Designing for Levi - a pet-friendly garden!

by Emma Godin..

When we first moved into our house, the yard was a blank canvas (of dead grass). I was so eager to start planting gardens that there wasn’t much ‘planning’. That, in itself, has caused a significant amount of re-designing and re-planting. Then came our puppy (Levi). It was year two of the gardens, meaning I would hopefully start seeing some rewards from my previous year’s hard work. I’d never factored in a dog.

As Levi grew (along with his confidence), he trampled most of my delicate flowers – my peony’s, hostas, you name it he ran it down. Not only would he trample everything, he’d dig up things up I had recently planted and tear branches and flowers off of the ones that wouldn’t budge.

Of course, my first thought when our puppy came home was to ensure all of our plants (indoor & outdoor) were pet-friendly or completely out of reach. I’d never considered the possibility of him wanting to try out his digging skills in my gardens or ripping branches off the dogwood to play with.

I’ve since learned a number of lessons when it comes to energetic puppies and newly planted gardens:

  1. Fence it off. Brand new plantings (no matter the shape or size) are a magnet to dogs. They’ll dig everything right back up.
  2. Plant larger, more mature, plants where possible to discourage the dog’s interest.
  3. Use raised planters (above dog-head height) for more delicate flowers.
  4. Stick to native plants – not only are they typically less toxic, but they’re better for the environment.
  5. Ensure there’s lots of grass space left in the yard. Using this as the ‘play area’ for your dog will teach them where playtime can, and cannot, happen.
  6. Keep lawns healthy and gardens mulched to reduce the number of muddy paws trotting through the house!

With our first two challenges rectified, toxic plants and trampling the gardens, we only had one more worry – ticks. Levi has always been on preventative medication, but that’s not enough to ensure ticks aren’t finding him. Fortunately, we only found two ticks on our dog; still in the fur and easily brushed off. Both instances were from walks through the neighbourhood (on sidewalks!), likely encountered where the sidewalk backs on to forest or meadows.

This was two ticks too many for us. Since then, we’ve ensured our basics are covered – from keeping the lawn mowed, to ensuring the bushes are maintained, to appropriate garden design. Also, keeping our gardens less densely planted ensures we’re not creating an attractive habitat for ticks to roam.

We are now on year three of the gardens. Here’s hoping Levi is old enough to stay out of the gardens and stop trampling my plants!

About Emma – In addition to being a dog and (strictly indoor) cat mom, Emma is a trained florist and plant lover. In her professional life, she was previously Director of Floral for a large Canadian retail chain and has recently transitioned to an e-commerce merchandising specialist role. In her spare time, Emma is working towards a Diploma in Landscape Design.