7 Tips on How to Successfully Garden with Your Big Dog


A dog friendly garden design enables Mr. Barnaby, my 200-pound Great Dane, to help me tend my garden without hurting the garden. In the morning, Mr. Barnaby helps me water by holding the water wand and plays with the weeds and sticks that I add to the bucket. And when we’ve completed our chores, he collapses on the patio furniture with crunchy fir cone or ‘hides’ in plain sight in his favorite spot in the back garden under the dogwood tree. 

7 Tips to Gardening with Your Big Dog

1.    Create dog paths around the perimeter of the garden. From the day we adopted Barnaby, I walked him on the dog paths to train him. So, start young and be consistent. 

2.    Use dog friendly mulches in the garden paths and patios. We’ve added pebble bark on the perimeter path and have added more hardscape and quarter-10 gravel to prevent muddy footprints in the house.

3.   Expect some plant damage and select tough plants. If a plant doesn’t stand up to daily dog damage, I compost it and try something new.

4.    Plant densely. Plant in masses so it is clear where the dog paths begin and end. 

5.    Container garden. I grow the plants that I adore in large containers up above Barnaby’s big feet and his pee line. I also place containers up on stumps and wood blocks. One of my containers won the Fine Gardening Magazines 2016 contest, proving that dog friendly design can still be visually interesting.

Fine Gardening Container Contest Winner in 2016

Fine Gardening Container Contest Winner in 2016

6.    Provide places for your dog to enjoy being a dog. Mr. Barnaby has cushions to lay on, water to sip, a high spot to overlook the garden, stumps to mark, and a grass buffet to snack on.

7.    Enjoy spending time in the garden with your dog. Mr. Barnaby and I putter in our garden daily. 


My Favorite Dog Friendly Ground Covers

·     Three-leaf Bittercress (Cardamine trifolia)

·      Barrenwort (Epimediums)

·      Creeping Raspberry (Rubus rolfei)

·      Inside-out Flower (Vancouveria hexandra)

·      Jack Frost Silver Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost') 

Mr. Barnaby ‘helps’ me feed the fish in the water feature.

Mr. Barnaby ‘helps’ me feed the fish in the water feature.