pet landscaping questions

threegoodreasonsJune 3, 2009

We have a decent sized back yard that gets lots of sun until about five o clock. Right now it is completely over run with poo , weeds, and dark dirt. We are having the yard cleaned, and since our 3 dogs will be using it daily we assume that we cannot plant grass. My daughter's trampoline is also back there, so we are looking for kid/pet friendly ideas. We have access to both bark mulch and gravel, and I was wondering which is easier to scoop waste from, and would retain less bacteria. They run straight from the yard into our living area and the mud (and God knows what's mixed in) gets tracked all over, especially in the summer when it rains. Ideas anyone?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It sounds to me like you should consider separating the kids part of the yard from the dog part if the kids are small. And arrange the dog part/train your dogs so that you have a chance to stop them and wipe off their feet before they run into the house. Most important, with three dogs you need to be cleaning waste from the yard at least once a day, if not more frequently. What kind of dogs are they? We only have one dog now (used to have 2 but the Golden died at 15 a few years ago.) but we dog-sit a lot so often have 2 or 3 dogs here. We don't have kids though... We have lawn, extensive gardens and bark paths. There is a patio and porch before coming into the house. When conditions are wet, the dogs wait on the porch until we dry off their feet before they are allowed into the house. Poo is picked up daily.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 9:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm dealing with a project with three dogs right now.Their biggest problem is digging. Rather than just keeping mud out, we are shooting for a nicer aesthetically pleasing back yard that can also be used for entertaining while still serving as the dogs enclosure.

We took the approach that you have to choose your battles. Rather than trying to take over the whole space, we opted to make part of the hard very difficult to dig up and go nuts while providing an alternative area that is easier to wreak havoc.

The lawn was a mess, partly due to the fact that it was early spring and policing the area for turds was less a priority over the winter, but a lot was from dogs digging - including digging out two nice thundercloud plums from out in the lawn. Phase one was to try to mix hardscape and grass in order to have green that the dogs can't wreck. The design included two 6'x6'x2' dry stacked stone planters for two trees and a patio of 18"x 18" bluestone flagging with 6" grass joints.

There was some residual digging between the stones, but that seems to have ended. The raised planters are still getting dug up.

Just last night, the homeowner brought home a half ton of 3" river rock to see if that keeps the hounds at bay. If that works we will be able to add understory plants since the dogs don't mess with the plants other than digging up the roots.

The rest of the lawn is expected to take some abuse, but we are also going to provide a sand area to see if the dogs find it easier to dig and focus their activities there.

This high use dog area design is new to me. I'm only experimenting and don't know the answers. I'm very eager to hear about success stories.

I'm very impressed with this homeowner. He did this on his own from my verbal discription before he even received my design proposal. The grass ifs further along now.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

laag - I really like that stone patio! Are the dogs terriers of some sort? Those seem to be the worst/most persistent diggers. My BIL has Airedales. Their first one was a lovely dog but he excavated HUGE holes in their sandy back yard. He'd go 3-4' deep and wide. For some reason he never dug in our backyard which had heavier clay soil so the sandy area might appeal. I think the other key factor in digging is that it provides an outlet for excess energy. I think one of the factors that kept Hughie from digging in our backyard was that we took him for LOTS of walks. When we went to BIL's, Hughie would run and get his leash and present us with it! There's nothing you can do about that aspect - other than making sure the dogs have lots of places to run. The path system we have here is well used by the dogs to play chase and burn off excess energy. Our regular Border Collie visitor races around the paths with his feet barely hitting the ground! He leaps over garden beds to switch from the inner ring of paths to the outer one. He does no damage to any plants as he just soars over them - it's pretty amazing to see him go! A network of paths would be a great addition to a dog-friendly garden. The raised bed isn't going to be a deterrant to a determined digger but the distraction of exercise and places to explore - dogs seem to love sniffing along paths... - will help ease the digging pressure I think.

Here's a view of some of the dogs in our dog pack. The border collie is the black one by the chairs; the little beast guarding the door is the only one that is ours, the rest are visitors.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 8:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Another few thoughts laag.... The hedge along the fence - dogs seem to have a deep need to patrol their territory. If there is space between the hedge and the fence, that would be one of their favorite places to run/pace. Where possible, when there are dogs to consider, move the hedge out from the fence a bit to allow room for the dogs to patrol. I have paths running along the north and south fences, with the garden beds on the inside. The west fence (rear of the property) has the garden on the fence side but with a path running close by with another bed on the other side of the path. There are also two places along the way where the dogs can get right up to the fence (so they can greet/socialize with the Golden that lives behind us! There's less barking involved if they can get close enough to sniff noses and greet each other properly). All the fences are black chainlink here. That's what was already here on two sides so that's what we used when we fenced the third side. I would like to replace them all with more ornamental aluminium fake-iron ones instead but we would still have chose open fencing for a variety of reasons, including the dogs' needs to survey the territory.

The garden bed in the SW corner is 'the wet corner' bed - it's pretty much a bog in the spring although it dries out later. There's a 6" tall cheapo ornamental iron fence around that bed - it's a psychological barrier more than a real one. The dogs rarely ever go into that bed, preferring to stay on the (dryer) path that runs between it and the oak garden. If you give them an interesting, stimulating environment to explore and protect, a lot of problems disappear.

