Dog Training: Protecting Your Garden and Your Dog

Ah, the joys of gardening...with your dog!

Ah, the joys of summer. If there’s anything to get Fido off the couch after a long winter’s inactivity, it’s the prospect of digging in those lovely beds of newly overturned earth that you so thoughtfully provided. Followed, of course, by a dip in the pond.

Say what? That wasn’t your plan. If your dog is old/and or sedate, you’re probably shared many happy moments together:  the dog — snoozing peacefully in the sun, you — weeding the vegetable garden. But if you have a puppy or active breed, chances are good your garden has seen more upturned soil than a backhoe could shovel.

Animal trainers and behaviorists are divided over how to teach a dog proper behavior in the yard. But the ideas fall into four basic categories:

1. Confinement: your dog has his own dog run. Generally this area should include shelter from both heat and cold, a regularly filled water bowl, and some chew toys to occupy his time.

2. Reward: your dog gets her own sandbox. You create her own special area (a mixture of half sand/half mulch is suggested) to dig in, and to ensure she does, bury treats and small toys in there for her to discover.

3. Deterrent: a common suggestion is burying chicken wire just below the ground surface and covering it with mulch. Dogs don’t like getting their paws caught in the wire and will avoid these areas. Rocks or ornamental borders can also help train dogs that these areas are off-limits.

4. Exhaustion: seriously, a dog that gets enough exercise (and attention) through regular walks is far less likely to take out excess energy on your plants.

Other suggestions include working with and not against the natural tendencies of your dog. Since all dogs love to “run the fence” and guard their territory, establishing permanent pathways along the fence line will be more helpful than trying to fight against this tendency. If you really want to spoil your dog, giving her a “window” or lookout in a solid fence line to view passers-by will also help keep her occupied.

Now that you’ve protected your yard, there are some things you’ll want to do to protect your dog as well. Chemical fertilizers can get on paws and be ingested if the dog licks its feet. So beware of using them in an area that your dog would roam or seek organic alternatives.

A wide variety of common plants, including daphne, hydrangeas, and marigolds can be harmful if consumed. Complete lists of plants that are toxic to pets are readily available on the Internet, and your vet should be called at once if your dog has eaten one of the varieties listed.

If you have a pond or water feature that your dog likes to frolic in, consider triple-lining it to reduce the risk of punctures from toenails. But keeping your dog out of the pond water is better for both your water garden’s aesthetics and your dog’s health. A buildup of fish, amphibian, and reptile waste in a pond can cause skin lesions if your dog plays in the water or an internal infection if he drinks it.

But if you love gardening and your dog, don’t hesitate to mix the two. After all when else but down on all fours are you going to get to experience the world from your dog’s eye view?

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