Dogs love the backyard, especially when you, their favorite human, are there to play and interact with them. By making your backyard dog-friendly, you and your dog will want to spend even more time together in this fun space. 

Creating dog-friendly backyard landscape gardens and adding special features to keep your dog safe and comfortable is easy. And especially important for outdoor dogs. These projects can be as simple or as complex as your time and budget allow. Let’s explore how to ensure that your outdoor space is perfect for your backyard-loving pooch.

Choose a dog-friendly backyard ground cover

Your backyard is probably covered in lawn grass, which is typical of most homes. However, you may end up seeing brown spots that appear where your dog urinates.  One way to prevent these brown spots is to rinse the grass with water shortly after your pooch does their business. Alternatively, you may be able to train your dog to urinate in just one area of your backyard, creating a backyard dog potty area and leaving the remainder of the yard clean and green. Or you might choose to replace your lawn with one of these green ground covers for a dog-friendly backyard:

  • Durable grass blends: Depending where you live, you could reseed your backyard with hardier grass varieties such as buffalo grass or Kentucky bluegrass, which can stand up to heavy use.
  • Artificial turf for dogs: Installed properly, artificial turf is a low-maintenance ground cover that will not turn brown where your dog urinates. You also don’t need to mow or weed artificial turf, so you’ll have more time to play with your dog! As a bonus, artificial turf may prevent your dog from digging. 
  • Clover: As most homeowners are aware, clover is a very robust plant. Clover’s toughness allows it to easily stand up to dog urine without turning brown. Plus, clover is safe for your dog to eat. Clover may be a good choice as a ground cover for a backyard dog potty area.

If you’re willing to give up some of your green space, think about covering all or part of your yard with one of these no-grass, dog-friendly landscaping options:

  • Mulch: Mulch is a dog-friendly backyard grass replacement and is inexpensive. Avoid cocoa mulch, which is toxic if ingested by dogs. Wood chips are another dog-friendly alternative and are less likely to be tracked out of your garden beds than shredded mulch.
  • Rock or gravel lawn: When selecting dog-friendly backyard landscaping rocks to replace part of your lawn, choose the right sized stones to accommodate your dog’s paw size. Tiny stones, such as pea gravel, may get wedged between the paw pads of large dogs. Avoid very dark rocks, which can get hot in warm weather. Stay away from jagged stones, too – smooth rocks, such as river rocks, are best for your dog’s tootsies.

Dog friendly backyard landscaping ideas

  • Keep your backyard dog-friendly and safe by avoiding toxic plants: Many common backyard landscaping plants, including azaleas, lilies, hydrangeas, and yew shrubs are dangerous for dogs to eat. Some plants can cause nausea, vomiting, or even death if ingested. The ASPCA maintains a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants that can guide your dog-friendly backyard garden choices.
  • Skip the expensive plants: There’s no need to spend lots of money on special dog-friendly plants. Many easy-to-grow garden staples such as sunflowers, ferns, and impatiens are dog-friendly options for your landscape beds. Just purchase a few inexpensive seed packets and you’ll be on your way to an attractive outdoor space that is completely dog-friendly!
  • Try some dog-friendly alternatives to mulch in your backyard flower and vegetable garden beds: If your dog visits your flower and vegetable beds and flings the mulch all over the yard, you might try stones as a ground cover in those beds, or simply put your prize plantings in large pots for a stunning floral display. Chunky wood chips may be a better choice than shredded bark mulch if you decide to stick with mulch in your backyard landscape beds. A short fence around your flower and vegetable beds may be enough to keep your pooch, as well as other wildlife, out of these beds.
  • Use fertilizers and weed-killers with care: If you apply fertilizer or weed-suppressors to your lawn or landscape beds, be sure to follow the directions on the package carefully. For safety, keep your dog off the lawn for a few days until the fertilizer is watered in or it until rains.  Or, switch to organic or pet-safe fertilizers for a dog-friendly option. 
brown dog close up with wooden fence in the background

Fences for dog-friendly backyards

  • Install the right fence for your dog-friendly backyard: Dogs need plenty of space to run and a safe place to play off-leash. A fence is a must to keep your dog safely inside your dog-friendly backyard. The type of fence doesn’t matter – it can be plain or fancy, but its main job is to keep your dog inside, so select a fence type that you can easily maintain. Choose a fence that matches your landscaping, or opt for an electric or invisible fence. 
  • If your dog is an escape artist, check out our 5 tips to stop your dog from running away from your backyard.
  • Put a small window in your fence to create a more dog-friendly backyard: If you have a solid fence, your dog probably gets super excited and barks when a neighbor walks past your yard. That’s because your pooch wants to see what’s happening on the other side of the fence! It might help to install a small Plexiglas window in your solid fence. Place the window at a height that will allow your dog to see outside. This small addition will make your backyard even more dog-friendly!
  • Fence all or part of your dog-friendly backyard: If your backyard is small, you might fence the entire yard to give your dog enough space for active play. If your backyard is large, fence just a portion of the yard for your dog. This way, you can build more elaborate landscaping and vegetable beds in the remainder of the yard without worrying about your dog digging them up.
  • Use the Tractive GPS Dog Tracker‘s Virtual Fence feature for extra protection and security in case of a runaway dog.
Tractive GPS Virtual Fence tutorial infographic

