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Pet Friendly Gardens – Top Tips On Making Your Own

Are you worried about your pets spending time in the garden? This guide details how to make a pet-friendly garden so that your four-legged friend can join you and your family outside without concern for them getting into something they shouldn’t.

Making a pet friendly garden

“The share of households owning a pet in the United Kingdom remained relatively stable between 2011/12 and 2017/18, hovering around an estimated percentage of 47 to 45 percent. However, pet ownership levels peaked to an unprecedented high of 62 percent in 2021/22, likely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and increased time spent at home.”

Published by Statista Research Department, Apr 22, 2022

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a large increase in pet owners in the UK. With so many more pets being welcomed into our homes, many pet owners have sought ways to keep them safe and give them some freedom in the garden.

Make sure garden is secure & pathways are pet friendly

To start designing a cat or dog friendly garden you need to make sure the garden itself is secure and won’t cause any hazards for your four-legged friends. Before starting any new garden design or planting any plants, the first step is to ensure that your garden is a safe haven for your pets.

If you know you have a busy road, a gap in the hedge or a set of really key delicate plants, then the best idea is to ensure your animals can’t get harmed or harm your plants. Start with making sure the perimeter is secure. To do this, look for any area where your pet could get out.

For dogs, you will want to make sure all fences or walls are secure; you do not want them to be able to escape. But for cats, it is the opposite. You will want to ensure that there are ways for them to get into and out of the garden. An effective way to do this would be to add little steps built into a brick wall or use a trellis to create an area they can grip as they climb. We also have some tips for stopping cats entering or pooping in the garden, you can find this article here.

Think about how you can secure the border of your property. “We recommend using hedging as a soft way to make a border and reduce noise pollution. You can also purchase dog-friendly fencing and acoustic fencing from some retailers,” says Chris Bonnett, a gardening expert for The Express

Securing a Garden for Puppies

But how do you fence off a garden for a curious puppy? Puppies are a little more difficult to protect as they can fit through smaller gaps that you wouldn’t think would be a hazard. However, there are definitely ways to keep them in the garden. For example, use wood fence posts and chicken wire to screen off those gaps without having to purchase expensive wooden fencing. You should also think about using mesh fencing around any hedge border as well. 


It is also worth considering the types of pathways and flooring you have in the garden. Cats don’t mind any form of flooring, but dogs have sensitive paws. We recommend sticking to concrete or other solid materials, such as a wooden decking area. Try to avoid using gravel or stone as they can become sharp and hurt your pets’ paws. The Dogs Trust show garden 2016 at Hampton Court used large cobbles in its dog-friendly garden. Be careful with gravel, always choose large cobbles that can’t be swallowed or chewed easily also dog mess can be really tricky to pick up on a gravel bed!

Don’t Use Gravel Paths – Instead opt For Large Cobbles To Protect Pet Paws

Create a dog-friendly play zone in the garden

We all know that dogs just want to play in the garden, so find ways to keep it fun. It may be worth finding an area that your pets can specifically play in, adding toys and non-toxic plants that you are happy for them to explore.  Maybe add a paddling pool, which is a fun cooling-off spot over the summer. But ensure you’re there to supervise and your dog can leave the pool easily

Pets Digging in the Garden

A problem I am sure all pet owners have, digging in the garden! Have you planted a bed of stunning flowers, to then have an animal dig it all up? Unfortunately, digging is normal pet behaviour. But don’t let that get in your way as we have a few tips for helping you protect your prized plants and keep your pets happy. 

  1. Use raised beds to protect both your plants and your animal as smaller animals cannot reach to top to start digging. You could also combine built-in seating to save space in the garden.
  2. Protect areas from animals by using strong scents like coffee grounds in the soil of the plant that are natural deterrents. As a bonus, coffee grounds make good fertiliser too so it’s a two-in-one solution. 
  3. We know many people may not like this idea, but hopefully some do. Allow the animals to dig in the ground. Dogs are the worst for this but if you make a designated digging pit, they are less likely to dig everywhere else. Find a sturdy container, dig a hole deep enough to keep the container flush with the ground and fill it with dirt. Maybe even hide a few treats like a bone or any other reward you would like. They will then start to associate this area with receiving rewards and stop digging in places where they are not allowed to. 
Use raised flower beds to protect plants from animals

Stopping dogs from turning grass yellow

No one likes yellowed grass, and lots of pet owners are probably very used to this. But you can prevent it! Yellow or brown grass spots can be caused by the acidity of animal urine or faeces that are high in nitrogen. To reverse these effects the simplest thing you can do is wash the area with water right after you notice an animal using your garden as a toilet. 

