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Creating a Dog-Friendly Garden: Plants, Safety, and Play Spaces | Pupford

March 14th, 2024

Filed under Lifestyle + Stories

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Gardens are often considered extensions of our homes, providing us with a tranquil space to relax and enjoy nature.

But for pup parents, gardens can be more than just a personal oasis – they can be a haven for our beloved pups as well. Creating a dog-friendly garden requires careful planning to ensure it's a safe and enjoyable space for both humans and their canine companions.

In this blog post, we'll explore various elements of designing a dog-friendly garden, including suitable plants, safety considerations, and play spaces.

Table of Contents:

  1. Understanding Your Dog’s Needs
  2. Choosing Dog-Safe Plants
  3. Creating Safe Spaces
  4. Designing Play Spaces

Understanding Your Dog's Needs

Before diving into the specifics of designing a dog-friendly garden, it's essential to understand your dog's needs and behaviors. Different breeds have different requirements, so consider factors such as size, energy levels, and any specific health issues your dog may have.

Some dogs love to dig, while others enjoy lounging in the sun or chasing after toys. Tailoring your garden design to accommodate these preferences will ensure that your furry friend feels right at home.

a photo of a Great Pyranese in a garden

Choosing Dog-Safe Plants

One of the most critical aspects of creating a dog-friendly garden is selecting plants that are safe for your canine companion. Many common garden plants are toxic to dogs if ingested, so it's essential to do your research before planting anything. Some examples of dog-safe plants include:

Dog-Safe Plants

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

These vibrant flowers are not only safe for dogs but also add a cheerful touch to your garden. Their large blooms and tall stems make them a visually striking addition.

a photo of a yellow lab in a sunflower field

Herbs such as Basil, Rosemary, and Mint

These aromatic herbs are not only safe for dogs but can also have health benefits for them. Basil, rosemary, and mint can be grown in pots or garden beds and are great for adding flavor to your cooking while providing safe nibbling options for your furry friend.

Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)

Marigolds are colorful, easy-to-grow flowers that are safe for dogs. They are also known for their ability to repel certain garden pests, making them a practical addition to your garden.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)

These cheerful flowers come in a variety of colors and are safe for dogs. They add vertical interest to your garden with their tall flower spikes and can be grown in beds or containers.

Apple Trees (Malus domestica)

Apple trees provide shade and produce safe fruits for dogs. However, avoid feeding them the seeds or core, as they contain cyanide compounds.

Pear Trees (Pyrus spp.)

Pear trees are safe for dogs, and ripe pears can be a tasty and healthy treat.

Blueberry Bushes (Vaccinium spp.)

Both the berries and the bushes themselves are safe for dogs. Blueberry bushes are a fantastic addition to your garden, providing delicious and nutritious treats for both humans and canines alike.

Learn more about all the health benefits of blueberries!

Here is a list of some plants that are not safe for dogs that you will want to be sure to steer clear of:

Plants Unsafe for Dogs

Lilies (Lilium spp.)

Lilies are highly toxic to dogs, and even more so to cats. Even small ingestions, such as licking pollen off their fur or drinking water from a vase containing lilies, can be fatal to dogs.

Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.)

Azaleas contain toxins called grayanotoxins, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and even coma or death in dogs if ingested. These plants should be avoided in dog-friendly gardens.

Daffodils (Narcissus spp.)

Daffodils contain toxic alkaloids that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even cardiac arrhythmias if ingested by dogs. All parts of the daffodil plant, including the bulbs, are toxic.

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Sago palms are popular ornamental plants, but they are highly toxic to dogs if ingested. Ingestion of any part of the sago palm, including the leaves, seeds, or roots, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure, and potentially death in dogs.

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)

Castor bean plants contain ricin, a highly toxic protein that can cause severe poisoning in dogs if ingested. Symptoms of castor bean poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, drooling, dehydration, and potentially death.

Avocado Trees (Persea americana)

Avocado trees contain persin, which can be toxic to dogs if ingested in large quantities.

Cherry Trees (Prunus spp.)

Cherry trees contain cyanide compounds in their stems, leaves, and pits, which can be harmful to dogs if ingested.

Walnut Trees (Juglans spp.)

Walnut trees produce nuts that can be toxic to dogs and may cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested.

Researching plants and consulting with a veterinarian or horticulturist can help ensure that your garden is filled with beautiful and dog-safe flora.

a photo of a dog yawning by a tree in a garden

Creating Safe Spaces

Safety should be a top priority when designing a dog-friendly garden. Here are some tips to create a safe environment for your canine companion:


A sturdy fence is essential to keep your dog contained within the garden and prevent them from wandering off or getting into trouble. If possible, we recommend fences at least 6-8 feet high.

Related Reading: Dog Fence Fighting - Why Dogs Do It and How to Stop It

a photo of a Jack Russel Terrier by a secure fence

Avoid Toxic Materials

Be mindful of the materials you use in your garden, such as mulch and fertilizers, as some can be toxic to dogs if ingested. Opt for pet-safe alternatives whenever possible.

Secure Hazards

Remove any potential hazards from your garden, such as sharp objects, toxic plants, or small objects that could be swallowed.

Provide Shade and Shelter

Dogs need a comfortable place to rest and seek shelter from the sun or rain, especially as they try to stay cool during hot months. Consider adding a doghouse or shaded area where your pup can relax.

a dog in a dog house in the backyard providing shade and shelter

Designing Play Spaces

In addition to creating a safe environment, it's essential to incorporate play spaces into your dog-friendly garden. Dogs need regular exercise and mental stimulation, so providing them with opportunities to play and explore is crucial for their well-being. Here are some ideas for designing play spaces in your garden:

Agility course

Set up an agility course with obstacles such as tunnels, jumps, and weave poles for your dog to navigate. This not only provides physical exercise but also mental stimulation and helps strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.

Check out our Intro To Dog Sports Course to learn about agility training!

Go Hunt Games

The grass is nature’s snuffle mat! Provide your pup with a nice grassy area to play go-hunt games. Simply toss treats in the grass and let them sniff and forage. You could even do this at meal times with their kibble to double as a slow feeder and provide mental enrichment.

Fetch area

Create a designated area for playing fetch with your dog, using soft toys or balls that won't damage your garden plants.

Digging Pit

If your dog loves to dig, consider creating a designated digging pit filled with sand or soil where they can indulge in this natural behavior without destroying your garden.

Pro Tip: If you do not have the means or place to build a digging pit, use a kiddie pool!

Water Feature

Dogs love playing in water, so consider adding a shallow pond or fountain where your furry friend can splash around and cool off on hot days.

Puppy Jungle Gym

Create a puppy jungle gym using PVC pipes, chain or durable rope, and toys. Simply build a sturdy structure with the PVC pipes and attach the toys! Your puppy can play, pull, and tug to their heart’s content.

Creating a Dog-Friendly Garden Recap

Creating a dog-friendly garden requires careful planning and consideration of your furry friend's needs and behaviors.

By choosing dog-safe plants, creating safe spaces, and designing play areas, you can create a garden that both you and your canine companion will enjoy. With the right design and attention to detail, your garden can become a haven for both humans and dogs alike.


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