Originally Published on July 28, 2022. Last Updated on May 9, 2023.
Did you know that some dogs need more than two hours of exercise every day? Even if your furry friend doesn’t require much movement, they probably enjoy getting out, stretching all four legs, and spending lots of time in your backyard.
It can be hard to come up with new ideas to keep pets stimulated, and many dog owners struggle to think of new and exciting ways to encourage their furry friends to enjoy the backyard.
Luckily, there are all kinds of easy updates that make your backyard more fun and inviting for your dog. Whether you have a few square feet of yard in an urban area or a vast tract of wooded land, there’s so much you can do. Read on for some amazing backyard ideas for dogs.
1. Fence Off Key Areas
Even if you’re keen to let your dog have as much space as possible, it’s good to cordon off sections of your backyard. Give them their own fenced-in dog run where they can work off excess energy. Whether you’re worried about safety or just want a designated area where you can enjoy a cookout in peace, it’s a good idea to block off any places you’d prefer to be pup-free.
A little fencing can go a long way when dividing a backyard. It keeps your dog safe and happy, which gives you much-needed peace of mind. Remember that some dogs can jump pretty high. If you’ve got a large, athletic dog like a greyhound, you’ll want to use fencing material that’s high enough that they can’t hop it.
2. Replace Hard Surfaces
There’s an increasing trend to pave outdoor spaces. Although it can reduce lawn maintenance, it’s not ideal for pets. Hard surfaces can increase your dog’s chance of injury, especially during hot weather. Concrete, brick, asphalt, and other hard surfaces can get extremely hot under the summer sun—not a good match for your dog’s sensitive paw pads. An easy rule to remember is that if it’s too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog. Consider replacing flagstones or pavers with pup-friendly walkway materials, like mulch, artificial turf, or sod.
3. Add Obstacles
Have you ever seen an agility course at a dog show? While your own dog might shy away from such publicized events, they would enjoy their own miniature “dogstacle” course in the comfort of their own backyard. Tunnels, hurdles, balance beams, and cones can provide hours of fun for your dog. It’s also a good way to keep them healthy and stimulated.
Whether you build or buy them, make sure all obstacles are safe before adding them to your doggy playground. Keep an eye out for sharp edges or loose components. And be sure to get height-appropriate designs, so your dog isn’t straining to jump over or squeeze under any given obstacle.
4. Add a Sandbox
From toys to treats, there are lots of things beloved by both kids and dogs. One prime example is a sandbox. Dogs aren’t great at building sandcastles or playing with a bucket and spade, but they’re talented diggers. A sandbox allows them to burn off energy with lots of digging fun. It also provides a perfect place for pups to bury bones and other treasures.
If you have young children, give them their own sandbox separate from your dog’s sandbox. Don’t forget to change out the sand once or twice a year so your kids and canines can enjoy clean play spaces.
5. Use Pet-Safe Plants
Choosing safe plants is one of the most important steps when creating a dog-friendly backyard. Dogs like to eat, and that includes grass or flowers every now and then. So, there’s no knowing if your four-legged friend might suddenly decide to feast on your flower beds. Not only can that be irritating for the green-thumbed folks, but it can also cause health problems if Fido ingests any toxic plants.
But, worry not. There’s no need to remove all your backyard landscaping. All you need is to choose some dog-friendly plants. These non-toxic plant species keep them safe, so they’ll be fine if they decide to have an impromptu garden snack.
If you’re unsure which plants to add to your landscape design, look through the ASPCA’s list of plants that are safe for your furry friends.
6. Add a Water Feature
Many dogs love spending time in the water. The chance to cool off on hot summer days, splash about, and generally cause a little chaos appeals to canines. Sprinklers and plastic kiddie pools are great water features for dogs. If you use a kiddie pool, change the water regularly to prevent standing water—a breeding ground for mosquitos. Be sure the water isn’t too deep and that your dog can easily get out of the pool when they’re finished playing.
If you have a swimming pool, rinse your dog’s fur off with fresh water to remove any chemical-treated water after each refreshing dip. And always supervise your dogs when they’re swimming. We highly recommend putting a fence around your pool to keep your canine from taking an unexpected plunge when you’re not around.
In addition to having water to play in, give your dogs fresh water to drink. Have one or two bowls of clean, cool, easily accessible water in your backyard to prevent them from drinking swimming-pool water.
7. Add Shade
Many dogs love to go outside in all weather. But hot days, in particular, can pose health and safety risks for animals. Dogs are covered in fur, and they can’t sweat like humans can, which means they can get pretty toasty, pretty quickly. With this in mind, ensure your outdoor space includes a shady spot where your dogs can retreat when the sun is at its brightest.