Is artificial grass good for dogs?

It is important to remember that every animal is different, but most won’t find a problem with artificial grass. These grasses feel soft and natural under paws which is why many homeowners have started to use them. Artificial grass is ideal for those wanting a natural look but who don’t want to deal with the digging and muddy paws being brought into the house. 

To avoid the smell of animal urine on the artificial grass you can use an odour-reducing infill. Companies such as Easigrass use organic turf infill applied to the grass to prevent any bad smells. The infill is used between blades of grass and is spread down into the turf fibres. 

How to Keep Your Pets Safe in the Garden

Now that the area of your garden is secure and you have some plants they can explore, you need to make sure that your pets stay safe whilst they are in there. This includes keeping pets away from slugs and snails as these can make your pets ill. You may also want to reduce any use of pesticides or pest control, this is because your pets explore their surroundings using their nose and mouth, so chemicals may harm them.

Slug pellets are a hazard to pets, so you should consider alternatives such as slug barriers around plants which can be created from crushed egg shells, forest bark and wood ash. The RSPB offers the following advice on dealing with slugs.

Certain types of mulches can also prove to be a hazard. Avoid using any mulches containing cocoa as this can be poisonous to dogs.

Water features in gardens can be a wonderful addition but do make sure that there are means by which your pets can get out of the pond should they fall in. Gradual slopes work well in this instance rather than overhanging paving slabs.

During the summer months, it is natural for your pets to want to spend more time outside. So, make sure to add somewhere with shade for them, this could be under a gazebo, tree or anything else you would like to add shade with. To encourage them under the shade, you could even add an extra bed that can be moved indoors at night time.

A wonderful way to keep them occupied (and not digging up your plants) would be to add a play area specifically for them, including toys, and balance areas and for dogs, adding a sprinkler can bring them some enjoyment in the garden.

Provide pets with toys in garden – Photo by Justin Veenema

Another brilliant idea is to add an outdoor shower, especially if you have dogs. There is nothing worse than getting back from walking the dog on a muddy day, to then have them walk indoors and make a mess all over the house. So, adding a showering area outdoors, even just a hose would work, and will make all the difference.

Pet Friendly Plants

As with their want to explore the area, your pets are naturally going to be curious about the plants growing in your garden. With many different scents, the plants in your garden can bring much enjoyment to your pets. But beware, not all plants are pet friendly. We suggest you check out the PDSA website where they list what plants they suggest keeping away from your pets. Here are our recommended pet-friendly plants for your garden.

Top 8 pet friendly plants for the garden

  1. Camellias
  2. Roses
  3. Magnolias
  4. Petunias
  5. Marigolds (but try to limit the time your dogs are around them)
  6. Houseleeks
  7. Star Jasmin
  8. Orchids

Please do conduct your own research on these plants before purchasing. We recommend having a look at PDSA for more information.

Signs of pets eaten toxic plants

As referenced on the Blue Cross website, these are the symptoms of plant poisoning:

  • Drooling
  • Not eating
  • Low energy
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea – especially if bits of chewed up plants are in it
  • Drinking or weeing more
  • Rashes
  • Red skin
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pale gums
  • Twitching or seizures
  • Collapse

If you suspect your pet may have eaten a poisonous plant, call your vet immediately.


We hope this has been helpful for all pet owners with gardens. But please remember, do some research on whether or not the plant is pet friendly before buying. Why not download our guide to a pet-friendly garden and share it with your friends and family? Remember that animals will react in different ways to plants. Also, checkout this article on pet-friendly houseplants.

Updated on November 3, 2023

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