If you and your dog are anything like CiCi and me, you’re more than ready or winter’s gray skies to give way to a sunny spring. CiCi is looking forward to getting in some running with her dad! Here in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region we won’t be able to garden until May but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan, right? This year I’m considering something new: A sensory garden just for CiCi! Follow these quick tips to create a safe and beautiful spot for your dog to sniff, chew, roll and explore.
Add some aromatics.
In my garden, I’ll be planting mint for those summer mint mojitos and basil for cooking hearty Italian meals. Also consider the aromatic and snuff-able rosemary and sage to stimulate your dog’s nose. IMPORTANT: Some plants can be toxic for pets, so be sure to keep them away from chewers or to consult the ASPCA’s Toxic Plants List before planting.
Include a daily dose of greens.
Contrary to myth, most dogs nibble grass because it’s tasty, not because they feel sick. CiCi cannot resist munching on fresh green grass, but I am sure to keep her out a bit longer when I see her doing so because it always finds its way back up and onto my carpets. If your dog loves a grassy treat, a pot of alfalfa, wheat, oat, barley or rye grass will add a thick splash of bright green to your garden and provide a yummy spot for your dog to graze. Be sure to buy seed packaged to be grown for pets.
Play treat hide-n-seek.
Garden sculptures and benches are a great place to hide treats for your dog to discover. We get Greenies Dental Treats from the Laconia Pet Center and use those to hide for CiCi. Be obvious about the first few hiding places until your dog catches on to the game and be sure they are all found before nightfall, so as not to lure in curious wild critters.
Tickle their toes.
Mulch your garden paths with soft straw, bumpy wood chips (or both) so your pup can roll and nose about, while experiencing different textures on their paws. As the straw breaks down, use it to mulch around plants and replace it with fluffy new piles. Avoid cocoa mulch: it is toxic to dogs and cats.
Give them all the feels with a digging pit.
If your dog loves a good roll in the dirt, put an old tire to good use as a pit where your dog can exercise digging skills. They’ll enjoy hot sand on top, cool sand beneath, lots of fun smells, and of course – flying sand everywhere!
Dazzle your dog with yellows and blues.
Your dog sees these colors best, and there are all sorts of pet-friendly beautiful flowers that come in those hues.
Include outdoor music and movement.
Water fountains, birds at feeders, soft wind chimes and fun wind-driven whirligigs all add new intriguing sounds and surprising movement. Not only will they be a treat for your dog, they’ll be a treat for you too! I just love hearing our wind chime on breezy days.
Help your dog climb to new heights.
Create a winding pathway so your dog can visit the interior of the garden rather than being banished to the boundary. Send your dog up a step-garden of different plateaus or a hilly rock garden to survey their backyard kingdom.
Brush your dog’s sides with tall grasses.
Consider leaving a section of your yard unmowed. Tall grass is wildlife-friendly and gives you and your dog something to walk through and feel the light brushing of the grass leaves. Just make sure to check for ticks regularly, as these are favorite havens for them and other wildlife as well.
Have fun selecting plants but be safe! If you’re not sure what something is, download the plant-identifier app, LeafSnap, and then look them up on the ASPCA webpage of toxic and non-toxic plants on your smartphone to double check your purchases. It’s mobile-friendly!
Have you created a sensory garden for your dog? Share your experience in the comments.