January 15 2020

A dog friendly backyard has numerous distinct features.  It has a protective boundary that not only prevents escape but prevents uninvited guests from entering; it has an area for physical exercise and mental stimulation; it has a place with plenty of shade for a quiet nap and it is free from dangers such as poisonous plants and sharp objects.  This is a backyard designed with your dog’s health and safety in mind and allows for activities which allow dog and owner to bond.

Below is a list of 9 ways to create a dog friendly back yard that be your canine companion’s outdoor paradise.  


1.  Install a high-quality fence

The two main types of fences are physical and electronic.

There are several types of fences that provide a physical barrier with metal fences, wooden fences and vinyl fences being the most popular for this application.  Most metal fences do not completely block the view from inside or outside the yard (there are options to accomplish this if desired though) and they are very durable and long-lasting with little maintenance.  Some wooden fences completely block the view and offer more privacy and other types do not, but all wooden fences require more maintenance than metal fences.  Vinyl fences are also available in two types, those that completely block the view and those that do not.  Vinyl fences are very durable and long-lasting and require little maintenance.  It is important that you select the right type and height of fence for your breed of dog as some dogs are great at jumping or even climbing over fences.  If you dog will be digging escape tunnels under your fence you should consider adding some type barrier in the ground such as concrete foundation.  Of course, the overall look of your fence will be an important consideration but don’t let aesthetics outweigh function when making your decision, your dog’s safety and the safety of others could be at stake.

There are two main types of electronic fences, invisible and wireless. Invisible fences have a hidden underground wire buried underground around the perimeter of the area to be enclosed.  The wire emits a signal and a collar with a receiver worn by the dog beeps, vibrates and delivers a mild shock as the dog gets closer to the established forbidden distance from the zone boundary.  The wireless is essentially the same system but instead of a buried wire there is an above ground transmitter that emits a signal and establishes the permitted zone.  The same type of collar is worn by the dog and likewise beeps, vibrates and delivers a mild shock as the dog gets closer to the established forbidden distance from the zone boundary. 

Physical barrier type fences offer the best safety and protection from your dog escaping as well as preventing other dogs from entering your yard.  Some types provide a good level of privacy and they are also a deterrent from intruders entering your yard.  I have a cool sign that reads “My Dog Can Make it to the Fence in 2.5 Seconds, Can You?”  Electronic fences will not stop your dog from leaving your yard if sufficiently agitated, there is a point where they will ignore the be beeps and even the shock.  Be aware of these issues when deciding which type of fence is best for your situation.

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2.  Install peaking areas

These little doggie windows are great for wooden or vinyl fences that prevent the dog from seeing the outer world.  Privacy is great but dogs are happier when they can see what is happening on the other side of the fence, especially when there are so many interesting sounds.  These can be completely homemade or you can purchase ready to install products which will make the job a little easier.

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3.  Create a doggie digging Area

Dogs love to dig, some more than others depending on the breed, and will appreciate an area that is designed to allow them to dig as much as they desire.   Dogs dig for different reasons, to find cool dirt underneath in which to take a break from the heat, to bury bones and treasures or to just have fun.  Be sure to use clean fill dirt free of stones or other objects that could injure your canine buddy.  Fill in the holes on a regular basis so the fun can begin again.

 dog digging in cool dirt dog friendly backyard ideas blog photo

4.  Provide a shaded area

Do dogs need access to shade? Very simply  -  Yes, especially in the hotter months!  There should be dedicated areas where your furry friend can find relief from the sun.  A dog house can get very hot so an area that has good air flow but protects from the suns rays is critical.  A simple tarp set up, a lean to or specialized pet umbrella are all great options depending on your situation.  And don’t forget, natural tree shade is great, just be sure there is shade at the right time of day when your dog is enjoying time outside.  A hammock on the beach might not be your backyard but you get the idea.

 dog resting in shade

5.  Have a hydration station

There should be a special place where you keep a bowl of fresh, clean drinking water for your canine companion.  There are so many models on the market from the simple stainless steel water bowl to the more advanced automatic watering bowls and fountains.  Before you by think about material and size, water access type and is a mounted or on the ground bowl best for your location and dog breed.

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6.  Doggie dwelling

In this article we will be discussing outdoor dog houses since these are for the backyard you are designing with your dog in mind.   Your dog’s personal residence should be durable, have a floor that allows water to drain, be easy to clean, be completely weatherproof, have proper insulation depending on the climate in your area and be properly sized for your breed of dog.  Of course, the overall design, including material and color, should match the overall design of your backyard space.  There is a lot to consider when purchasing a dog house so we have written an in depth article covering different types, including different materials.


7.  Keep poisonous plants away

There are many types of plants that are toxic to dogs and should not be present in your backyard, with others that are non-toxic also having serious negative affects on your dog’s health and should be avoided.  Below is a list of 21 common plants that are poisonous to dogs and should be avoided. 

  1. Amaryllis
  2. Apricot, Plum, Peach, Cherry and Apple trees
  3. Autumn Crocus
  4. Azalea
  5. Chrysanthemum
  6. Cyclamen ( Sowbread)
  7. Daffodil
  8. Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane)
  9. Garden Hyacinth
  10. Gardenia (Cape Jasmine)
  11. Geranium
  12. Kalanchoe ( Mother-In-Law plant)
  13. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
  14. Mums (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  15. Oleander
  16. Rhubarb
  17. Sago Palm
  18. Tarragon
  19. Tulip
  20. Winter Cherry
  21. Yucca

The ASPCA has a comprehensive list and we recommend checking this list before you purchase any backyard plants such as annual, biennial and perennial flowers, vines, shrubs and even trees.  Of course, you will also need to be on the lookout for weeds and wild plants that could have negative health consequences for your dog. 


8.  Doggie pool, fountain or misting station

A dog pool, fountain or misting station are all great additions to a doggie paradise.  These will provide much needed relief from heat and help prevent heat stroke and keep your canine companion comfortable.  When purchasing a dog pool, size is very important, be sure to know your dog’s size and read the description very carefully, be sure to consider your dog’s full grown size.

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9.  Choose good landscaping

Hard materials that do not get too hot are great choices, make paths with brick, flagstone or sandstone.  Be sure they are installed properly and are maintained as to avoid sharp edges that could cut into soft pads on your furry buddies’ feet.  Hard dirt is also an excellent choice, this might turn into and extra digging area though so be prepared to fill in and tamp as needed.

Mulch is good option, just be sure to avoid cocoa mulch, it could be poisonous just like chocolate.

It is a good idea to put river rocks or pavers near the edge of fences to discourage digging, just be sure there are not rocks with sharp edges that can hurt your dogs’ feet.

If you have a pool be sure it is fenced off and also has the correct type of stairs so your dog can get out of the pool if she does get in for an unsupervised swim.

If you love vegetables and want to have a garden, try designing a raised platform garden that is difficult to access.

 Final Thoughts

There are a lot of things to consider when designing a dog friendly backyard.  Most importantly keep in my mind your dog’s safety and health, keep her occupied and allow for lots of exploring and digging.  Don't forget this is a space for your dog to have some alone time as well as bond with you.  What special features have you added to your dog friendly backyard?  Let us know in the comments below.

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