Dogs also seem to like having high ground to lay on to survey their domain. I wouldn't be surprised if those raised tree beds become favorite resting ground - a nice shady spot and high ground to boot! Some sort of level stone, spaced to allow moisture in to the tree roots, might be the best solution to the top of those beds - sort of a mini patio for the dogs! They'd probably think an observation platform would be a fair exchange for a digging spot....

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

woodyoak's point about the "hidden" path is a good one and fits in with thinking outside the box as for garden maintenance. We so often think about putting the garden right up against the fence or the lot line or other perimeter and then approaching the garden only from the front, but there are neat designs with the key access along the back and hidden by the shrubbery. So with the dog designs, that fits in with laag's don't beat 'em, join 'em approach, so that a flower bed or shrub border fronts or camoflages the dog run behind it. Of couse that works primarly with the area behind is of key interest to the dogs, such as woodyoak's example of an important perimeter.

You could search for some very good prior threads on dog-friendly design--included the idea of a dog mountain, which the dog ran up to survey the territory--became the dog magnet instead of the flower bed.

Also agree that with small kids, you aren't likely to avoid poop mishaps unless you have at least one DMZ where you can let the kids play without first having to patrol for all poop each and every time they go out the back door.

I would be interested in other ideas about the direction or path the dogs take when leaving the back door (exploding out the back door) --so it seems easier to identify the dogs' natural trajectory, and/or alter that if you can with both negative and positive elements, but then create an alternate human path and train humans to take it--large humans in particular having higher learning curve after stepping in poop.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All good stuff.

They are Border Collies and a Norwegian Elkhound, who is innocent.

The fence hides a mafia block wall and the hedge hides the fence - all pre-existing and not being undone. Running the perimeter does not appear to be a big issue, although I find it odd that it is not. Its all about excavation with these two.

Threegoodreasons, do you have any thought about any strategies? Maybe some hard surface to dropsome of the mud before coming indoors. Sometimes you can reduce wear on the lawn with something like a small patio or low rail-less deck that allows the dogs to come & go over a broad area rather than at a single point. That was partof the checker block patio strategy above.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 9:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sherwood Botsford(3a)


Don't landscape your border collies.

1. They won't stay still long enough for grading.
2. They are awful foundations for hardscape.
3. They will reset it.

As a side effect, the border collies will try to herd the landscape workers. You may find them all backed into a corner with nip marks on their shins.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 11:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

A border collie that digs - or otherwise causes problems - is a borded border collie in need of action! Liam often comes here as a day visitor so he can play with our little dog, go for walks with us and run off steam on the paths in the backyard. When he's spent too many days home alone, the kitchen garbage ends up spread around the kitchen floor... He's a well loved dog at home that gets lots of walks, is an active participant in flyball, is involved in search and rescue activities and regular training just to keep him occupied. But it's not enough! He's a wonderful, intellegent, obedient dog but bored = trouble and he gets bored easily, especially on days his 'parents' are working and he's alone. I'll bet your client's dogs are the same.

If the hedge can't be moved, try putting a path on the inside with a bed to the inside of that. In other words, create something like my rings of paths with an inner and outer ring and connecting cross-paths. How big is the lot? With three dogs, two of them border collies, they can exercise themselves a lot if the set-up encourages them by giving them an interesting place to run. Do the dogs participate in flyball? Putting flyball jumps etc. - or some more ornamental obstacles - across the paths would make it more fun for them when they run.

Once the paths are in place, it's easy to teach them to run them if they haven't figured it out on their own. Once they know the path system, all you need to do is sort of crouch down in the 'ready, set'...' position and pretend you're going to chase them. They will recognize that as play time about to begin and go racing off. Once one starts to run, the others will give chase and exercise happens... :-) If they slow down, pretend to chase again and away they go again. That works for all the high energy dogs that visit here - and requires much less exertion on the part of the humans while the dogs will exercise themselves into panting exhaustion! Walkies etc. are still very much necessary for variety and social time but a good exercise set-up in the backyard will go a long way to relieve bored digging. The rings of paths also effectively make the yard bigger for them because it gives them a longer stretch of places to check for scents etc. Use lots of shrubs or taller plants in beds so they can't see everything at once and have to walk - or run - the paths to make sure there's nothing happening that requries their attention!

Is there an appropriate place in the fence or gates to put in a couple of peek-a-boo panels? i.e. some spaces where they can see out so they can see what is going on in the wider world and feel less confined?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 8:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Be sure to give them a wall to walk on :)

Seriously, I agree with most, if not all, of what woodyoak has said. We have two large dogs (have had three at a time) and have learned that compatibility of dogs and landscaping requires 1) accommodations in the landscaping to satisfy the needs of the dogs and 2) training of the dogs to protect the landscaping.

As examples, our dogs are trained to stay out of flower beds. It's simple, there is an edging and every time they cross the edging they are corrected. They figure it out quickly (except the big black guy above who is a bit slow). However, there is one bed that I absolutely could not keep them out of. It's in the path they follow to chase squirrels. So the solution was to allow for a path through that bed.

