Choose the right plants?
The issue of dogs most commonly comes up in the design process when considering plant selection. Dogs have no respect for garden boundaries and will happily charge through your beds and lay waste to your shrubbery. Even a very small dog can demolish fragile plants by running past and breaking off shoots at the base. The solution is to choose robust plants with strong root systems that can take a beating and aren’t easily dug up; grasses are great – Miscanthus and all species of Lomandra – as are more sculptural cycads and Zamias. Beware of anything too spiky though, as a speeding dog could actually hurt itself on some plants.
Look into your dog’s habits when designing your garden beds. For example, if your pooch spends hours running patrol along the fenceline, setting the gardens back from the boundary will give them a clear strip to race without ripping through the foliage.
What about digging?
We’re not dog-whisperers, but in our own experience, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do to stop a dog from digging. But, with a bit of effort, you can hopefully minimise the impact on your garden. Try this trick, tried and tested by Secret Garden’s own Matt Cantwell: fill a large container with sand and, whenever you go out, bury a few treats. The dog will have to hunt for the treats, satisfying their digging urge with little impact on the garden! They also learn that this digging spot is where they are rewarded. Chico who was guilty of many holes in the lawn, now only digs in this one spot.
Does a dog need a lawn?
It’s a common misconception that dogs need grass, but in actual fact, it’s not essential. What they do ideally need is a porous surface, so when nature calls, they don’t end up with wet feet and you don’t come home to smelly puddles. If grass won’t work, artificial turf is just fine (liquid will soak through and you can always hose it down if necessary) and even a patch of pebbles will do the job. If the dog has nothing but a paved courtyard to roam over during the day, a possible solution might be an irrigation system to periodically rinse the tiles.
Give a dog a home?
As well as building a garden to survive your dog, you also need to consider the dog’s needs. Shade and shelter are a must – build them a place to keep cool in summer and dry, even when the rain is gusting in sideways. Consider building a kennel into outdoor joinery, such as the end of the barbecue server, so it’s not an ugly freestanding feature. If you can, put the dog’s shelter in a place where it can be in its kennel and see inside – all your precious pup wants is to see you all the time.