|From In the Garden|
The way I see it there are a few main issues when it comes to dogs in the garden and I will address each of them based on my experiences with my wonderful mutts-uh dogs. Those issues in simple terms are:
1. Running through gardens
3. Relieving themselves
5. Drinking and bathing in water features
Running through gardens is probably the biggest complaint dog owners have when addressing dogs in the garden-next to digging. Dogs are just made to run. They don't care what they run into, over, or under, they just want to run. Let's hope there are no neighbor dogs your dogs are running after but most likely there may be another dog or two in the neighborhood; which will make the problem three times as bad. Trust me, I know. Here is the way to solve that problem. If you are able to, put in a privacy fence so your dogs can't see the other dogs and the problem will be somewhat alleviated. If this is not a workable solution for you then plant groundcovers and shrubs along the runway along your property line. In the picture above my dogs run along that fence fairly frequently. There are a few dogs that live on the other side of the fence and even with the privacy fence the dogs still occasionally run along the fence but not as bad as they would if the fence were not there. Next to the fence I planted a really strong groundcover that is low maintenance and is not fazed at all by a pack of dogs. The groundcover is Liriope spicata, aka creeping lilyturf. This liriope is also called monkey grass in some circles but this type of monkey grass should not be confused with Liriope muscari, aka lilyturf or monkey grass. Liriope muscari will also work as a great groundcover but it is a clumping grass versus the creeping grass like the spicata. Clumpers (muscari) work well but do not hold onto the soil as well as runners (spicata). Spicata cannot be bothered by anything. Tree roots, shade, weeds, and dogs are all laughed at by the spicata which grows and grows and grows and looks good pretty much all year long. As a bonus it is low maintenance. All I do to mine is weedwhack it or mow it at a high length in February of each year and that is it. You don't have to mow it but I choose to for aesthetics. Other groundcovers would probably work but there are none I would recommend planting in your garden due to the invasiveness of them so stick with spicata for a groundcover to protect your ground from dog paws.
The above picture shows my privacy fence with the spicata growing along side it. Bella still loves this area and has made a path through the spicata but the ground itself is safe and not prone to erosion due to the dense roots of the spicata. Spicata is great to stop erosion, weeds, and to cover a difficult area such as this area under a silver maple tree. Note: Spicata WILL run too but is much easier to get rid of if you decide it is not for you. If you do plant spicata choose your location wisely and be prepared for it to spread in shade or sun, dry or wet soil-it's quite adaptable.
I have also planted shrubs and trees along this and other fence lines in my garden. They help out but when a dog gets going even thorny shrubs are not likely to stop a dog's run to getting where they wish to go so you still need to protect the ground. Mulch is also a good ground protector but requires more maintenance.
Okay, when a dog is doing its business and not intent on playing with another dog or chasing a squirrel they are more sedate and more manageable in the garden. I have found that borders such as the stone edging along trenched garden beds as in the above picture work great to guide a dog's path. Rarely will my dogs venture into this garden even though they like running along the fence at the back of the garden. Once the dogs are done playing they will naturally gravitate toward the paths in this garden out to the turfgrass where they will follow the edge of the garden around to the next new spot they wish to explore. The rock borders and trenched gardens work like a charm and are attractive as well for directing a dog's run.
I do sometimes have to take tougher measures to control the dogs though. When it comes to chewing and breaking habits sometimes the only thing that will work are fences. I know most folks don't like fences in the garden but I am more of a functional gardener than an aesthetic gardener so I use fences when necessary. The first picture on this post shows one of my fences as well as a pathway. The dogs tend to stick to the paths through the turfgrass and don't usually venture into the fenced gardens. This garden really needed protection because it apparently had some nice and juicy trees and shrubs planted in it. One very expensive and desirable tree that was eaten by one of my goldens was a weeping Japanese maple. I was not a happy camper. Now whenever I plant a new tree or shrub I usually circle it with 24-36" wire until it is big enough to fend for itself. Sometimes this takes years but is worth it to protect the plant and the dogs. Shrubs like camellias and rhododendrons are supposed to be poisonous to dogs and for some reason my dogs have a taste for these shrubs. Fences are necessary in these circumstances.
