By Jan White
We spend a lot of time designing a beautiful and relaxing space for our human family. But did you know that you can also create a friendly, welcoming space for that other important family member – your canine friend!
According to the ASPCA, 23 million households in America welcomed a new pet into their family during the pandemic. People have been using their backyards more recently for everything from working and entertaining to vacationing and working out. For dogs, this backyard business is “old hat.” But there are ways you can improve the yard to include some special areas for your “best friend” to enjoy.
“No one loves the family yard as much as the family dog,” notes Kris Kiser, President of the TurfMutt Foundation, an organization that advocates for the care for and use of green spaces, as well as pet rescue. “It’s my rescue dog, Mulligan’s, favorite place to be, so I do everything I can to make it safe and enjoyable for her, which ultimately makes it better for me, too.” Kiser and Mulligan have some advice for creating a dream yard for your pets and the whole family this summer.
Plant Real Grass - Plastic grass is uncomfortable on paws (and bare feet), gets very hot during the summer, is challenging to clean, and is worse for the environment since it requires water for cleaning and usually can’t be recycled. The bottom line: natural grass is the best option for pets, people, and the environment.
Select the Right Plants & Grasses - Choose a turf grass that will withstand your pet’s “ruff” housing. Buffalo and Bermuda grasses can be a good choice, depending on your climate zone. For other plants and shrubs, check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants for advice before planting. You’ll want soft, sturdy foliage near walkways. Save delicate, decorative flowers for elevated flowerbeds and patio pots. Pro tip: place plants close together in areas you want to designate as off-limits to your dog to create boundaries.
Consider Pollinators & Other Wildlife - Nature starts in your backyard, which provides habitat and food for birds, butterflies, bees, and more. Each of these species helps pollinate food crops and flowering plants, so consider them when selecting plants for your backyard.
Plan for Fun - Add a splash pool, build a sandbox for digging, or create a canine obstacle course to provide hours of fun. After a day of play, your dog will need a place to relax, so think of where you can plant trees or bushes that provide shade for snoozing.