Plant a Dog-Friendly Garden

Apr 8, 2022

If you and your dog are anything like Baxter and me, you are thrilled that winter has finally scrammed and spring is blossoming. The cold weather irritates Baxter’s arthritis so our walks are usually much shorter during January and February. Here in the Triangle of North Carolina, we are finally ready to start gardening and planting.

We have a strip of side yard in our new house that we have so many plans for! As we select our pollinator plants and flowers, I’m also looking to create a sensory experience that will also be a dog-friendly garden for Baxter to enjoy with our three kids! 

Follow these quick tips to create a safe and beautiful spot for your dog to sniff, chew, roll and explore.

Check this list before you plant your dog-friendly garden: 

You may like to grow your own herbs. Dogs may enjoy the smell of rosemary and sage, but others like mint, can be toxic to dogs and cats. Check out the ASPCA’s Toxic Plants List before planting to make sure you are creating a dog-friendly garden and not one that will be dangerous.

Goofy brown dog standing in catmint flowerbed. Catmint is a great flower to include in your dog-friendly garden.

Include a daily dose of greens

Did you know that most dogs nibble grass because it’s tasty, not because they feel sick? Baxter goes through phases of wanting to nibble on greens. If your dog loves a grassy treat, a pot of alfalfa, wheat, oat, barley or rye grass.

Check out the awesome mother-daughter team in Durham, The Zen Succulent for a list of their pet-friendly plants. They have great indoor options for cats too!

Play treat hide-n-seek

Now that Baxter is almost 14 years old and can’t get around quite like he used to, we are always looking for ways to keep him mentally stimulated. Garden sculptures and benches are a great place to hide treats for your dog to discover. My kids love giving Baxter treats. As we plan out this year’s garden space, I know they will absolutely LOVE hiding treats for Baxter. I’m sure it will also be a great space for them to search for Easter Eggs in April too!

Tip: Be obvious about the first few hiding places until your dog catches on to the game and be sure they are all found before nightfall, so as not to lure in curious wild critters.

Dig In!

Our previous pup Lily absolutely LOVED to dig. It sure can be messy business. If your kids have outgrown their sandbox, turn it into a designated digging pit for your pup! Another idea, use an old tire as a pit where your dog can exercise digging skills. They’ll enjoy hot sand on top, cool sand beneath, lots of fun smells, and of course – flying sand everywhere!

Go bold with blues and yellows.

Your dog sees these colors best, and there are all sorts of pet-friendly beautiful flowers that come in those hues, like sunflowers and catmint.

Include outdoor music and movement.

Water fountains, birds at feeders, soft wind chimes and fun wind-driven whirligigs all add new intriguing sounds and surprising movement. We have large Oak trees here that attract birds and squirrels non-stop! This gives Baxter the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while lounging inside as he watches the critters through the window. He also still likes to think he can catch a squirrel from time to time when out in the yard.

Cute wooden walkway in a garden is also the perfect spot for a family photo.

Help your dog climb to new heights. Create a winding pathway so your dog can visit the interior of the garden rather than being banished to the boundary. Send your dog up a step-garden of different plateaus or a hilly rock garden to survey their backyard kingdom. Our neighbors just gifted us a cute little wooden bridge to go over our dry creek bed! Next up, adding some flowers and stone pavers on either side. It will be a perfect to photograph Baxter and the kids this spring!

Have fun selecting plants but be safe! If you’re not sure what something is, download the plant-identifier app, LeafSnap, and then look them up on the ASPCA webpage of toxic and non-toxic plants on your smartphone to double check your purchases. It’s mobile-friendly!

What will you be planting in your yard to create a dog-friendly garden this year? Let me know on Instagram @taralynn_andco.

A Look At Our Garden

Below: Here is a peak at our side yard in progress! Our neighbors gave us the cutest little bridge to go over our dry creek (so much water drainage we have to deal with). After waiting an extra week due to an overnight freeze, we were finally able to start planting! Next up, pinestraw!

Wooden Bridge in garden