You’ve worked hard on your garden, planting the perfect flowers and doting on your vegetables to keep them happy and healthy.
But all that time and effort could end up being for nothing if a dog manages to get his paws in it.
The sight of crushed flowers, dug-up seedlings and chewed-up veggies is enough to make any gardener weep. So how do you keep dogs out of your garden?
Whether you’re concerned about your neighbors’ dogs, your own dog or the local strays, these tips will help you keep those pesky pups off your precious plot.
9 Ways to Keep Dogs Out of Your Garden
1. Get a Little Spicy…
A dog’s palate is kind of a free-for-all, which makes it tough to exploit when you’re trying to dog-proof your property. Old food, garbage, another dog’s poop… you name it, he’ll eat it.
But there are a couple of scents and tastes that most dogs just can’t stand. One of the most notable: spicy hot pepper.
Dogs are sensitive to capsaicin, the compound that lends chili peppers their signature heat, due to their exceptionally powerful noses. They dislike the burning sensation so much that one lick or whiff of something spicy is enough to drive them away.
You can put this to the test in your garden using something you probably already have in your pantry: ground cayenne pepper. Sprinkle a little around the plants you’re most concerned about, or around the perimeter of your garden to keep dogs away entirely.
As a bonus, this method will also deter other garden pests, such as deer, rabbits, groundhogs and squirrels. Many bugs, including caterpillars and beetles, will also be driven away by the pepper.
However, hot pepper can also harm beneficial insects, such as ladybugs. If your garden is home to such bugs, another dog deterrent may be a better option.
Cayenne pepper also doesn’t work on birds — in fact, many birds enjoy the taste and may actually flock to your garden in greater numbers. Consider setting up a protective bird net over your plants if you choose to use pepper to repel dogs.
2. …Or Break Out the Vinegar…
There’s another smell that dogs can’t stand, and it also makes a great garden dog repellent: vinegar.
The ultra-acidic tang of vinegar is enough to make our eyes water. Imagine what it does to a dog, whose nose is 10,000 times more powerful than yours!
All you need for this method is a bottle of white vinegar and a pack of coffee filters. Soak the coffee filters in the vinegar, then place them around the perimeter of your garden, anchoring them down with rocks so they don’t blow away.
It’s not the prettiest dog deterrent, and you’ll need to replace the filters every so often as the vinegar smell wears off, but it works. Just take care not to let the vinegar touch your plants or their roots, as it will throw off their pH and potentially kill them.
And if you, like your dog, simply can’t stand the smell of vinegar, you can also try soaking the coffee filters in lemon juice, whose high acidity also repels dogs.
3. …Or Go with a Store-Bought Dog Repellent
Don’t feel like DIY-ing a dog repellent for your garden? Never fear — there are many premade options you can purchase.
The I Must Garden Dog and Cat Repellent is made with a combination of garlic, pepper, lemongrass, peppermint, and other natural ingredients. This potent, pungent concoction is safe for your plants and can be sprayed on your garden to keep dogs far away.
If you’d rather use a granular product than a spray, try the Bonide Go Away! Rabbit, Dog, and Cat Repellent. The granules are loaded with cinnamon oil and thyme oil — two scents that, when sprinkled around your garden, scream, “No dogs allowed!”
4. Put Your Sprinkler to Work
Many dogs love playing in water, so using a sprinkler to keep them away sounds counterintuitive.
But combine a shower of cold water with the element of surprise and you’ve got the ultimate garden defense system.
A strategically-placed motion-activated sprinkler will start spraying as soon as a dog begins to set foot in your garden. The sudden deluge of tap-cold water will drive him off lickety-split, and your garden will live to see another day.
Of course, there are risks with this method. Smart dogs may figure out how to activate the sprinkler, then find a way around it — or end up activating it on purpose to have some fun.
And if you don’t remember to turn the sprinkler off before you enter your garden, you could end up soaked with icy water yourself.
But for many dogs, one surprise blast from a sprinkler will be enough to keep them away for good.
5. Put Up a Barrier Around Your Garden
Fencing is expensive, so many gardeners opt to skip it when constructing their garden plots.
