How to Create a Pet-Friendly Yard (and Keep Your Pet in it!)



August 22, 2022

A great backyard can be a real breath of fresh air for us humans—a beautiful place to relax, unwind, take in some nature, feel like our very own little slice of wilderness. And if you go about it the right way, your yard can be a real source of joy for your pet too. Build some simple pet-specific features into it, keep it free from things that could be harmful to them, train them to stay there if it’s not a fenced-in yard (yes, it’s possible!), and you’ll be pet parent of the year. Read on for some pointers.

Creating a Backyard Oasis for Your Pet

A fenced yard is best if you’re going to let your pup roam out there for a while. And you’ll want to keep drinking water out there for them and provide some shade. The keys are safety and stimulation. If your dog gets bored, he could get into trouble like digging up your precious flower beds or building an extensive tunnel system throughout your backyard. Do you have a Terrier, Basset Hound, Beagle, or Dachshund? These little darlings were born to dig. Give them a spot to paw at, like a sandbox! Just cover it at night to keep other critters out and clean it every few months by raking a mix of 50% distilled white vinegar and 50% water over it to prevent mold.

You’ll want to have a water bowl out for your pup if he’ll be spending much time out there. If it’ll be on your deck, use a gripped-bottom one so it won’t tip over, and one that’s stainless steel because those don’t host bacteria nearly as well as plastic. Just wash the bowl often with hot soapy water and try not to have its permanent home be the sunniest part of your yard.

Build pet-centric areas into your yard. Keep shade in mind, in the form of a tree, or even a teepee or a ventilated doghouse!

Give your pup some room to run in your yard. If you have a Weimaraner, a German Shorthaired Pointer, a Jack Russell Terrier, or a Greyhound, you’ve got a runner on your hands. Avoid gravel in your landscaping because it can get stuck in your dog’s paws.

And if you want to go the extra mile, here are some fun extras that can provide great enrichment for your pup:


Keep Toxic Plants and Other Dangers Away

Check out an extensive Bivvy pet insurance post here about common plants that are toxic to pets. Common flowers like daffodils and hydrangeas are toxic to our furry friends when ingested.

And be mindful too of what you’re putting in your grass. Veterinarians see a lot of illness in dogs linked to chemical treatment in grass.

Be careful with composts too. Some of these can be problematic depending on what you put in it. Coffee, moldy food, some fruits and veggies, stems, leaves, and seeds, can be toxic to dogs if ingested. And if you mulch, opt for cedar mulch, shredded pine, or hemlock bark rather than cocoa mulch. Dogs will love the smell of the latter and if they eat it, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, elevated heart rate, hyperactivity, and seizures.

And don’t leave yard work tools out, like rakes, tillers, hoes, and trowels.

Also, the better kept your yard is, the fewer fleas and ticks there are likely to be. These pests love tall brush and grass.

Training Your Dog to Love (and Stay In) a Fence-Free Yard

So, this is all well and good—you’ve put together a dog-approved yard. There’s just one problem—it’s not fenced in. Some breeds are more prone to wander than others, like:


But all dogs are at a risk of dashing off if they see something they want to chase or get chased off by another dog or animal that enters your property, or just get curious. You don’t need us to tell you that a dog that wanders off could get lost, encounter other animals, or wander into other yards that might have toxic stuff in them.

Can you train a dog to stay in a fence-less yard? It’ll take some dedication, but yes! It’ll be easier if you set up a visible barrier. If you don’t have something like rocks or mulch in your yard, you might put up little flags or ropes. Walk around with your dog on a leash. Reward him for staying in the boundaries. If he goes out, just lead him back into the appropriate area and reward him. The idea is to eventually be able to walk around outside the boundary yourself while your dog stays inside the boundary. It’s a long process, but it can pay off to have a force-free way of keeping your dog in your fenceless yard.

Some people swear by e-collars. These have their pros and cons, and some suggest not using them until your dog knows basic commands like sit and stay. After that, you can use an e-collar to deliver a slightly uncomfortable jolt, starting with the lowest level of enforcement, and working your way up if needed, perhaps with the goal of not using it anymore when they’ve gotten the idea of the boundary.

An alternative to the e-collar is an invisible fence, which delivers a mild shock to the dog when he passes the boundary you’ve established. Some of these require you to bury cables around your yard, while some are wireless

You can also use long leads with your dog in the yard but be advised that tethering your dog is not a good idea if they’ll be out there unsupervised. Buying or building an exercise pen or large kennel might be an option too. Consider putting a GPS tracker collar on your dog if he’s got free reign on your property, because even the best-trained dog can venture off.

And in addition to a great yard, affordable dog insurance can help your pup live their best life. Try Bivvy, where the pet insurance cost is less than $1 per day regardless of age, size, gender, or breed. Plus, your cost won’t go up if you make a claim. Cheers to you for setting out to build the backyard of your pup’s dreams!