Is it possible for pets and gardens to coexist peacefully? This is an important question for a dog owner to ask. It requires research and careful planning, but you can be a dog owner and a gardener. The dog's health and safety should always be the first consideration when choosing plants and gardening products as some can be toxic or even deadly if eaten by a canine companion.
Use hardscaping--nonplant decor in a landscape--to add interest and beauty to a dog-friendly landscape. The average dog isn't likely to destroy or ingest retaining walls, paths, stone benches and large rocks. Design a retaining wall for your garden around the size and breed of the resident dog. Some smaller breeds, such as the miniature pinscher, have fragile bone structures and must be protected from falls.
Use natural mulch that will not harm a dog if it is ingested. Leaves and woodchips are both eye-pleasing natural options. Read the ingredient list carefully on commercial woodchip mulches. Choose a variety that is free of dyes and weed killers that may harm pets. One advantage woodchips has over leaves is that woodchips are often uncomfortable for dogs to walk on. This, while not hurting the dog, may discourage him from running through or taking up residence in a treasured flower bed.
Perhaps the most important thing to take into consideration when planning a landscape design around a dog is the toxicity of plants. Many commonplace plants in gardens and flower beds are toxic to a variety of animals including dogs. Hosta, for instance, causes nausea and vomiting if a dog ingests it. This is a comparatively mild toxicity compared to the Persian lily, which causes the same symptoms in addition to weakness and seizures. Visit the Cornell University Department of Animal Science website, www.ansci.cornell.edu, for a searchable database of plants toxic to dogs.
Some nontoxic plants dog owners can consider include climbing begonia, baby's tears, coral bells, day lilies, snapdragons and some varieties of daisy, including gerbera, African and blue daisies. Other varieties of daisies are toxic to dogs. Bamboo, on the other hand, adds a Zen-like quality to landscaping without risking canine health and well-being. For shaded areas, consider planting nontoxic ferns such as the asparagus fern and the Boston fern.