Dog friendly landscape design

Dog garden ideas

Dog friendly landscape design

Dog friendly landscape design often involves a play area with a nice patch of lawn.  People often ask how can I have a nice garden with my dog? A small path of lawn will provide recreational space for children and pets in your backyard and is one of the best dog garden ideas.

Landscape Design with Dogs in Mind

In this landscape garden design, a stepped brush fence creates a screen for the colorbond garden shed. If you have a lot of brush fence, consider breaking it up with some vertical gardens. Having a shed in the backyard means that all of the fertilizers, garden machinery and fuels can be safely locked away from the doggie. A grevillea and a feature garden as well as screening plants add to the effect that makes the small garden appear larger than it actually is.

Dog garden ideas
Dog garden ideas  – A hard wearing couch lawn is ideal for pets and children to play on.

The lawn creates a valuable space for pets to play or for entertaining guests as well as contrast and a beautiful green space for the garden.


Dog friendly garden Couch lawn
Dog friendly garden Couch lawn. A stepped brush fence creates a screen for the colorbond garden shed.

What Ground Cover is safe for dogs?

Dog friendly garden surfaces

Hard wearing couch lawn can be an ideal surface for pets and children to play on.

Couch Grass Santa Ana couch

The grass chosen was Santa Ana couch Cynodon dactylon x Cynodon transvaalensis which is a hybrid variety of Nullarbor couch. Its soft matt is ideal for pets and small children If you are in a colder climate, your couch may go a little brown over winter. In this picture you can see where the shadier part of the lawn has just started to brown. This is a temporary condition and your couch will revive once the warmer weather returns. If your dog likes to wee on the lawn keep a bucket of water or a hose handy to wet the lawn down where your dog has been. The key to making the lawn child friendly and dog friendly, is in the layers below the lawns surface. The lawns should be laid on a sandy loam soil to maintain a soft surface in the case of falls. See our blog on Lawn Care for more information.

Garden Design

The lawn slopes gently down to a stained sleeper edge and raised garden bed. The blue pansies contrast beautifully with the white alyssum and white garden chairs. Herbs for the kitchen are also grown in this raised garden bed. Raised garden beds and pots help to keep young dogs and puppies away from plants. The landscape garden design features wooden decking and a rendered concrete retaining wall. Pavers sunk into the lawn help to reduce wear marks and create a contrast with the rich green couch lawn. The potted plant and pedestal along with the pavers create an illusion of depth for this landscape garden design. The lawn pavers lead to garden steps to access the lawn area.

Raised garden bed and secure Rear Fence Privacy Screening for a dog friendly backyard.
Rear Fence Privacy Screening, couch lawn and elevated planters. The potted plant and pedestal with the lawn pavers create an illusion of depth in the Santa Ana couch lawn. In the top right hand corner sandstone lawn edging and antique slate steps. Limoniums handle Australia’s coastal garden conditions and climate well.

In this landscape garden design, Sandstone edging is used at the top of the antique slate step. The sandstone provides a wonderful contrast to the lawn and its neat edge helps with garden maintenance of the lawn edging. The steps can be used as seating for entertaining as well as providing access to the lawn area. Small dogs and older people might struggle with steps this height, so a dog ramp is provided by the edge of the lawn. This ramp also helps when the mower needs to be brought out to the front yard.

Concrete Lawn pavers and sandstone lawn edging. Hard wearing dog friendly garden surfaces.
Concrete Lawn pavers and sandstone lawn edging. Hard wearing dog friendly garden surfaces.

How can I protect my garden from my dog?

Gardens can be protected from your pet dog by raising them up or using concrete or terracotta pots. Vertical gardens is another way of having a nice safe gardens with your dog. Avoid the use of lightweight plastic pots.

