How to create a safe, stimulating garden oasis for your dog
Our dogs love to spend time outdoors - so much so, that they probably enjoy our gardens even more than we do. An outside area filled with interesting scents, sounds and toys will provide your furry friend with a space for exercise, exploration and relaxation, all of which they need to stay happy and healthy. So, you'll want to make sure that you do everything possible to make it a dog-friendly paradise.
If you think your garden could be an even better environment for your pet, then a few simple updates - like adding new plants, creating spaces that encourage natural behaviours, and adding toys - can make a big difference. Read on to learn four things you can do to turn your outside space into a safe, stimulating oasis for your canine companion.
Find safe, pet-friendly plants
Consuming certain plants can make your pet poorly, so you'll need to make sure that anything you grow in your garden will be safe for your furry friend. Many common garden flowers - such as foxgloves, hydrangeas, lilies and rhododendrons - can all be poisonous if eaten, so it's important to do your research before adding a new plant to your garden. You can find more information on which varieties can make your pet ill in this guide from The Kennel Club. While it's rare that your dog will compulsively eat plants which are toxic or harmful, it's always better to be safe than sorry, so avoid these varieties when picking ornamental flowers.
Dogs will appreciate having a few interesting scents in the garden, so look for pet-friendly varieties that produce relaxing fragrances. Hops, valerian, chamomile and St. John's wort are all safe plants which will providing relaxing scents for your dog to enjoy. Pets with anxious temperaments might even self-select and ingest these plants to help them calm down when feeling nervous, so they're perfect if your dog suffers from episodes of separation anxiety.
Let them engage in natural, healthy behaviours
Behaviours like chewing, running through your flowerbeds, and digging up the lawn might seem annoying, but to your furry friend, they're perfectly natural. Dogs will dig holes and bury their toys when they need to burn off some excess energy, and certain breeds - like border terriers - are especially keen on it.
You can indulge your dog's natural instincts by creating a special area in which they're free to dig to their heart's content without getting told off. To do this, simply pick an area in your garden, and create an enclosed space filled with a pet friendly compost or soil. This way, your dog is free to exhibit their instinctive behaviours, with limited mess or damage. You'll need to bear in mind that certain shop-bought composts can contain cocoa bean by-products, which can be toxic if eaten in large quantities, so always check the label before buying.
Add toys and play games with your dog
Dogs need both physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy, and daily walking alone is often not enough to fulfil these needs. If your dog has access to your garden via a dog-flap during the day, then providing them with ways to entertain themselves while you're busy can also help to ward off separation anxiety and the destructive behaviours it can cause.
You can supplement your dog's daily dose of fun by providing them with a selection of toys and games, and scattering them around the garden. Just be sure to pick some hardy, weather-proof toys that will stand up to daily wear and tear: it's probably best to go for sturdy rubberised toys rather than cuddly or stuffed styles, as these can be magnets for dirt and are very difficult to clean. Any of the KONG products are generally good at withstand a variety of conditions, and will provide your dog with hours of fun. Those with very active pets and slightly larger gardens could even go for an agility set (check out our dog agility videos here), which are sure to help tire out even the most energetic dogs.
Your garden is also the perfect place for training and playing games with your pet, so be sure to try out Wag and Tone, these exercises will be a fun workout for both you and your dog, and they're a great bonding activity, too.
Don't forget to include a few extras for yourself
Even if your canine companion is your number one priority when designing your garden, you'll still want to include a few features to make your outside area a calming oasis for yourself. After all, our dogs are often highly attuned to our moods, so if you're feeling relaxed and at peace in the garden, then chances are your pooch will be blissed out as well.
So, you'll want to furnish your garden with a few accessories that will help you to relax: windchimes and small running water features will bring soothing noises into your space that both you and your dog can enjoy. You'll also need to create a comfortable seating area, complete with a cosy cushion or two. A reclining deck chair, like this assortment of comfy sun-loungers from Wyevale, will give you somewhere to sit back and relax as your dog enjoys their new pet-friendly garden. Just watch out, as you might find your furry friend tries to join you!
As any dog-owner will know, our canine companions love to spend time outdoors. If you think your garden could be a bit more pet-friendly, then try incorporating these simple updates in your outside space - your dog is sure to appreciate it.
The excitement of this year's show is brewing in the dog community!
The main arena is always a huge draw and it is an internal battle whether to watch EVERYTHING or continue around the many halls. The key is planning. Grab yourself a schedule and circle those that you just can't miss.
I would recommend the Rescue Dog Agility, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Display Team, The Golden Retriever Display Team and Heelwork to Music; skilled and happy dogs just having fun!
Anticipation builds at the thought of the 550 trade stands with all the new foods, toys, equipment, information and gifts to peruse through and choose from.
This year one of Cruft's sponsors is Natures Menu, introducing their new 'True Instinct' range of food. No matter what your interest in the dog world, there will be someone for you to converse with in a thrilling and passionate manner to brighten your mood.
Make sure you look around Discover Dogs and visit the forgotten breeds and have a cuddle with all your favourites. Which breed do you think will win best in show this year? This only happens once a year so make the most of it, you won't want to leave.
Tickets are available now from www.crufts.org.uk
Top Tip: Bring a trolley!
- Lily Clark from Naturally Happy Dogs and www.suppawt.com
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