Gardening: Paws for thought

Careful planning can ensure your Christmas puppy doesn’t hound your plants. David Overend reports.

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. The same could be said for a garden, but what happens when the dog meets the garden – especially when the dog in question is a puppy?

The result of such a collision can be catastrophic – usually for the garden, but occasionally for the canine.

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So, now all those Christmas puppies have been unwrapped, inspected and become instant hits, perhaps it’s time to consider introducing them to the dog-friendly garden.

Puppies are inquisitive; they like to stick their noses where, normally, noses are never stuck. They also go to the loo and love to run and chew whatever appears before their eyes.

If you yearn for a pristine lawn, yearn no longer. Dogs and grass are a match made in hell – dogs love to tear up and down, dig holes, roll, urinate and defecate on said lawns, so expect to have to do lots of work keeping things just clean and tidy.

That involves bagging waste, repairing holes and mowing when the dog/puppy is inside, well away from the mechanics of the mower.

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And as electricity and dogs are not compatible, ensure that whenever a cable is snaked across the lawn (or anywhere else where canine teeth could make contact with it) Bruce/Teal/Ben/Moll/whatever you call your dog, is out of harm’s way.

Dogs have a taste for sampling plants – from ground-covering house leeks to head-high shrubs and flowers. To some extent, many are poisonous, but animals tend to make an instant decision – if the first bite is unpleasant, then that plant is off-limits for ever. Rarely is it necessary to dig up and remove a plant because a dog came at Christmas.

Some dogs also love water, so ponds are potential play baths; if that’s a major problem, fence it off, fill it in or train your dog to keep its paws on terra firma.

And as for the escape artists... most dogs are capable of finding their way out of a garden, even one which is fenced. An gate can be an open invitation while soft soil is no obstacle to paws capable of excavating holes the size of a quarry. Many a pooch has appeared at the other side of a ‘dog-proof’ fence by the simple means of digging beneath it.

If you love your garden too much to share it with man’s best friend, don’t get a dog. Or get one and train it well. Your choice.

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