Dog Friendly Backyard Landscaping

Nobody knows exactly how many dogs there are in the Charlotte area, but we know that they can have an impact on what you do with your yard. And we know a lot of you have dogs. Best estimates come from the American Veterinary Medical Association, which surveys for pet ownership every five years. By AVMA estimates, the Charlotte area has about 127,000 households with at least 1 dog. So we figure that leaves a lot of Charlotte area residents with questions about how to make their backyard landscaping dog friendly. So here are some ideas and a spotlight on one project we specifically did to rehab a yard that the owner’s dogs destroyed.

Backyard Dog Fencing Ideas and Advice

Fences are probably the most obvious part of making a backyard good for a dog. A good fence will create boundaries in the yard for your dog and protect it from other dogs that might get free and wander the neighborhood. Chain link is common, but ugly. Many neighborhoods in Charlotte, Fort Mill and Waxhaw have HOA requirements when it comes to fencing, so you may not have many choices.

You can choose to fence the entire yard, which is fairly simple on some lots and not as easy when there are wooded areas involved. Of you can create a dog run or play area in part of the yard. A dog enclosure in part of the yard can be a useful way to keep your dog away from hazards or just keep part of your yard clean and less likely to end up damaged.

Dog with ball in mouth walking through a backyard with landscaping plants

Dog Friendly Plants and Ground Cover

Common landscaping plants, including azaleas, lilies and mums can make your dog sick. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a long list of plants that are toxic to dogs. Grass is a great option. So are wood chips, hardscape, gravel and some ground covers. If you are having trouble growing grass or a ground cover in certain areas because your dog keeps trampling it, then an artificial grass surface could be a good solution.

Dog drinking water from a water feature in the backyard of a home.

Water Features and Shade to Keep Your Dog Cool

Summer in the Carolinas can be pretty hot. Most of us spend a good amount of the day in air conditioned spaces and your dog may too. If you’re looking for a great yard for both you and your dog to hang out in, places to keep cool make sense. A shallow water area, like a reflection pool can provide something nice to look at for you and a great place to cool off for your dog.

One popular feature is a small fountain. Sometimes these are designed with the idea that it will provide a place for dogs to drink out of and sometimes that is just what happens after it is installed!

Shade is also important, especially in the afternoon in your Carolina yard. Nobody wants to sit out in the hot sun for too long in the middle of summer and neither do your dogs. There are lots of options to provide some much needed shade. A shade tree or two included in your landscaping can be a great idea, but may take several years to mature enough to give you the desired effect. If you need to add some immediate shade, a doghouse is still a good solution. But, don’t go with the old fashioned walled in type. An open air dog house that is mostly a roof and some posts is the best way to keep air flowing for your beloved pet.

Other shade options that you and your dogs might both benefit from are sun sails and umbrellas. Sails and umbrellas provide some flexibility and are fairly low cost options that can be easily replaced in a few years after continuous exposure to the sun’s damaging rays.

Dog on hardscape walking path

Practical Solutions to Dog Damage

Dogs can be destructive to your landscaping. If your yard is large enough, creating a dedicated dog run is one way to help protect the rest of your yard.

Some dogs like to walk a predictable path and you end up with worn areas in the grass. Installing a hardscape walkway or stepping stones along these paths can be a solution in some cases. Another option is to replace natural grass with an artificial surface that won’t wear easily.

Plenty of Options

You have a lot of options for making your yard dog friendly. They can be simple and inexpensive or much more grand. It really depends on your yard, your budget and your imagination. But if your planning a backyard renovation, you’ll definitely want to consider your dog’s happiness as part of the overall plan.

Rehabilitation of a Backyard After Dog Damage

It wasn’t all the dogs fault. Really, it wasn’t. This Charlotte backyard is heavily shaded making it more challenging for grass to grow. Plus, the yard was only partially fenced, keeping the dogs in a smaller area than they could have been roaming. The result shows up as a dirt filled backyard that isn’t a great place for the owners or their dogs.

Side yard of dirt and mud after dogs walked around a lot in it.
A view from the side yard of the dirt and muddy mess that the backyard had become.

In the backyard, we started by installing a retaining wall and backfilling the area to make it level. This allowed us to create a new lawn area for the dogs. We added boulder steps through the fence gate and leading up to the level area to connect different spaces in the yard.

We were very careful about plant selection in the backyard. We had to avoid plants that would be poisonous to the dogs or those that the dogs would want to eat or dig under.

After photo of stepping stone and fence installed to help improve dog friendliness in a Charlotte area backyard.
View of the same side of the house with stepping stones going through the gate area.
Retaining wall and stepping stones, plus mulch to improve a dog injured backyard in Charlotte, NC
A view of the lower walking area and upper yard area prior to sod installation.

The project turned out well and with the sod installed (not pictured), the dogs and their owners have a much nicer yard to enjoy.