Backyard Landscaping Ideas

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Dog Friendly Landscaping: A How-To Guide

March 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Even the most docile dogs need a safe place to run, play, and explore. By keeping your home’s landscape free of poisonous plants, adding a few pieces of dog agility equipement and maybe even a heated dog house, your dog won’t have any more excuses for chasing the neighborhood cats.

Plant Choice

Like toddlers, some dogs are fond of chewing on whatever’s handy. Unfortunately, eating the wrong plant can have consequences ranging from the unpleasant to the fatal. The best bet to keep your dog safe is to simply avoid using poisonous plants in the garden. An extensive list of both poisonous and non-toxic, pet-safe plants
can be found at the ASPCA’s
Animal Poison Control Center
. If you think the only poisonous plants are rare, exotic tropicals, consider that daffodils, tulips, English ivy (the most common type of ivy), morning glory, azalea, tiger lilies, and even onion plants, tomato plants, and corn stocks can cause serious trouble for any dog unlucky enough to eat them.

If you do decide to have these plants in your landscape, keep them enclosed behind a dog-proof fence.

Dog Fences

In urban areas, keeping your dog within the boundaries of your property and away from traffic is literally a matter of life and death for your pet. The traditional chain-link and shadow-box fences work perfectly well for keeping even the biggest dogs close to home, but these fences aren’t always an option.

In these cases, wireless dog fences, also called invisible dog fences or electronic dog fence, may provide an alternative. Because wireless dog fences require no trench-digging or installation work, they can be set up within minutes. A radio transmitter and a collar are the only componants of the system. A transmitter, plugged in somewhere in your home, emits a radio signal around your property. Your dog wears a lightweight receiver collar that “listens” for the signal. As long as the collar is receiving the signal, your dog can romp around the yard as usual. However, when your dog approaches the boundary of the signal area, he receives a warning beep. If your dog does not return, he receives an electronic pulse similar to static electricity — startling, but harmless and painless. Granted, an “electric collar” may not sound appealing at first, but given the choice between a car accident and a static electricity shock, which would you want for your dog?

Keep in mind though that invisible fences are NOT for permanent or continual use. They are only for short-term training and using them long term can cause serious problems for your dog.

Dog Agility Equipment

Play time isn’t just entertainment, it’s important for your dog’s (and sometimes you own) health, too. For dogs under the age of two, regular exercise on resilient surfaces is required for proper skeletal development and dog agility equipment enhances the development of coordination. Not to mention, dog toys are just plain fun. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Tire jump

    A tire jump is made from either a tire or PVC pipe suspended on bungee cords in the middle of a frame also made from PVC pipe. This jump helps dogs learn to judge height and distance.

  • Bar jump

    Bar jumps — made of PVC pipe are the cheapest and simplest equipment to make. For safety reasons, be sure the the jump is designed so that the jump bar falls away in either direction in the dog’s feet hit it.

  • Ribbon jump

    A square made of PVC pipe with a curtain of colored ribbons for the dog to jump through, rather than over.

  • Concertina tunnel

    The tunnel is a favorite piece of agility equipment that even older, less-agile dogs can have fun with. Most concertina tunnel are 4 or 5 fee long and come in several sizes for varying sizes of dogs. Most concertina tunnels must be secured to the ground with pegs or straps to prevent it from rolling, but some types come with a built-in base.

  • Dog Walk

    The dog walk is long raised platform with a ramp at each end. The ramp is usually the challenging part because many dogs want to jump onto the platform.

  • Ladder

    You can use a ladder to help your dog develop more awareness of where her hind feet fall and to teach your dog to walk comfortably in a narrow space. Any of the following will work: a regular home extension ladder laid flat on the ground
    a 6 foot step ladder laid flat on the ground with a caveat for toy dogs – some of the steps on these can turn into an actual jump for a toy breed! That’s not what we want at this point.

  • Weave Poles

    The weave pole set is one of the most challenging pieces of equipment for dogs — not because it’s so difficult to do, but because many dogs don’t understand that the goal is to take the “long way round” by weaving between the poles rather than take the most logical shortest route and run straight down the path. Just communicating this goal to your dog is an accomplishment.

    Dog Houses

    Just like “people houses,” dog houses range from the extravagent to the rustic and simple. Fortunately, though, they’re quite a bit cheaper than people houses. In fact, even many of the less expensive dog houses come with shingled roofs and built-on front porches.

    In colder climates, your furry friend will appreciate a heated dog house. Usually these are made by installing a dog house heater, but in climates with four to six hours of sunlight, a solar dog house is a more energy-efficient (read: cheaper)option.

    Some things to look for when choosing a dog house include:

    • Naturally rot-resistant material such as plastic or red cedar
    • Easy cleaning features such as a removable roof

    • Galvanized nails and screws that won’t rust.
    • NO pressure-treated wood, which contains arsenic
    • The dog house should be raised from the ground to insulate the dog from moisture and chills.
    • The dog house should be large enough for the dog to comfortably turn around
      but small enough to retain the dog’s body heat.

    Creating a dog-friendly landscape around your home doesn’t take a lot of money. It may mean more careful plant selection and making room for a tire jump, but isn’t your pooch worth it?

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