2013-08-30 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

You Can Have A Happy Pet And A Beautiful Lawn!
Commentary by Danielle, Danielle’s Rockaway Florist

Commentary Yes, it is true … you can have both a happy pet and a pretty yard! With all of the digging and playing, it may be hard to keep your flowers and lawn in perfect condition, but we can definitely improve its pristine appearance with just a few small changes in our landscape and in our pet's behavior.

The yard is a great place for your dog to run and play, take in the sun, fresh air, and get out a bit of stored up energy. Sometimes though, all that playing really means digging, and soaking up the sun really means hiding in the shade under a canopy of trees where you planted your lily of the valley! It seems that most of the time, my dog, Shane, knows exactly where I wouldn’t want him to lay, and he plops down in that exact spot! I have tears in the grass around the picnic table where he runs track (what an athlete!) and I shouldn't forget to mention that he chooses where to use the bathroom by finding the most colorful spot in the yard.

It may help to keep an extra bag of seeds for your lawn on hand, as an active puppy will leave trails and holes from the running and digging. It is inevitable that you will have to touch up throughout the season. Don’t let your dog play when the soil in the yard is wet from recent rain or watering. The moisture loosens the soil and makes the grass more susceptible to damage.

I can agree that most of our pets are spoiled and get away with a lot more than they should, but truth be told, gardening is hard work and we should really protect all of this beautiful landscaping for which we are aiming.

If your puppy has a hard time listening, it may be a good idea to stick to the flowers as I do. The last place you want your pet using as a potty is the vegetable garden. If you insist on growing your own fruit and vegetables, be sure to plant in a secluded area of the yard … a risen bed, or clusters of pots would be best. If you have a common space with a "perfect" patch of well-drained soil in a sunny spot that you know will grow only the most "perfect" vegetables, be sure to fence it off. Leave a generous amount of room between the fence and the vegetables because your dog may not jump over it to use the bathroom, but he may just go near it!

You should really take the extra steps to protect any plants that may have sentimental value, or may have been bearing flowers for generations by keeping them in pots on the deck or front steps where your pet cannot get to them. They can always be replanted in the garden when your puppy is grown, and learns better what you expect from him or her. It is best not to take the chance.

My dog, Shane, has habits that are hard to break, and after I get the mushy face when reprimanding him, I admit that he gets away with more than he should. For instance, it may be instinct for your dog to patrol the fence line, leaving a well-worn trail in a very green lawn. After running around on a hot, sunny day, why not dig a hole to turn up the soil and have a cool place to lie down? Some breeds are diggers, and it would be unfair to expect them not to indulge, but I see the patterns Shane has, and have made a special effort to give him a good run before we go in the yard to play.

It is important to exercise your dog before leaving him in the yard alone. A tired dog is less likely to be destructive. Spend the time it takes to train him properly. Set aside a small, "out-of-sight" section of the yard for him to use the bathroom. Train him to go in a designated spot so your whole lawn won't be covered in dry or yellow patches. If he slips up, or happens to sneak a piddle, soak the lawn pretty well to dilute the urine. It will be less likely to damage the grass. Give the proper supervision in your yard until you are comfortable with his/her behavior.

They have to learn that there are times when we play and run crazy, and spaces where certain behavior is expected of them. Like children, they should be taught right from wrong, supervised in certain situations, and only be left alone when they are safe, and can be trusted. We are much more likely to get our pups to show good behavior when they are not high strung and energized, so give the dogs a work out, even if it is just a long walk around the neighborhood because we should be able to enjoy a beautiful hobby like gardening, and all of the beauty that comes along with the hard work.

Please feel free to write to us with gardening questions or tips for our readers at: Danielle's Rockaway Florist, 436 Beach 129 Street, Rockaway Park, NY 11694.

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