Today, I'll share some ideas about incorporating "pet friendly" features into your landscape. But what about the, uh, less pleasant aspect of what happens when dogs and lawns get together?
Let's clean up some of those issues first!
When it comes to solid waste, it is essential to clean up promptly after your dog with a pooper-scooper and a plastic bag. This is an obvious precaution if your dogs share your yard with your kids, but even if your landscape is a "kid-free zone" you'll want to avoid kneeling or stepping in Fido's droppings and dealing with the flies they attract. We keep a supply of recycled plastic grocery bags on hand that work just as well as the pet store bags.
Dog urine is less easy to deal with. If your dog is urinating on the lawn, it seems that you can either resign yourself to the brown spots or immediately flush the area each time with a garden hose.
There are products available that can be fed to dogs in order to neutralize the acid in his or her urine. However, I'm aware of concerns that altering a dog's pH level can lead to serious health issues, and it's not a treatment I'd recommend.
I'm more comfortable with treating the grass rather than the dog. There are a number of products on the market that are designed to treat brown spots caused by canine urine. Products with names such as Bring Back Green and G-Whiz are available online or at pet and garden stores.
But if you can live without acres of lawn, consider an alternative that could have several advantages. Replace a reasonably-sized area of lawn with gravel and you'll find that most dogs actually prefer to do their business there rather than on grass. In addition to reducing or eliminating the brown spots on your lawn, you'll find that solid waste is much easier to pick up from gravel than from grass.
Your best bet is to use ¾ inch gravel to prevent it being tracked into the house, as can happen with finer gravel. Lay down the gravel to a thickness of about 2" to 3" and pack it down firmly with a heavy tamper that you can buy or rent from larger hardware stores. There are a number of ornamental gravels available if you'd prefer something other than plain old grey. Edging the gravel area with bricks or pavers will prevent the gravel from spreading over to your lawn.
When it comes to dog houses, it used to be that your choice was limited to one design that looked like something Snoopy would sleep on. Not any more! Now you can find a variety of structures that are not only comfortable for your pet but are also pleasing to look at. Instead of being something of a visual blight that you were resigned to (rather like the garbage can) many of these new structures blend in pleasantly with your landscape design or create an architectural statement of their own.
I've seen doggy log cabins, dog houses with covered porches, dog chalets and dog bungalows... even mini-mansions for pampered pooches. Cheryl and I bought one (not the mansion, however) and if Snoopy could see it, he'd definitely want to sleep IN it rather than ON it!
You can research some of these new breeds of dog houses online, but if you'd like some shopping information, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to help.
With a comfortable, attractive dog house and a clean, mess-free lawn, your landscape can be a source of enjoyment for you and for your dogs.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org