Now we get to the last few issues. Relieving themselves is a big yuck for gardens but oh so necessary for the dogs. The best solution to deal with wastes from a dog is to select an out of the way spot in the garden and train your dog early to go only in that area. Training puppies is the best method but even older dogs can be trained to relieve themselves in a certain spot-far away from living areas. You will have to walk your dog to the designated spot (most likely on a leash) and build a habit for that dog to relieve itself in only that spot so it will take time and training but will be worth it in the long run. Once the habit is in place it should stick with the dog for its entire lifetime. I find that generally dogs tend to find an out of the way spot anyhow but in case they regress or like to use pathways you can gently retrain them not to do their business in such a spot by catching them in the act and redirecting them. They don't forget such indignities I can assure you. Cleaning up after your dog is an important part of maintenance chores in the garden as well.
One note on urinating. Many people complain the dogs leave a yellowed spot in areas of their lawn when they urinate. In the eight years I've lived here I have had only one yellow spot and that was during a drought in 2007. If you have a problem with urine concentrating and building up in your garden rinse the area with a hose daily. This should help. Otherwise I don't stress about urine unless it is on me!
Another issue we have to deal with when gardening with dogs is digging. This is a frustrating trait. My little dachshund was the worst when it came to digging when he was a puppy. He would dig and dig and dig and no matter how quickly I tried to fill the hole I never could find enough dirt to fill the hole up and still he would dig. I still wonder what happens to all the dirt! My solution to digging is multi faceted like my other solutions. No one trick will solve all issues with dogs and gardens. Being proactive I would try to catch a dog in the act of digging and severely scold them for it. This helps. I also try to limit the dogs freedom outside when I am not around. I know bored dogs tend to dig. This helps a bit too but it will not completely eliminate the problem. Here is the good news, as dogs age they seem to dig less frequently. My dachshund never digs and neither do my goldens, though they all had their moments when they were younger. Enter Bella, my daughter's rottweiler mix mutt, she digs. She is young. She is persistent and most irritating. I can always tell when she has been digging because her dirty nose gives her away. Bella's favorite spots to dig are near the house and wherever newly planted plants have been put in. Grrrrrrr! We've had a real issue with her this past year. I try to catch her in the act but even that is not enough to give her the message digging is not acceptable. In her situation I usually wind up placing a barrier over the hole. I usually use mesh wire like chicken wire, heavy rocks, or even the above pictured trellis to block off her current holes. This just sends Bella somewhere else to find easier pickings but at least the hole doesn't get any larger and I can fill it in. Sometimes I leave the barrier in place because the problem is ongoing, sometimes I remove the barrier. I do like to cover the wire with mulch when I leave it in place so no one can even tell there is a wire on top of the ground-but Bella! Barriers help but digging is one of those things I think dogs may always do, especially young dogs.
Another area of concern might be with water features. My goldfish in my little bathtub pond may have received a few shocks when a 100 pound plus dog jumps in and takes a bath. Perhaps BJ reasons it is a bathtub after all? At any rate this is not desirable and could wreak havoc with not only the fish, but the plants and the pump. When BJ is not dunking himself in the pond Bella is drinking from the pond. Sigh. My solution is to provide the dogs a pool of their own. I purchased a small hard plastic pool for them. The pool is less than four feet round and easily dumped and refilled as necessary. The dogs will always use this pool over the pond provided it has clean and fresh water in it. They also drink from it fairly frequently on hot days.
These are pretty much the major problems I find when trying to work with dogs and gardens. What are your issues with dogs and do you all have any tricks that help you when dealing with dogs?
in the garden....
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In the Garden