A Dog’s garden – what do they need?

The Perfect Play Area

Owning 5 dogs is quite unusual across the population as a whole.  Not amongst my friends and acquaintances of course – but then I am now officially a ‘dog person’.  I am spending increasing amounts of time with my dogs and mixing with other dog breeders and multiple dog owners.  I am therefore becoming increasingly aware of a dog’s needs.

When I am vetting owners for puppies, one of the questions I ask is about the size of the garden.  I also ask if it is secure – that is definitely important.  There is a general expectation that the bigger the dog, the bigger the space required for them.  There is also a feeling that more dogs require more space.  In fact, neither of these things is especially true.  However, they definitely need easy access to some outdoor space.

A dog’s needs

Many people take their dogs for multiple walks each day, thereby encouraging their dogs to toilet elsewhere, rather than in the garden.  Personally, I prefer my dogs to be able to go to the toilet as required, rather than having to rely on me taking them.  Of course they do toilet on the walk, but dogs still need an area to go to the toilet.  They will toilet on patios or gravel, but they do prefer grass, even artificial grass.

Dogs also need some space to run around.  How much space again depends on how often they are exercised and how this is managed.  My dogs have a long walk, entirely off lead, giving them plenty of opportunity to run around together. They are walked in different areas each day, meaning they have plenty of mental and physical stimulation.  They are also taken to training sessions and shows, ensuring that they are fit and challenged regularly.

My dogs also have plenty of space to run around indoors, as I am fortunate enough to have that.  And because I am around all day, every day, they are not ‘shut up’ anywhere.

Barking in the garden

One of the issues mentioned by people is that when dogs are left outside for any length of time, or have free access to the garden, they may bark. This is clearly a potential irritation for neighbours and in fact can cause major friction and even prosecution.

Any dog will ALWAYS bark if there is a stimulus to do so.  When they are on their own property, they MUST bark if something comes into their space.  This will include:

  • squirrels
  • cats
  • big birds
  • other dogs going past
  • people eg postmen
  • other people going past

If your property backs onto a footpath, then your dog will stand at the fence and bark.  If your dog can see the front garden and path, they will stand and bark if someone passes.  It’s their job, it’s what they do.  You will not stop them.

So, if you want a dog space to which they have free access, it needs to be away from these stimuli.

Artificial grass

 Increasingly, dog owners (even those with only one dog) are turning to artificial turf to replace their turf.  Dogs are hard on grass; they cause patching through their urination (bitches more than dogs), they also wear out the grass through running around.  If left unsupervised, they will dig holes in beds.  They also rummage around in beds and bushes.  The more space you have, the more difficult it becomes to clear up after your dogs.  But if you don’t do this regularly, this will also cause damage to the garden.

Since dogs wear out grass, small gardens quickly turn into mud baths.  This is then tramped indoors, making the house dirty and dusty.  When the winter is as wet and cold as this one has been, the wear and tear on the house can be significant.

I have now created a section of my garden specially for my dogs.  They have plenty of space to run around and toilet and ‘grass’ on which to do this.  They are safe and contained.  They have water, sun and shade.  They can ‘use’ the beds to toilet if they wish to and if they wanted to dig, it wouldn’t matter to much.

I have simply placed the artificial turf on my patio, as I have large paved areas available.  I hope to keep my lawn at the back of my house, as I don’t want to feel that I am replacing everything natural.  It’s a challenge though, as I have big trees, a mole family (hopefully now moved on!) and 5 dogs.

Of course my dogs will be allowed to go into the main garden once the weather improves (it will one day!)  Meanwhile, they are enjoying playing in their own space, while staying relatively clean and completely safe.  Happy dogs!

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