The spring and summer months are wonderful times of the year for you if you’re a keen gardener. However, as the changing seasons see birds, insects, and wildlife returning to the garden, your dog wants to get in on the act, too!
Unfortunately, your dog’s intentions are not generally helpful. Their digging, chewing or rampaging around can wreak havoc on your flower beds and carefully tended lawns. So, we’ve compiled this list of helpful tips and tricks to help you keep Fido out of your flowerbeds.
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Training or Punishment?
First of all, we want to emphasize that using any form of physical punishment to keep your dog off your garden won’t work.
Hitting your dog or yelling at him will only make your dog afraid and wary of you. Your pet simply won’t associate his punishment with his enjoyment of playing in your garden, and you run the risk of alienating your beloved furry friend altogether.
So, the key to keeping your dog out of your garden is to teach him that running riot is not acceptable. There are a few more physical methods that you can use, too, and we have outlined those in this article.
Why Do Dogs Enjoy Ruining Your Garden?
The first thing to understand is that your dog doesn’t set out to deliberately destroy your garden just to spite you! There are reasons why your dog behaves in the way he does, and understanding those behaviors can help you find a solution.
Dogs have an extremely good sense of smell. Veterinary research shows that your dog’s olfactory senses are up to 40 percent better than yours. So, although you may be able to detect the lovely new aroma of freshly excavated dirt, your dog will be able to detect hundreds of distinct odors in each forkful you dig.
Well, dogs are pack animals. In the wild environment, every pack has a leader or Alpha. The Alpha dictates when and where the pack will search for food and take shelter. The pack members will copy the Alpha’s behavior, and your dog is no different, which is why dogs will often copy their owners.
So, if you go out into your garden and begin digging or pulling up plants, it’s only natural for your dog to do the same. Unfortunately, your dog doesn’t know the difference between dead plants and newly planted bedding!
Although dogs are primarily carnivores, they enjoy eating some fruits and veggies. Young dogs and puppies that are still teething will often begin chewing or biting your plants, sometimes to eat the plant but more often just to use your prized petunias and pansies as toys!
So, if you have a puppy or a dog that tends to chew plants, be very careful to check that anything new you’re planting is not toxic to dogs.
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Whereas cats will dig to bury their feces in your flower beds, dogs will often choose one particular spot and shamelessly pee and poop there right out in the open. That’s not the kind of surprise you want to find when you go to tend to your borders!
Also, dog pee can burn and kill grass, quickly scorching and ruining a lawn.
What’s The Solution?
Now that you’ve identified the problems your dog can cause and why they happen, you’ll need to know what you can do to prevent these behavioral issues from spoiling your garden.
Build A Run
If you have the space in your garden, you could build a fenced run for your dog. That will provide your pet with the opportunity to spend time outside without spoiling your grass and flower beds.
Be sure to include a good quality covered dog crate in the run so that your dog can find shelter and shade when he needs to.
Create A Digging Spot
Dogs are curious creatures, and they are often full of energy, too. So, a nosey dog with energy to burn will often use digging to satisfy its mental and physical needs. Unfortunately, that usually means that your lawn or flower beds get dug up and destroyed.
However, by creating a designated digging area in your garden, you can give your dog what he needs with no damage to your flowerbeds or grass. Choose a shady spot away from the rest of your display beds so as not to ruin your view. Ideally, you want to enclose the area so that the soil doesn’t end up everywhere, and a child’s sandbox can be perfect for the purpose. Keep the soil moist but not wet or too dry and dusty.
To help your dog to get the idea, try burying treats in the special digging area or hiding a chew toy for your pet to find.
Build A Fence!
Yes, it sounds obvious, but building a fence can be a very effective way of keeping dogs out of your garden. There are plenty of options to be considered when it comes to fencing. However, the nature of the fence you build will depend mainly on where the dog is getting into the garden and your personal taste.
If your problem is with the garden to the front of your home that faces the street, then a solid wood or metal fence is your best bet. However, you’ll also need to consider the size of the dogs entering your garden and make sure that the fence is high enough to keep out the interlopers.
If you’re not too concerned about the look of the fence and you just want it to keep your dog off your veg patch, chicken wire can do the job. However, you can make a feature of the fencing and choose a white picket-style fence if you want to. Depending on the look you want to create, a metal or bamboo fence can also look very effective.
Of course, if you have a small dog that can’t jump very high, a modest fence will most likely do the job. However, if the furry offender is a large breed or one that’s particularly spring-heeled, you’ll need to make the fence high enough to stop the dog from leaping right over it.
If you don’t want to obstruct your view of your garden with a high fence, you might want to try using an electric fence instead.
Now, that might sound like a rather dramatic way of keeping dogs out of your garden. However, an electric fence won’t harm your dog, merely giving the dog a mild static shock provided by an electric fence charger. Most dogs will very quickly learn that entering your flowerbeds will result in a nasty shock, and that’s usually all it takes to deter the furry felon.
Electric fences can be placed either below or above ground. The above-ground version will be visible to the onlooker, but the wires that carry the power and form the fence are quite fine, and the plastic posts used to support the wires can be hidden among your plants.
Underground fences are not visible at all, which will be the best option for you if you want to keep dogs off your lawn and away from your flowerbeds, too. The dog needs to wear a unique receiver collar for an underground fence to work. As soon as the dog breaches the fence line, he gets a sharp shock. To teach the dog where the no-go area is, you need to place a row of flags along the border.
The main issue with that system is that you need to replace the batteries in the dog’s receiver collar periodically. Also, some dogs become too frightened to venture out into the garden at all, just in case they get shocked. That can lead to problems indoors with toileting accidents or destructive behaviors born out of frustration.
