Pet hates in the garden
by Kya delonghamps
The lawn is a natural playground for dogs and cats, but you can minimise the damage they cause, says Kya delongchamps. To you, its the cultivated,sylvan quarter-acre. To them, its a wild, outdoor world crossed by a myriad of scents and potential activities necessary to a domesticated animals sanity. Cats and dogs will mark, dig, and do a fair amount of incidental damage around the garden.
Rooting up beds, to defecate or to investigate, tearing up lawns in play and marking behaviour, is natural to them.
Its not personal, but as you regularly find small, and occasionally major, devastation, it can start to feel that way. Its a shame to see dogs tethered and penned outside, at all times, and there are other approaches to creating detente across the patio. Working varieties of dog, bred to herd and hunt, are often favoured by urban families, who are then surprised by their energy and intelligence. If you’ve ever seen what a neurotic, abandoned collie can do to a house if orphaned there 9-5pm, you’ll understand.
These types of breed need focus in their play. If the dog is pulling up plants and grass in sheer frustration,tearing around the garden like a lunatic, distract them with a robust toy, and with more walking when you are home.
Kong do a huge line in toys for mental exercise. These are worth the investment, as the materials will last for months of hard play, and the toys can be spiked with treats. Their kong Classic starts at 9 euro, and are available at a range of pet shops.
Lawn burns from nitrogen-rich dog urine can leave unsightly, rusty-looking patches that can only be scarified out and re-seeded. An ingenious product, now available to order from the UK and created in Australasia, Dog Rocks are placed in the dogs water bowl and lasts up-to two months.
They clear up the impurities in the water consumed by the dog, preventing the signature burn on the grass and on the edges of hedging where male dogs lift their leg. safe for all animals in the house, they won’t change the Ph or urine or affect animal health in any way. Six months supply (three bags) works out at 55 euro, www.dogrocks.co.uk.
Think about layout, when planning a garden, to include pet traffic. Dogs, for example, will gallop over a flower bed to get from one side to another. Planting at the periphery removes this problem. Alternatively, plant a thicker, more impenetrable variety of shrubs, but beware of long thorns that can hurt a flat-coated breed of dog or cat.
If there is a track the dog uses often, consider a hard path in bricks, blocks or pavers to save damage to the grass. Give a male dog a tree stump, or other marking post, to use as an alternative to your shrubs. Raise plants up in high containers, rather than low ones that can be targeted by dogs and cats, and place decorative pebbles on the surface so they don’t become cat trays.
Invest in a poop scoop for dog faeces. the Arms Length brand means you can stay a polite distance from the business end of the device, while doing regular cleanups. Amazon.co.uk, and most pet supply shops will stock these. Cats are masters of luxury, and when it comes to their toilet what could be more wonderful than a softly silky compost bed as a loo. When you have finally come to realise that screaming will never work (it just horrifies and disappoints your cat), attack by aversion.
Get some wooden BBQ sticks and plant a forest of their pointy ends upward in the area favoured by the cat.
Small, sharp trimmings from shrubs will work too. Pepper shaken over the area, lemon essential oil diluted in water in a spray, citrus peel and some planted herbs, are all unappealing and will repel a cat from the bed.
Get Off my Garden scatter crystals have a strong citronella scent that will deter dogs and cats, but keep them away from pond areas. From 7 euro for 400g, at garden centres, and pet shops.
Keep in mind that a cat has to go somewhere, and if you deflect them into your neighbours garden your social standing may go swiftly downhill.
Large plastic drink bottles filled with water, and set in the beds, will confuse visiting cats that see the refection as that of a large cat. Place a bell collar, with an elastic safety insert, on your own cat to lessen its impact on the wild birds visiting your garden.
Keeping dogs in the garden and under control is an issue for responsible pet owners, even if the majority incorrectly believe that dogs have a right to freely roam over the streets and countryside.
You should make every effort to fence your dog in, and, if that dosen’t work, your only options are a large commercial dog-pen on a proper base and with sufficient shelter from rain and sun.
From dusk to dawn, the dog should not be abandoned to bark outside. Electric-fence systems that deliver a mild shock through an integrated collar are now commonplace, but there’s an alternative training tool for anti-social and anti-horticultural behaviour that’s both kinder and more versatile.
The spray collar can be used to re enforce behaviour, discouraging digging, jumping up, chasing cars or other animals, chewing and other destructive and annoying habits in the garden.
Remotely controlled by you, the collar can be activated from 85m and delivers a small jet of water, and a recognised noise, to the dog when you see it vandalising.
Expensive at 165 euro, its worth considering for a hard-headed pet to back up conventional training.