU Extension Master Gardener

Does amount of water affect taste of fruit?

Q: Does the amount of moisture on an Italian prune plum tree affect the sweetness of the fruit?

– Klamath County

A: It is not just the amount of moisture, but the timing of the moisture, that affects fruit development and sweetness. Once the fruit is partially developed, a reduction in water delivery can sometimes result in sweeter fruit because the naturally occurring sugars in the plant are less diluted. However, to reduce water too early in the growing season might inhibit growth or fruit production. The practice of reducing the amount of water delivered as fruit ripens is used by many types of fruit growers, particularly strawberry and watermelon.

– Nicole Sanchez, OSU Extension horticulturist

Harvesting too much rhubarb now will reduce yield next year.

Are green rhubarb stalks edible?

Q: Are rhubarb stalks still edible through the summer if they are red only at the bases, but largely green?

– Lane County

A: Yes, stalks will be edible, but keep in mind that rhubarb needs to store energy now so that it will produce well next spring. Harvesting too much of the plant now will reduce yield next year.

– Ed Peachy, OSU Extension horticulturist

Could this be pest damage? Or a watering problem?

Now is the time to troubleshoot gingko problem

Q: I have a young gingko that was planted last November in a berm. There are some plants with heavy water needs near it and I fear that I may have over watered. Not all leaves are affected.

The top and east-facing side are the worse; maybe about 30% of the leaves are damaged. Some are dropping now. We had a temperate spring and summer in Portland this year; still, this is all new landscaping so I was on it, deep watering twice a week. There was one day I left the water from hose dripping slowly for hours, forgetting I had it on. I am hoping against hope it is over watering vs. disease. There are many in the neighborhood all turning yellow now. Mine is still green except on damaged leaves and none show the signs mine is.

– Multnomah County

A: Disease or pest damage on gingko is unlikely. Root issues on a newly planted tree, however, are common. “Failure to establish” is a phrase I hear used, sometimes even years after a tree has been in the ground. Troubleshooting the problem with your tree now is a good plan. At a glance, this looks like an issue with water-uptake, likely roots or trunk damage. To figure this out will require some discussion about the tree at purchase (bare root or in a pot), how you prepared the site, and how deeply you planted it. This publication from Pacific Northwest ISA about how to plant a tree is the basis for most questions you’ll be asked. I suggest you contact your County Extension Service Master Gardener volunteers. You can give them the to this page to avoid having to start over.

– Jacki Dougan, OSU Extension Master Gardener

Safe to eat green beans?

Q: Is it safe to eat green beans with mosaic virus?

– Benton County

A: Yes. Plant diseases aren’t transmitted to people, but the beans may have an off-flavor.

– Jean Natter, OSU Extension Master Gardener

By Annaliese Olson

You want your four-legged friend to be happy no matter what. A happy dog is a happy owner, but it can be tough to keep your dog content when trying to maintain an attractive, healthy backyard landscape. Luckily, by taking a little extra time to build in some amazing backyard features, you can keep your pup happy and your lawn looking lush.

1. Add a water feature

A backyard fountain or splash pool is ideal for creating a focal point in your backyard. Plus, your dog will enjoy cooling off on a hot summer day. Add a small pond or pool for your water-loving pup, but make sure it has a gentle slope and shallow steps in case your dog falls in by mistake.

2. Plant species that are dog-resistant

Certain ornamental grasses, like maiden grass, are resistant to dog traffic without having sharp blades that will cut or otherwise injure your pup. This greenery holds its shape throughout the year, and will give your dog plenty of space to play. That being said, what’s more important than planting dog-resistant plants is planting species that are not harmful to dogs. Some flowers, like azaleas and daffodils, can be toxic to dogs and should not be planted in a place where they might accidentally be ingested.

3. Provide plenty of shade

Giving your dog a natural place to cool down will eliminate his desire to dig holes or find new hiding places under your deck or car. Give your dog an arbor or pergola (or even a doghouse, if you don’t have a ton of space) so that he can take a break from the sun without forcing you to sacrifice the attractiveness of your lawn.

4. Erect some fencing

Fences are great for keeping your backyard a private space and away from the eyes of your neighbors. If you have a dog, a fence is a must-have item to keep your dog contained and safe. Choose a fencing style or material that matches your landscaping style, like a rustic post and wire style or a picket fence. Make sure it’s sturdy and has narrow slats so that your dog cant’ get stuck between rails.

5. Choose toxin-free landscaping

While mulch is a perfect option for keeping your dog cool and comfortable in the summer, you need to be careful about what material your mulch is made of. Cocoa mulch smells great but, when ingested, can cause the same reactions in your dog as if he ate a giant chocolate bar.

