By Lori Verni
Many gardeners are also avid pet lovers. A common dilemma is keeping gardens and lawns in tip-top shape in spite of the family dog! Land mines are definitely not a virtue when it comes to your landscape, but there are steps you can take to enjoy both your pet and your property. Keep reading for tips on managing dogs in the garden.
How to Dog Proof Gardens
While it’s essentially difficult to fully dog proof gardens, you can make them more dog friendly simply by using the following potty training techniques in the garden:
- When nature calls, no doubt dogs will answer, but with a little effort your pet can learn to use a designated area. Begin by choosing a corner of the yard that affords your dog some privacy and is not a main thoroughfare for visitors. Define the area so your dog knows the difference between inside and outside the section. Defining the area can be easily accomplished by using a short wire garden border. The idea is not to fence the dog in but simply to provide a boundary line.
- The next step is to personally leash walk your dog to the area every single time he enters the yard. Follow the same path from your door to the spot and act like you’re there with a purpose. Use a phrase such as “do your business.”
- When your dog eliminates in the section, praise lavishly and then allow free play. This ritual will be accomplished more easily if you adhere to a feeding and watering schedule rather than leaving food available at all times. If your dog eats a full meal at 6 pm, chances are he’ll use the area by 7.
- Another important aspect is obedience training. The more you work on basic commands, the more he’ll respect you and the rules of the yard. Obedience also provides a learning curve so your pet will understand more readily anything you’re teaching. Spaying/neutering is important for many reasons but in this regard can vastly reduce the urge to ‘mark’ on every bush.
- Never correct your dog if he eliminates in another part of the yard during free time. You could end up with a dog who withholds in your presence and ends up having accidents in the house! Remember, it is still outdoors and you can sharpen things up over time.
- After only a few days of walking your dog to the area, he or she will start to lead you there! Soon, you can start to leave your dog off-leash but accompany him to the section. Then, gradually reduce your presence by only walking part of the way but make sure he uses the spot.
With true diligence, most dogs in the garden will use the area independently within about 6 weeks. Be sure to keep it clean at all times and provide some supervision on a regular basis so he doesn’t regress.
Now, if only you could teach him to mow the lawn!
Lori Verni is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Pet Gazette, National K-9 Newsletter, and numerous other publications. A weekly columnist in the Holly Springs Sun, Lori is also a Certified Master Trainer and owner of Best Paw Forward Dog Education in Holly Springs, North Carolina. www.BestPawOnline.com