Help! My dog is ruining the garden!

Help! My dog is ruining the garden!

We’ve got some garden design ideas that will help stop your furry friend from ruining the garden.

If you have changed the way you use your garden since welcoming a dog into your family – you are not the only one.  The Tapestry team have seen a big upsurge of enquires from people who need to redesign their garden to better suit life with a canine companion.  

garden designer Katie Moyes cuddling her smooth coated collie

Garden Designer Katie Moyes with her smooth coated collie pup

All of us here at Tapestry Design Studios are dog owners. So you can rest assured, that when we are designing gardens for dogs, we have every empathy with our customers.  Between us, we’ve experienced just about every type of doggy behaviour from the delightful to the downright destructive.

Here are some suggestions that my help you to maintain and beautiful garden and have a happy dog.

  • Create areas where your dog can play safely with minimal supervision
  • Provide your pet with plenty of mental stimulation – boredom leads to behaviours that end up ruining the garden
  • Choose dog-friendly surfaces
  • Think about shade and shelter for hot weather
  • Make an outdoor dog washing zone to help keep the house clean
  • Prepare to re-think some of your usual garden maintenance routines


Keeping your dog – and your garden – safe

Quite possibly, the most important element for every dog lover’s garden is security.  We none of us want our pets to escape, to hurt themselves within the garden, or worst of all, be taken from us.

When designing a garden for dogs, we’ll always start with fencing and gates.  These must be easy on the eye as well as practical. After all, nobody wants their garden to feel like a prison yard!

corten metal garden screen with leaf design

Garden screening like this can be adapted to make a spacious and beautiful doggy play pen


There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t create a garden within your garden.  Somewhere that doesn’t block any borrowed views. Make the ‘fence’ too high for Fido to jump over, too low for him to dig under.  Position it so that your pet is not clearly visible from the street, but where you can see him or her from the house.  

Rather than create a utilitarian dog run – make the mini garden into a beautiful space where you and your pet can sit, relax and play together.

Sectioning off part of the garden in this way, has lots of advantages.  First of all, it protects the rest of your garden from doggy damage.  It means that children or visitors who are not keen on pets can be ‘protected’ from your dog (and vice-versa).  You can even have a nice lawn! I’ll come on to lawns later in the article.

But don’t go thinking that your dog garden will be an ugly carbuncle in one corner of your plot. I’m thinking beautiful screening to make your ‘fence’, A pretty entranceway, some trees for shade, an easy clean surface, perhaps a digging pit, some beautifully scented plants, stylish furniture….a normal garden in fact, just one that’s super-safe.

Providing mental stimulation for your pet can help to preserve your garden

golden retriever and jack Russel relaxing on an artificial lawn

Penny (Golden Retriever) and Rosie (Jack Russel) live with our Director, Paul.  Here they are relaxing after a brain busting game of  ‘hunt the ball’

All dogs need exercise. But did you know that mental stimulation is just as important?  A dog that is thinking and using his or her brain, is less likely to spend time charging around the garden, wearing out the lawn and damaging plants.

So what garden features could you include that will fire up your dog’s brain and stop him ruining the garden?

Sniffing is probably their favourite thing to do, so include lots of really interesting plants like herbs or ornamental grasses. Please remember though that some plants are really not good for dogs….anything from the onion family is toxic to them, as are foxgloves, yew and a number of other plants.  Double check before you nip to the garden centre or ask us for a dog-friendly planting plan.

Next in line to sniffing, comes eating.  Try scatter feeding your pet in the garden.  Basically, all you have to do is take their dinner bowl and empty it out on the lawn or the patio.  They’ll spend ages trying to find every last piece and will probably have a good old sniff around looking for leftovers every time they go into the garden.

Changes in levels. Lots of dogs enjoy having an elevated spot where they can watch the world go by.  A raised deck or a grassy hillock would be perfect.  If you build it big enough, you can share it with him!

Hidey holes. A shy dog might enjoy having a smallish space where they can retreat and feel safe.  Tunnels are great for this – they also appeal to terriers and dachshunds who were, of course, originally bred for hunting in holes.

A sandpit.  If you’ve ever raised a puppy, you’ll know that they’re not so different from human toddlers. Some of them just love to dig. Rather than have them make craters in your flower beds, give them their own digging pit.  You can bury smelly treats in it for them to find. They’ll love it!

Pet friendly surfaces

two miniature shnauzers sitting on natural lawn


99% of the people who want their space redesigned to stop the dog ruining the garden cite the lawn as the biggest pain point.  Some ask for an artificial lawn or an alternative surface that won’t be damaged by piddle or paws.

My approach to pet friendly surfaces is to think about it from the pet’s point of view.  Hard landscaping surfaces such as porcelain paving, natural stone or artificial grass get horribly hot in the summer.  Would you want to walk on them barefoot? Your dog probably doesn’t.  

You, on the other hand, need a surface that is easy to clean, slip proof, and won’t get muddy in the winter.

As an aside – my girl dog hates peeing on hard surfaces – because they’re not absorbent she ends up with wet feet- yuk! She will always hold it in until she gets to a grassy area.

Whilst maintaining a natural lawn might sound like hard work, it does help to cool a hot garden. It’s also really good at soaking up urine.  Soil microbes will then process that waste so that it doesn’t smell.  Hard surfaces will need regular disinfecting if they are being used for toileting.

Varying the surfaces within a garden is great for what dog trainers call ‘socialisation’. Which is basically getting your dog used to living in a world full of human beings and their wonderful inventions.  If your dog has choices, he or she can decide what to walk on or sit on depending on the temperature and weather conditions of the day.

As garden designers, it’s hard to juggle the needs of the pet, AND the people. But we usually do manage to find a way.

Garden Maintenance

One of the first questions we ask any garden design client, is ‘how much maintenance are you able to do?”  That really does help to define how we lay out a space and which materials we suggest.

As a pet owner, you’ll find that garden maintenance will change…but for the most part, that can be a pleasure rather than a chore.

Spending time out of doors with your pet is a real joy. Most dogs will like to ‘help” by investigating tools, freshly moved soil and/or new plants. And you’ll probably gain a lot of pleasure in seeing how your pet interacts with the garden.  In fact, you might find yourself adding new features just to enrich your pet’s life. Having a dog, definitely needn’t lead to ruining the garden…just the opposite in fact.

For some families, lawn care is the biggest issue when they have an active dog. But it needn’t be a nightmare. There are plenty of really good lawn care companies out there who can help you get the right balance of lawn feed and renovations to keep your green space looking vibrant all year round.

If you do opt for a natural lawn, you might find that you need to aerate more often to reduce soil compaction. You may need to overseed it from time to time to revive thinning patches, or you might find that actually, your dog doesn’t damage the lawn at all…..especially if you have a good balance of design elements.

Designing gardens for dog owners

If you feel that your dog is ruining the garden, we can help.  Tapestry Design Studios know all about dogs and their antics and we have lots of ideas that will give you a beautiful garden where you’ll enjoy spending time with your pets.

Call us today on 01206 580520

Or visit our website for inspiration


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