I also agree about the fence line (or edge of the yard line). In our previous home we had a fence surrounding a rather normal sized yard. We put in a two foot sand "running path" along the fence. It worked beautifully, it kept the dogs from killing the grass and it gave them a place to run. An added benefit was no weed-whacking required at the fence!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 11:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

yeahh I agree with sherwood_botsford, Don't landscape your border collies.. good luck mate

Here is a link that might be useful: Easy Gardening or landscaping

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 12:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here we go again. You have got to realize that I can't re-design other people and how they live. Part of design is to work with what you are given to work with. Dog ownership and how much space is designated to them is part of the program that is given to me by the client. If the opportunity to alter that is requested of me it would be different. It would be extremely unprofessional for me to go there, not to mention just plain bad judgement. I've been around long enough to know that anything to do with people and their dogs is off limits. You just have to accept the program that the client outlines and stay in bounds when it comes to their dogs.

Again, I'm going to have to yank the picture because we are criticizing the people I'm working for rather than focusing on the physical aspect of the situation. Choices and lifestyle affect the result and these are all good points, but I can't put these people in the position of getting personally criticized. It is unintentional and not malicious, but I have to protect my professionalism by not subjecting them to comments. There is no problem with subjecting the site to comments, just not the people. I know that it is hard to make that separation.

The program is that the dogs have a limited space that they are ALWAYS allowed to go into that is safe and secure. This is not their entire existence. There are physical features of the site which makes expansion of that space somewhat prohibitive. In other words, these are the cards that are dealt and I have to work with that hand.
1. The dogs are going to want to dig.
2. The hedge, fence, & wall are not going anywhere.
3. The enclosure is only 2500 SF and you can pull a 100' tape out straight in it at one point (there is no perimeter to run, in other words).

What physical site solutions can minimize the damage to key areas?

I'm going to have to accept that posting pictures of client's properties is not a good idea.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Gosh, laag, I am sorry. Truly. I have looked back through these posts and am not certain exactly which comments you are reacting to, but I do feel very badly that it has turned out this way.

I think one problem with this thread is that it started with one poster's question, then that poster apparently disappeared, and so the focus turned more to your client. I also suspect that because it is your client, you are much more sensitive (rightly so) to comments that even might possibly be taken the wrong way than the rest of us are.

Again, sorry for any role I may have played.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 8:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

laag - we're talking at cross-purposes here! There was no criticism intended of either the client or their property -or their dog management. I interpreted your question in a more general sense - i.e. why do dogs dig and what can you do about it? And my suggestions were meant in the general sense of what you can do in a garden to accomodate the needs of a dog. If you have a client with a dog (or dogs) that they are obviously attached to, what I was trying to suggest is ways to arrange the garden that would satisfy basic needs of the dogs - whether the client puts that in their request to you or not! If you are aware of what dogs need, you may be able to work that into the design without the client being aware of it - but it would increase their pleasure in the outcome if their dog(s) are happier in the yard. My garden accomodates the needs of the dogs and the people. It is not obvious that this is a garden for the dog; it works for both humans and canines because the needs of both species were considered and addressed in the overall context of a garden.

You're a creative sort of guy from what I've seen of your comments here. I'm sure you could find very attractive solutions to making a space that satisfies the needs of both the humans and canines on the property! The stone patio, for instance, was very attractive and you indicated that it seemed to discourage digging - so the logical extension to me from both an aesthetic point of view and the dogs need view is to make the top surface of those raised beds a mirror of the larger patio. And when you understand that dogs like high ground as a viewing point, it makes doubly good sense to turn the surface of those beds into viewing platforms for the dogs. It's harder for them to dig the large flat stones and they are much more likely to use them as an observation and resting platform in the shade.

My last comments above were suggesting alternatives that don't involve moving the hedge, fence or wall. The dogs will be less inclined to dig if the space addresses their needs in an interesting way. I - and others - was trying to educate you on what some of those needs are! In 2500 sq.ft. there is going to be a perimeter; dogs will patrol it. I assume you're not a dog owner (?) and/or you find it hard to think like a dog? :-)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 8:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Threegoodreasons et al,

My biggest concern has always been salt burns to the lawn and the running dog taking out divouts of grass during high speed manuevers. The doggie landmines issue or digging is not one that I see very often.

I tried a novel approach to keeping the grass looking somewhat neat from the dog's turning and burning across it. I buried just below the soil level, a gridded plastic snow fencing material. It has been effective in providing engineering stabiltiyt to the lawn and from keeping the dogs digging claws from tearing up the grass.

The salt burn issue is on-going. but grass is easily repaired with seed and it's tendancy to fill in gaps.

Another approach I have used is to install 2 foot high landscaping fences from the big-box stores. I put these around the flower beds (temporarilY). They provide a barrier to running, isolate the areas, but still allow human enjoyment of the areas.

Let us know how your situation turns out.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 6:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No problem at all with your comments. They are certainly on target with getting to the solution and very significant to the discussion. The problem is with me putting other people's situation up to discussion. I don't mean to sound like anyone is out of line other than me.

