Sooner or later, every gardener will engage in a battle to protect their prized seedlings from the curious snouts, paws, and claws of domestic (and wild) dogs. The softness of newly turned soil is an invitation for digging and a very easy target for curious dogs exploring for scents so subtle that only their sensitive snout can recognize them. The tenderness of new growth and the sweetness of sun-ripened fruit is also a tempting invitation for a myriad of dogs. Free lunch for all! As an added bonus, just like a fast-food joint, it comes with a playground.
Pet owners and gardeners searching for the magic potion and “fix-it-all” for this problem often wonder how to keep a dog out of a garden bed. Their goal is to find a solution that will protect the tender shoots of their rhubarb, their sweet & juicy strawberries, and their fragile and rare plants they acquired by trading seeds with a fellow gardener living in New Zealand.
As a vet and a lover of all living creatures, my first priority is the welfare of your dog; therefore, their safety becomes primary in making any recommendation for protecting your edible gardens from your dog. My favorite methods and the ones I have found through experience to be highly effective often are also the most affordable.
1. Dogs Don’t Like Spicy Stuff – Keeping Dogs Out of the Garden Using Spices
Yucky means different things to animals than what it means to us. A few years ago while visiting a friend in Iowa I was introduced to the “deli solution.” Here comes the mustard! Mix equal amounts of powdered mustard with crushed dried peppers.
Disperse the mixture around your bed and voila! This method works well in drier climates as rain will reduce the potency and you will have to do another application.
2. Dogs Don’t Like Bitter Stuff – Keeping Dogs Out of the Garden With Coffee & Oranges
And neither do I! My favorite bitter dog deterrent came as a recommendation of a friend who lives in a tropical area with endless rain and a magnificent supply of freshly roasted coffee. This solution consists of dissolving bitter orange on used coffee grinds. Bitter orange is oil-heavy and resists rain far better than pepper and mustard. As an added bonus, coffee grinds are an awesome fertilizer for your garden.
3. Dogs Don’t Like to Get Poked – Setting Up Barriers to Keep Dogs Out of the Garden
I have found this method to be particularly effective when it comes to stubborn diggers like rat terriers and beagles. Dogs are fast learners and hate poky stuff. Each year in early spring I prune several rose bushes. Instead of mulching, I cut the branches into 1-foot (0.5 m.) long sticks and surround my flower beds with the spiky twigs.
4. Dogs Don’t Like Other Critters – Using Animal Decoys to Stop Dogs from Getting into the Garden
My favorite solution for nightly visitors, bunnies, coons, and the friendly neighborhood Great Dane comes in the form of Solar Brite Eyes. This awesome device consists of two red LED lights, which light only at night and mimic the hungry and ferocious eyes of a predator. Get one for less than $20 or build your own by purchasing red LED lights, a mini solar panel, and a sensor. Ingenuity at its best!
5. Dogs Don’t Like Showers – Keeping Dogs Out of the Garden With Water
And neither do my teenage kids! If you are lucky enough to have a sweet sprinkler system, this is perhaps my favorite method to show all other creatures who is the queen of the garden. Contech and Havahart make awesome motion-activated sprinklers. As a value-add, it is a total hoot to watch our pup run scared out of her pants when the sprinkler gets her.
You are likely to find hundreds of ways to engage in this endless battle. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. As you get ready for a new growing season, always seek the least invasive and most natural solution first.