Making the decision to bring a dog home is big – one of the biggest decisions we could possibly make for our family, since it means a commitment of perhaps 10-15 years. Dogs live longer than many other pets (hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and Canaries), which is something you need to prepare yourself for already before starting to consider a canine family addition. Your new dog will need love, attention, food, exercise and preferably a yard to run around in, but is your yard safe for a dog? You may end up with a grass eater, a digger, a dog that likes to pee on your favorite apple tree or just one of those pups that can run for hours in circle after circle – putting your lawn up to the test of its grassy lifetime.
Preparing the Yard
Having a dog is a wonderfully enriching experience, but it comes with adjustments, and possibly also sacrifice, depending on how prepared you are for what is to come. By knowing what to expect, you can make the necessary adjustments beforehand, to set your dog up for a happy backyard life, without it being on the expense of your yard. It is, believe it or not, possible to have both.
If you are bringing home a puppy, it is important to remember that puppies are like human toddlers, and they have no concept of what is safe for them to do and – even more importantly – eat. Everything is new to a puppy that has recently been separated from their mom, and you can be sure that they will be exploring every inch of that backyard once let loose. This is how puppies learn; through discovery, and you will probably want to puppy proof your yard before your new little fur friend moves in.
Step one is to remove anything sharp or dangerous that your puppy could potentially harm themselves with; such as shovels, rakes, left-out nails or broken glass. Do a clean-up of the yard the way you would if a child was coming over for a visit, and remove any junk, overgrown weeds and harmful chemicals (pesticides, cleaning supplies and more). You also want to cut the grass short or invest in artificial turf, to make it a less attractive environment for ticks and fleas.
If you have plants or trees you don’t want your puppy to touch or destroy, then you might want to invest in a sturdy dog gate, net or divider to place a physical barrier between a treasured yard plant and a curious (and sometimes reckless dog). All dogs can be trained, but puppies are known for driving their owners nuts in the beginning, so it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Real vs. Artificial Grass
While dogs love walking, running and rolling in grass – grass probably wouldn’t name a dog their best friend. There is a significant risk that your perfect lawn will take a toll once the dog arrives; as dog urine could cause grass discoloring, along with the risk of digging and general wear and tear. This is something you will need to prepare yourself for, as it may be difficult (if not impossible) to avoid completely. Regular yard maintenance is the best way to go when trying to combine owning a dog and having a nice yard, and you may want to keep a couple of packs of grass seeds at home, just in case the lawn starts looking a little sad and thin in places.
Watering can also be beneficial, especially in places where you’ve noticed your pup likes to do his or her business. Keep it clean and looked-after, and the damage might never get too be big enough to be noticed. If looking after the lawn isn’t your thing, then maybe artificial grass could be an option worth considering? There are many artificial grass options today that both look and feel realistic, but that does not require the maintenance of real grass or run the risk of being destroyed by happy doggy paws bouncing all over it.
This goes unsaid, but you need to make 100% sure that your dog cannot escape the yard, even if he or she decides to give it a fair try. If you don’t already have a fence – put one up; either a wooden plank or something similar – with the sole purpose of keeping the pup inside the yard and safe from whatever is out there. If you already have a reliable fence, you still want to take a few minutes to check it thoroughly for holes, loose planks or spaces underneath where your pup might be able to squeeze through and run away.
It is our responsibility as dog owners to guarantee the safety of our dogs as they spend time in the yard (this applies if the dog is left in the yard alone, but also when being watched the whole time, since accidents happen fast), and a sturdy fence is crucial for a good dog-in-the-yard experience. All dogs need a chance to run around, and a fenced-in backyard is perfect for outdoor play and to burn off some steam.
Keep in mind that some dogs are escape artists and might be able to climb or jump a low fence – or dig their way under. Make sure you do regular fence checks even after the dog arrives, to avoid walking out one day to find that your pup has made a run for it.
Dogs can be trained to do their business in a specific part of the yard if you would like to make cleaning a bit easier. Just pick a spot where you wouldn’t mind it so much if they peed and went number two and start your training (the same way you would train a dog to use a pee pad) as early as possible. Dogs all ages can learn, but puppies are known for being quick learners when being trained properly and with posit