Made In The Shade: Designing a Dog-Friendly Garden
44% of all households in the United States have a dog and when we spend time outdoors, our dogs want to be with us. By planning shady areas using trees, shrubbery, and retractable awnings, a necessary oasis is created where dogs can cool down and get out of the sun. Dogs are playful and active; they need space to romp and have fun. When you're thinking of what will work in your garden, remember to also plan areas for rest and relaxation so your garden is a pleasure for you and your canine companions.
An inviting garden design incorporates areas of comfort which often means shade. Trees and bushes can be an easy way to provide shade and for your dogs to provide them with cooling retreats. Plants in the garden need to be able to withstand the rigors of a dog's life while providing non-toxic shade and enjoyment. Woody shrubs tolerate aggressive pruning. Hawthorns, red-twig dogwood and crepe myrtle are perfect ways to fit the bill. They can be pruned into an appropriate size for your garden, the will withstand paws tamping the soil and bodies brushing against foliage. For larger trees, many hardy shade trees such as elm, oak and ash provide lots of shade for you and your dog.
For a comfortable outdoor setting, you can design a shady harbor into your landscape design. This can come in the form of gazebos, decks, canopies and awnings. These can be made to blend in with other structures in your garden like decks and patios. As part of the landscape, shade structures, including retractable awnings, are a way to protect everyone in the garden from the sun and its harmful UV rays, as well as rain. If made of wood, they should be finished with a non-toxic paint or coating, especially in areas accessible by your dog using non-splintering wood. If you are building a deck that will also provide a resting place for your dog, make sure the any liners and/or mulch used to pad the the ground underneath it are non-toxic and non-splintering. Retractable awnings installed on buildings are also a good way to roll out the shade when necessary. Constructing a shady area is a good alternative to plants as a respite from weather of all kinds.
Most dogs love to bask outdoors and romp through the garden. With areas of play and coupled with areas of shade, the garden can be enjoyed by humans and animals alike. When designing a garden that is meant to be shared by the entire household, remember to build in areas of shade for your dogs to enjoy.