A black puppy lays in a field of green clover.

It may be frigid during this time of the year around Harrisburg and Central PA, but before long, the valleys will be once more teeming with life. Soon, that in-between sweet spot will be the perfect time to start planning, building, and landscaping your garden. 

While you get ready to bring some color to your property, stop to consider how your dog may interact with the space. Everyone in the family can be able to enjoy the garden in different ways, provided the right amount of planning and forethought.

Below, we have outlined some crucial tips for building a garden for dogs to enjoy just as much as humans.

Dog-Friendly Gardens Start With Separating Areas Into “Always, Sometimes, and Never” Spaces

The key to reimagining a dog-friendly garden is to acknowledge where and how you can expect your dog to spend their time within the area. In other words, try to incorporate their routine and habits into the space itself, including both areas that invite certain activities — as well as those that make unwanted activities inaccessible.


Areas where the dog is always welcome, can include pathways that are easy on the paws and areas ideal for relief. These areas should be able to be enjoyed with minimal supervision or minimal risk of long-term harm to your dog or your yard.


“Sometimes” spaces may include areas where the dog is not likely to tread or where they will only need to enter sometimes. These spaces should include pet-safe plant varieties as well as ways for the animal to enter and leave safely.

At the same time, these areas should be made less convenient to access, such as through the use of garden borders or strategically placed logs.


“Never” spaces should account for the determination and ingenuity of dogs, keeping them secure against digging, jumping, and other forms of destruction. They can include areas that have more sensitive plants, including food crops, as well as more expensive garden elements.

The last thing you want is a dog tearing through your pond liner and leaving your precious water lilies high and dry! Keep all of the above, as well as the pet-friendly garden ideas below, in mind as you plot out a general design for this year’s growth.

Leave Areas Open for Patrol

One of the primary ways a dog will be using the garden is to satisfy their instinct to explore and secure their own home space. Accordingly, they should be given an interesting, circular path to make use of that journeys through the majority of the space available.

Meandering paths tend to give the dog more to explore, and a circular design allows them to fulfill their need to work through the whole space, as opposed to just one small area of it. With a smart layout in place, you can avoid having the dog tear through unwanted areas as they explore or chase out unwanted intruders.

You may also want to give the entire outside perimeter a bit of space just in case your dog is especially adamant on their patrols. Accordingly, Martha Stewart magazine recommends leaving a three-foot band of unplanted soil or yard along the entire edge of the property, one filled with plenty of mulch to avoid unwanted mud or digging.

Keep Sensitive Paws in Mind

Areas where your dog will be allowed, should be covered in a substrate that’s both easy on the eyes and easy on the paws.

Sunset Magazine recommends round pebbles paved with smooth flagstones since both can avoid the cuts and other issues of more jagged substances like gravel. For mulched areas, cedar chips and pine nuggets can provide a soft cover with minimal risk of getting tangled up in the pet’s fur.

Offer Space for Nature’s Call

Dog urine and feces can be very harmful to plants, and they are dangerous for anything destined for human consumption. Not to mention, they can be quite unpleasant when encountered by an unsuspecting garden-goer!

Keeping this in mind, account for your dog’s need to answer nature’s call by providing dirt, mulch, lawn, or even astro turf that’s designated for relief breaks. Ideally, dog droppings will be removed via shovel and placed in a lined garbage receptacle so as to keep harmful substances and pathogens out of the soil and water table.

Give the dog enough space for privacy without making the spot too far away from the nearest home entrance. Also, regularly look around to see if you can spot other areas where they are going, and consider transitioning these to a more relief-friendly arrangement if they seem to be a favorite place to do their business.

Provide Places to Mark

Marking is more of a social activity than a personal one. Most dogs, both male and female, will feel some need to mark their space as they explore.

You can help them along by giving them favored places to leave their signature scent, such as a sunk fence post or rust-proofed garden bench.

In the same vein, other dogs may desire their own unique equipment and designated spaces depending on their breed, age, and interests. Dogs that love to fetch may enjoy having bare dirt available for those deep-in-the-bushes retrievals, whereas those that love to hunt and chase may prefer easy views of the trees and surrounding properties.

Keep these aspects in mind as you incorporate elements that can appeal directly to your unique dog.

Build Sturdy Fencing for No-No Areas

Whether because they contain non-pet-friendly plants or sensitive installations that are easy to destroy, there are likely to be areas of your garden where your dog is 100% uninvited. Keep these spots protected with fencing that is sturdy and high enough to discourage jumping.

Also, bury the fence at least 4-6 inches to prevent them from digging under the fence.

Think Carefully About What You Plant (and Where) When Building a Garden for Dogs

There are many plants that look lovely in a garden, but that are, unfortunately, toxic to dogs and other pets.

  • Tulips, irises, and other bulbs — Plant bulbs can be highly toxic when ingested or when contacted during digging
  • Azaleas — While beautiful, bounteous, and easy to grow, the leaves and flowers of azaleas are unfortunately toxic when ingested. Keep these planted in a fenced area or separated so that the dog won’t regularly come into contact with them.
  • Eucalyptus — The strong oils in eucalyptus can act as a deterrent, but they are also potent when ingested or chewed on.
  • Tomato — Green tomatoes have a substance that can interfere with dogs’ digestion, creating an upset stomach and symptoms that can include a slowed heart rate.
  • Daisy — Ingested daises can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of coordination, while contact can lead to skin reactions in allergic dogs.

You may choose to forego planting these species entirely or relegate them to a protected or isolated part of the garden. Always monitor pets closely when they have possible access to toxic species, especially puppies and dogs that like to chew or dig.

Report any symptoms promptly to your vet, and try to identify what they may have consumed or come into contact with to get them the right care faster.

Get Time to Live Out Your Pet-Friendly Garden Ideas With Greenlin at Your Back

Digging out your new garden is always much easier when you don’t have your own canine assistant who wants to join in on the action. While running to the garden center or getting some serious landscaping done, remember that Greenlin Pet Resorts is here to help give you the time and space you need to make your garden come out as beautiful as possible. 

We provide top-rated dog daycare services in the Harrisburg area to give your pet a place to enjoy the great outdoors — and indoors — any time, rain or shine. Whether you’re busy running errands or just want to provide your furry family member with a way to unwind when the weather is bad, we’re always here for you.

We also provide dog training to help you continue learning at home so that you and your pup can build trust and enjoy the great outdoors together — even when home is just a few feet away. Find out more about how we can help Fido and you during the upcoming gardening season when you call or contact one of our six Harrisburg locations near you! You can even book online: