19 Dog-Friendly Garden Design Ideas, Surfaces & How to Protect

Gardens are a place where we can relax and unwind with our four-legged friends. Here we take a look at some tips for a dog friendly garden; how to make them safe, what dangers there are and what to add to make them pet-friendly and somewhere our pooches will enjoy just as much as we do

Below you will find 19 tips on creating beautiful gardens for dogs to enjoy.

We’ll look at the best garden solutions, what to plant and what is the best garden surface for dogs, as well as some fun additions to make your garden design a canine paradise!

If you make your garden dog safe they can have hours of fun and games and they don’t feel trapped. You can even install one of these microchip dog flaps to monitor their behaviour.

Our 19 Dog Friendly Garden Ideas

Protect your lawn

Dogs can do a lot of damage to a lawn along with creating muddy patches and digging; their urine can cause irreparable damage killing the grass and causing unsightly yellow patches.

This can be prevented by providing alternative areas using sand and bark within the garden for your pup to go to the toilet or maybe protecting the lawn area with portable fences or box hedging.

Artificial Grass

Artificial grass is becoming a popular choice for dog-friendly gardens design ideas and many dog kennels and rescue centres use it for their outside areas. The number one reason is artificial grass for dogs. It requires little maintenance and will look as good as new for years.

It’s gentle on your dog’s paws, and there’ll be no unsightly patches; fake grass is a real viable alternative.

Another huge benefit is your pooch can enjoy a game of fetch on the lawn throughout the year without trailing mud all through the house.

Fencing is essential for a dog-proof garden design

Dogs can jump surprisingly high and love to dig, so your dog-friendly back garden must be secure to prevent them from escaping. Lately, dogs have also become a target for thieves and good fencing is essential to keep them safe. Solid fences are better for security, but chicken wire or a temporary dog fence can be used to section off areas

Another important consideration for a dog owner is height; some breeds can easily clear 6-foot fences and cleverer dogs will happily climb onto raised beds and large pots to escape.

 Is your dog a digger?  If the answer is yes, one of our top tips is to sink the fence a couple of feet into the ground or line the edge of fences with paving slabs or decorative bricks:

A dog garden needs an outside washing area

An excellent tip for a dog-friendly garden is to set up an area specifically for hosing down your canine companion after a long muddy walk. Make sure you situate the hose and water supply on a concrete or paved area, somewhere the water can quickly drain away and ensure there is something you can attach the dog’s leash to, like a tree or hook in the wall of the house.

Have a drying towel nearby so you can dry your pooch before letting him into the house; washing your dog outside prevents muddy floors, that wet dog smell and is especially useful if you suffer from allergies.

Avoid toxic plants

Many garden plants are potentially toxic to dogs, such as daffodil bulbs and tomato plants. While most dogs will not chew plants and flowers, puppies especially are curious creatures, so it is best to invest in a portable fence or chicken wire not only to protect the plants in your edging beds but also to protect your pup.

Dogs Trust has a list of garden plants that are poisonous to dogs. Also, avoid plants with sharp thorns and grasses in your pet-friendly garden, which can also cause injury.

If you notice your four-legged friend displaying any worrying symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, lethargy or confusion and you suspect they may have ingested a poisonous plant from your garden, seek veterinary advice immediately.

Shade is essential in a pet friendly garden.

Heatstroke is potentially fatal for dogs; and is especially common in brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs and boxers.

Trees or a larger plant with big leaves are an obvious solution, but if you don’t have any in your garden, there are other options; you can construct a shaded area from wood or create a canopy with a tarp or shade cloth.

Dog-friendly plants

We’ve mentioned some plants toxic to dogs you should avoid when creating dog-friendly gardens, but that doesn’t mean your garden should be without flowers and shrubs. There are plenty of non-toxic plants that are pet-friendly and some which even have medicinal benefits and help stimulate your canine companion’s senses. Raised beds work best in garden designs for dogs to protect plants from being trampled.

Some dog-friendly robust plants include;

  • Willow
  • Lavender
  • Michaelmas daisies
  • Cornflowers
  • St John’s Wort
  • Snapdragons
  • Valerian
  • Wheatgrass
  • Marigolds
  • Birch
  • Catnip
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme

Fresh water in the garden

All dogs need a constant supply of fresh water in the garden, so adding a water feature will be beneficial to your four-legged friend as well as making the area look good. A splash fountain, stream or small pool are perfect. It is essential to make sure it is safe, and the dog can get out should they fall in, so a shallow water feature is best.

Even if you have a small yard or garden, there are simple DIY water features you can make and doggie water fountains can be purchased online and in pet stores.  


One of the most important factors of a dog-friendly garden is hygiene; it is essential to clean up any mess your dog makes immediately for a number of reasons. Not only does dog waste smell, it attracts flies and can cause various problems for both dogs and humans.

Not only do you or any guests not want to be unintentionally stepping in it, but dog poo is also actually harmful to the environment. Toxic bacteria seeps through the soil and can end up in waterways where it is detrimental to both humans and aquatic life. So, scoop the poop regularly.

Slugs and snails are not welcome in gardens for dogs

No gardener welcomes these slimy visitors and if you have a dog, this is especially true as they can pose a serious health risk-Lungworm which can be fatal.

You may think it’s easy to spot your pooch munching on a snail, but if they drink from puddles, chew on long grass or even ingest the slimy trail, they could be at risk.

The best way to avoid this problem is to keep the slimy pests at bay. Do not, however, use chemical slug pellets as these are highly toxic; use a natural alternative such as crushed eggshell, slug traps or copper tape.

