Spring is in the air, and if you're new to owning a puppy or dog, he will no doubt be desperate to get out into the fresh air.
If you have a puppy, you will know that they LOVE to explore the world with their mouths, chewing on just about anything within reach. In the garden this can include plastic plant pots (often a firm favourite!), twigs, but also your prized peony or garden furniture. Most dogs also really enjoy digging and this is a natural behaviour for them, and whilst it is hugely entertaining for your dog, you might not be so happy to find your flower or veg bed destroyed!
So what can you do to make your garden safe - for both your plants and your dog?
1. Before you even bring your puppy or rescue home, make sure that you have dog proof fencing. This means checking for and repairing holes, adding chicken wire to the bottoms of wrought iron gates, and depending on the size of your dog, making sure that fences or walls cannot be jumped - some dogs can really jump quite high so you'll need to take this into consideration. Most dog rescue organisations recommend at least 6ft fencing around your entire garden.
It's also a good idea to remind everyone in the family (and any visitors) to make sure that they always close the gate. It is so easy for your dog to sneak out and go exploring the neighbourhood (indeed our old lurcher, Kai, did just that, and was found two streets away!).
2. Keep sheds and greenhouses closed - puppies are very curious about their world and will go exploring wherever possible, so keep them out of areas where there may be chemicals, paint or sharp tools that they could hurt themselves on.
Also think about putting a covering over your pond, if you have a young puppy, so that he can't fall in.
3. If you have areas that you really don't want your dog to dig in (eg the veg patch), think about putting a fence around it. One of my previous dogs, Zorro not only used to dig in the veg patch but also used to eat lots of the veg - peas, tomatoes, strawberries and even sprouts would be gobbled up if I wasn't vigilant - here he is stealing peas before I put a proper fence up!
4. Check whether you have any plants growing that might be toxic to your dog if eaten - this list from the Kennel Club will help you, but some common ones are Lupins, Delphiniums, Ivy, Foxgloves and Daffodil or Tulip bulbs. Having a dog doesn't mean that you can't have these in your garden, but it's worth knowing what might be harmful so that you can either prevent your dog having access, or be vigilant (especially with puppies) in making sure they are not chewing something toxic.
5. It's not all about prevention! If you have the space, you might want to set up a specific area of your garden just for your dog. This could include plants such as lavender, mint and rosemary which your dog will love to smell, logs to clamber over, and a digging pit so that they can have the freedom to express their natural behaviour without getting into trouble. You can hide toys or treats for them, and maybe even include a tunnel for them to run through. This link has some great ideas for a dog enrichment garden.
6. Finally, have fun with your dog in the garden! There's nothing nicer than spending time outdoors with her - dogs love to come and see what you're up to in the veg patch or flower borders (as anyone who watches Gardeners World will know from Monty Don's dogs!) and what could be lovelier than sitting out on a summer's day with your wonderful canine companion by your side?
I hope this article is helpful to you. If you have any good ideas for dog friendly gardens, post them in the comments!