The discussion needs that information. My particular limitations on my project (again, the discussion should go beyond just my project and threegoodreasons, so don't curb your comments) will keep MY solutions restricted to physical alterations within that space.

There are many people out there that need all of the different factors that can influence dog impact.

Thanks for the input. I just wanted to explain why I took down the photo. It has no negative reflection on anyone other than me for posting windows into other people's lives which unfortunately goes along with posting the physical features.

You are quite right that the situation and corrective measures go beyond the physical.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

laag, you mentioned creating a dirty-foot-cleaning zone with the pavers and maybe decking. Don Aslett, clutter and cleaning author, is a big proponent of matting on both sides of entryways. Of course, one hope is that humans will "wipe" their feet, but his approach includes using large areas of matting just for the increased physical contact with the rough surface, and opportunities for shoe dirt to come off on the mat and not in the house. So maybe there are more "matting" opportunities. Industrial matting is available, but there are innovations in indoor-outdoor rugs that are more attractive. That does not address the landscape digging; only the interior home maintenance with indoor-outdoor dogs.

I like the sandpit idea and maybe actually putting something there for them to dig up so they run there to look--although I don't know dog psychology and whether that makes them say, Hmm, I wonder what else Master has buried in other areas? Like an Easter egg hunt!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Laag in this case, I dont think posting picture was a problem. You got two types of comments some tongue-in-cheek ones on border collies once you identified the breeds for me and comments that were offering practical general suggestions that may or may not have been useful in the specific situation of your client. The tongue-in-cheek comments are easily ignored as light entertainment. As has been said many times before in this forum, responses sometimes address the silent audience as much as the posted issue; I think this was one of those times when the broader audience was being addressed as well. I think we needed that brief glimpse of the clients property and the information on the breeds to have a chance to include recommendations that might be more directly relevant to your client. For instance the reason I asked for the breed information is that it is very relevant to the digging issue. If the dogs were an earth dog breeds (e.g. terriers of some sort) they have a bred-in instinct to dig because they were bred to hunt critters that live underground. A Border Collie, on the other hand, was bred to work in open space and rough terrain. Both will dig in a domestic scene because of boredom but it is a lot harder to redirect an earth dog from digging because they will dig at a lower level of frustration and dig more intently because of their instinctual drive to dig. A Border Collie is much easier to distract from digging because theyd really rather be doing something else anyway!

I had insomnia last night and I occupied my time by thinking about what I would do to create a satisfactory environment for the dogs that would also be compatible with an attractive garden if as appears may be the case I was allocating 2500 sq. ft. to a dog run/compound. So, in the hopes that some of this might be useful to either you or lurkers, heres what Id do and why:

Im assuming fairly level terrain and dont know what direction the run would face so it would have to be customized for the specifics of the site.

If there is a pool on the property, Id use the same style of fence to fence the dog compound. If theres not a pool, Id still select a fence style that might be used if the client later added a pool to the property.

Im assuming the 2500 sq.ft. is a 50x50 space or 60x40 or something in that range although the 100 tape measure comment makes me think that its something long and narrow. If its possible to reconfigure that into something more square or rectangular, that would be better but the basics of the comments that follow could easily be adapted to a long narrow space. In a squarer compound, Id put in a ~30" wide perimeter path at the fence. (It could be narrower but 30" is more comfortable for the humans doing poo patrol!) I use a mix of 2/3 pine bark mulch and 1/3 concrete sand. That packs down nicely, is easy to rake out skid marks and launch grooves and looks natural in the garden. If stone of some sort is the desired material, I wait a year until you know exactly where the dogs are travelling and then lay the permanent path there.

In a squarer compound, it would be possible to do the nested rings of paths but just as easy to do diagonal cross-paths to divide the space into 4 equal triangles. The paths should turn the corners in broad curves so the dogs dont have to slow down to make the turns. In a long narrow space, Id just put the perimeter path think racetrack. (The stone patio in the picture was a strong geometric element so something geometric in the dog compound would seem a compatible fit with that.)

With 4 quadrants in a squarer location, Id have 4 different zones:

One would have a pile of large, flat rocks at the apex (i.e. the space nearest the center of the dog compound) and lawn in the rest of the space. This quadrant should be one that faces the part of the property where most of the family action occurs. The rock pile would provide that high ground viewing spot the dogs need and allow them to watch and feel part of the family action on the rest of the property. A grass surface is the favorite bathroom spot so providing the lawn area will make clean-up easier by having most of what needs to be cleaned up in one area! If possible, Id pick limestone for the rocks spreading horticultural lime on grass helps neutralize the urine so having runoff from limestone might be some small help in addressing that issue. Frequent watering to dilute the urine and convert it from grass-killing acid to grass-promoting high nitrogen fertilizer also helps. (Flooding the area with water immediately after a female dog pees what sex are these ones? is the most effective thing but unrealistic for most people to do consistently) So, if there is an irrigation system in the nearby lawn, extend it into this part of the dog compound. The dogs will need water so, ideally, a hose bib in the compound would be useful for both watering the dogs and the garden in the compound. In a long narrow space, Id still allocate ΒΌ to grass and a rock pile facing the activity area of the rest of the property. Note that the rocks should be away from the fence to keep the dogs from jumping from them over the fence!

