You love your dog. That dog has been a big part of your life and still keeps you company and loves you back. So how can you make sure both you and your pet stay happy with an aging-in-place garden?
Here are three tips to make it easy for you and your dog to age in place in your yard.
Your task is simple: pay attention to the dog’s behavior. Is your pet still acting the same way in the yard? An older dog may not be comfortable and may start behaving differently.
Digging: For example, what if your dog is a natural digger? Keep an eye on where it’s digging these days. Hmmm, a new digging location appears - analyze why. Is the ground soft in the new location because it’s an irrigated flower bed, and the dog’s paws sometimes hurt? Is there more space between plants because you switched from perennials to low-maintenance shrubs, and the dog needs more room due to size?
Don’t have a special spot designated for digging? Create one.
Place sharp-edged rocks in the spot where you want digging to stop, and offer instead a nice deep digging put of sand or pea gravel. Use metal edging or timbers and low shrubs to control the sand and hide the pit.
Patrolling: Is your dog a patrolling fiend wearing paths of bare earth around the fence or the yard’s perimeter? Use aging-in-place strategies here to help both you and your dog. You won’t stop the dog’s vigilant behavior, but you can screen it.
Think about the shrubs and other plantings you are adding for interest, contrast and color from inside and outside the house. Place these so the dog can patrol behind the plants, leaving a space between plants and fences.
Install bigger plants than you might otherwise do, so ensure survival in the dog’s kingdom.
Use mulch on the path as an extension of the plant beds. Just make sure there’s a good 3 inches of mulch packed down in the canine circulation route.
Want to avoid muddy paws? If your yard is small and you want to make it easier on older paws, consider a wooden walkway. Portable grids of wood can be installed in various shapes right on top of bare earth or existing mulch paths.
Taking it easy: What about lounge areas? An older dog may seek new spots to stay cool in summer or to bask in warmth in spring and fall. Dogs can get arthritis in their joints or may slow down due to illness such as a heart condition. These additional locations for resting can have a negative impact on your garden. Rather than force the dog to stick to the old sites, accommodate the new ones.
Raised beds and containers not only make it easier for you, they allow the dog to have new resting areas. Trade garden area for snoozing area!
If you use sand for a digging pit, try a shady site with a thinner layer of pea gravel as an adaptation for coolness. Your dog may want dirt rather than lawn for a new sunbathing preference, so try artificial turf. This turf isn’t a good solution for elimination areas. It retains odors and can smell dreadful after a while. But with a dog trained to a different potty spot, small carpets of artificial turf can come in handy to restore the lawn’s pristine look when the dog is inside.
Let me know how these ideas work for you and your canine companions.