Why Dogs and Flowers Don’t Mix

October 14, 2008 | By | Comments (10)

Q: Dear Grumpy,
I have a fenced-in backyard that receives afternoon sun and morning shade. Two Goldens Retrievers occupy the space.  How do I design the yard to be dog-friendly, but have flower beds too? We are also extending our deck.



A: Dear Cher,

Well, as a person has has seen his cat steadily destroy his flower border all summer, I can tell you that big, goofy, fun-loving animals like Golden Retrievers are not compatible with any plant that dislikes being broken off, slept on, dug up, or peed on. Before planting anything, observe how your dogs use the space now. Don’t plant in their favorite spaces, because flowers are invisible to dogs. They’ll walk right through them as if they don’t exist. And if by some miracle, they do notice them, they’ll probably eat them.

I generally tell people in your situation that you have to split the yard into one place for the flowers and one place for the dogs. It’s like the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Big dogs, especially, will trash flowers in no time. You can try spreading a commercial animal repellent in the beds, but I’ve never had any luck with these. I think the worse things smell, the better dogs like it.

Hmmm….maybe I should spray the flowers with Chanel Number 5.

Since you’re extending your deck, why not grow flowers in containers on the deck? It’s less likely that your dogs will annihilate plants in pots.

Anyone out there ever found a better way to keep dogs from destroying their garden? Something that really works?



  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    I sure hope some neighbor doesn’t catch you in the act! Talk about a cat fight!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm
  2. Matt

    I have a boxer that is very well behaved. I have taught her to not walk in the flower beds, although the one at the corner under the mature crepe myrtle is a little to keep her out of. Here I plant hard to kill groundcover. Also, once the flowers get to her eye level, they are usually pretty safe. I use large stones (that came with the house) to line the beds, and this makes a visual line for her to see. My best advise is to not get a dumb breed of dog. Now the cats….. I trap them and haul them off to the animal shelter. If it comes on your property you have every right to trap it (humanly) and haul it off. Especially cats that pee around your house and on your plants. Around here they are described as nuisance animals by the law, and I am doing the whole neighborhood a favor by taking them away. (dogs AND cats must remain on the owners property unless walking on a leash)

    March 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm
  3. dog boarding cleveland

    Besides, dogs have been proven to be allergic to some flower pollens. There must be space.

    September 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm
  4. The Vague Man

    Pepper, pour black pepper in the area a few times…tea leaves/bag…
    Digging is the worse problem..

    March 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener

    Dogs really want to please me? Then how come that stupid dog next door who always barks for two solid hours every night when we’re eating dinner doesn’t respond favorably when I grab my shotgun, run up to the fence, and yell, “If you don’t stop barking right now, I’m going to blow your #*&!!!+! head off?”

    March 10, 2009 at 7:46 am
  6. Ally (A Walk in the Garden)

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with Grumpy. Large dogs aren’t the only ones who step on things. And there are large dogs who don’t.
    I have a golden retriever and he is very good about using paths and whatnot. Why? Because I’ve trained him to do so. I spend time with him in the yard and garden. I don’t let him get away with disrespecting my space. I engage him with a stick or ball or bone. It’s all a matter of training.
    When we moved in we walked him on a leash. We showed him where to walk by walking there ourselves. We gave him the back corner of the yard to do his business. And that’s where he does it even now that he has the run of the yard. It was just a matter of walking him back there and telling him to go (a command we taught him since he was a baby.)
    Dogs want to please you. They want to be with you and interact with you. They want to explore their surroundings, so give them areas where they can. I suggest a natural area. Areas that have new vegetation or if you have planted a new bed, use the inexpensive fences from somewhere like walmart to surround or direct the dog. Show him where he can walk, and where he can’t.
    No, I really have no problems with me dog. I’m still training all the neighborhood dogs that seem to wander about. They’re learning. It’s the cats I have problems with. 🙂 But I’ve handled those again with the fences. Sure, they could hop over them into my veggie bed… but for the most part, they’re too lazy.

    March 9, 2009 at 7:53 pm
  7. Kim

    My dog kept pulling up anything I planted in pots on my deck. Turns out she thought she was doing us a favor by removing things that in her mind didn’t belong there. We tried seeds, which did the trick. The gradual emergence of plants didn’t set off her internal intruder alarm, and we had beautiful red peppers all summer.

    November 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm
  8. Grumpy

    Moments with pets would be even more fleeting if my wife would let me put up that electric fence.

    October 15, 2008 at 1:01 pm
  9. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    For those getting dogs in the future, adopt a greyhound! These sweet dogs will create a race track for their run, but otherwise they’re very aware of their surroundings. I have a Gardening Greyhound! Charm stays on the garden paths and hasn’t yet stepped on (or much worse) any flower in my garden. We’ve had her for 5 years. http://definingyourhome.blogspot.com/2008/10/gardening-greyhound-goes-coastal_11.html

    October 15, 2008 at 8:41 am
  10. Jean

    Dogs’ Guide to Garden Beds
    The first rule is, plant nothing along the fence; that’s where we joyfully run when we see anything outside the fence.
    2. Give the flower beds their own little fences. Rebar uprights with barbed wire as weavers is a good choice.
    3. Expect that we will sometimes ‘mess up.’ It isn’t intentional, we’re just happy. Plants will grow back. The moments with pets are fleeting and precious.

    October 14, 2008 at 3:55 pm

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