Another quadrant would be allocated to a shade tree ideally an existing one so the shade is immediate! Underplant it with a vigorous groundcover not an evergreen one! One that dies to the ground will make it easy, in spring and fall at least, to see what might need cleaning up. (I use a running tiarella in one place and Sweet Woodruff elsewhere.) Fill in the rest of the space under the tree with smaller shrubs and tough perennials suitable for the conditions under the tree. A long, narrow space should have a good shade tree as well.

The other two quadrants Id plant with one dominant large deciduous shrub in each, with groundcover etc. as in the tree quadrant. The shrubs should be big, arching, tough ones. In the heat of the summer, dogs will seek the cool shade under a shrub and dig a sleeping-den. They dig to seek the cool moist soil. So you need something that creates a large canopy to the ground and that will survive rough treatment. This is not the place for delicate finicky shrubs what you want is tough old reliables. Deciduous allows more air movement than the thick, dense cover of evergreens. In my garden Bridalwreath Spirea and Beautybush (Kolkwitzia) are the shrubs of choice for the dogs and are ornamental in the garden as well.

Outside the compound is the place where the evergreens come into play especially on the west side to shield the area from sun. In concert with the shade tree in the compound, some tall evergreens will help keep the compound cooler.

To add interest to the paths when the dogs are using them as racetracks, Id put a few large logs across the paths to give them something to jump over! To see a Border Collie in a soaring leap is to see an expression of pure joy in movement!

A dog compound like this would be attractive to the human viewer and provide a stimulating environment for the dogs that meets most of their deepest needs. If they are still inclined to dig, the plant material should be tough enough to survive.

Id bring the human part of the garden up to and around the dog compound. That would keep the dogs from being isolated and, since the dog compound should be quite attractive, it would look like just a secluded element in the overall garden. Whether the compound is squarer or long and narrow, I think you can incorporate the basics of what I am talking about within the shape.

Pardon the long-winded post! I hope some parts of it at least will be useful to someone!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 11:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The red line is about 100', if you are curious.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 9:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Thanks - that looks quite different than I was visualizing form the verbal comment about limiting the dogs to a certain space with 100' as a measurement!

From what I remember of the picture I got the impression that it was trees in the planters - it's roses? - or did the client change his/her mind and plant trees instead? (Roses certainly aren't going to be a shrub that the dogs are apt to lay under so the observation platform aspect of those planters wouldn't likely happen with roses in them. I prefer the idea of small ornamental trees in the planters - would work better for the dogs and be nice for the patio too!)

How do you/they intend to keep the dogs in that zone? Not, I hope, by using those dreadful 'invisible fence' collars?! If the dogs must be confined to this area - and it looks like a good sized area - I'd be inclined to give them the whole area including the deck and the patio, by putting an ornamental iron fence from the house, across the path, to the fence on the perimeter. A nice iron arbour - with a gate - over the path portion would make a nice feature I think as well as serving to confine the dogs. (Looking closer, I think I see an indication of a fence where I was thinking one was needed... If so, give the dogs the whole area. Is this a relatively new property for them? Are the dogs going through adjustment to a new home? If the stone patio has deflected some of their interest/ability in digging and some of the suggestion below are added, I think the problems are likely to either go away completely of tail off to periodic episodes that can be adressed by using the 'pretend to chase' method to get the dogs to exercise themselves if they are bored and need to blow off steam from time to time! I would encourage the dogs owers to learn the chase cues and do regular 'chases' as preventative activity to blow off any accumulating need for a greater level of activity. It's a great technique to learn because it allows someone who is either not interested or not able, for whatever reason, to exercise the dogs in other ways to ensure the dogs are getting vigorous exercise. I know.... that's not the kind of information your client expects you to provide... :-) but, if the oportunity to slip it in to the conversation comes up......)

Do the trees on the neighbour's property provide shade? (where is north...?) If not, shade is something the dogs need that is missing. From my long commentary above, the sleeping den under arching shrubs concept is something I think would/should be fitted in to the area - I'd be inclined to put one (or both if they'd fit - there's 3 dogs to provide for....) of the spirea and beautybush in the corner against the fence across the sand area. I suspect the sand area will not be much used if the dogs have free run of that whole area and have shady spots to snooze and elevated spots to keep and eye on things.

I would guess that they would wear a track along the hedge - behind it too if there is any room at all for them to fit between the trees and the fence. Does the grass go right up to the hedge or is there a bed and/or mulch at the base - i.e. if the dogs pace/run along the hedge, is that going to bother anything/anyone?

If the dogs are running around in that area, the equivalent of the log obstacles I was talking about could be anything placed along the edge of the patio - planter boxes or a low bench or two would do. Border collies seem to love to do incredibly graceful flying leaps over things when they are in a full, joyous flight of a flat-out run! It would be a shame to deprive them of the opportunity to do that - and to deprive their owners of the pleasure of watching them do it!

