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Petscaping™ from Dog Fancy Magazine, May 2008

by Eve Adamson

Order Petscaping: Training and Landscaping with Your Pet in Mind (by Scott Cohen and Carolyn Doherty)

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Design your yard around your dog for a pet-friendly environment that's beautiful too.

The whimsical cottage surrounded by an English-style garden looks like it came right out of a decorating magazine or a Merchant Ivory film. But this $9,000 landscaping project isn't the maid's quarters, a garden shed, or even a playhouse. It's a doghouse. And it's called “Petscaping™”.

“Petscaping™ is landscape design with pets in mind”, says Scott Cohen... Cohen's designs are featured in HGTV's Get Out, Way Out! series. “We like to incorporate petscaping™ into all our projects that involve families with pets”, Cohen says. “And while we've created designs for people with turtles and rabbits, most of the time, petscaping™ is for the dogs”.

But you don't have to hire a landscape designer to incorporate petscaping™ into your own backyard. You can do it yourself. Whether you're planting a garden, building a pond, or installing a footpath, fountain, or fence, you can design around and for your dog. Here's how.

Landscaping For Pets

In The Doghouse

Most people can't or don't want to spend $9,000 on a doghouse, but doghouses don't need to be fancy to be attractive and functional, Cohen says. An important part of designing a doghouse is placement. “Doghouses should not be placed in full sun. Put them in the shade of a tree or on the shady side of the house”, Cohen says. “They should be well-ventilated and comfortable.” Solid Wood Doghouse - Doggy Ranch

Doghouses should also be inviting for dogs and attractive to homeowners, Cohen says. “You can landscape a doghouse just like you would landscape your own home. Include a stream or a pond, a waterfall or a rock garden. Make it a multi-level playhouse. Decorate the entrance with something whimsical like precast concrete or even topiary fire hydrants. Surround the house with a garden”, Cohen says.

Not every pet family wants to include a doghouse in its petscaping™ plans since many dogs live inside, but dogs still need access to shade while out in the yard, especially during hot weather. “Shade for pets is essential”, Cohen says. “You can create shade with proper tree placement, but patio covers are a low cost alternative that provide instant shade wherever you hang the cloth.” Cohen likes patio covers in rectangular or sail shapes. “String them up to get great shade over a dog run or anywhere else in the yard your dog likes to hang out.”

fire hydrant topiary

Water Bowl Deluxe

Why settle for a boring bowl of water on the deck when when a fountain, pond, or pool looks so much more beautiful? “A decorative fountain is a great way to add beauty while providing pets with a functional water source,” Cohen suggests. “You don't need anything too large or fancy, but you want to run the fountain every day so you are always adding fresh water.” But unlike some pond and fountain systems, a system designed for dogs shouldn't contain chemicals like chlorine. “Use a non-chemical algaecide that won't hurt birds or animals,” Cohen advises. Essential Pet DOGC Drinkwell Big Dog Fountain

Waterfalls and ponds also can be big enough to allow dogs to go for a swim—something sporting breeds in particular enjoy. “A lot of dogs will get into a pond to cool off, but if you build a pond deeper than just a few inches, install shelves or steps so the pet can get in and out easily,” Cohen advises. Steps can also make ponds safer for small children, and flagstone shelves can prevent dogs from tearing the pond liner.

Some clients also like to install sprinklers or hose spigots for cooling and watering pets. “At each place that you set up a hose spigot or sprinkler valve, it's easy to add a dog lick or water bowl. Some have motion detectors that can tell when the dog approaches,” Cohen says. He has a raised trough in his own backyard that recirculates water falling from the roof. His bulldog Belvedere can drink from it without falling in.

Misting systems can provide more generalized cooling, although high pressure misting systems can cost $5,000 or more. More economical misting systems attach to a garden hose and can cool a kennel run during the hottest time of the day. “Run them along the fence line, patio, playhouse structure, or wherever the dog spends time,” Cohen suggests. “You can purchase these at almost any hardware store, and set them on a timer so they run just a few minutes every hour, or during the hottest time of day.”

Shop JakesDogHouse.com

Turf and Surfaces

Not all grass is created equal, Cohen says. Some varieties are more likely to show wear and tear (or paw) traffic, as well as urine burns. Choice of turf can make a big difference in how well your lawn stands up to that incessant game of Fetch. “Tougher grass suits larger, active dogs better,” Cohen says. “The toughest grasses are the sports turfs like hybrid or common Bermuda, Kikuyu, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.” The problem with these varieties is that they grow poorly in shade and in cold weather. For cool climate grasses that will grow year round and thrive in shade, consider tall fescue, bluegrass, turf rye, and Bentgrass.

Grasses native to the area are good choices, but because most yards contain a variety of microclimates and areas that are used differently, a mix of grasses often works best. “Unfortunately, sod growers produce only the most popular varieties,” Cohen says. “Mix and plant seeds for warm and cool season grasses. Most lawns evolve after a few years into a combination of grasses that work best, impacted by what survives in your area and how you use, mow, water, and fertilize the lawn.” Scotts Company Seed - Pure Premium Sun and Shade Grass 20 lbs

For those who can't get grass to work in certain high-activity areas of the yard, Cohen suggests creating a kennel run or play area covered in an alternative surface, but he advises against the typical choice, concrete. “Concrete is porous and can smell pretty foul, plus dogs can end up running around in their own waste.” Gravel isn't so great either. “Gravel allows waste to dry up and leach out with a rinse, but it isn't easy to sanitize,” says Cohen, who prefers modular plastic flooring panels. “These are easy to hose off, nonporous so you can sanitize them, and they just click together so they are easy to install.” Kwik-Floor 24"e; Flooring Panel - Gray

Cohen also recommends decomposed granite (dg),especially for footpaths along high traffic routes. “Turf doesn't handle foot traffic well, so paths will help preserve the grass,” he says. Usually tan in color and the color of sand, dg packs down better than sand and is easy to install. “You lay it down 3 - 6 inches thick, then use a heavy tamper or plate compactor to pack it down. Parks often use it for pathways because it doesn't mud-up or get squishy when wet. Binders can be added to make it even more substantial, and it won't get on the pet's feet, so they won't track it in,” Cohen says.

SpoiledRottenDoggies.com: Spoil Your Best Friend!

Dig it

Terrier folks, take note: some dogs love to dig. Rather than risking precious flower beds or vegetable gardens,why not provide dogs with an acceptable dig site? “I have a sandbox in my backyard, and it's great,” Cohen says. “Sometimes people are hesitant to put a sandbox in the backyard because they think the dogs will use it as a toilet, but most dogs don't. They like to dig in the wet sand, then get down in the hole to stay cool.” Sand is drought tolerant, doesn't require mowing, pruning, or fertilizing, and kids can play in the sandbox too. “If cats come into your yard though”, Cohen warns, “a sandbox is probably a bad idea.” Frame It All 4' x 4' x 12 Square Sandbox

Sandboxes can be any size or shape, and can fit into your yard's design. Sandboxes can be any size or shape, and can fit into your yard's design. Cohen has designed yards with faux grass putting greens and sand trap sandboxes.

What possibilities exist in your yard? That all depends on you—and your dog. “Whether you hire a landscaper or decide to do it yourself, don't forget your pet in your landscaping plans,” Cohen says. “Your dog probably uses your yard more than you do. Shouldn't you consider his needs along with your own?”

Eve Adamson is a Dog Fancy contributor and an award winning pet writer.

Landscaping For Pets

Click here to see our project profile for the doghouse and dogs.

Click here to see our project profile for the putting green.