By Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have a canine friend who won’t seem to stay out of your garden? How do you keep your dog from plundering your garden without losing your mind or your harvest?
You’re in the right place if these questions frequently run through your mind. The fact is, I’m an avid gardener, but I’m also a dog-lover.
I have two dogs: a sassy, old Labrador Retriever who lives her best life and believes the world is her oyster. Then I have a young, frisky German Shepherd who is super smart but also extremely silly.
One wants in my garden because she thinks it’s her own personal grocery store. The other wants in the garden because that’s where her friend and her humans hang out.
I’ve managed to keep my dogs from destroying my gardens over the years, and I’d like to share a few ideas to hopefully inspire you.
Here’s a few ways you might be able to keep your dogs from plundering your garden:
1. Obedience Training
I’m a huge advocate of dogs, especially large breeds. Sometimes these breeds get a bad reputation when, in reality, their owners just weren’t prepared for the breed and failed to train them.
Dogs are pack animals, so if they don’t know who’s leading them, they frequently get out of control. This leads to reckless behavior and property damage.
Nothing replaces good obedience training. It’s not only responsible, but it could save your garden. Do yourself a favor and invest in your dog. Teach them what “No!” means if nothing else. This alone will tell them that when you tell them to stop, they shouldn’t place a paw in your garden.
Most breeds are out to please their owners, so they’ll quickly catch on to your commands. It takes persistence and positive reinforcements.
If you need help, there are many tutorials around the Internet for properly training your dog using a clicker and treats. Utilize these tools to save both your garden and sanity.
2. Good Fencing
This next option is good for multiple reasons. If you have a problem with keeping your dog out of your garden, either create a fenced area for your dog to remain while you garden or place a sturdy fence around your gardening area.
Keeping a fenced area for your dog is great for keeping them safe during multiple different situations.
However, fencing your garden is also a wise investment to keep a plethora of animals out of the area.
Consider which fencing option makes the most sense and run with it. Ensure the fencing is durable, whether around your garden or in a separate area for your dog.
This ensures that the dog can’t break in or break out. A few good options to choose from are livestock fencing, chain link fencing, and some wooden fences are durable. How strong the fence must be will also depend upon the size and strength of your dog.
3. Watch What Fertilizers You Use
I never thought about this until speaking with our mail carrier one day. She planted beautiful bushes around her home, only to have her neighbor’s dog dig them up the next day.
The dog didn’t just have a fondness for the bushes. It was the fertilizer used that drew him in. Our mail-friend used blood meal when planting the bushes.
Obviously, the dog caught a whiff of this scent and was all over it due to his nature. If you have a canine-buddy at your home, choose your fertilizers wisely.
Realize that dogs have a distinct nature about them, and if they smell something, they’re going to dig to find the scent.
You may wish to use synthetic fertilizers in the place of the natural options to discourage your dog from digging where the fertilizer is applied.
4. Scent Repellents
Did you know there are certain scents your dog can’t stand? They don’t like cayenne pepper, vinegar, or ammonia.
If you need to keep your dog out of your garden, consider applying these fragrances as a barrier. You may also purchase scent repellents from most big box stores.
Check the ingredients to ensure they won’t harm your pup. Once you know it’s a safe option, sprinkle it around your garden perimeter at least once per week.
Hopefully, when your dog associates the scent with the area, they’ll wait for you at a distance and stay out of your gardening spot.
5. Automatic Sprinklers
This option may not work for some dogs, but it’s worth mentioning. If you have an old, lazy dog who doesn’t enjoy bath time, install sprinklers.
The sudden spraying of water may startle them and encourage them to stay away from your gardening area.
However, if you have a younger, silly dog (like my German Shepherd) they may consider this a play area where they get to dodge the sprinklers.
Consider your dog’s temperament and preferences for water before deciding if this is the right option for protecting your garden.
6. Keep Your Dog Busy Away from Your Garden
I have to keep my dogs out of my garden because my older Lab will graze through it and help herself to my harvest. This is okay, once I’ve picked it.
However, I don’t want her accidentally pulling up plants or eating parts of a plant that may not be good for her.
My German Shepherd is a bull in a China shop when in the garden. She’ll demolish plants in a matter of minutes.
Therefore, I’ve started finding ways to keep my dogs busy away from my garden. My dogs like to be where I am.
We live on a farm, so they do have a fenced backyard, but we have five acres in front of our home where my garden is.
In these instances, I supply my dogs with a radial fence, so they can safely roam the front yard. However, the fence creates a boundary between them and my garden, and they have lots of toys they can play with in the secure area while still keeping eyes on me.
If you keep your dogs occupied with play, and still allow them to see where you are, they should lose interest in your garden plot.
7. Keep a Watchful Eye
This next one is simple and free. If you don’t want your dog in your garden, supervise them. Dogs are like toddlers.
If you don’t teach them and watch them carefully, they can create messes and sometimes put themselves in harm’s way.
Therefore, something as simple as leashing your dog while you’re in the garden, so they can stay with you but also be tended to, could protect your garden and your dog.