You’ll also want to be careful when selecting certain fertilizers for your lawn and garden. Many store bought fertilizers contain harmful chemicals. You can use an eco-friendly lawn care option, that is both safe and costs you almost nothing. Grass clippings act as a natural fertilizer and are easy to disperse and recycle on your lawn post lawn mowing. Keeping both pets and any children in your yard safe.

6. Add convenient pathways

If you’re trying to control where your dog – er – does his business, a pathway is the best way to make sure your dog’s most private moments are kept out of the way of foot traffic. Pathways will also help to ensure your dog doesn’t trample your precious flowers while looking for a place to play. Loop pathways around the flower beds so they don’t receive any canine traffic, and build a designated pathway and “bathroom area” so that it’s clear to your dog where he or she needs to go.

7. Pick comfortable building materials

Try to pick materials that won’t be too hot or cold on your dog’s feet. Think brick, concrete, or smooth rocks. Try to stay away from any jagged stones. Artificial turf is another great option for a dog with sensitive paws, especially if you have a problem with your dog tearing up your natural lawn.

8. Make him the king of the hill

If you have a dog that is prone to barking or other “friendly” observations, give him a space to do so that’s out of the way of visitors. Consider installing a large, flat rock or a window in a fence to allow your dog to observe everything that goes by – just be aware that these observation areas won’t help to lessen his curiosity!

9. Create a dining area

Give your dog a special place outside to enjoy his meals and snacks. You can build a simple platform that conceals his dishes when he’s not using them, which will help to keep your lawn looking tidy and put together.

10. Build a doggy playground

This one is especially fun if you have kids that like to spend time wandering around outdoors with your four-legged friend. Consider using plants and other hardscaping features, like tunnels, balance beams, and pipes, to create a fun obstacle course for your dog. This will help him burn off some of his excess energy, even if you don’t have a ton of backyard space.

Annaliese Olson is a gardening and animal care writer. When she moved to the city from her family’s farm she decided she needed more nature in her life. She is dedicated to urban farming, she loves to creatively discover spaces for gardens to blossom in her city home.

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Even if your dog spends most of his time inside the house, your backyard belongs to him. Your dog-friendly backyard should be a pleasant place where he can eat, play with his favorite toys, sleep, bask in the sunshine and even frolic in the rain.

It’s your job to make sure that he can do all this and more in a safe environment, where wild animals that might harm him find it almost impossible to get in, and where plants that might cause him problems are nowhere to be found. Even more importantly, you’ll need to make it difficult for him to find out what lies beyond the boundary you’ve created for him – or eliminate any reasons he might have to dig under or climb over the fence that separates his domain from the rest of the world.

To help you create a safe haven that your dog will love spending time in, has collaborated with The Home Depot to build this guide covering each aspect of building the perfect dog-friendly backyard.

Why Dogs Leave the Yard

Dogs are social beings – they enjoy interacting with humans and with other animals. If you leave your best friend by himself all day, chances are that he’ll look for ways to find out what’s on the other side of the fence.

However, the need for companionship is not the only reason a dog seeks his freedom.


Would you want to spend day after day in the same place, wondering what the rest of the world looked like? He wouldn’t either.

Dogs are naturally curious, and unless your best friend has some really fun dog toys (there are some great ideas available here) or a canine pal to hang out with, he’ll probably spend a lot of time trying to find a way to get to the other side of the fence.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your dog from getting bored like leaving interactive toys for them to find.


Loud sounds, bad weather and unfamiliar people in your house are all reasons that dogs seek solace somewhere outside the fence that surrounds your backyard. If you know what scares your dog, you can take steps to eliminate those things from his life.

You can’t do anything about the weather, of course, but you can provide a safe haven for your dog if he is troubled by the crash of thunder and the flash of lightning.

To find out more on techniques that will help address the fears and anxiety that dogs may have; Veterinary Partners has some suggestions.

The Opposite Sex

If your dog hasn’t been neutered, his escape plans might be based on finding a mate. By the same token, if you have a female dog that hasn’t been spayed, she might be getting visitors from the outside world.

The Humane Society gives several reasons one should neuter a male dog or spay a female here.

Dog Fence: Fence Me In

Your dog fence needs to do an effective job of keeping your dog in and other animals out.

If your dog does escape, finding him is always a bit of a nuisance, but the situation can develop into something more than a small problem: He could be hit by a car, get into a fight with another dog or a wild animal, or cause damage to someone else’s property. You might also have to pay a fine levied by the animal control agency that picks him up.