Discover Dog Trackers

Add these features for the ultimate dog-friendly backyard

Install a sandbox for digging 

Digging, and digging some more, is a behavior that dogs naturally engage in. But who wants holes in the middle of the backyard? To redirect your dog from digging in your yard, think about making a sandbox to create a dog-friendly backyard. Scoop out a large hole and set a child’s plastic swimming pool into the hole, so the top of the pool is level with the grass. Place some of your dog’s favorite toys at the bottom of the pool. Fill with play sand and let your doggie dig to their heart’s content! 

If your dog is constantly digging, this could be a sign of boredom or loneliness. Engage in active play with your dog often, take them on long walks, or let them hang out with you as you work in the backyard. They’ll be too tired to dig after all this activity!

If you already have holes in your dog-friendly backyard courtesy of your furry friend, fill the holes with soil and place a layer of chicken wire an inch or two below the surface level of your yard. Place a section of sod or spread a layer of fine dirt on top of the chicken wire, then sprinkle grass seed on top of the soil. Water the sod or seed daily for a few days until the grass becomes established. The buried chicken wire is an effective solution for preventing new holes in the center of your yard or along the base of a fence. 

Create patrol paths for your dog

Dogs are hardwired to patrol their territory, namely, your dog-friendly backyard. Dogs will usually patrol the perimeter of the yard, right at the base of your fence. You can’t stop your dog from patrolling, so adapt your yard to your dog’s behavior patterns. Wherever your dog has worn away the grass and created dirt paths, lay down mulch or stone along this patrol route. This will make your dog-friendly backyard more attractive, and also reduce the likelihood of muddy paws from rainy-day patrols.

Place a paw-washing station by the back door

If you are concerned about muddy paw prints when your dog comes back inside after playing in your dog-friendly backyard, create a paw-washing station near your back door.  Before you bring your dog inside, just dip your pooch’s paw in a bowl of water, wipe with a wet cloth, and dry with a fluffy towel. To minimize muddy paws, keep the fur on your dog’s paws trimmed short.    

Have a water feature

Water is a must for your dog-friendly backyard, even if it’s just a sturdy bowl filled with fresh water every day. If you have a water-loving pooch, try setting out a child’s hard-sided swimming pool and fill with water (Inflatable pools are likely to get punctured by your dog’s toenails!). Even better, install a fountain or stream that features moving water! Your dog will be attracted to this deluxe dog-friendly backyard amenity, and be content to lie near the cooling water in hot weather. For safety, just be sure that the water feature has sloping sides or a ramp, rather than steep sides, so your dog can easily get out of the water if they climb or fall in. 

Add a warm-weather flop spot

In warm weather, your dog will naturally try to cool off. Panting will only help so much! Many animals, including dogs, dig into the soil to reveal the cool dirt underneath, then lie in it. (If your dog digs a lot of holes or messes with your landscaping, maybe this is what they are trying to do!) 

To accommodate your dog’s natural urge to lie in cool dirt, create an open dirt pit just for your dog. Or, dampen the sand in the above-mentioned sandbox and watch your dog sprawl in it on a hot day. Sand can be shaken or brushed off more easily than dirt, so consider where your dog sleeps at night before deciding on how to fill your dog-friendly flop spot. 

Provide a shelter

If your dog spends lots of time outside in your dog-friendly backyard all year long, a shelter is essential. At a minimum, you’ll need to figure out a way to create shade and protection from the elements. If you have a tall tree, the tree’s shade is an ideal cooling spot for your dog to get out of the sun. A tarp strung between two trees or posts will provide shade plus shelter from rain. A doghouse, ideally with a little covered front porch, is a perfect all-season hangout for your doggie. It can be used in winter to help your pooch stay warm, or in summer to provide a shady spot to rest and observe all the activity in your dog-friendly backyard. 

small dog running outside on the grass

A place to play outdoors

Play is a wonderful way for you and your dog to build a bond while having fun and getting exercise. Spice up playtime by including agility training rings and tunnels, or create an obstacle course for your dog-friendly backyard. These advanced play tools are also ideal for daily training sessions and will help to tire out your active outdoor-loving dog.

You can also track your dog’s fitness and activity level (not to mention location) with a GPS and activity tracker for dogs.

Dog training helps to develop trust between you and your dog, and is the key to a successful relationship with your pooch. You can train your dog yourself, using videos or books as a guide, or check into obedience training classes offered at your local animal shelter. You’ll be glad you did. 

Enjoy spending time with your dog in your dog-friendly backyard

By creating a dog-friendly backyard and trying some of these backyard landscaping ideas, you’ll keep your outdoor space attractive while your furry friend enjoys exercise, comfort, and safety. That adds up to a happy and healthy dog! Your dog will thank you by showing their devotion as you hang out together in your dog-friendly backyard.