How to Create The Perfect Dog Friendly Garden

Recent studies carried out by an institute of real estate agents in Athens, Georgia revealed that many people subconsciously design or landscape their gardens to resemble their ancestral habitat of savannah land. Features such as meandering path ways and low foregrounds against raised backgrounds are said to give a comforting effect to inhabitants of and visitors to a property. Take a look round any zoo and you can see that every effort is made within the enclosures to resemble the natural habitats of the animals, and we do it ourselves too, apparently, writes Simon Foden.

Dog Friendly Garden

With that in mind, why not consider designing your garden, yard, balcony or any outdoor space to stimulate the hidden ancestral instincts of your dog? If you are worried that you don't have the tools to start with, there are now online places like where you can read articles to introduce you to growing plants. I mean, with a little and effort during the weekends, the hours you spend to make the garden more pleasing to your furry friends can be quite rewarding. There are a lot of options on of string trimmers to choose from, you can start with that along with basic gardening hand tools easily available on your local hardware shops. There were no poker straight walls, or picket fences in his world, consider how creative and clever landscaping can provide a stimulating, yet attractive and safe outdoor space for all dog owners and their pets.

Colin Elliott, one-time Royal Gardener, has managed garden centres, nurseries and other horticultural companies in both England and France has been on hand over the recent months to answer your gardening questions.

Well-known in the industry as senior tutor for the Institute of Garden Design, he manages the UK gardening section of America Online's internet service and is regularly involved with England's major gardening shows, including Chelsea, Hampton Court and Gardeners' World Live. He has designed over 1000 gardens for The Design & Landscape Centre.

My dog is getting quite old and is having some trouble getting up and down steps in the garden, especially in the winter when it is icy. What would you recommend for someone who wanted to remove the steps for the sake of the dog, but wanted their dog to have access to the whole garden?

Steps are generally the most efficient way of dealing with changes of level. However, if there is a little extra space available, steps can be replaced by ramps. The material used needs to be non-slip: brick cobbles are a good choice as their rough surface and free drainage means that they never seem to become slippery. The alternative is to use a series of very shallow steps.

There are so many types of flower and plant that could be poisonous to my dog, but I love colour in my garden. I don't want to take the risk of having flowers or plants, what other way can I achieve an exciting colour scheme?

Please don’t give up on plants! There are a few that are poisonous, but the majority are not. In garden centres many of the poisonous ones are labelled these days, but if you are using a knowledgeable garden designer, he will know the ones to avoid.

Other ways to introduce colour include: painting wood and stone surfaces, using colourful paving, gravel and walling materials and by lighting effects. Reflections also help and pet-safe water features are another solution.

I have a tiny garden, what can I do to make it look and feel bigger?

We deal with this issue on a daily basis: shapes such as circles help, both in paving and lawns. Arrange things so that you don’t see the whole garden at once, and introduce lines cutting across the narrowest sides. Paving materials should be small, not those huge 3ft x 2ft slabs if you want a small area to look larger. Many visual tricks like these are used by garden designers like ourselves.

I would like to establish a boundary within my garden to keep my dog away from certain areas, but I don't want any walls. What else can I do to achieve this?

You can create hedges in time, but you may need to use a wire fence while the plants establish themselves. If you have a fight on your hands, consider some of the thorny plants like shrub Roses, Berberis, Pyracantha and Holly. If the dog is not so pushy, try something scented: Rosemary hedges keep our Standard Poodle off the herbaceous borders and we all love the scent when she brushes past!

My back garden sits on a very steep slope (rising away from the house) How is the best way to achieve a flat area to put some furniture?

This is such a common problem and I am working on a design that could be your garden! In this case I have used wooden supporting walls to alter the levels and create a flat lawn. In a garden we are building in Hertfordshire at the moment we are building raised beds to support a level patio while in another recent case decking was the answer. I am afraid a steep slope is an expensive thing to remove or work around, so get saving!

I want to have a section in my garden that has gravel, but the stuff gets stuck in between my dogs paw pads. What can I use instead of gravel?

I assume you are using the gravel as a ground covering material? You could substitute it for bark chippings, but if stone is best, use larger pieces: pebbles or flat paddle stones. Another material we occasionally use: crushed stone - very fine material which compacts to a hard surface.

To find out more about how The Design and Landscape centre can help you, visit or call Colin himself on 01438 820450.

More and more people are becoming city dwellers, and many of these people have dogs. City parks and arboretums offer a wide range of areas to socialise and exercise your dog, but on those lazy summer days, you want him to be able to enjoy whatever outdoor space you have as if it were a sprawling green meadow like the one he dreams about chasing rabbits in. Limited space is no reason why your dog shouldn’t be able to enjoy the outdoors, even if you do live in an ultra trendy city pad.

Amir Schlezinger is the managing director and owner of MyLandscapes. He specialises in turning small, urban spaces into trendy, low maintenance areas for city dwellers. He takes roof tops, terraces and compact city gardens and makes them into desirable green spaces to compliment the city living experience for urbanites and their dogs.

You specialise in turning small areas such as roofs and terraces into attractive, stylish and functional outdoor living areas. What is the key to getting the most of out of such a space?

Key to maximising a small space is clarity of space division and stripping down to the bare essentials. Less is more in my gardens and this means more sociable space for all the users: adults, their friends, kids and... dogs.

What sort of materials serve best in a 'low maintenance garden'?

My gardens are low maintenance because the primary surfaces are stone, concrete and wood. These are power jet washed twice a year to revive the appearance and give a safe non-slip grip.

My dog adores going to the forest in the summer to take in all the scents and colours. How would you achieve a perennial summer feel in a small garden?

I use large drifts of 2-3 types of evergreen perennials to give more of a lush feel with colour when appropriate. Mixed with evergreen grasses and ferns - and bulbs - there is always something interesting going on in the borders.

With high terraces comes the concern for large dogs getting too close to the edge. How would make the edge of a terrace attractive to look at but unattractive for a dog?

All the roof terraces have a 1.1m/h boundary, i.e. a handrail (metal, glass, wood or brick) so not an issue for dogs. Usually large containers with big plants can create an illusion of an impenetrable boundary. On split level areas and 2 level penthouses large pots, again or even gates are employed to deter the pets from the edge or the staircases.

What sort of materials make for an easy to clean floor in a roof or terrace garden?

Artificial grass can be very easily hoovered and some of the new products are very good. (This is particularly cost-effective in large areas or if you practice golf...) Porcelain tiles can be very easy to clean and are very tough and the available finishes, colours and shapes are
almost unlimited.

For more information on Amir’s garden designs, visit or give him a call on 020 7485 6464

Peter Baylis from The Artificial Lawn Company Answers Your Questions:

Does the sun fade the colour of the artificial grass?

No, it won't fade with the sun, they are often used in hotter climates than the UK. The grasses come with a full 5 year UV stability guarantee.

If I use garden furniture, will it leave a mark on the turf the same was it does on carpet?

Similar to a carpet ultimately it could crush if left for a long time, but the lawn could easily be brushed up again.

Is the turf highly flammable?

It is plastic and so it will melt. If you use one of the sand filled products the sand will act as a fire retardant. Hot items such as barbeques should not be placed directly onto the surface, or damage may occur.

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