Each of these factors alone is enough reason to do your best to block all possible avenues of escape. Make the investment in securing your yard, and you’ll avoid both emotional and financial pitfalls down the road.

Over the Top

Some dogs are athletic enough to jump over a fence, but in most cases they get over the top by climbing.

To eliminate this option, cover the inside of the fence with a smooth surface such as plywood.

You also can add an extension that tilts inward at an angle to the top of the fence.

Digging Out

To keep your dog from digging out, bury chicken wire under the fence or place large rocks along the bottom edge.

You also can use chicken wire to keep your dog from digging inside the yard – in a flower bed, for example. explains how to install chicken wire here.

Fill the Gaps

You’ll need to repair any holes in the fence and take care of any areas that might provide an opportunity for your dog to squeeze out, such as where the fence meets a gate or your house.

To find out how to maintain and repair your fence, .

Rebuild the Fence

If your fence needs major repairs, replacing it might be a better option than trying to fix it. After you take the old fence down, your next job will be to install the posts, which entails a little more work than simply digging holes.

You can see some fence building choices here.

When tackling a larger project like rebuilding your fence, you may need to rent larger equipment like a hole digger for installing new posts.

Don’t Forget the Gate

Some dogs are smart enough to figure out how to open a gate. If your dog is a budding Einstein, lock the gate with something more than just the built-in latch.

And if your kids can’t remember to close the gate, install a self-closing system that automatically shuts the gate when they go in or out. For instructions from on how to install a self-closing gate, .

In and Out

A doggie door is convenient for you and for your dog. He’ll be able to let himself out into the yard, and, if you’re not home, he’ll be able to get into the house if it starts to rain or if he simply wants to come inside and take a nap.

Inside the Yard

Theoretically, your dog should be safe in your yard if he can’t get out and other animals can’t get in. But what about plants and biting (and disease carrying critters)?

Before letting your dog run free, make sure that you reduce the possibility of threats to their health.

Harmful Plants

You certainly don’t want your dog to eat plants that don’t agree with her, causing problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, breathing issues, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, burning of the mouth and even death.

Although harmful plants and fungi will vary with your climate and geographical location, some of the most notorious offenders include:

  1. Azaleas
  2. Some mushrooms
  3. Lilies
  4. Black walnuts
  5. Daffodils
  6. Sago palms
  7. Dumb cane
  8. Elephant ears

To find more about plants that can harm your dog, click here.

Fleas and Ticks

Insects can be a problem for your dog and for you, because he’ll bring them into the house with him, and getting rid of them can be a costly and toxic process.

Keeping the grass trimmed can do a lot to prevent flea and tick proliferation, as well as using non-toxic repellents in your yard and on your dog (some options are available here).

Finally, for your dog’s comfort, eliminate standing water to discourage mosquitoes from setting up shop in your yard. PetMD has some smart advice on controlling fleas and ticks in your yard.


Keeping the backyard mowed and eliminating clutter such as piles of wood or leaves will help solve your flea and tick problem and also will go a long way toward keeping snakes away.

Though many snakes are not venomous, some are – and your dog won’t be able to tell the difference.

Cocoa Bean Mulch

Made from cocoa shells, gardeners and landscapers favor this type of mulch because it smells good, retains moisture well and helps repel garden pests.

Unfortunately, it might also pose a danger to your dog. Read this article from Healthy Pets to find out why this cocoa bean mulch may be toxic to your pet.

Make Your Dog-Friendly Backyard a Fun Place

If your dog isn’t happy in your backyard, regardless of how solid you make your fence, she eventually will find a way to get out. You can put a lid on her urge to wander by making the yard a fun, enjoyable place for her to hang out.

Make sure she has her favorite toys, easy access to food and water, shade from the sun on hot days, and shelter in case she doesn’t want to play in the rain. If she likes your backyard, chances are that she’ll stay there.

A Backyard Pond

It’s not difficult to build a small pond, and it will make your yard look better and your dog will appreciate the opportunity to go for a cooling dip, especially when temperatures rise. Be sure the pond is shallow enough so that your dog can get in and out easily. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A hard plastic pond shell. They come in many shapes and sizes, but depending on how big your dog is, you might need to add a ramp or put bricks or gravel at the bottom to make the pond shallower.
  2. A pump. You can use the pump to provide power for a fountain and to empty the pond when you need to clean it. The pump also will keep the water moving, which should help keep mosquitoes from breeding and algae from forming.
  3. Flexible tubing. You’ll use the tubing to connect the pump to a fountain or waterfall.

