A dog lover's guide to lawn care

How To Keep Your Dogs and lawn-loving Husband Happy

My husband knew that before we met and married, I was already involved with rescue dogs. I had lived for years without him and with them. And while we were good at compromising about all the things that couples compromise on, I believed the large expanse of green stuff between the house and garage, enclosed by fencing was the domain of dogs. He believed lawn care was relaxing.

I believed brown spots and mud were the natural result of paws and the call of nature. He believed a man’s lawn reflected on the man. Clearly we were at an impasse. I believe nothing should be sprayed or scattered on the lawn no matter how many dandelions or patches of crab grass pop up. He believed in better living through chemical application.

What’s a couple to do?

But a few adjustments made it possible for us to have our lawn and the dogs to eat it, too. The easiest fix by far is simply cordoning off a small section of the yard in which you pet can relieve himself. This keeps the dog happy and healthy and the yard free of land mines that otherwise might discourage human foot traffic.

Putting up a small fence or wood raised bed and filling it with small smooth rocks ensures easy clean up. A quick hosing eliminates smells. Small amounts of bleach: one cup to one gallon of water: can be poured on the area monthly to sanitize pebbles without endangering wildlife or the water table below the ground. And an out of the way location keeps the neighbors from complaining.

Specialty companies also sell artificial grass which is scented with a lure to train dogs. These mats can be placed indoors or out and can be washed down as often as necessary. Some actually come with a city-street-scape background and fire hydrant for the dog’s enjoyment.

This is a particularly good solution for small dogs. But in our case, large dogs require large exercise areas.

On to the next option. Some folks purchase bales of straw in the fall for use in holiday decorations. After Thanksgiving straw can be scattered along commonly walked areas to create a cushion to protect grass and cut down on mud tracked through the house. When warmer, drier weather comes, the straw can be raked up for mulch or compost. Fall holidays start the cycle again. Make sure that any hay or straw purchased from a gardening center hasn’t been sprayed with any pesticides that might sicken dogs if they chew or carry it around in their mouths. If the clerk doesn’t know, don’t buy it.

Dogs that like to rearrange the landscaping can be redirected. Purchase items like a child’s wading pool or sand box. Our Rottweiler shepherd mix thinks water sports are the greatest thing on earth. All summer long, weather permitting, a small wading pool sits on our concrete patio. The placement guarantees that the weight won’t kill grass. And the constant splashing waters everything in a three-foot radius. But keep towels handle or a wet dog will use a new rug as a bath mat. A stack of old towels by the door is always a good thing.

Small diggers, like terriers, stay out of the flower bed if they find a small pool or sandbox with small smooth pebbles in which to dig instead. Bury small toys and treats to start them in the right direction. Dogs would always prefer a treasure to a tirade and will quickly learn digging in the box results in small dog treats while digging in the flowers results in a time out. Just don’t forget to seed the box periodically with new finds so the game stays fresh. And cover the box when not in use. Neighborhood cats are also willing to leave treats in a sandbox. But that’s not the nature of this game.

Find places in which the dogs can romp or walk. A neighborhood walking path or dog park allows for the release of pent up energy that might otherwise be used to rearrange the roses. Tire out the puppy for more leisurely play in your confined space. Or check dog magazines or on line sources for agility equipment. Consider it an activity set for your furry children. Tunnels, poles, obstacles and jumps can be purchased relatively inexpensively to keep dogs focused outside. And certain particularly athletic breeds like terriers and border collies, which crave activity and action will particularly benefit from activities.

Keep a plastic milk crate of outside dogs available. Without constructive toys in the yard, a dog will turn to carrying around the sprinkler, chewing on the hose and knocking over the bird bath. Also make sure clean fresh water is available to discourage drinks from planters and puddles.

And lastly, don’t overlook outsourcing the hard tasks to enjoy the easy ones. One simple, yet admittedly slightly expensive fix was hiring a company to come weekly to clean our yard. By paying a small fee, we create a neat, clean yard regardless of weather, temperature or work demands. That allows free time to enjoy the yard and the dogs. And that keeps all of us happy.

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