Many people liken their pets to children. Not only do they need love and affection, they also can cause their share of trouble.
Gardening with pets is akin to dealing with youngsters, and doing so requires setting boundaries and limitations.
With five dogs – a chocolate Lab, three miniature schnauzers and a mix between a Jack Russell and schnauzer – master gardener Dia Bettencourt Stokes has had to train her dogs where they cannot go.
“The entire property is fenced, plus we have an underground invisible fence that covers a large area for the dogs,” she said. “The reason for having the entire place fenced is to keep other dogs out. The invisible fence is to define boundaries for our dogs.”
The invisible fence area is also sectioned off. The dogs have a specific area where they can dig.
“They are off to the side and one cannot readily see this area,” said Stokes, who lives on 2½ acres along the Savannah River. “I have trained them to dig here. I’m not a dog trainer, but I enjoy training mine.”
Stokes and her husband, John, learned the hard way that giving the dogs parameters in which to play was necessary.
“We did not have the garden pond included initially in the invisible fence area,” she said. “We do now. We came home one day and found the Lab in the pond cooling himself. He looked like a hippopotamus with only his head out. It wasn’t good for the water plants or the carefully placed rocks, and the fish were quite frightened.”
Stokes said it’s important to understand that it will take time to acclimate a new pet to your garden.
“I strongly consider taking a new pet to basic obedience training,” she advised. “Learn what your pet will do. Some pets just don’t dig and destroy. However, pets, if left alone, often get bored and will do things that they ordinarily would not.”
Gardening with pets, whether they are new to the family or are just becoming a part of the family, can be done with success if all parties are willing to accept boundaries and make sacrifices to keep everyone happy.