A backyard haven for your dog

It’s spring, on the calendar anyway. Here in Michigan we’ve been chomping at  the bit for some warmer weather. Right now we have significantly below average temperatures (like in the 30s during the day and 20s at night), and we’ve had this period of non-stop rain for over a week. Ugh.

But April showers bring May flowers right? Despite this seemingly never-ending chill, everything is greening up and the desire to play outside is strong. After the long winter, the backyard might need a little help to get dog-ready for spring. In fact, how about turning your backyard into a dog haven? How popular would you be! Inspired by a recent Modern Dog magazine article, I compiled several awesome ideas to turn your backyard into a spring and summer haven.

Green Stuff

Let’s face it. The backyard is your dog’s toilet. Some dogs go everywhere, claiming the whole yard as theirs. Or, like Reggie, have one favorite spot they go to every time. In either situation the output can destroy your lawn, or at least leave yellow or brown spots for the season. There are products such as Dogonit that you can put on your lawn, and according to the Modern Dog article you can sprinkle lime or gypsum on the spots to neutralize the acid.

These are all items to solve your issues after they come up. I’m an advocate of resolving the cause not the symptom, so what else can you do? You can plant acid resistant ground cover like clover or hardier grasses like rye and fescues, and train your dog to go in a specific area.

Plant Stuff

Some shrubs, plants, and flowers are toxic to dogs. First, think at their eye level. Do you have a Great Dane or a Min Pin? You might plant something tall if you have a Min Pin, but not a Great Dane. Some common flowers are toxic to dogs and you should just avoid altogether- regardless. They are foxgloves, lily of the valley, and buttercups. For a complete list visit the ASPCA website. Marigolds, pansies, and roses are on the safe list and are a beautiful addition to a backyard garden.

Don’t forget about vegetables! It’s food so don’t think that your dog won’t try and eat it. Onions, garlic, grapes- these are common no-no foods for dogs. Again, be sure to check the ASPCA website for toxic foods and herbs before planting in your backyard.


Plant in raised beds, flower pots, and decorative areas to discourage Fido from the tempting smells and fun dirt. Create a shady spot with trees or foliage for your dog to lay in during hot days, or just a place to get out of the sun. Does your dog dig? A Terrier extrodinaire? Create a mulch bed or sand pit area that is just for them to dig in. Do the follow up! Make sure you positively train and reinforce the notion that this area is theirs and ok for digging- but only there.

Watch the fertilizer. It is absorbed through the paws and can be dangerous for dogs, not to mention whatever the fertilizer is on and they put in their mouths- the grass, mulch, flowers, etc. Choose pet safe, organic fertilizers. The Modern Dog article cited a study by Purdue University veterinary researchers that found that dogs exposed to herbicide treated lawns and gardens increased the risk of bladder cancer four to seven times in Scottish Terriers. The article also notes that this study adds to earlier research conducted by the National Institutes of Health found elevated rates of canine lymphoma in dogs exposed to lawn pesticides. I don’t need anymore convincing.

Fun Stuff

A backyard pool for Reggie

A backyard pool for Reggie

So now the area is safe, and pretty for you too! But what about Fido? Well the two things that Reggie loves to do in the backyard is play ball and go swimming. So let’s build him a pool. Considering what we’re talking about, this is remarkably inexpensive. You can buy bone shaped or paw shaped plastic pools and inset them in the ground. You can make them as fancy (or not) as you want!

I can throw a ball for hours and Reggie will not give up. But this is about Reggie’s backyard. Try this product- it’s an automatic ball thrower. I think I could leave Reggie outside until the batteries run out! Watch this YouTube video of an actual dog using this product- it’s hilarious (and it kind of looks like Reggie!).

Keep a bucket outside for dog toys. Reggie doesn’t have bucket (need to do that!) but he has indoor toys and outdoor toys. When he comes to back door with an outdoor toy in his mouth he drops it before coming in.

This has me inspired to start rehabbing the backyard and making a dog haven for Reggie. I think he’ll enjoy this summer!

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