But if you’ve got a dog problem, a protective fence could be well worth the money — and it doesn’t have to be pricey!
Chicken wire is cheap, easy to find, and very effective at keeping dogs out of the garden. It’s not the most attractive fencing option, but you can beautify it by growing some climbing plants: sweetpeas, honeysuckle, hyacinth beans, and bougainvillea are all excellent choices.
You can also try a natural fence of rose bushes, whose thorny branches will serve as a great reminder that no dogs are allowed in the garden. If you’re in a year-round warm climate, cacti can make a unique and effective dog fence.
6. Create a Separate Dog Zone in Your Yard
Try taking a look at your yard from a dog’s perspective. What’s the most enticing thing in it?
Chances are, it’s not the vast expanse of grass, the opposable-thumb-requiring barbecue grill or the little wooden house that birds are always coming and going from. It’s a patch of fresh, bare, diggable dirt with all the colorful flowers and juicy veggies growing in it.
The trick, then, is to create something else that’s even more interesting to a dog than your garden is.
This “dog zone” could contain a number of different things. One of the simplest: nail some 2x4s together into a box, then fill the box with dirt or sand to give your dog his very own digging patch.
If your dog is big on water, try filling up a kiddie pool at the opposite end of the yard from your garden. You can also provide some weather-resistant dog toys, such as this chewy ball on a bungee cord that attaches to a stake in the ground.
Make your “dog zone” interesting enough and your dog will forget your garden even exists. Sometimes those short canine attention spans can be a blessing in disguise!
7. Redesign Your Garden…
It doesn’t sound fair, we know: those dogs are the ones destroying your garden, so why should you have to be the one to change?
But as the more-advanced species, the onus is on us to convince dogs that they don’t belong in gardens. And in some cases, that requires rethinking your garden design.
Part of the problem with traditional in-ground gardens is that, to dogs, there isn’t a clear delineation between yard and garden. Converting your garden plot to a raised bed can work wonders — even a simple border of 2x4s communicates that the garden is off-limits.
Container gardening can also be a great option depending on the types of plants you’re growing. Heavy-duty planters keep your plants elevated so dogs can’t dig them up — and as a bonus, they make your plants portable!
8. …Or Deck It Out with Dog-Repelling Plants
Remember how you can use things like ground hot pepper and lemon juice to repel dogs?
Well, the same principle applies to the living plants that produce those substances. And while you may not be able to devote your entire garden to them, adding a few into the mix can help to keep dogs at bay.
Chili peppers are a great option: they grow well in many different regions and they’re useful in many different cuisines. While the scent of the growing plant isn’t nearly as strong as that of the processed pepper, it can still be odorous enough to discourage dogs from entering the garden.
If you live in a warmer climate, citrus trees can provide great shade, tasty fruit and an acidic aroma that dogs detest. And you don’t need a ton of space, either — dwarf varieties of many citrus trees, including lemons and limes, are fast-growing, easy to find and compact enough to grow in any yard.
Other commonly-recommended options include lemongrass, onions and garlic, all of which smell awful to dogs.
But take caution if you decide to plant these: they are toxic to dogs if ingested. Garlic and onions are especially poisonous, so if your garden is besieged by chew-happy dogs, go with another, less-toxic method.
9. Train Your Dog to Avoid Your Garden
If your dog is the one wreaking havoc in your garden, a little training regimen may be just what you need to protect your plants.
As with so many dog behavior issues, positive reinforcement and redirection are critical to successful training. You’ll need treats to reward your dog’s good behavior and distractions to capture his attention in more productive ways.
To start, go outside with your dog and wait for him to try entering your garden. Then tell him “no” in a firm voice and immediately redirect him to a toy or a better digging spot (like the “dog zone” described in option #6).
Once he’s successfully redirected, reward him with praise, pets and a treat or two. Do this repeatedly and consistently every time he tries to go in the garden and before long, he’ll start to get the idea.
In the short term, this is the most labor-intensive dog deterring option, so many owners are hesitant to try it. But in the long run, it’s the best choice: it teaches your dog good behaviors, allowing you to grow your garden however you want without worry.