Protect your compost

This is something that may not cross your mind, but it is essential not to let Fido get into your compost. Dogs tend to love the smell of rotten organic matter, but as well as containing foods that may be harmful to dogs such as grapes, avocados and onions, decomposing vegetation contains fungi called mycotoxins which can prove deadly for wildlife and pets.

This can be avoided by ensuring your compost bin is kept in a bin or enclosure and well away from your four-legged friends. 

Avoid the use of harmful chemicals.

The average gardener uses a lot of harmful chemicals from weed killer and lawn feed to mouse poison, insect repellent and pond treatments, but many if not all these are highly poisonous to our pets and other wildlife.

Like potentially toxic plants, it’s essential to keep these off-limits or use natural alternatives such as bone meal as a fertiliser, Diatomaceous Earth as an insect repellent and humane traps for mice. Vinegar makes an excellent weed-killer and is an excellent alternative to harsh chemicals in a beautiful garden for dog owners.

Cocoa bean mulch?

Cocoa bean mulch is made from the outer shells of cocoa beans, a by-product from the chocolate industry it is often used in gardens. However, like chocolate, it contains caffeine and theobromine, which is toxic to dogs.

 Dogs like the smell of cocoa bean mulch and will eat it given a chance. Like chocolate, all dogs react differently and while a square of Dairy Milk may not prove fatal, given enough, ingestion of chocolate can be very dangerous for our canine companions.

Hard landscaping – paths and surfaces

Dogs love to explore and patrol as in their eyes they are protecting their family, so including pathways in your garden is a terrific way to keep them occupied and to stimulate the senses, a variety of textures can be used. Bricks, smooth paving, wood, Scottish cobbles, pebbles and smooth rocks are all ideal and a good idea is to have a few raised areas to give your pup a different perspective.

We’ve mentioned cocoa bean mulch should be avoided, but other dog-friendly garden surfaces such as mulches and bark chips are non-toxic and have the added benefit of providing effective weed control.

Lock up the shed

Sheds are usually home to any number of things that can be dangerous to dogs. Therefore, you must keep your shed locked and your four-legged friend out always.

Everyday items that can harm your dog in sheds;

  • Creosote and other wood treatments
  • Fertilisers
  • Gloss paints
  • Sharp tools
  • Plant bulbs       
  • Insecticides 
  • Sharp objects like nails

Preventing dogs from accessing the shed is the obvious solution even when you are in there yourself; it only takes a second with your back turned for an accident to occur.

If you do have any poisonous substances in your shed, keep them in the original packaging; that way, you can provide the vet with the correct information if the worst should happen.

Create Fun for Dogs in the Garden

We’ve talked a lot about safety in your dog-friendly garden, toxic plants, safe plants, cleaning up dog mess and fencing. Still, there are also many ideas to make your outdoor space a fun place for your dog, providing them with dog-friendly activities to enjoy and mental stimulation.

Include a sandpit for digging

Dogs love to dig, especially terriers, so if you don’t want them digging up your plants, it is advisable to provide an alternative so they can indulge in digging safely without destroying your beds and lawn.

The simple solution is to provide a sandpit either by making one yourself or purchasing one of the clam-shaped plastic ones for children, which has the added benefit of being able to close and keep it dry.  

Create a retreat or hideaway in your garden

Like us, sometimes dogs want to get away from it all and have a little “me time”, so a good idea is to create their own space where they can retreat.

This is especially important if children are playing in the garden or you have regular parties and barbeques where it can all get a bit too much, especially for older or nervous dogs.

Even in small spaces, this can be a ready-made dog house, or you can build your own; what about a willow tunnel or doggie wigwam? Why not create something that fits your dog-friendly gardens’ theme, like a Japanese pagoda or sleek concrete cube? Whatever you decide, your beloved dog will undoubtedly be grateful for its own bolthole.

Create a dog-friendly play area

 All dogs are different, but they have in common the need for mental stimulation and sometimes, a walk in the park is not enough. We have already discussed adding an area for dogs that love to dig, but what about adding natural activity obstacles such as bamboo to weave through, tunnels, areas of long grass where they can seek out treats or a tug toy attached to a tree.

A Spaniel’s favourite exercise is scent work, so perhaps hide your dog’s food bowl or add an area catered for their needs where they can seek out different smells, get some logs and create their own outdoor agility course, have a place where they can learn new tricks or create paths to make a simple maze.

Training your pup to respect your garden

Most of the points we have covered here are about things to include or avoid to make your garden dog-friendly, but training is a vital part of a pet-friendly garden that both you and your four-legged friend can enjoy.

It is possible to train your dog not to pee on your lawn and instead use a designated area. It is also possible to train your pet not to rampage through the flower beds or bark incessantly at next doors cat through the fence; all you need is a few minutes each day.

Final Thoughts

A dog-friendly garden is somewhere you and your best friend can enjoy throughout the year. We’ve looked at dog-friendly plants and what plants to avoid, the importance of paths and shaded areas and things you can add to your garden that your dog will love.

You can find tons of inspiration online, from ideas for small gardens with dogs, a dog-friendly garden that attracts wildlife, and structured gardens with robust plants.

Hopefully, this article has given you some tips on creating a dog-friendly garden both you and your canine companion can relax and play in for years.  

John Devlin

Hi, my name is John, and I am the founder of Dogsbarn – a UK-based website dedicated to helping the owners of furry friends enjoy life with their four-legged companion. We currently own two golden retrievers, George and Henry, who love running around in the park together. We are thinking about adding a third – called Frank! Our mission is to provide excellent guides and introduce great products we’ve bought or come across online.