I think you and your client are well on the way to solving the digging issue and the dogs should be able to have that whole space for free movement.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 9:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Some random thought while walking the dogs this morning... most of this is nattering so not quite as relevant as the above comments :-)

I just finished reading a book about Ellen Biddle Shipman and the gardens she developed in the 19-teens to 1940s. A lot of her clients were women and often she was brought in to modify gardens that had been originally designed by a male LA whose gardens were not flowery enough for the female clients! One of the things Shipman was known for was her big flowery gardens.

If this garden was for me, I'd want more flowers! That hedge would be a perfect backdrop for a flowery shrub-dominated border. Put a narrow path between the hedge and the border for dog and maintenance access and edge the front with stones that match the patio - that would provive the barrier that prairie love referred to. The big 'sleeping den' shrubs put at the sand end could anchor that side and then bring the border around to join up with the bed that you see the beginning of at the end of the hedge. The shape would be a bit tricky - need to allow room for a path where the patio comes close to the hedge. A bed like that would enhance the dogs' patrol experience and provide shady sleeping spots for them as well as add more flowers if your client is a woman with the same desires as Ellen Shipman's clients :-)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 11:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think we lost the OP a long time ago. I hope (s)he did not feel hijacked.

The plan above is basically an existing condition with the exception of the rugosa roses which were tentatively proposed under the existing thundecloud plums (as a digging deterent with color). Since this sketch, the homeowner is experimenting with 3" river rock which should be darn hard to dig. The patio and tree planters are about a month old.

This enclosed area and the dogs within it have been there for 6 years. There is barberry hedges along the deck and the 'L'of the house which they stay the heck away from. They have full freedom of the deck, the new patio, and the rest of the enclosure. The semi-circular edge is a 4-5' retaining wall (mafia block, as it is often called) cut into the hillside beyond with a 6' fence and arborvitae hedge screening the wall. There are fence returns at both ends of the red line (odd path of fence on left is due to the dogs ability to climb a portion of stone wall). A smaller proposed fence is shown with an opening which will separate a proposed sand area from the rest of the space with a 3'opening.

It is understood that the grass is going to be pretty well abused. Neither the homeowners or I are trying to make this pristine. They love their dogs and want them to enjoy some activity. We are just trying to beautify it within that context. The patio and planters made a huge difference. Now you have something that your mind goes into and the grass beyond is far less important visually.

If the 3" river rock deters the dogs enough, there will be Japanese Garden Juniper and Ruby Returns Daylily in the planters rather than the rugosa roses.

This is pretty much what we have settled on, but I offer this up for anyone who enjoys pondering such things as well as to learn things from others. I know it is fun for all of us to solve problems all of us get something out of it. I hope some have fun with it.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 8:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

wow, what a bevy of info. I am going to take some pics to show with more detail what I am talking about. I spent a few hours scooping the other day, while doing so, I tried to take mental notes about the yard, where the dogs frequent their poo , what grows there, etc. I was planning on digging a hole to bury a trash can in as a pet waste, digester, but the ground was packed too hard and riddled with rocks and roots. It seems like it's scooping and putting in the garbage, which is disappointing. I was instructed not to put it in our compost pile because of diseases. Anyhow, we are a little challenged as far as sectioning off the yard because of where the trampoline is, and where the back gate is. once again, I will add a photo. I have decided to spread cedar mulch over the half of the yard where the tramp and gate are, and my husband wants to sod the other half, which I don't agree with since there is no way to sect it off from dogs while it takes root. Since the sod would be on the half where our door that leads to the yard is, that means lots of watering, and mud. No good. We are however ready to disassemble the back deck which is falling apart, and put in it's place some concrete steps and a landing, which is a decent area to wipe paws. But we are open to other suggestions which could be even better for keeping their paws clean.
I am still curious about the gravel vs mulch issue . One thing that concerns me is how much material will eventually be lost in the scooping process, and how to minimize the amount of poo that will be left behind, even after scooping. I am really hoping for other suggestions for different materials and methods of keeping it clean.
Also, I never answered the question about my dogs. we have 3 males, the oldest is 12 yr 50 lb Treeing Walker Coonhound, he has been known to dig and escape, which has decreased with age, but g
He is a major barker, and pees and poos close to the house and door. Next is our yellow lab, 80 lbS,11 years old. He has skin issues, and gets skin infections from rolling in a certain sandy And dirty spot right in the middle of the yard. Last is a 3 yr 25 lb mini pin daschund mix. He always has to pee exactly where the others do. And often ends up peeing ON the hound dog, he tries to get that close. He also has been marking in the house. Sorry for the novelette! Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 5:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I'm not personally familiar with the coonhound breed and haven't had a lot of experience with scenthound types - other than the beagle that bit my little dog and has attacked most of the dogs and few of the people in the neighbourhood! I'd guess though, given his age, and the age of the Lab, elderly dog issues are more relevant than breed-specific issues at this point. Your concern re ability to pick up poo completely leads me to wonder if one or more of the dogs have too soft poos? Are the older two dogs on senior diet food? It's a heck of a lot easier to clean up well if the dogs are on good quality age-appropriate food so the poo is firm! If, as is usually the case, the dogs have a particular area of the yard that they have decided is their bathroom spot, that makes it a bit easier to keep the children's play stuff in a different area. Keep all area's cleaned up daily if possible though or the dogs may decide to move their bathroom around! Is the dirty spot you refer to a bathroom area or dirty for some other reason?

