How to - Gardening Basics

Puppy love

Mary Fran McQuade
Photography by
Jonathan Strug

Introducing Fido to the garden

Puppies and flowers can both happily bloom in the family garden, but keep in mind that your adorable little fluffball can do an exceptional amount of damage, left to her own devices. Your prized hydrangea becomes-whoops-a stick for her to toss around. Your carefully cultivated soil becomes the perfect place to practise digging techniques. As for your beloved begonias-well, at least you won't have to deadhead them.

Above all, owners should recognize that puppies aren't dogs, they're babies, and as with babies, they want to put everything in their mouths. No sensible parent would leave an infant to crawl around the garden all alone; the same goes for a puppy. Supervise your pup at all times. You're the first line of defence between your precious plants and those tiny, sharp teeth.

Protective measures
In the early stages, your little critter is too busy exploring the world to pay attention to real training. So steer her in the right direction by putting up light, temporary fencing around garden beds, marking boundaries with visible barriers such as white rocks, or even scattering black pepper at the edges of beds and borders. Then take your puppy out to the garden on a leash; when she heads into forbidden territory, gently redirect her to another part of your yard by luring her with a toy.

One gardener I know even wrapped his young trees in an armour of chicken wire until his giddy golden retriever learned they weren't playthings.

Eight to 12 weeks of age is the ideal time to make an impression on those baby brains, says Joan Weston, a Superdogs canine behavioural consultant who runs Fangs But No Fangs in Caledon, Ontario. “Figure out how to set your dog up for success. When he's little, go out with him and immediately interrupt him from going near your prized shrub.”

But don't interrupt with the classic rolled-up newspaper, Weston stresses. Have a little kibble in your pocket, call your pup away using a pleasant tone of voice and offer the treat. In fact, reward your pup for small accomplishments, such as looking at you or nicely tagging after you. “Rewarding a dog for proper attention is the foundation for training,” she explains.

Dogs dig because it's fun. Your job is to keep your dog from discovering this pleasure. Keep her busy with toys and activities. If that doesn't work, and you have the space, set aside one area in your garden for her to dig, filled with soft soil and her favourite toys, and hidden behind a trellis.

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