Shade could come in the form of anything from a large outdoor umbrella to a dog house. Whatever you choose, a dog-friendly yard should have at least one cool spot where your furry friend can chill.
8. Change Up the Grass
The grass in traditional lawns can cause skin irritation for many dogs. Additionally, when dogs run around the yard, their sharp claws can tear up the landscaping. Dog urine contains nitrogen and salt, so when nature calls, the answer often leads to damaged grass and ugly brown spots. Long, unkempt grass can also play host to all kinds of creepy crawlies that are detrimental to a pup’s health, such as fleas and ticks.
All in all, grass lawns and dogs aren’t the best combination. Luckily there are more suitable alternatives. Clover, moss, and Kentucky bluegrass are just a few examples of excellent ground cover substitutes. They’re tough, versatile, and feel great on your pup’s paws.
9. Add Windows
If your dog loves seeing what the neighbors and postal workers are up to from the living room or sliding glass door, they’d probably be happy to keep watch from the backyard too. A window built into your backyard fence gives your dog the chance to look out on the world. As long as your dog is non-reactive, it can provide hours of fun.
This is especially important if you have a sighthound, like a lurcher or a whippet. These dogs rely on their sense of sight more than their sense of smell, so being able to see as much as possible is essential to their well-being.
10. Add Some Automatic Toys
Playing with a dog is a lot of fun, but even the most enthusiastic pet owners are likely to tire of fetch or tug-of-war before their dogs do. Consider investing in toys that do the work for you. Automated fetch machines are perfect for dogs who love to chase tennis balls. These toys can keep up for as long as your dog feels like playing. All you have to do is train your dog to put the ball back into the machine’s basket, then sit back and watch the game unfold.
Similarly, anchored tug toys can provide nearly unlimited entertainment for dogs who love tug-of-war. A rope, safely weighed down or tethered to the ground, is fun for many dogs. It’s guaranteed to earn your outdoor area the status of a dog-approved backyard.
11. Include Hiding Places
Dogs naturally use their keen senses to find food or forage. By creating hiding places around your yard, you’re making an enriching activity for your four-legged friend to enjoy.
Ideally, hiding places should be small and light enough to be easily moved but large enough for your dog to get their head inside without any risk of getting stuck. Small cardboard boxes, old blankets, and puzzle toys work well. Fill a random number of your hiding places with treats and watch as your dog hunts up your hidden goodies.
12. Add a Cleaning Station
Like all good things, outdoor fun must also come to an end. Once your dog is tuckered out from playing in the yard, they’ll want to go back inside and relax. But they could be covered in all kinds of dirt and debris, so you might want to add a designated space for cleanup before they enter the home.
Set up your cleaning station with wipes for muddy paws, a hose with a gentle spray nozzle for extra-dirty dogs (or dog-friendly dry shampoo for pups who don’t like getting wet), and towels to dry off. A clean pup equals clean floors and a clean couch.
13. Make Space for Yourself
With all these dog-friendly backyard ideas, it’s easy to forget to give yourself a spot to relax. Creating a comfortable area for yourself in your backyard is beneficial to you and your dog. Most dogs love spending time with their humans. Even when they’re having fun, they want to know their favorite person is nearby. When you have a relaxing space filled with comfortable lounge furniture, you can unwind with a good book, sip a chilled beverage, or take videos on your phone of your pup romping around.
What plants are toxic to dogs?
Lilies of any kind, sago palms, azaleas, cardboard palms, mistletoe, and cocoa mulch are just a few landscaping plants and ground cover that are toxic to dogs. If you plan to have a vegetable or herb garden, some plants to steer clear of include garlic, chives, eucalyptus, onions, tomatoes, and chamomile.
Don’t worry, this won’t cramp your landscaping style. Before planting anything in your yard, talk to your veterinarian. They’ll have plenty of dog-friendly landscaping ideas to share that will ensure you always have a healthy and happy dog.
What can I use instead of grass for my dog-friendly yard?
Here are some great dog-proof ground cover alternatives to lawn grass:
- Silver carpet
- Irish moss
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Artificial grass
- Pea gravel
- Wood chips
- Buffalo grass
What do dogs like in a backyard?
Active, curious dogs like yards filled with space to play and things to do. A fun obstacle course, running track, sprinkler, or other water feature they can run through will keep your dog entertained and occupied. More chill canines like soft spots where they can nap in the sun or shade, so try putting a dog bed on your patio where they can lay by you and snooze.
Ready to Go O-U-T?
Every dog is unique, so the activities they enjoy will vary. As long as you get creative and keep thinking up new backyard ideas for dogs, you’re sure to find something to brighten up their days.
Browse our blog’s Pets section to see more animal-friendly outdoor ideas.