The introduction of the young dog undoubtedly has been raising pack heirarchy/dominance issues. The mini pin peeing over the other dogs scent is clearly saying he is aiming for top dog status :- ) Is the Lab perhaps rolling in scent marking of the mini pin?

The concrete near the door for paw drying etc. is a good idea - make it big enough for all three to mill about and walk off some of the dirt. If it's too small they will wander off and get dirty again. A hose bib there is a good idea too for hosing down the concrete - or the dogs if they are really dirty!

I'd vote for grass too. If it's sod you're laying, it won't be as messy to establish as seeding for grass. If the concrete is coming along shortly, a temporary increase in damp feet to dry off shouldn't be too much of a hassle. Don't let them in the house all at once - let one in, grab its collar as it comes through the door, wipe the feet, let it go and process the next one....

I don't like gravel at all - too much of a hassle getting into the grass and garden etc. Our backyard is a mix of grass and bark mulch paths. With healthy dogs on a good diet producing solid poos, there's little left behind on clean-up and not much mulch picked up with it (we use a decicated garden trowel as the pick up tool; it is hosed off after use...) Poo goes out in the regular garbage here too - the 'gray bins' have not been added to the blue and green ones here yet. A tightly sealed garbage container is necessary because regular garbage pick up is every two weeks here. I use one of those Diaper Genie things - make sure you use the thicker toddler strength bags! - it is a handy thing to use to help reduce the potential for odor problems.

I'm sure many people reading all this are a bit grossed-out! :-)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 8:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hey you guys,
I don't know what the lot looks like exactly but did anybody consider putting in a dog run? I have one in my very small back yard. It runs along the east side of the house from the front of the house to the back fence, and I have put a gate in it near the back door. It is rectangular in shape, about 30 ft long and 13 ft wide. It's large enough for two dog houses to sit side by side with plenty of room to run. Our lot is less than 1/4 acre, so I know it's possible on a larger lot. Most of the run is not visible from the backyard. I have planted a vine on the side of the fence facing our side of the yard to make it more aesthetic to us and have left the side facing the neighbors lot open so they can run the fence line to their hearts content, dig all the holes they want, and it isn't this unsightly thing in my yard. Just a suggestion...

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 7:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dlmill(5 CO)

This really isn't for the OP or laag, but I thought someone else might be dealing with dog issues and it's one area I might be able to contribute something meaningful after getting so much help on these forums for my gardening.

I second what woodyoak said about diet. A good high-quality food (first few ingredients are meats, no corn, etc.) will greatly reduce the amount of poo and make the poo not soft. I have one dog that only poos once a day. The other dog goes twice. I pick up the yard every two to three days. And yeah, I know it's a little gross, but one of the best ways to pick up poo is to use a plastic bag as a glove. Easier to get everything up than using one of those dog-poo-scooper things. Of course, it takes a lot more bending over, so that might not be an option for an older person.

On the subject of a turf for dogs, please consider that some dogs can get bone spurs, calluses, or other problems if they lay on concrete or another hard surface for too long. I've not lost any landscaping rock or wood mulch when scooping, although maybe with a small gravel that would be a problem. My dogs are usually on grass, and although they've worn a few paths in the lawn, it seems to work out alright.

On the subject of digging, most dogs dig for one of two reasons: 1. they are trying to get to something (a mouse, bonemeal used in a flower garden, etc.) or 2. they are trying to have a job to do. If your dog is digging because he is hunting, you'll have to get rid of whatever he is hunting. If your dog seems to be digging just to dig, consider giving your dog a job to do. Most dog breeds were bred for a function (hunting, guarding, herding, etc.). They get bored and/or don't feel satisfied if they don't have a job to do, which can lead to digging. Daily walks can help. Obedience training helps. Also having lots of people-time helps. If the dog is digging out of bordom, and that is taken away, it could lead to other unwanted behaviors (barking, chewing, even aggression). Remember that for a dog, digging is very satisfying and lots of fun. Consider giving your dog a small area where he is allowed to dig. I did this for one of my dogs. I encouraged her to dig in the proper area by playing in the dirt there with her. When she dug in an unacceptable area, I verbally corrected her ("no dig") and, if needed, physically blocked her from where she was digging. Consistency from me and no more holes in the lawn.

Of course, this is overlooking dogs that are digging to escape the yard, which is a completely different thing.

Just some things to think about when having dog issues in a yard. Hopefully this is helpful to someone. Please forgive me if not much of it is directly related to landscape design.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi there-we have 3 dogs in a rather small yard (tract home). One dog is over 100 lbs, then a lab and then border collie mix. We have had this bunch of dogs for 9 years.

Please dont pen the dogs off-they need to be with family.

Digging- I live where it is hot in the summer-my dogs dig nice cool spots in the summer. I found hosing down a section (under a wisteria vine) keeps them cool during the day when I am at work.

