Petscaping: Garden design you and your pets can appreciate

Garden design can easily incorporate the family pets Photo: Flickr / Miss Chien

In the Marina, we usually have to slog through an impetuous and unpredictable April to get to the first days that truly feel like spring. By May, we are finally granted (and ready for) fair weather worthy of some quality time in the garden.

That means getting our yards refreshed and ready for those fleeting sunny days. For many, it isn’t the snails or the aphids or the oxalis that are the biggest garden pest we will have to deal with (okay, oxalis is pretty close to the top of the list). Instead, it’s our pets.

At my house, we are landscaping from scratch this year — tearing out the yard and starting over with a fresh palette — and with that, I’ve become a realist. I live with pets, and they should be able to enjoy the garden without my cursing the aftermath. I’ve spent too much time repairing damaged turf, filling canine archeology digs, and protecting delicate plants from four-footed trampling, so I’m redesigning with my dogs in mind this time.

Too many homeowners think pets and gardens can’t mix. They either ban their companions from a lush, picture-perfect landscape or create a concrete island that is deemed pet proof. With the right planning and installation, however, neither has to be the case.

Scott Cohen and Carolyn Doherty feel the same way in their new book, Petscaping: Training and Landscaping With Your Pet in Mind.

Scott Cohen, a frequent HGTV host, has a successful landscape design and construction business in Los Angeles and understands that pets are a major part of our family lifestyles. He feels that successfully “petscaping” your yard is a combination of well-planned design and pet training, so he teamed up with professional animal trainer Carolyn Doherty to create a useful planning guide for pet owners.

The book starts out by discussing the different materials available for major design features including fencing, pathways, lawns, and groundcover, along with the pros and cons of each for both you and your pet. The descriptions are concise, with little bias toward any one material, and can provide you with some good choices for the framework of your landscaping creation. But you’ll need to do more research about specific materials for your final designs. For example, wood fencing and stone paving are discussed, but the wide range of material choices available in those two materials alone is beyond the scope of this manual.

Cohen reminds you to keeps your pet’s comfort and care at the forefront of your planning, from providing hydration, shelter and shade to keeping your pets safe around water features and mechanical equipment. And, of course, the need to plan for a suitable elimination area, keeping in mind that male and female dogs have different habits.

Doherty steps in when training discussions are in order, such as how to accomplish “potty spot training” and how to anticipate and eliminate garden behavior problems such as barking, digging, chewing, and fence fighting.

This book isn’t right for someone who is looking for a specific planting plan or design layout that can be carbon copied. It is, however, perfect for someone who wants to learn basic principles of design for safely, securely, and sensitively incorporating pets into any style or shape of yard.

Though dogs are the primary focus of the book, considerations are also given for other family creatures — cats, turtles, even fish — as well as natural fauna you may want to attract, such as wild birds and butterflies.

It’s a quick read your pet and your garden treasures will be thankful you picked up.

Petscaping: Training and Landscaping With Your Pet in Mind, by Scott Cohen and Carolyn Doherty, 128 pages, Schiffer Books, 2011, $24.99

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