The View from the Top of the Bookcase: Gardening With Your Pet

The View from the Top of the Bookcase: Gardening With Your Pet

Hi friends! This is Patra—but sometimes my owner likes to call me “Ray,” because I’m a little ray of sunshine! I love good weather, particularly these gorgeous North Texas summers. The only thing I love more is hanging out with my owner in the yard! I enjoy watching the squirrels, sitting in the shade, and watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood.

Gardening is a great way to sunbathe and commune with nature, as well as bond with your pet!

There are a few things to keep in mind as you get started to make this the most fun, safe activity possible.

Fencing, gates, and boundaries

A fence is a visual barrier just as much as a physical one—even the most ornamental fence can deter your pet from leaving your yard. A four foot fence will suffice for most dogs, but athletic dogs should probably be surrounded by six foot tall ones.

Avoid gaps that your con artist can squeeze through or dig under, though. I’ve met a particularly flexible German Shepherd named Bosco who would constantly escape from his fenced yard and run ‘round the neighborhood, much to the confusion of his humans. After a few weeks of covert surveillance, they finally realized their sly dog was popping his shoulder out of socket to slide through some fence posts.

To keep your dogs from digging underneath, you might need to install an underground barrier made of chicken wire or rebar. It’s a pain to put together, but it will keep your friend safe and protected! Fences won’t keep in a curious—or scared!—cat unless it’s covered on top, so be cautious when introducing your indoor kitty to the Great Outdoors for the first time.


There are so many plants that humans love that are totally toxic to dogs and cats. Sago palms, azaleas, and fungi are all really dangerous when consumed in large amounts. Before planting anything, check to see if it could be poisonous to your pet.

If you want something hardy that will look great and be trample-proof, consider planting some decorative grasses. They have the added functionality of acting as borders to keep your pets on a path, too.

Finally, catnip and catmint are some of my very favorite plants. Something about them just makes me so happy! If you plant these, you might have to deal with the neighborhood cats attracted to them, but your cat will love the treat.

Fertilizers and soil

The fertilizer that keeps your plants green and healthy can make your pets a little green around the gills too, but not in a good way!  Many fertilizers contain fish byproducts, ground feathers, and blood meal, making them tasty to dogs. Eating fertilizer can hurt tummies or even cause GI obstruction, so be very careful! When you apply it, it’s a good idea to observe a waiting period before letting the pets near it. Cocoa mulch is completely lethal when ingested, so you should avoid that completely.

Bare soil will encourage digging and bathroom needs for dogs and cats. Filling a hole with a dog’s feces will prevent him from digging in that spot again, but won’t really prevent him from going to another spot. Instead, you can create a digging pit to encourage safe play. You simply need to fill a sandbox with sand, dirt, toys, and treats, then praise your pet when he or she uses it for digging! Jack Russells and other terriers will especially benefit, since they were bred to hunt burrowing animals—meaning it’s highly unlikely they’ll stop digging altogether.

Other things to consider

Pets love outdoor paths to run and patrol. This will help them stay healthy and trim while feeling like they’re protecting you from intruders.

No matter how landscaped your yard, your pet needs a place to… “do his business.” It’s totally possible to train your pet to use this space only. If you have a boy dog, adding a marking post is a great way to let him fulfill his natural urges to mark his territory.

Summers in Texas are hot, hot, hot! Your pets don’t sweat in the same way you do, so we get hot much faster. You should consider providing shade like an arbor, gazebo, or doghouse to keep your pet out of direct sunlight. Don’t forget to set out an outdoor water bowl and to keep refilling it throughout the day, too!

If your pet does interfere with your beautiful garden, it’s important to remember that he’s just doing what pets do—he isn’t destroying your landscaping efforts on purpose! A little patience and training can go a long way as you enjoy this fun hobby together.

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Texas Alliance for Homeless Pets takes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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