A Puppy-Safe Backyard Playground

Are your clients concerned about the health of their beloved creatures and backyard animals? How do you ease those concerns and create a pet-friendly, but perfectly manicured lawn?

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It was just last summer that a neighbor stopped by to ask my secret to the flourishing climbing roses adorning my garage. I modestly mentioned that I just kept up on my pruning, but it was a proud moment nonetheless. Fast-forward a year and my climbing roses are lackluster at best.

What changed, you ask? That stubborn Japanese beetle is what changed. All of a sudden, mid-summer, the leaves on my roses look like doilies and my ferns are pretty skeletal as well. Normally, I’d do some quick research, find a remedy, buy and apply it, then move on with my life.

But besides the sudden scourge of Japanese beetles this year, there’s something else new in my life, too. A little puppy bundle of joy named Riggs. Now I didn’t want to become an overly anxious new puppy mom, but I’ve read the alarming articles on the potential dangers of fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use, and their potential for making my puppy sick. So, I decided to play it safe—just in case—and go natural for a year and see what happened.

Well, you know the end to that story. Anyway, I did my research and saw that hand-picking the pests off was one of the best methods to rid them from my precious plants, but that sounded way too laborious for my already hectic schedule. The second approach I opted for was mixing my own concoction of household products the Internet told me would help alleviate my problem and keep my puppy healthy. What did I have to lose?

I lost nothing, except for my roses and ferns it turns out. But I know there is a way to have the best of both worlds. The products being manufactured for lawn care these days are much more advanced than they used to be and pet-friendly is just one of the traits you can now find on packaging, with warnings that must still be heeded, of course.

As an amateur, I’d still be wary of applying these supposedly pet-safe products to my lawn on my own, especially because I know following directions to the letter is a must. According to “How Lawn Chemicals and Herbicides Affect Dogs” from mnn.com, “With proper applications of herbicides, the health risks to our dogs is minimal, but you can't guarantee that your neighbors, or the lawn crew you hire will read and follow label directions.”

But would I enlist professionals who assured me they were trained in the ways of pet-friendly fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide applications? You bet. Then I could ask questions like: How long should my pet stay off the lawn to be safe? If they couldn’t answer my questions, however, I would once again be skeptical and move on.

Is there an overlooked marketing strategy here? Do you discuss pet-safe options with your animal-loving clients? Perhaps your competitors don’t and, if that’s the case, perhaps you can corner the critter market. Just an idea from an animal lover and protective puppy mom …