How to garden with a dog

Gardening with dogs has changed dramatically over the past few decades. The reprimanding, training and containment theories espoused by baby-boomer gardeners have been replaced with a host of imaginative dog-centric ideas.

In the past, the garden was all-important and dogs were trained to behave in and around herbaceous borders. Mole hills were flattened with a strong jet of water before dogs came out to play and puppies were encouraged to urinate on rough side lawns, not the manicured front lawn.

Flowers are a colourful wonderland for man's best friend. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Dogs underwent years of reprimands to keep them on paths and avoid them straying into flower borders. If the training didn’t work, there were always electronic pet-containment systems that gave dogs a mild electric shock every time they strayed into a flower bed.

These methods look harshly obsolete in an era where landscapers are increasingly being asked to design gardens around dogs.

“Dogs are like engineers,” says landscaper Lucy Schnell. “They like to get from A to B via the most direct route. They don’t care what’s in the way. So, your precious new plant will eventually bow to the constant pressure of your favourite hound’s message of ‘out the way’ or ‘die’.

“The only way to garden around dogs is to acknowledge them, in the same way you would any other member of your family,” she says.

“Having a high-energy hound that is not factored in at the design stage of landscaping sets one up for frustration and failure.”

An example is a garden recently designed for Horace, a long-legged gangly “teenage” Doberman.

“Horace loves to chase off any would-be intruder from the corner of his property where he has a good view of the road,” says Schnell.

“Horace also runs up and down this perimeter, to ‘shout’ at the neighbour’s cat, and must be first in line to greet any members of the family when they return home.”

Armed with an understanding of Horace’s habits, the client’s wish list, a site analysis and a site plan, the landscapers worked around Horace’s highways and byways. Heavy pots were used to create immovable obstacles to discourage Horace from playing in various zones and low fences were hidden between the tall trees to alter well-worn routes.

Dog designs

“With close observation and following a few golden rules, it is possible to garden around dogs,” says Schnell. Here are a few of her tips: