National Dog Day is Saturday, August 26, 2017, a date set aside to celebrate dogs, recognize the number that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledge our canine friends who work to save lives and bring comfort. In honor of this dog-gone good holiday, Lucky the TurfMutt, a rescue dog himself and the official spokesdog of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) environmental education program—TurfMutt.com—encourages pet parents and landscape contractors to reevaluate family and customers’ yards to ensure they’re appropriate for our furry friends.
Planted and cared for properly, the family yard can offer an outdoor living room for family, children and pets. It can also support biodiversity, foster health benefits for humans and pets, and benefit the environment.
As any gardener can tell you, fall is a time for planting in advance of the next year’s spring season. Here are TurfMutt’s top five tips for ensuring the family yard is a place everyone can enjoy year-round.
1. Consider Dogs’ Needs
Each dog—senior, puppy, small, big, active breed or not-so-much—has different needs. Is the dog a water hound? Maybe you should include a splash pool or water fountain. Got a digger? A sand pit might work well to keep the dog entertained—and the mess contained. Does the dog love to run the perimeter of the yard? Design the yard with his path in mind. Does the dog have dog friends next door? Maybe an eye-level hole in the fence would keep her from barking. Jot down everything the dog needs from the family yard, then map out the landscaping accordingly.
2. Keep Pets Safe and Sound
One of the most important pet features in the family yard is a secure fence – whether it’s made of wood, metal, vinyl or concrete. Inspect and fix the fence—or install one—so the family can rest easy knowing the dog is safely within the boundary of the yard.
3. Include Turfgrass
Turfgrass is safe—unlike concrete, asphalt or hard ground—and offers pets a soft, cool spot to lie down, even during the hottest conditions. It also creates a comfortable backyard playground and provides a place to take care of business. There are many types of turfgrass that can handle “ruff-housing” from dogs and kids alike. Check your climate zone to make sure you’re selecting an appropriate grass species for where you and your customers live. (Another bonus benefit is grass is very good at capturing and filtering rainwater.)
4. Select the Right Plants
You want to have a balance of grass, flower plants, trees and shrubs in the family yard. Including this mix of species is not only beautiful, but it also helps support biodiversity. Remember, nature starts in the backyard! Keeping your climate zone in mind, select appropriate landscaping for the areas you identified in the yard. Around walking paths, for instance, you want to include sturdy, yet soft foliage that can stand up to puppy and people traffic without scratching. Use elevated boxes and patio planters for more delicate flowering plants.
5. Avoid Toxic Plants
One last word of important advice: There are some plants and shrubs that are poisonous to dogs. Avoid these in the outdoor living room entirely. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a list of toxic plants that you should refer to when shopping for dog-friendly yards.