Raised Garden Bed Constructed from rendered concrete block construction.
Raised Garden Bed Constructed from rendered concrete block construction. This makes it difficult for small dogs to dig in the garden. Behind the pansies is the stained wooden garden edging.
Paved courtyard with table and concrete plant pots.
Dog friendly garden surfaces. Paved courtyard with table and concrete plant pots.  The aggregate near the Lilli Pilly provides good drainage and helps to prevent muddy paws.
Magnolia in a raised pot. This courtyard is a backyard designed for a dog.
Magnolia in a raised pot near the paved courtyard.

Plants to avoid for Pets and Children

For pets and small children there are many plants that should be avoided. There are plants that are toxic to pets, and some which will cause skin irritation. For example, Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea) and Zebrina ‘Wandering Jew’ (Tradescantia zebrine) should be avoided if you have a dog, as they have been associated with allergic skin disease.

Avoid Tradescantia zebrine for a dog friendly garden
Rainforest flora – Tradescantia zebrina (Wandering jew). Invasive plant species. Avoid this plant for dog friendly landscape design.



Other plants to be avoided include holly, poinsettias, cycads and oleander. Another plant to avoid is the Duranta erecta which is often sold as a hedge plant but is poisonous for your pets and children. When planning your garden, talk to the horticulture expert at your local plant nursery for help with pet friendly plant selection. Even the pebble mulch we have used in this garden will be a problem if your dog likes to chew on stones. It is important to keep your dog entertained with toys and chew bones as well as keeping an eye on them in the garden.


Dog friendly Plants for Australian Gardens

For dog friendly garden plants take a look at Salvia Leucantha or Mexican Bush Sage and similar plants. Always check with your local qualified horticulturist when you are buying plants.

Plants in pots.


Pansies and Lobelia in a concrete garden pot.
Pansies and Lobelia in a concrete garden pot.

For splashes of colour around the garden, viola, pansies and lobelias were added to the shrubs growing in pots. Out of the reach of puppies and small dogs. Snail pellets should also be avoided if you have a puppy or small dog.


Small plastic pots are easy for dogs to pick up.
The dog friendly backyard. Small plastic pots are easy for dogs to pick up and create a mess. Does that look like the face of a naughty dog or just a puppy exploring the world?


Plants in Vertical Gardens and Garden Walls

Another effective way to keep your pet and garden separated is to use a vertical garden or a garden wall. This will mean that your plant is safe from your new puppy and your new puppy is safe from your plants.

Dog Friendly Paved Courtyard


This landscape garden design features a paved courtyard, a dark green magnolia grandiflora “little gem” was planted in a square garden pot. The pot was painted dark brown to create an aged ceramic look. (The pot is actually fibreglass.) As its name suggests, little gem is a compact variety of magnolia. It will help to give your garden a tropical feel.
The orange marigolds go well with the blue lobelia and dark green Magnolia. Around the pot you can see the start of a box hedge and the pebble mulch. In the background climbing roses in concrete pots, and wall mounted pot plants add to the effect.

Magnolia grandiflora “little gem” in a planter pot.
Magnolia grandiflora “little gem” in a planter pot.

Magnolia grandifolia ‘Little Gem’ is a compact cultivar that will flower at a young age. Shiny oval-shaped leaves are dark to mid-green. Large creamy-white chalice-shaped flowers are very fragrant. You will see these flowers appear through summer and autumn. A slightly acidic, rich soil with plenty of organic matter is recommended. In this courtyard, the plant is protected from hot northerly winds. The elevated pot keeps the plants out of reach for puppies and small dogs.

Commercial Landscaping of Public Spaces

Public spaces around commercial buildings are often used by members of the public to walk their dogs. During commercial landscaping of these spaces the commercial landscaping contractor as we as the landscape architect need to be aware of any toxic plants on the plantlist.


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Hello, I’m Callum. A little bit about me? My passion ever since I was young is for the environment and the outdoor world we live in. Something we neglect in our concrete jungles and glass palaces. It’s this passion that’s been infused into every fibre of my company’s processes.

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