By Josh Weiss-Roessler
It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you finally trade up from an apartment or condo and move into a house with a real backyard as opposed to just an enclosed porch or patio that’s basically an extension of your interior living space. You find yourself wanting to plant trees, take up gardening, and maybe even engage in some creative landscaping like adding a walkway or pond.
Dog owners can have even more fun designing a space for their four-legged friends to run free, go crazy chasing each other, and generally cause all kinds of hilarious havoc. Just remember that it’s probably not okay to set up hunting grounds for birds and squirrels in your backyard, and if you’ve got small children of the human variety, you need to think about them, too.
Here are some ideas that will appeal to dogs and still be safe for the human members of the pack.
Green the fencing
While putting up a fence is definitely the exact opposite of what most dogs would want, it is what they — and children — need to stay safe. But there is a way to make it more dog-friendly: place bushes along the edges or plant some creeping vines that will snake up the posts. As long as you choose things that are safe for kids and dogs, you’ll make the space feel more natural and free. If your dog isn’t a barker and you’re not sharing a fence line, you may even want to have a viewing bubble built in. Great for kids and dogs!
Set up marking posts
Dogs being dogs, they’re going to want to mark their territory when they’re out in the yard. You can either let them choose their own spots (like your little one’s sandbox or your grill) or set up a few designated areas that will encourage them to do their business there. Large stones and sculptural pieces of driftwood are two potential options that allow everyone to feel like they’re getting what they want.
Create a digging area
Digging. It’s an issue that many homeowners have to deal with, and there’s a better solution than simply yelling at your dog when they dig up your prize roses — set aside an area of the yard to be their digging area. You can use materials like sand or mulch to make it easier to dig and to protect your yard. Convince them that this is the place to be by burying some bones or toys.
Also, consider installing dog-friendly and environmentally-friendly artificial grass, like EasyTurf. For many dogs, it helps discourage digging altogether. Plus you don’t have to worry about discolored or dying grass patches in areas where your dog relieves himself.
Add some cover
Yards without any shade aren’t good for dogs or humans. Just like people, dogs can suffer from dehydration, sunburn, and heatstroke, so it’s vital that they have shade — especially if you live in a warmer climate. Putting trees in is a great idea, but unless you can afford to buy them fully grown, it will likely be years before they’ll be useful protection. In the meantime, consider using overhead tarps or look into doghouses.
Keep paths comfortable
Dogs love wandering around paths, but it’s important that you think about their comfort when creating them in your yard. Use materials that will stay cool and feel good to their feet. If that sounds limiting, don’t worry too much. There are a wide variety of materials that fit this description, including things like concrete, smooth rocks, pebbles, and even bricks. Just be careful with really small rocks if you have a toddler, because they can be choking hazards.
Employ tunnel vision
Where are the toys and play areas, you ask? Well, here’s one that will appeal to both kids and dogs: buy or build some outdoor tunnels for them to go through. Both your children and your dogs will love running through the new toy and chasing each other, and they also work as a nice hiding spot for your pooches on hotter days.
A watering hole
No dog’s dream backyard is complete without access to fresh, clean water. While you can get fancy and invest in a doggy water fountain that connects to your outdoor hose, you can also stick to the basics and just buy a standard water bowl to keep outside. Whatever you choose, make sure to clean and refill it regularly.
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A true dream backyard isn’t just about creating some kind of crazy playground, but working to address both the wants and needs of your four-legged friends and then somehow fitting that in with the desires of the rest of the family. It might take some time, but you can do it.