Plant Natural Barriers
If you don’t want to look out on a fence, you could create a natural barrier. Natural barriers can be made using roses, holly, or some other plant with stiff, thorny branches that will discourage border raiders.
Not everyone wants a thick hedge growing around their flowerbeds, but you can still use clippings of prickly branches and twigs to do the job. Try planting the sticks amongst your plants to deter your dog from exploring.
Digging and wantonly destroying plants is usually a sign of boredom in dogs.
Making sure that your pup gets lots of daily exercises and providing your dog with plenty of toys can help to distract him from wrecking your garden. Try setting up a toy bin outside in your garden so that your dog can help himself to his favorite toys when he wants to rather than chewing up your flowers.
Use Dog-Unfriendly Scents
As previously mentioned, dogs have incredibly sensitive noses, and garden smells can be extremely attractive to your pup. But that cuts both ways! You can use scents that your dog hates to help keep him off your garden.
Try scattering coffee grounds, citrus peel, cayenne pepper, powdered mustard, and chili pepper around areas where you don’t want your dog to go. Pepper is incredibly irritating to your dog, making his eyes water and offending his nose, too, and a liberal sprinkling of the stuff will undoubtedly deter your dog. Coffee grounds not only make an excellent dog repellant, but they also work as a natural fertilizer for your plants as an additional bonus.
Low-acidity, horticultural grade vinegar can be highly effective in repelling your dog from certain areas in your garden. Vinegar also repels wild animals, including rabbits that might fancy nibbling on tender plants in your veg patch. However, vinegar can damage your plants, so take care to guard against any overspray.
Of course, always check that whatever deterrent you’re planning on using isn’t harmful to your dog.
As well as taking the DIY anti-dog scent route, you can use commercially produced dog-repellant sprays.
Take a trip to your local DIY store or garden center and wander down the pest control aisle. Here you’ll find a vast range of pet repellant products that are designed to keep animals away from your flowerbeds and grass. These products use natural aromatic scents that dogs hate, such as pepper, cinnamon, citrus, and peppermint.
As well as being quite expensive to buy, pet repellants tend not to work for very long, especially if the weather is very humid or rainy. That means you’ll need to reapply the product pretty frequently, and that’s going to be expensive in the long run. However, you can buy dog repellant products made from water-resistant gel crystals. These products gradually break down, giving off the repellant scent as they do so.
Supervise Your Dog
If you’re concerned that your dog might damage your garden, always make sure that you’re there to keep an eye on him while he’s outside. Puppies, especially, should be closely supervised in the garden until they are trained not to destroy your plants or dig in the flowerbeds.
Most gardeners own a sprinkler system, and you can use yours to keep your dog off your flower beds, as well as to water your plants.
Although some dogs don’t mind an impromptu shower, most hate the idea of getting sprayed with water. By carefully positioning a sprinkler, you can convince your dog that there are better ways to entertain himself than digging in your flowerbeds.
However, if you have a thick-coated breed, keep in mind that your dog might be trying to cool down if he heads for the sprinkler every time you turn it on.
Your dog’s sense of hearing is just as good as his sense of smell, and you can use that to your advantage in the war against canine garden invasions.
You can also buy ultrasonic pest repellent sound systems that use LED lights. The great thing about these devices is that they are very effective at chasing off cats, raccoons, possums, and other vermin that you don’t want in your garden. Ultrasonic pest repellant systems can also work pretty well in keeping dogs off your garden, and that can be handy if you have problems with strays getting onto your property.
The main disadvantage of ultrasonic devices is that they also tend to scare off garden birds.
Most dogs are intelligent enough to be trained that it’s not okay to enter certain areas of your garden. Training is generally the most effective way of keeping your dog off your flowerbeds, and the results are often more effective than using chemical deterrents or building fences. With systematic, patient training, you can train your pet to avoid particular parts of your garden, especially if you use toys and games alongside your training.
When teaching your dog anything new, always use positive reinforcement training, and never resort to physical punishment or yelling at your dog. When your pet does the right thing and stays in parts of your garden that he’s allowed to go into, reward your dog with treats and shower him with praise.
If the dog wanders into your flowerbeds or begins to soil your lawn, use a clear, sharp cue, such as “Get Off!” As soon as the dog complies, praise him for getting it right.
Of course, not all dogs are easy to train, and if you have problems, you might want to consider hiring a professional dog trainer to help you.
If your dog invasion problems are caused by strays getting into your garden under cover of darkness, you might want to try using scare tactics to frighten them away. Animal decoys can be extremely helpful in that.
Most dogs, cats, and wild creatures are pretty easily spooked, and a scary device that looks like a dangerous nighttime predator can often do the trick. You can buy simple devices online that use two red lights to mimic the shining eyes of a strange creature. If you’re good at DIY, you can make your own glaring monster from a small solar panel and a sensor.
All you need to do is hide the creature in your border in a spot where visiting dogs like to dig or use it as a potty spot.
While you’re sound asleep in bed at night, your monster will awake and glare menacingly at any approaching dogs, cats, or feral creatures, sending them running to safety. Of course, if you have an incredibly bold dog, this deterrent might not work as effectively.
If you’re a keen gardener, the last thing you need are dogs invading your garden and running riot through your flowerbeds or peeing all over your carefully tended lawn.
You can use physical deterrents to keep hounds at bay, including erecting a wooden or metal fence, using an underground electric fence, or natural planting. Scent and sound deterrents can work, too.
However, the most successful and long-lasting way of keeping dogs out of your garden is to patiently train your dog that your garden is a no-go area.