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7 Fun Dog-Friendly Backyard Ideas for Any Budget

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Designing space in the yard for your dog—even if it’s just a part of the yard—gives them a place to get out all the zoomies and engage in some of their more destructive behaviors outside instead of in the living room. And a dog-friendly backyard doesn’t have to be impossibly expensive! From fencing to ferns, there’s a lot you can do with low-cost materials and a little ingenuity.

As with anything you and your pup plan together, make sure the grasses, plants, and products you’re using are safe for dogs. Certain fertilizers and flowers (like azaleas and daffodils) can be toxic for our four-legged friends.

Now, read on for a list of fun ideas to transform your backyard into a dog-friendly oasis that won’t break the bank.

1. Ditch the Grass

Between the digging and the peeing and the running around, we’ve long suspected our dogs have a personal vendetta against the lawn. But it doesn’t have to be a battle! No grass is completely immune to stains, but there are more durable blends like Kentucky Bluegrass that stay tough and don’t cost much more than the standard stuff. Or you might get lucky with clover—it’s safe for dogs and heartier than grass, plus it requires less water and fertilizer. 

And don’t let Big Lawn’s agenda make your life harder: You don’t necessarily need to plant anything. Stones or mulch can work just as well as grass when it comes to ground cover for dogs. Both are inexpensive, and cedar mulch even smells nice and acts as a natural bug repellent. (Just be careful, as cocoa mulch can be just as bad for pups as a big ol’ chocolate bar.)

dog in sunflowers
Sunflower fields fur-ever. | Sasha Sashina

2. Skip the Expensive Plants

You know what looks pretty? Sunflowers. You know what’s cheap to plant? Sunflowers. You know what’s hardy as hell, easy to keep alive, and absolutely “fine” in the eyes of your dog? 

Yup. Sunflowers.

You don’t need to fork over wads of cash for expensive “dog-friendly” plants. “Dog-friendly” includes everything from sunflowers to snapdragons to cilantro to sage. The ASPCA has a whole list of non-toxic plants, most of which are easy to grow and hard to kill, all of which are perfectly safe for pup. Plus it’ll cost just a dollar or so for a packet of seeds.

3. Figure out Fencing

Dogs dig prowling and patrolling almost as much as they dig… digging. Make little pathways in the yard for them to follow when they’re on their rounds, and they won’t wear their own paths into the grass. This can also help guide your pal to the area where you’d prefer they take care of their business, ideally away from the areas where you sit and relax.

Thinking about fencing? Don’t freak out! A fence doesn’t have to be some huge, overly expensive undertaking. These days there are DIY dog fencing kits, which are affordable—think a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand—and easy to install. You can also scale the size and structure to fit your budget. Like, no of-fence, but what if your dog didn’t need to have access to the whole yard? You can enclose just a part of your space, or make a dog run in a side yard. Add a little viewing bubble or dog window and your pup can watch the world go by. 

4. Make Like Andrew W.K. and Get Wet

Tired: kiddie pool. Wired: puppy pool. 

A little portable pop-up pool only costs around $30 and gives your pup a place to make a splash on hot summer days. Plus, just think of the adorable pictures. Sprinklers are also a cheap (and practical!) backyard buy. Your dog can cool off and have fun, and your yard gets watered in the process. Doubly fun for families with canines and kids! 

5. Make a Puppy Playground 

Hardscaping features—tunnels, balance beams, and even jumps—can be a way to really encourage your dog’s playfulness. And you’d be amazed what you can do with a trip to the hardware store and a little creativity! 

Making a basic jump? You don’t have to do anything more than attach some PVC piping, or you can get wild and hang a bicycle tire.

dog practicing agility in dog-friendly backyard
Y’all ready for this? | Janosch Diggelman

Building a sandbox? Why, that’s as easy as nailing together some scrap wood, filling her up with sand, and burying some of your pup’s favorite toys in there. Craving a crawl tunnel? Just pick up one of the ones they make for kids. You can even DIY a dog fort out of old cardboard boxes or blankets. Your dog might also love yard games like brain-training toys or a bacon-flavored bubble machine!

For more, we’ve got a whole post on making a backyard agility course that’s fun and inexpensive here

6. Keep it Shady

Your dog might love basking in the sun and working on her tan, but she should have shaded areas for snoozing and cooling off too. Or get a dog house! You can find them for around a hundred bucks in styles ranging from hella modern to classic and cozy. A puppy awning or tented area will do the trick too, or just make sure there are a few tall trees to curl up under. 

7. Make it Fashion

A yard doesn’t just have to be a yard, yanno? Hang a sign with your pup’s name on the fence, set out a few durable bowls to make a dining area for when they take their meals and snacks al fresco, find a doggy doormat for wiping those paws before you head inside—little design touches can personalize the place so it feels like home for the whole family, regardless of species. 

Welcome to Your Dog-Friendly Backyard

There you have it, y’all! It doesn’t have to take a big bank account, a supersized yard, or a ton of time and materials to make a yard your pup’ll have a blast palling around in. It can be as simple as a sprinkler…

dog playing in sprinkler in dog-friendly backyard
Norja Vanderelst

Or just a piece of wood…

dog-friendly backyard
Tadeusz Lakota

To help your dog have a blast outside!

We want to see your dog haven? Tag @sidewalkdog on Insta, and pawlease share this article with all your pup-lovin’ pals.

Featured photo: Catrin Ellis

Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagram, and join us on Facebook and Twitter.

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