As the weather gets warmer, you’re more likely to find your buddy itching to go play outdoors. So with a dog-friendly backyard, you’ll keep both them (and your plants) safe – while also helping them get the exercise and outdoor time they need.

So if you’re looking for some dog-friendly backyard ideas on a budget, look no further. Here’s how to ensure that your outdoor space is safe, comfy, and escape-proofed for your buddy.

Plan ahead for your dog’s toilet breaks

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 pees.

  • One way to prevent these brown spots is to rinse the grass with water shortly after your pooch does their business.
  • Besides, 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.
A dog peeing against the side of a tree

Invest in a ground cover for your backyard

You could also 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.
A man restoring the ground cover of a lawn

Dog-friendly landscaping options

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 is a dog-friendly backyard grass replacement and is inexpensive.

  • Just make sure to 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

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.

  • Avoid 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 paws.

Read more: 8 Best Tips On How To Protect Dog Paws In Snow

A small white dog sitting in a garden full of flat stones

Pick your plants carefully

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: 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!
  • Use fertilizers and weed-killers with care: 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. 

Read more: The Danger Of Snail Bait For Dogs

A dog sitting among flowers in a garden

Invest in a durable fence

Dogs need plenty of space to run and a safe place to play off-leash. Meaning a fence is a must to keep your dog safely inside your dog-friendly backyard.

Read more: 15 Dog Fence Ideas For Your Escape Artist Buddy

A dog sitting behind a garden fence

You could always put a small window in your fence to create a more dog-friendly backyard. (Like a small Plexiglass window.)

Besides, you could also fence all or just part of your backyard.

  • If it’s small, you could 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.

But with that said, setting up a physical fence is expensive, time-consuming, and may not fit every yard

…so why not try a Virtual Fence instead?

No expensive setup or ongoing maintenance required. (Plus you’ll pay a fraction of the cost you would for a physical fence instead.)

Rather, with your trusty Tractive GPS strapped to your dog’s collar, you can now mark a “safe zone” around your backyard – and let your tracker monitor your dog’s location with the help of a sky full of satellites.

Now the minute your dog tries sneaking past this “safe zone”, you’ll get an escape alert on your phone. So you can intervene and prevent them from escaping right away.

Tractive GPS Virtual Fence tutorial infographic

Set Up A Virtual Fence

More features for the ultimate dog-friendly backyard

Install a sandbox for digging 

Digging 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 with some of their favorite toys:

  • 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! 
A dog digging into a sandbox

If your dog is constantly digging, this could be a sign of boredom or loneliness. Keep them busy with regular playtime and walks – or let them hang out with your as you work in the backyard. (They’ll be too tired to dig after.)

Create patrol paths for your dog

Dogs are hardwired to patrol their territory, usually the perimeter of the yard – right at the base of your fence.

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 backyard more attractive, and also reduce the likelihood of muddy paws from rainy-day patrols.

A dog patrolling a backyard

💡 Besides monitoring your dog’s location within a “safe zone”, your trusty Tractive device also logs in your dog’s favorite spots. (Aka, where they like to spend most of their time.)

Which could end up being:

  • Specific areas in your backyard
  • Your neighbors’ backyards (which may include poisonous plants and insecticide)
  • The park a few blocks over (meaning some parts of your fence may need fixing!)

So once you’ve switched on your Tractive Heat Map & Location History, you now have a 24-hour log of where your dog’s been spending most of their time. (365 days on a Premium subscription.)

⚠️ Which, in an emergency – like if they’ve gone missing, means you now know where to look first.

Discover Location History

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, sprinklers, or stream that features moving water.

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.

A dog drinking water from a tap

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. (So if your dog digs a lot of holes or messes with your landscaping, maybe this is what they are trying to do!) 

  • So you could 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, 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, its shade is an ideal cooling spot for your dog.
  • 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. 

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. Which means a designated play area is essential to a dog-friendly backyard.

Spice up your playtime by including agility training rings and tunnels, or create an obstacle course with some chairs, pillows, or cushions. These can both help your dog get enough exercise – as well as train them to follow your commands.

A dog jumping over an agility training bar

💡If you’ve invested in a Tractive device, you’re in luck. Its built-in motion detector tracks your dog’s daily activity and helps you set activity goals and compare how your buddy is to other, similar dogs around the world.

Helping you stay motivated to your dog’s fitness and health for the long run.

Tractive Trustpilot review

Start Activity Tracking

Set up a dog-friendly backyard for this coming summer…

…and watch your buddy make the most of it – staying active, healthy, and most importantly, safe within its limits.

So you could:

  • Invest in a dog-friendly ground cover to prevent urine stains from your dog’s toilet breaks.
  • Pick a landscaping option like mulch, rock, or gravel to protect your dog’s paws. Just avoid any with small or sharp stones.
  • Be picky with your plants. Many common garden plants and flowers can be poisonous for dogs if ingested.
  • Be extra careful with weedkiller, pesticides, and other common household items like snail bait. (All of which can be toxic to dogs.)
Two dogs playing in a backyard
Tractive Trustpilot review
packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Stay on top of your dog’s wellness

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

Discover Tractive GPS

For more tips on how to create a dog-friendly backyard, here’s a quick video covering the basics:

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.