If you’ve been feeling a little cooped up this summer, you’re not alone. Along with the majority of the world, you and your dog have probably been itching to stretch your legs and paws and, luckily, you don’t have to go far. With these dog-friendly backyard ideas, you can transform your outdoor space into a haven you both can enjoy.
Giving your backyard a makeover is a great way to help you and your pup enjoy the fresh air and sunshine during a time when you may not be able to go to the dog park or indulge in a beach BBQ as often as you’d like. It’s not just about buying new, durable toys and outdoor furniture. It’s about reimagining your yard—however big or small—as a set of distinct outdoor rooms.
As a home design and gardening editor, I recommend starting by sectioning off your space to accommodate all your pup’s daily activities, plus your own. With areas dedicated to lounging, eating, working and playing, you can create a multifaceted outdoor oasis that pays special mind to the sunshine-loving fur baby in your life.
Just roll your sleeves, follow the tips below and you’ll be able to turn your yard into a pup-approved paradise.
For a small space...
To create an idyllic lounge area, all you really need is a cozy spot for you and your pooch to rest and rejuvenate. The K&H Pet Products Original Bolster Elevated Dog Bed is an extra-comfy napper, thanks to the cushy bolsters on three sides. The elevated mesh design helps keeps puppers cool, making it perfectly conducive to outdoor use. Keep a bowl of fresh water nearby to keep them hydrated. There are a lot of stylish options, such as Frisco’s Chevron Brushed Melamine Bowl.
To save on space and match your pup’s elevated hangout, your “bed” can be suspended above ground, too. Look for a hammock that can be tied between two trees or hung from a hammock stand.
For a large space…
What’s a porch if not a shady outdoor bedroom? If you’re lucky enough to have deck structure, outfit it with a cushioned, hanging daybed for a stunning space that’s fit for a midafternoon nap. If you don’t have a porch, the tried-and-true hammock is always a great solution. Plus, there are freestanding outdoor beds available that make it hard to do anything but chill. You can lay out on the Freeport Patio Daybed with Cushions, while your pup lounges on the K&H Pet Products Original Indoor/Outdoor Covered Elevated Dog Bed.
For a small space…
Work can be fun—just ask your dog! A shady patio with comfortable outdoor seating and access to Wi-Fi is all you need for an inviting home office. Plus, it makes for an enviable background for your virtual Zoom meeting!
Meanwhile, your furry best friend can do their own version of work right alongside you. They don’t necessarily need a ton of room to learn new tricks. The Trixie Agility Dog Training Ring eats up only a sliver of space, yet can help your dog’s agility or fitness routine reach new heights.
For a large space...
Combine the training ring with a set of weave-through pools, like Cool Runners Agility Dog Training Weave Poles, and you’ll have a full-fledged training zone for your dog. Moving from one activity to the next will keep Fido fit and stave off boredom. Be sure to put down your laptop for a minute to reward them! After all that darting, weaving and jumping, they’ll deserve a treat and some snuggles! And if you’re super busy, try the iFetch Too Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy. It’ll keep your pooch moving and occupied when you can’t break away.
In your Pinterest explorations, you might have seen garden sheds transformed into guest cottages and home offices. If you’re so inclined, converting your shed into a workspace can give that feeling of actually going into the office. You can learn more about that DIY project here. Don’t forget to add a doggy door!
For a small space...
An outdoor table is a perfect perch for an alfresco breakfast, lunch or dinner. The good news is that even if your yard is the size of a postage stamp, a two-person cafe table can fit into any nook.
Don’t forget about your four-legged dining partner. Down below, your dog can munch and sip from a pair of a collapsible travel bowls from Prima Pets. Their to-go nature (they collapse into portable flat discs) makes it so you can easily bring them in and out of the house.
For a large space…
With enough room, your outdoor dining space can have all the bells and whistles, such as shade, ample seating, a grill and a bistro for Fido. The Pet Fit For Life Water Fountain Dispenser makes soothing sounds (like a water feature!), while delivering fresh filtered water through a charcoal-activated, water-softening filter. And the IRIS Elevated Feeder with Airtight Food Storage is a handy two-in-one solution: It provides bowls for Fido to get their fix, while on the bottom there’s an air-tight food storage bin, so you don’t have to run inside for a refill.
Playtime is all about your pup, but they won’t be the only one getting an endorphin rush. Fun times together boost the bond between the two of you. Just watch how your dog lights up whenever you head toward the back door! They know what’s coming: lots of attention from you, plus a romp with their favorite toys. If you need to replenish your pet’s outdoor toy stash, consider the KONG Classic Flyer Frisbee Dog Toy, which is an extra-durable disc, and the Chuckit! Classic Launcher Dog Toy, which allows you to effortlessly launch a ball for a fabulous fetch session.
No doggy play area is complete without a place to cool off. No matter the size of your yard, a portable pool, like KOPEKS Outdoor Portable Rectangular Dog Swimming Pool, can be set up easily. All you need is a garden hose.
The finishing touch? Pooch-friendly plants
Before you plant anything…
Before getting your hands dirty, ensure that whatever plants you adorn your yard with are safe for doggos. (You will be sharing the space, after all!)
You’ll want to avoid plants like these, which are toxic to dogs:
- Sago Palm
- Aloe Vera
- American Holly
With that out of the way, here are the basics of gardening:
Check the zone map, to see what plants will thrive in your location’s climate. Plants that are happy in zones 4 and 5 won’t be happy in zone 9. When you’re shopping for plants, double-check the tags to make sure your picks will thrive in your area. The best nurseries do a good job of only stocking plants that will thrive where you live.
Amend your soil. Not all soil is created equal: Some soil is rocky, while other soil can be sandy. The best soil is rich with nutrients, minerals and organic matter, creating fertile ground for strong, vigorous plants that are resist disease. That’s the soil you want! Get a recommendation from your garden center for soil amendments that are most needed where you live.
Check your lighting. Pay attention to areas of your yard that get full, partial and no direct sunlight. When planting, keep “Full Sun” plants (your nursey should clearly mark them) in especially sunny areas, and “shade” plants in shadier areas.
Iron out your irrigation. Healthy plants are grown with one part soil, one part sun and one part water. For a small yard, a garden hose and watering can will cover your needs, but for a larger yard, look at built-in or hose-attached sprinklers and soaker hoses.
Small space? Try containers. Container gardening—which is the practice of keeping and growing plants in pots and containers—works well in gardens of all sizes. Don’t have ample space for planting beds? Not a problem! Not quite ready to commit to a serious, long-term gardening effort? Start with pots! Want to bring exciting colors and designs into the garden? Containers can come in all shapes, sizes, and finishes. (Just be sure to pick ones with holes on the bottom to help properly drain your plants.)
Time to go plant shopping!
Ready to head to the nursey? Here’s what you should be looking for.
Pick sturdy plants that won’t be easily damaged:
- Shrub roses
Mosquitos are pestilent for dogs and people—and can even transmit heartworm—so choose mosquito-repelling plants:
- Bee Balm
- Floss Flower
- Lemon Balm
What’s the best part of a backyard makeover? It’s not just the destination (a stunning space filled with fun, dog-friendly backyard ideas for you and your pup!) that’ll be a blast, as the journey can be just as enjoyable, too. Spending time in the sunshine with your doggo while working on a home improvement project can be fun for both of you—and help get those zoomies out!