People aren’t the only ones who love connecting with nature: Dogs are equally enthused about getting to explore their natural environment, whether through playing a lively game of fetch or digging through the soil to find buried treasures. Problems can arise, however, when the interests of both parties are not being equally met, from destroyed plantings and worn pathways to constant escapes and incessant barking.
“Some people just adapt and consider it a fact of life, and it’s not,” states Scott Cohen, landscape designer at Los Angeles-based The Green Scene and co-author of Petscaping: Training and Landscaping With Your Pet in Mind. “With the right techniques and planning with your pet in mind, you can create a place where people can get along with pets and it works.”
The key is giving the dogs their own space and training them to use it properly. “We’re past the days of dogs being locked in a chain-link fence in the back of the yard,” says Carolyn Doherty, a professional animal trainer and Cohen’s co-author. “They’re more integrated members of the family.”
As such, it’s important to note their ingrained interests and realize that it will be part of their natural behavior when they’re outdoors. For example, the retriever breeds are full of energy and a desire to play, so they will need a large, dog-friendly yard that can handle a lot of wear and tear. A bulldog, on the other hand, is more prone to exploration and would benefit from a dedicated digging area to bury its toys and other finds.
One of the biggest mistakes owners make, Doherty notes, is treating the back yard as a punishment area or just a place where their pets relieve themselves. Lack of design considerations restricts the opportunities dogs have to enjoy the yard. More active dogs may benefit from an exercise course, which can be a simple set of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) structures, while others may be satisfied with a little side yard to call their own or a game of hide-and-seek with treats.
To make dog-friendly landscaping successful, however, you need to train your dog on how to use its features:
- Correct them for misuse of the yard while simultaneously praising them for using the correct spot.
- Send a clear message to prevent confusion (e.g., keep your dog away from you as you’re gardening if you don’t want to end up with uprooted plants).
The rural environment of a cabin can present its own set of challenges. A fence of some sort is important to not only keep your dog from getting lost in the woods; it also protects your pet from run-ins with less-sociable wild animals. Make sure the partitions of the fence are placed close together, or use a solid wall to prevent your dog from being able to stick out its nose.
Predatory animals, such as coyotes, pose an obvious threat to your pet, but others present additional dangers that you need to be wary of as well:
- Maintain dog-friendly landscaping through pruning and regular mowing to keep rodents carrying ticks and fleas from entering the yard to snack on the underbrush of your plantings.
- Regular lawn maintenance also can deter snails from populating your yard. Poisons used to rid your yard of these gastropods can be incredibly harmful to dogs — both in the accidental ingestion of the product and the tainted snail itself.
Thick-coated breeds such as Great Pyrenees and Newfoundlands are naturally heat sensitive and require shade, but all dogs can benefit from some form of shelter — whether it’s a doghouse or just a crate — in the case of inclement weather.
“The weather and the elements can be very different at a cabin,” Doherty notes. “You may not realize just how sunny it gets or how snowy it gets, and [your pets] need a safe place to retreat. That way, if they want to take cover, they can.”