There are hands-free leashes on the market which might be a good option for keeping your dog with you while performing gardening tasks.
8. Keep a Toy at Your Garden
Some dogs aren’t happy if they aren’t right with their owner. My German Shepherd can be this way at times. She can be entertained when staying close with our other dog.
However, there are times when she just wants me. That’s perfectly fine with me because it makes me happy that we have that type of bond.
In those instances, I’ll open the radial fence and let her come closer to my garden. Yet, I’m sure to provide entertainment at the garden.
This comes in the form of toys or chew sticks to where she’ll have encouragement to lay down outside of my garden and enjoy an enrichment activity while still staying close to me.
It’s wise to keep special toys that your dogs only get at the garden, so it’ll keep their interest for a longer period.
9. Walk Your Dog Before Gardening
My Labrador is a rescue. She had a rough start to her life and had tons of nervous energy when she was younger.
I reached out to a rescue for advice because I’d never seen a dog so keyed up when she first arrived at our home.
They explained that a tired dog doesn’t have the energy to be worked up or anxious. I’ve utilized this advice in many different ways over the years with our dogs.
When I know I’m going somewhere or doing a chore around our farm where they can’t come, I have two options: let them bark and whine the whole time I’m gone or give them exercise, so they rest while I’m away.
Walking is great exercise for you and your dog. Before heading to the garden, take your pup for a brisk walk. Then let them rest in the sunshine while you work in the garden.
10. Ultrasonic Repellent Device
This is a humane way to keep your dog, the neighbor’s dog, and random neighborhood cats out of your garden.
Most of these outdoor devices are even solar powered. The idea is to place a device around your garden that resembles a solar light.
When the animal walks into your garden, the device is motion-activated. It produces a high-pitched sound that makes the animal flee the area as quickly as possible.
Some of the devices even provide a flashing light to get the animal’s attention even further. If your garden is in an area that you share with your dog, this might be a good way to discourage them from harming your garden.
11. Fence Your Yard
This next suggestion is more for people who have issues with random dogs showing up in their yard. I live in the country, and I’ve learned there are two types of mentalities among people and their dogs in a rural setting.
The first is: I’ll keep my dogs on my property.
The other mentality is: Dogs are meant to free range.
I fall into category one, but I’m surrounded by people who fall into the second category.
After a few years of dogs showing up in my yard disturbing both my dogs and garden, I knew the old saying, “Good fences make good neighbors” needed to be applied. I fenced in the front five acres of my property, and it stopped most of the disruption.
Now, this is an investment of your time and resources. Yet, if you have those things available, it may be a wise investment to fence as much of your property as possible to protect your garden.
12. If It Isn’t Your Dog, Talk It Out
This point goes along with the last one. If it isn’t your dog you’re trying to keep out of your garden but a neighbor’s dog, say something.
Be sure you do so calmly and can provide proof that it is their dog before approaching the subject. You may even consider posting signs on your property to let people know you don’t want their dog on your property.
It isn’t worth losing a friendly relationship with a neighbor over. However, you do have the right to voice your opinion and ask your neighbor to please keep their dog off your property as they’re damaging it.
13. Provide Treats
Whether it be for training your dog or keeping them happy while you’re gardening, provide your dog with treats when they’re hanging around outside of your garden.
This will supply positive reinforcement for them to stay where they are and keep doing what they’re doing.
However, it could also be a special time for your dog when you go to the garden. They’ll associate your gardening with the treat.
Then they’ll wag their tail, take their treat, and lay down outside of the garden to enjoy it. You don’t need to supply high-calorie treats.
Instead, pick something fresh and good for your dog straight from the garden. Then let them enjoy it.
14. Don’t Garden in the Ground
Some dogs are just persistent. You can put up the best fence, provide the most fun toys, and even highly delicious, nutritious treats.
It won’t matter. They’re stubborn, and it’s their world. You just happen to live in it. Some breeds are this way.
I had an English Bulldog who I loved dearly until her passing almost eight years ago, but she was stubborn!
If you have one of these dogs, consider trying a different gardening method. You can garden in raised garden beds that are taller.
You can also try container gardening. Either way, this allows you to create a high barrier that might make it difficult for some dogs to reach.
15. Keep Container Gardens at a Safe Distance
Lastly, if you do container garden, ensure you place the containers where your dog can’t reach. I like to plant certain crops in containers and place them on my back deck for aesthetics and convenience.
My German Shepherd views them as toys, and I’ve caught her more than once running around with a plant in her mouth that she yanked straight from the pot.
This is my sign to place my pots in a higher location. Container gardening gives you more options for protecting your crops, so if this gardening style works for you, be sure to place them at a height your furry-friend can’t reach.
You now have fifteen different options for keeping your dogs, or your neighbor’s dogs, out of your garden.
There are multiple humane ways to create boundaries around your garden. Hopefully, these tips will keep your plants safe, your pup safe, and your sanity intact as you enjoy gardening with your pup each growing season.