Create a Sensory Garden
Dogs are predators they need to hunt! When we boil it down to the basic needs: dogs need to gather information with all four senses. They need to hunt/explore to feel emotionally balanced and satisfied – even if they are simply hunting butterflies and exploring a shrubbery it is stress relieving and fulfilling. Even the most dedicated couch potato uses their nose, eyes, ears, and tongue to gather information throughout the day.
When a dog (or cat) comes into the clinic, we like to give them a minute to sniff, explore, and gather information about their new environment. This helps bring their stress and arousal level down so that they are more compliant and happier during their visit.
Just imagine if you could create a whole garden designed to encourage your dog to use his eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch to explore an exciting smorgasbord of scents, sounds, textures, and things to taste.
It is easier than you think! It doesn’t matter how little or how large your space – you can incorporate as little or as much features as you’d like!
Let's Get Started
Observe your dog’s favorite activities and design your garden around these activities.
Do they like to sunbathe? Is playtime in open areas a priority? Do they like to dig? Do they love water? Do they love tunnels and dense forest?
Use this information to sit down and plan out an area based on their likes/dislikes. Incorporate some new things to encourage your dog to try new things too. You can even plan out your garden with this online tool:
Get to work planning out areas designed around each sense (Think like your dog, what would they enjoy?):
Plant colorful plants, tall grasses and plants with varied textures, heights, etc. Incorporate tunnels, small winding paths through plants and shrubs, etc. Install bird houses and bird feeders to encourage bird watching.
(Make sure to check your plants against this toxic plant list put out by UC Davis Veterinary College):
Plants to Avoid:
- Tulips and Hyacinth
- Lily of the Valley
- Chrysanthemums (including Daisies)
For more information on toxic plant effects visit: https://www.ucdavis.edu/one-health/garden-plants-toxic-to-pets
Fill your garden with tall landscaping grasses, and edible herbs such as chamomile, rosemary, mint, catnip, etc. as well as aromatic herbs such as bee balm, lavender, etc. that are safe for your pet to smell as well as nibble on.
Fill your garden with pebbled areas (watch those rock eaters), pavers, stones to climb on, wooden steps and platforms, tunnels, sandy digging areas, water features (keep water free of algae and prevent stagnation).
Don’t forget to allow for flat, grassy areas for sunbathing or playing fetch.
Include wooden wind chimes, water fountains, etc. Place bird houses nearby to encourage birds to nest and chirp beside your garden.
Your backyard will soon be an adventure filled area full of fulfilling and relaxing exploration for your pooch!