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How to design a pet-friendly garden

grey cat peaking out from a bush

Who doesn’t love spending a bit of quality time in the garden? It is estimated that around 27 million people in the UK list gardening as a hobby. However, it can be frustrating if your pet has bad garden habits that undo all your hard work. Nobody wants to discover that their dog has dug up all the lawn or that their cat has done their business in the flowerbeds. Creating a garden designed for pets as well as humans can help to keep both parties happy and enable everyone to continue to enjoy the great outdoors.

One of the first things to consider when designing your pet-friendly garden is to think about what pathways you may require. More than likely, your pet already has it’s favourite routes around the garden and sticking to these will reduce the amount of re-training you’d have to do once the new pathways are laid. If your dog likes to patrol the perimeter of your property then take this into consideration before placing any border planting or shrubs that might interfere with this. Pathways are best laid in stone as gravel may be sharp underfoot and encourage digging.

Dog owners should think about having a nice large area of lawn to allow plenty of running around and exercising. You should also think about areas that will provide shade for your pets during warmer weather. Access to water would also be beneficial for the summer months.

dog lying in the grass staring at the camera

If your dog enjoys digging, consider creating a specific area for them to dig in to avoid your lawn being destroyed. You could even bury treats and toys in the new digging area to make it more fun for them. Giving them lots of praise when they use this space will hopefully deter them from digging up your lawn. You could create a similar area for your pet if they are prone to urinating on your lawn or defecating in your flowerbeds. Try planting catnip, valerian and lemongrass nearby to encourage your cat to use it.

While we’re on the subject of planting, make sure any plants that you place in your garden aren’t toxic to your pets. The PDSA, Dogs Trust & The Kennel Club all have lists you can consult regarding plants that are potentially hazardous. While doing this, check that any existing plants that are already in your garden are also safe. Some common plants that aren’t recommended for gardens with pets are azaleas, English ivy, daffodils and lilies.

Plants with thorns may also cause harm to your pet, particularly if placed near designated pathways. Not only could they hurt your pet’s paws but they could also cause damage to their eyes. If you have a compost heap or bin, make sure it is sufficiently secure as eating old, rotting food can cause stomach upset in pets. You should also reduce the amount of chemicals you use around your garden, as many of these are harmful to pets too. If you do need to use pesticides or herbicides, make sure you keep your pet out of the garden for a little while after

using them. All garden chemicals should be stored securely and out of reach of pets.

With these things in mind, it’s possible to create a safe and enjoyable outdoor space for both you and your pets to appreciate together.