Creating the Perfect Garden for You and Your Dog

As gardening season begins, you may have many questions when it comes to planting a dog-friendly garden: What plants are poisonous to my dog? What plants are healthy for my dog? What mulches/fertilizers/pesticides are safe for my dog? What does a dog-friendly garden look like?

This article will serve as your guide to creating the perfect garden not only for your backyard, but also for your furry four-legged friend.

Items in Your Garden


The first step in creating a garden is selecting what to grow. There are lots of plants out there that will add color and vibrancy to your garden, but some might be harmful to your dog.

The ASPCA offers an extensive list of plants both toxic and non-toxic for pets. However, here is a short list of plants poisonous to your dog:

  • Carnations
  • Daffodil
  • Apple
  • Mint
  • Lilies
  • Begonia
  • Daisies
  • Chives
  • Spring parsley*
  • Gardenia
  • Lavender
  • Leek
  • Peony
  • Tulip
  • Oregano
  • Rhubarb
  • Tomato

These are plants to avoid, as they can cause vomiting, kidney failure, tremors, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and more in your dog.

There are also lots of plants safe, and even healthy, for your dog to eat:

  • Raw green beans
  • Berries
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Curly-leafed parsley*
  • Barley grasses
  • Thyme

These plants contain antioxidants, vitamins, and other chemicals that are very good for your dog, and are safe for them to consume straight from the plant or cooked into their favorite bowl of kibble.

Other, more general plants to avoid are those that are spiny and thorny, as these can not only be dangerous for your dog if ingested but can cause injuries.

*Spring parsley is toxic to dogs; curly-leafed parsley is used in dog products and is safe for dog consumption.

Garden Extras

While flowers, herbs, vegetables, and other plants are essential for any garden, there are other ingredients in any garden that make it a recipe for success. These include fertilizer, pesticides, and mulch.


Pesticides to avoid: Any pesticides that include organophosphates are deadly, and can attack the central nervous system of your dog.

Snail and slug baits that contain metaldehyde will kill dogs that eat it.

Pesticides mixed with fertilizers can also be dangerous: these pesticides can contain fish and bone meal, which smell appetizing to your dog but will result in unpleasant consequences.

Pesticides to use: Essential oils are safe to use around dogs, but also have pest-controlling properties. Lavender can ward off ants; lemon eucalyptus and pine mosquitos; and tea tree Australia can kill fleas, ticks, and other parasites.

Boric acid is also safe around dogs, while also destroying weeds, pests, mold, and fungi.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is also a safe and effective way to eliminate pests in your garden, while also keeping your dog safe. DE helps to get rid of all types of pests, including beetles, flies, ants, and slugs. In fact, DE can also be used to control pests on your dog! Diatomaceous earth is a powder that will need to be replaced after each rainfall, but it’s plentiful uses make it a safe and effective tool for gardening.


Fertilizers to avoid: Fertilizers that use fish emulsion, bone meal, or blood meal won’t be dangerous for your dog, but they may be dangerous for your garden. Fish emulsion fertilizers are literally made of fish, meaning it may smell appealing to your dog and they might dig up your perfectly placed garden plants.

More seriously, any fertilizers that contain carbamates and organophosphates are especially dangerous for your dog. Luckily, the EPA has cracked down on the usage of these ingredients in fertilizers. Still, to be safe, read the labels of any fertilizers for these two ingredients.

Organic fertilizers may seem safe because of the label “organic.” However, these products often contain bone, blood, feather, and fish meal, which smell appetizing to dogs and can result in ingestion. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other problems in your dog.

Fertilizers to use: Fertilizers using seaweed are great for your garden and safe for your dog. Same with grass clippings, compost, and manure.


Mulch to avoid: Cocoa shell mulch should be avoided. Cocoa mulch contains theobromine, the chemical found in chocolate that is toxic to dogs. It also smells like chocolate, making it an appetizing snack for your dog out in the yard. It is rare for dogs to get severely sick from eating cocoa shell mulch, but it is still a possibility.

Using rocks as an alternative for mulch is also not recommended. Dogs may like to chew or eat rocks, which can cause them to choke or can cause more serious obstructions. Rock mulches may also hurt your dog’s feet.

Mulch to use: Mulch made of cedar, pine, and hemlock are safe for your dogs and for your garden. Although there are some concerns when it comes to certain chemicals within the mulch, rubber mulch is also safe for dogs.

Alternatives to mulch that work the same include leaves and pine needles, which are safe for dogs and also safe for your wallet.

Other things to be worried about when it comes to mulches is, if your dog eats mulch, it could lead to obstruction in their digestive system and even puncture. This can cause long-term pain and sickness in your dog. Dogs can also be allergic to certain kinds of mulch. If you fear your dog may have eaten mulch, or is allergic to mulch, contact your veterinarian.

Building a Dog-Friendly Garden

Other ways to improve your garden and improve the life of your dog are:

Giving your dog plenty of green space to safely explore, while also letting them run around and do their business.

Raising your garden beds. This will keep your dog out of the planters, but will also allow you to plant a greater variety of flowers or plants that may not be safe for your dog.

Create borders around areas you don’t want your dog to get into. These could include raised edges around your garden or planting area, as a warning against entry to your dog. Or they could be more serious, fence-like structures. Either way, these could discourage your dog from venturing into areas that may be dangerous.

Have an area for your dog to lay down and relax. This could be a tree or shrub that provides shade, a shallow pool for dipping their tongues or feet into, or just a place for them to sit and observe the goings-on in their neighborhood.

What's your favorite thing to plant in your garden?