How to keep dogs out of flower beds
Heather, Blue and I at our wedding, August 7th, 2010

It’s a common problem for gardeners with pets – how to keep dogs out of flower beds. And deer, and cats, and rabbits and moles and voles and on and on.

I have a few gardening tips, and what I really want to do in this blog post is say goodbye to my family dog, Blue.

He passed away last month at about 13 years old, not bad for a good-sized dog. I hadn’t spent much time with him over the last few years other than when visiting my parents, as I lived a few thousand miles away, but I’ll miss him.

I know my parents will miss him, too. Even though he moved more slowly than when he was young, he still did his daily walks around the property (they live in the country) to make sure everything was under control. And he still ran ahead of us to make sure the coast was clear when we were going anywhere outside. And he always welcomed everyone who stopped by.

So while I know many of us want to keep dogs out of flower beds, one day you may find yourself wishing he/she was plopped right in the middle of your annuals again.

And our dog was good at getting into the flowers. There is a lot of gardening advice on how to keep dogs out of flower beds, but I’ve found only a few that work almost every time, and they do require the most work.

Sure, you can sprinkle red pepper onto the soil or a mixture of alcohol and cayenne pepper onto the leaves, but how long are you going to want to keep that up? Here are my longer-term solutions:

  • Thorny Bushes. This one is the easiest. Plants such as hollies and barberries can be very sharp. Yes, organic rose gardening can provide more than just flowers – some roses have nasty thorns. We don’t want to hurt the poor puppy, but this is a good deterrent.
  • Motion-detecting sprinkler systems. This one is also fairly easy and works in gardens that you don’t visit too often (otherwise it might be a pain in the butt for you). They are relatively inexpensive to set up. Put a sprinkler in your organic garden attached to a motion-detector. Just don’t forget about it yourself, or you may be the one who isn’t let back in the house.
  • Raised Garden Beds. It will have to be a bit taller than the very short (6 inch) raised bed vegetable gardens you sometimes see, but raised beds work well for most dogs. Plus, if you’re growing vegetables, there are some advantages of putting them in a raised garden bed.
  • Fence. For most animals, a fence is really the most sustainable solution. It makes the most sense if you have a big garden that you want to be an animal-free zone, especially if it contains fruit and vegetable gardens. Depending on your dog, 2 to 4 feet will suffice. If you’re also contending with deer, you’ll have to bring it up to 8 feet, or two 4 foot fences six feet apart, if you want to keep the view. Some cats can jump pretty high, so they may need as high as 8 feet, too. If you have rabbits or moles or voles, take that fence down at least 1 foot below the soil, if not 2 feet. This fence can be as simple as chicken wire, but you can also build something more aesthetically pleasing. Make sure your dog still has a place to run (most dogs like to run) and lie down (most dogs like shade).

You guys know I’m into organic pest control methods, and those have been the most useful to me.

Have you found another method for how to keep dogs out of flower beds over the long term? Or are you just happy to let your dog go wherever? Let me know…


  1. K05designs on April 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    We have 2 Golden Retriever pups, almost 5 months old. They have destroyed my main flower bed! I will try the thorny shrubs, and whatever I can find sticky. Thank you, will let u know how it goes.

  2. Bigredhur on May 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Another plant that most animals dislike are perrenial geranium (Cranesbill- Geranium macrorrhizum). They have a citrus like odour and multiply easily!!  

  3. twiggn on February 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I’m disappointed you would mention using cayenne, like homeowners in the Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle. They are using piles of cayenne pepper, which have seriously hurt a lot of animals. I would think you would be interested in no one or nothing getting hurt.

    • Phil on February 25, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks for your comment and link. I can agree with both sides of that story. I certainly wouldn’t want to use so much cayenne pepper as to really hurt an animal, but I also wouldn’t want animals pooing/digging on my property, so perhaps a happy medium is possible, or perhaps a better alternative exists. Thanks again for the info.

  4. loox42 on June 8, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Dogs hate the stench of aloe vera plant 100%, check it out. Next time you have aloe, put some gel of it on your finger and let your dog smell it…. the dog should literally back away haha. Also, spraying basic Lysol around the tomatoes and plants works for raccoons and such.

    • Phil on June 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Lysol is pretty toxic stuff, but I like the aloe idea. Thanks!

  5. flcsjc on May 22, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    twigging, can’t believe you think Cayenne is such a bad thing. Have tried it and it does nothing. Wish I could find something that does not stink. I know that moth balls work but they stink. We landscapes and put down pine straw and the neighbors dogs lay on it and flatten it out. HELP!!

    • Kristi on June 22, 2018 at 10:33 am

      We tried moth balls and I just caught our puppies playing with one. One had it in her mouth. Gross! Plan B

  6. Sandy Sartin on July 28, 2017 at 9:59 am

    I have an already established flower bed that is full of philodendrons. My now 3 year old GSD destroyed my whole back yard but left this bed alone.. Even pulled up bulbs out of the ground. She has just had a litter of puppies and I am keeping 2 of them. I’ve heard pine straw will keep them out. Is this true, and if not, what would work?

    • Kathryn Ramsey on April 20, 2018 at 9:14 am

      I have a GSD puppy (and two mini schnauzers) and pine straw doesn’t deter any of them. I’m going to try planting the perennial geraniums to see if that works.

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