6 Dog-Friendly Backyard Ideas · The Wildest

Skip to main content

6 Ways to Make Your Yard a Canine Xanadu

Kiddie pools aren’t just for kids!

by Susan Tasaki
Updated August 16, 2022
Dog-friendly backyard, dog playing in the sprinkler
Oscar Navarro / Adobe Stock

If you are the kind of person who has looked into buying a house (even if you’re a millennial and that feels impossible) just to give your dog a yard, you want to make that yard perfect. Once you achieve that green space for your pup, it’s time to brainstorm all the ways you and your pal can use it daily.

Hopefully you’re enjoying playing lots of fetch with your dog, but there are lots of other ways to make your yard a fun and relaxing space for both of you. Here’s how: 

1. Plant Dog-Friendly Herbs

Herbs can look beautiful in your yard — and some have magical canine powers, like keeping fleas at bay. The oils in the garden herbs below are natural flea repellents:

  • Fleawort (Erigeron canadense), annual

  • Fleabane/pennyroyal (Menta pulegium), perennial

  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), perennial

  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum), shrubby perennial

  • Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis), shrub

  • Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis), tree

For even more flea repellent power, cut the branches of the herbs and strip the leaves to line the bottom of a dog house. Or, dry the herbs and leaves and stuff them inside the lining of your dog’s bed, which will naturally discourage fleas through the winter months. Bonus: Some of these herbs may discourage ticks, too. 

2. Get a Dipping Pool

What’s more fun than taking a dip with your dog? To create a pool that’s safe and easy to clean, choose a sturdy, molded-plastic kiddy pool rather than an inflatable one, which is too easily punctured by sharp claws. Be sure the pool is shallow enough for your dog to get in and out of it easily. (Note: Small dogs may find the plastic sides hard to navigate when wet; choose a size that’s safe for your particular dog.)

The best way to disguise a doggy dipping pool is to set it into the ground just like a real swimming pool: Dig out the area under the pool so it sits with the rim an inch or two above the soil line. This will protect the rim and sidewalls from breakage as your dog enters and exits. Plus, they’ll be less likely to chew on it, and it will stay put when empty. The downside with this kind of pool is draining it, which can be done with a simple siphon (you can find one at home improvement stores). Or, when all else fails, bail it out with a bucket!  

3. Create a Flop Spot for Your Dog

Dogs don’t sweat — they cool off by panting and finding a cold spot to lay in. Many dogs labeled problem diggers are really just trying to keep cool. They instinctively dig nests in shady places to access cooler soil, and they sprawl out in them during the heat of the day. In heavy soils, this makes a huge mess — the dirt stains paving, plasters to the dog’s fur, and litters the yard with clods.

The solution? Provide your dog with a pit of their own that’s more damp and cool than the flower beds. Give them sand to lie in: It won’t stain or make mud, and when dry, it easily falls away from their fur. Keep the sand slightly moist, and your dog will prefer that spot over any other place in the yard. You can make a few of them, scattered around damp, shady, out-of-the-way spots in the yard. Be sure to wet down the area often in the heat of the summer.

How to make a cool flop spot: 

  1. Dig a shallow pit that will fit your dog comfortably.

  2. Mix up a bag of concrete and line the pit with a thin layer.

  3. Before the concrete dries, poke a few pencil-sized holes in the bottom for drainage.

  4. Line the depression with at least six inches of clean white playground sand.

  5. Sprinkle with water to the point of dampness.

4. Keep Your Landscaping Toxin-Free

Some common landscaping plants are toxic to dogs, including sago palms, azaleas, and even lilies. Keep your landscaping dog-friendly by avoiding lethal plants (the ASPCA has handly list of ones to avoid). 

Chemicals within landscaping materials can also be problematic for dogs. These include: snail bait, cocoa mulch, chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides. If you must use these products, make absolutely sure that your dog can't get them.

5. Plant a Wheat And Oat Grass Dog Patch

Wheat and oat grass are good for dogs, in moderation. Your dog will naturally graze on it (rather than pawing through your flowers). If you have a small city yard, consider planting wheat grass in an outdoor patch. It grows great in low, wide troughs. Most pet suppliers sell the seeds in small quantities. For a sizeable dog patch, save money by purchasing your oat and wheat seed at a health food store. It’s free of chemicals and ideal for large plantings.

6. Keep Foxtails Out of Your Yard

Foxtails are a group of grassy weeds that can be very dangerous for dogs. They have barbs that can penetrate your dog’s fur or skin and stick there until they finally drop off somewhere else. When they turn brown, foxtails become quite stiff and are easily inhaled by dogs. The tips are sharp enough to penetrate the softer parts of the paw, mouth, and other sensitive spots. Once inside the body, foxtails can travel through the bloodstream and cause serious injury. Keep your yard free of these weeds by pulling all grasses while they’re still green.

Loading poll...

Author placeholder

Susan Tasaki

Freelance writer Susan Tasaki lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Husky, who wishes they both got out more.

Related articles