Installing your pond is a reasonably uncomplicated task. All you’ll need to do is dig a hole and drop in the liner.

You can decorate the area around the pond with plants, mulch or stones.

If you don’t have a vehicle big enough to haul the pond shell back to your yard, you can to see The Home Depot truck rental options.

Protection from the Sun

Overheating can be dangerous for your dog — they need to have plenty of shade. That’s not a problem if you have lots of trees in the yard, but if you don’t, you’ll need to provide him with some way to get out of the sun.

With just a few supplies, you can easily build your pal a place to cool off.

  1. Composite decking material
  2. A miter saw
  3. A jigsaw
  4. A piece of outdoor upholstery
  5. A corner clamp
  6. Some screws and nails

Gather those tools and then follow the directions in this DIY Network video to build your dog a shelter that will protect him from the sun and rain.

Want to make to make the cool shelter for your best buddy, but don’t want to buy the tools you need? No problem, you can rent them. To see the range of rental tools that The Home Depot has to offer, including the miter and jig saw you need to make the above project, click here.

The Path of Least Resistance

Paths are another option that will both beautify your yard and add to your dog’s enjoyment. Keep in mind that different breeds have different ideas about where paths should be.

For example, guarding breeds like to patrol the perimeter, while herding breeds prefer to move in circles. A path can be nothing more than grass with a border, but you also can go with mulch, wood chips or rock.

A Place to Potty

You and your dog will both enjoy your yard more if you encourage him to answer the call of nature in one spot, rather than all over the place. Here’s what you’ll need to build your dog a potty area:

  1. Fiberglass screen
  2. Sand pebbles
  3. Pea gravel
  4. 2″ x 6″ boards
  5. A shovel

If the area is inviting, your dog is much more likely to make it their ‘regular spot.’

How to Make Your Backyard Extremely Dog-Friendly

Having a dog is one of life’s greatest joys. They love you unconditionally and it is only right that you show them the same amount of love by providing them with such joys as a dog friendly backyard. Dogs love playing outside, but you need to make sure that your outdoor area for your dog is a safe one. Making certain improvements will not only make your fury friend happy, but it will put your mind at ease the next time you open your door to let him or her play. Here are some tips for ensuring your backyard is dog friendly.


Keeping your fury friends safe is the number one priority for any pet owner. Make sure you have adequate fencing and that the locks work properly. Also make sure that the fence is a reasonable size for the dog. Smaller chain-link fences do not keep large dogs from escaping.

Running Space

Dogs love to run and play just like children do so they need room to run. If you have a bigger dog make sure there is plenty of room for them to run. The more they play the less mischievous they are likely to be. If you have a smaller yard you can still make room for your dog to run by creating paths he can roam on. Dogs love the adventure, big or small.

Add Adventure

Add fun features to your backyard such as a doggie path to explore on or some kind of dog play area. Also, have some of their favorite toys on hand for them to play with. On really warm summer days hook up the sprinkler and let them play in the water!

Food and Water Area

Have plenty of food and water accessible for whenever their thirst or hunger strikes them. If possible, consider some type of flowing water system like a fountain in a small wading pond. Dogs love to splash around so if this is something you can create in your backyard, we know your pooch will be very happy.

Doggie Shelter

Having a dog house is a necessity if your dog is an outdoor dog or spends most of the day outdoors. This is very important as they can get hot from the sun and need a place to rest. Line the floors with a soft padded material of some kind so that it can provide warmth in the winter months.

Keep Them out of Harm’s Way

Keep your outdoor dog play areas free of harmful toxins. Dogs like to explore and unfortunately they do not know the harm in certain things. It is your job to keep these harmful chemicals or plants out of your backyard so that your beloved pooch will not get sick. Also be cautious of the type of plants you are planting. Make sure the plants are not thorny or that they will scratch them up.

Materials Used in Backyard

Consider the materials you use when landscaping your backyard. In the summer months certain materials can get extremely hot. These are very uncomfortable for your dog to walk on and can burn their little feet. Consider brick, concrete, flagstone, pebbles, and smooth rocks as safe choices for your patio area or backyard. They will greatly appreciate this, especially when sunbathing.

Creating a dog friendly backyard is just what your pup is longing for. Adding these features will ensure a happy dog along with the pride in knowing that they have the best outdoor play area on the block. If you can’t afford, or don’t have the space to accommodate every one of these tips suggested here, make sure to always regard the safety and health of your dog to ensure their utmost happiness.

Categories: All Posts, Dogs, Pet Safety

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