A small deck works great to get most of the mud and whatever else they pick up. Also they do love to sleep on it. For really big holes and around the fence use chicken wire. For the fence-step on the chicken wire in the middle, staple top half to fence, bury bottom half.

What works in my yard: (hold on to your hats) I grew virginia creeper and honeysuckle on my back cement fence. The dogs can't kill it, it grows about 1-2 feet on the ground in front of the fence, they make lovely paths thru it. I just chop it back with a firm hand. In front of that I grow roses, hydrangeas etc. I also have a grass area and a pea gravel area.

We raised our kids with 3 dogs before this pack-australian shep, golden and cocker mix, They had certain trees and bushes they liked. They need shade and damp places to get away from the heat. (and pretend they are in a den in the wild)

Of course what they like best is sleeping on top of our bed with the a/c going-which is where they are now. Good luck to you!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 3:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For the mud an outdoor rug works great. you need something big enough so the dog has to take at least three or four steps on it before he gets to the house. I think my next dog is going to be a walker CH. I've had a red bone and a red tick. The walker has such a classic look I've always wanted one. Believe it or not dogs can be trained to go poop in a certain area. Of course not everyone wants to go to The time (and expense) of training their dogs that well.

Keeping The grass taller helps keep those ruts in check. Figuring out what they are after would help keep them from digging as well.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 6:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All dogs need running type exercise every day. They need to dig to find a cool spot to lie down. Patrolling is a need for most dogs. Some dogs need to see everything (patrol) from the highest spot. Bordom results in chewing, digging and many other destructive habits. Most of these habits can be trained out, but require persistence and consistency, if you give them what they need...a place to run, to patrol and to lie in the cool shade. Laags ideas seem great, but without some dog training, all is for naught. Dogs want to do what you want them to do, if they know what that is, and it doesn't go too much against the grain, which is where training and landscape design meet.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 2:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi dog and lawn lovers,

In March 2010 I noticed the ground in our dog yard thawing and the mud once again coming in the house with my two dogs, 6yr old 90 lb. Lab and 1.5yr old 35 lb. Coonhound/Lab. The previous spring/summer/fall was a nightmare with our little Coonhound digging after scents and trying to escape to chase all the wildlife.

I promised myself I would not go through the mud and muck again. I spent some time searching for advice from other dog owners and landscapers. I dont need a "landscaped" back yard as the trees and wetlands beyond our 40x40 fenced in dog yard are naturally beautiful. I just wanted the dog yard to be lush and grassy.

As others have mentioned I had total mud from dogs running along the chain link fence line and my scent hound digging in certain areas of the lawn. My goals were to restore the grass and prevent most of the digging. I had no budget above just normal grass renovation with seed. Also, I really wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible.

By listening to others solutions, I came up with what was perfect for our yard. I used gift card rewards from one of my credit cards for a home improvement store. I bought 3ft galvanized garden fencing and laid it on the ground along the inside of the fence line. It was very simple to hook it onto the bottom of the chain link fence. I then attached some 4ft plastic green garden fence about 1 ft up the chain link fence.

Next, I planted an eco-friendly low growing grass alternative seed in a 2ft wide path over the galvanized fencing along the chain link fence and covered the seed with seed matting. I buried the free ends of both garden fences under 8ft landscape timbers on the edge of the seed bed. The green plastic fencing protected the seed bed long enough to start the seeds.

I was so amazed and relieved to see the grass grow and no mud along the fence line at all. The dogs soon realized that their digging would get them nowhere. The grass grew in lush by mid June with only the April/May rains- no additional watering. It worked so well that I reused the plastic green garden fencing to add another path along the inside of the first.

In additional, there are fewer little critters inside the fence because they realized that even if they could get in they probably couldnt get out before my dogs got to them. This greatly reduced the scents my Coonhound was interested in.

I mow at a high setting right over the landscape timbers and the grass covered fencing.

In addition to the seed I planted, I spent about $100 dollars in materials and 3 or 4 days work to achieve all my goals. I plan to over seed this fall to maintain the lush green carpet.

Hope this is useful to others. I really appreciate all I learned from everyone contributing to the posts.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 11:48AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Need landscaping ideas
Hi, we just built this house on a junior acre in zone...
Landscape Advice Needed | New Homeowners
We just purchased our first home in the southeast and...
Sarah Bain
quick screen
I'm zone 7 and the spot is full sun. I had a 12' photinia...
Mary Bright
New construction landscaping
I am looking for any suggestions for low maintenance...
Help for shade
I need some advice . I have recently moved into a house...
Chris Cousineau
Sponsored Products
Small Hanging Glass Garden Globe
$9.99 | zulily
Dogit Flying Disc - 72156
$12.99 | Hayneedle
Andros Medium Traditional Urn Planter
$125.00 | Horchow
Sergeants Pet Care Products Calming Cat Collar - 0865-0731
$28.99 | Hayneedle
Eclipse Path Light by Kichler
$96.00 | Lumens
Walker Sectional - Cordova Picante Orange
Joybird Furniture
Clear Fridge & Freezer Extra-Wide Bin
$9.99 | zulily
Shires Equestrian Mouth French Link Training Bit - 6203-5
$39.99 | Hayneedle
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™