Making Your Backyard Dog-Friendly

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When my husband and I first adopted our dog River, we were living in a two-bedroom condo on the third floor of an apartment building. Though I truly enjoyed my regular walks with River, I dreamed of someday having a backyard that we could let her out into (especially on days where there was a torrential downpour or polar vortex and she still needed to get in her pee break). So last summer when we moved to a single-family house with a large, fenced-in backyard, my husband and I were both thrilled that River would have an outdoor space where she could run and play (and where we could simply open a door for her to go outside while we were still in our pajamas).

Our new yard was heavily planted with trees, flowers, and bushes when we first moved in, so the first step for us was to determine how much greenery we wanted to keep. Though we loved the forest-like look of the yard, giving up that much space to berms and rose bushes didn’t leave much left for River. Also, we wanted our yard to be a good place for humans to hang out as well as dogs, so the goal became to make a shared, multi-functional space.

First, and most importantly, we made sure that the fence was secure. In any new space, you’ll want to check for gaps or loose boards that your dog can squeeze through, and that the fence height ensures that your pup can’t squeeze below or jump/climb over. Chicken wire can be secured over any areas that are questionable. We also made sure that the latches on both doors worked properly and couldn’t be easily pushed open.

Next, it was very important to identify all of the plants and flowers in the yard to be sure that none are poisonous to animals. The ASPCA has a full list of toxic plants on their website. There are many popular flowers and plants common to yards, such as daffodils and hostas, that you might not have realized were toxic to animals. It was definitely a surprise to me once I started doing research as a first-time home owner that there was much more to avoid out there than I realized. We didn’t necessarily want to say goodbye to all of our flowers and plants, so we solved the issue by relocating them to the front yard, which is separate from our fenced back area.

The next step in our plans was to create special areas for River to play. Her favorite game is fetch, so we decided to make more room by bringing the garden beds closer to the house, opening up a larger area where she could run interrupted. Another great treat for the summertime is setting up a kiddie pool–lots of dogs love the opportunity to cool down and splash around. In hot weather, dogs appreciate plenty of shade and water in order to avoid heat exhaustion.

Having a yard allows for all kinds of fun opportunities. The possibilities can include but are definitely not limited to: obstacle courses (using tires and ramps), small doggie-sized slides, large and luxurious dog houses, and customized dog runs. With some creative thinking (and maybe a little bit of Pinterest inspiration), even the smallest yard can be turned into a fun play area for your pet.



Kim is Rover-Time’s executive assistant and provides support on daily office operations. She and her husband live in Portage Park with their dog, River, and two cats, Ginger Spice and Esteban. Kim loves to spend the summertime outdoors camping and kayaking on the Wisconsin River with her human and fur family (cats not included).


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