Q. Can you help me create an attractive dog-friendly garden?

EVER SINCE PLUTO DUG UP Mickey Mouse’s backyard to bury his bone, dogs have made gardeners nervous, but thankfully things are beginning to change. The Dog's Trust was awarded a Gold medal for its dog-friendly show garden at Hampton Court this year. The garden showed how an outdoor space can be a place for man's best friend to enjoy and yet remain a beautiful retreat for its owner too. Admittedly, dogs still aren't allowed at the show itself, but it's a move in the right direction!

There has also been a trend in recent years to develop therapeutic gardens for dogs, with Mayhew Animal Home and Bath Cats and Dogs Home both creating spaces specifically to combat dog stress.  Of course, even the happiest dogs need somewhere to relax, breathe fresh air and enjoy a little one-on-one exercise... Here's our design solution.




• Very few areas of interest for a dog

• Conifers dominate

• Overlooked by neighbouring properties

• Long thin shape drags eye to the end


THE SOLUTION: Divide the garden into sections

Create interest by dividing the long garden into three equal parts. It makes sense for the area closest the house to remain as a suntrap patio for entertaining, using gravel instead of the dated pavers to create a Mediterranean feel. The middle area is given over to a square of neat lawn, kennel and storage bench, with the area at the far end dedicated to doggy fun – with rough grass, sandpit and bamboo hoop activity tunnel.

1. Add some shade Even in our insipid summers, dogs can all too easily overheat so make sure they have lots of shady spots to stretch out in. Here three deciduous trees cast dappled shade in summer, while a covered kennel in the shadier side of the garden offers scope to escape the heat.

THE SKETCH by Dawn Isaac

THE SKETCH by Dawn Isaac

2. Bring in water A simple bubble fountain set among the gravel garden plants provides a natural sound that’s as calming for dogs as it is for us.  It’s also a source of water for thirsty dogs as well as a fun play feature to entertain bored hounds.

3. Create calming sounds Soothing natural sounds are created by wooden wind chimes located in the tree - a cheap and easy way to create a calming environment for dogs.

4.  Use paw-friendly materials Grass and pale coloured gravel are less likely to overheat on hot days and have paw-friendly textures. If yellow urine patches are a problem on your lawn, try adding an anti-scorch product such as Dog Rocks to a large jug of water and use it to fill your dog's water bowl.

6. Make space for digging If your dog likes to excavate, why not provide a dedicated digging space and praise your dog when they use it? Sandpits work well and offer a soft texture for dogs to explore. They’re perfect places to hide occasional treats for your dog to find, too.

7 Add tunnels to explore A curving low tunnel created from bamboo hoops (or willow stems) creates an exciting path and hiding place for dogs; the natural material blends well with the garden.

THE SOLUTION - illustration by Gill Lockhart

THE SOLUTION - illustration by Gill Lockhart

8. Plant tough shrubs and perennials  Invest in some robust flowering shrubs and tough groundcover plants that will withstand a rampaging beast! See our plant list overleaf for plants they can safely sniff and nibble. Tough perennials include Agastache Blackadder, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ and eryngium as well as one or two grasses (miscanthus and pennisetum) and some scented but tough shrubs – lavender, rosemary and thyme

9. Keep toys to hand An outdoor storage bench give dogs a place to perch whilst at the same time providing space to keep a range of toys so playthings can be swapped in and out to stop canine boredom.

10. Let them bask on a double deck kennel A sun deck on top of the kennel with an access ramp will give your dog exercise as well as a higher spot to survey their space.



1. Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker's Low’ Catnip can stimulate playfulness in dogs as well as cats and makes a great front of border plant. H60cm S50cm

2. Chamaemelum nobile  The scent of chamomile is good for dogs suffering from anxiety or skin and stomach upsets. It is best planted in pots to prevent trampling. H30cm   S45cm  

3. Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’  Golden hops is a vigorous climber to grow over large garden structures and is said to have a calming plant on hyperactive and stressed dogs H and S6m  

 4. Lavandula angustifolia  As well as being tough enough to withstand canine attention, lavender is supposed to encourage scar tissue regeneration and reduce anxiety in dogs. H60cm S75cm  

5. Mimulus guttatus This marginal pond plant is used as a remedy for animals that are nervous, timid and shy. H30cm S1.2m

6.  Petroselinum crispum Parsley acts as a good breath freshener for dogs as well as a useful kitchen herb. H80cm S60cm

7. Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ Thyme is a healing plant enjoyed by dogs but also a tough groundcover plant for sun. H25cm S35cm

8. Calendula officinalis Marigold is often selected by animals in distress and is a useful self-sower for filling in gaps. H50cm S30cm

9. Salix sp. Dogs in pain often chew willow bark that contains a natural painkiller. Instead of a tree, try natural willow structures that can also double as a sheltered shady spot for a dog.

10. Viola odorata Nervous dogs may enjoy sniffing the scented flowers of sweet violets that also make a great addition to a woodland garden. H20cm S30cm