Landscaping Do’s and Don’ts When You Have a Dog

Two dogs playing in a home's back yardImage: Steven Smith

Your dog may be your best friend, but he’s not your yard’s BFF. Here are some guidelines to help you all get along.



DO: Use gravel, shredded hardwood mulch, or wood chips, which won’t stick to longhair coats.
DON’T: Use cocoa mulch, which may contain theobromine, the same ingredient that makes chocolate poisonous to dogs.

Dog-friendly yard with mulch and a fire hydrantImage: Down to Earth Landscaping, Inc. of Bellevue, WA

Yard Features

DO: Create a water feature so your dog can cool off on hot days.
DON’T: Install a pond or pool that is hard for your dog to enter and exit.

DO: Add a sandbox your dog can feel free to dig in. Bury bones and treats at first to pique his interest.
DON’T: Think that sandboxes are maintenance-free. Keep a shovel and rake nearby to cover holes and clean waste.

Related: How to Stop Your Dog From Digging in Your Yard


DO: Use organic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides on lawns and plants.
DON’T: Spread toxic lawn and plant care products, which can harm dogs. A National Institute of Health study showed that professionally applied pesticides were associated with a 70% higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma.

DO: Select plant species that reduce fleas, such as lavender, rosemary, and mint, and others that are good for dogs to eat — blueberries, strawberries, wheat grass, and oat grass.
DON’T: Select plants that can make your dog sick, like foxglove, iris, monkshood, and lily of the valley.

DO: Landscape with urine-resistant plants, such as Euonymus japonica (Japanese spindle tree) and Burkwood osmanthus.  
DON’T: Freak out when you find yellow and brown spots in your lawn caused by urine. Reseeding is a simple and easy cure for those spots. Or create a potty station.

Related: Why is My Grass Turning Brown?


DO: Create paths or walkways along routes your dog already travels. 
DON’T: Think you can redirect your dog away from areas he’s already claimed. Don’t resort to planting thorny shrubs or other plants to deter him. You’ll both be sorry.

Dog-friendly xeriscaped back yardImage: MaryLea Harris

DO: Edge flowerbeds with rocks or foot-tall shrubs to protect your posies.
DON’T: Use a metal edging that can cut your pooch.

DO: Give up the idea of having a perfect yard — a place that’s perfect for you and your pet is better.
DON’T: Let your dog rule the roost. Train him to respect boundaries and do his business in a designated spot.