A dog sensory garden is a safe space created for your fur babies that provides them with a stimulating and enrichment-filled environment. I hear hoomans take their small people to similar places but they tend to be indoors and full of loud noises and smelly nappies - it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea!
Sensory gardens are great because they’re not just for puppies, they’re wonderful for dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages.
So, you might now be wondering what you need to create a garden full of sense-pleasing wonders? Bear in mind the purpose when designing your sensory garden - it’s all about creating something that works for your dog. Consider things that they love, what stimulates them, keeps their focus and interests them the most. Whilst designing, you’ll also want to include something that ticks all five of their senses: smell, sight, sounds, touch and taste.
First of all, ensure your garden is secure, as you don’t want any unwanted visitors. Secondly give it a once over to check there’s nothing harmful hiding or growing, such as toxic flowers or plants.
As plants have just been mentioned, it’s a great time to tell you a little fact. Did you know that dogs have this awesome inner doctor, it’s like a “sick sense”...get it?! With this in mind, be sure to fill your sensory spaces with plants that are both safe and medicinal for us to have a little taste of - an absolute win-win scenario!
My folks and I are currently planning our garden for this year, and we had a little nosey around the internet and asked a couple of my pals for their input too, which has helped me to pull together this list of suggested plants that are safe for us and worth adding to our sensory gardens. Don’t forget when designing, remember to plant each one separately, with plenty of space, as you don’t want to send your doggo’s nose into a frenzy. Or, you could add planters, which would also help to keep the different plants separated. We love this sensory idea, but it’s wise to consider sensory overload!
Our top favourite plant suggestions and what they’re good for:
- Catnip: Relaxing and calming - and not just for cats
- Lavender: A great option for its calming effects
- Lemon Balm: Acts as a calming agent
- Marigold: Soothes emotional distress
- Marshmallow: Good for an upset stomach
- Mint: Works wonders as a flea repellent and helps with bad breath - please note, don’t use English Pennyroyal Mint as it’s known to be toxic to dogs
- Rosemary: Reduces anxiety
- Thyme: Great for gut health, brain function and skin support
- Violets: Good for the lymphatic system and for female dog’s mammary ducts
- Wheatgrass: It’s an antioxidant, an organ cleanser, breath freshener, supports digestion, helps with constipation, an energy booster, and has antiseptic properties
- Willow bark: Natural aspirin for dogs, immune boosting, reduces fevers, pains and inflammation
- Yarrow - Helps to reduce inflammation and urinary problems
You may have heard the saying “variety is the spice of life”? Well, when it comes to play time, I believe this is true! A bored dog can potentially cause havoc, so providing a place where they can be entertained will ultimately be good for you as well as them. To help prevent that boredom kicking in, set up different zones in the garden with alternative materials, textures and features - hopefully this will keep your doggos amused for hours.
If you are looking for suggestions, here are a few to get you started:
- Sand Pits: They can be an awesome way to encourage your dog to dig in an allocated area rather than your prized rose bushes. Top tip, if you’re looking for the perfect sand, purchase children’s soft play sand and not that hard horrible stuff from the builder’s yard. Don’t forget to check this area regularly though as this space could be potentially mistaken as a “doggy do do” spot!
- Water Features: Whether they’re big or small, they can provide a constant and soothing sound that might block out other noises such as traffic that may be a trigger for anxious dogs. It’s also great for a little dip on those warmer weather days.
Some dogs like different textures to walk, lay or roll around on. If your space allows it then you could try incorporating some more variety by adding in things like long grass, tree bark, gravel and astro turf.
For those who are a little more agile, it could be a bonus to add some tree stumps, as they enable you to create designated areas for climbing, jumping and simply observing, plus some dogs really love that woody aroma. It might be worth asking a local gardener or tree surgeon for some if they have any going spare. Just like with plants, ensure they are dog-friendly; Cedar, Conifer, Palm and Yew are all good options.
As well as adding these bits to explore, I highly recommend adding a covered area for those days when a little shade from the sun is needed or shelter from the rain. Keep an eye on your doggos of course, have plenty of fresh water for us to drink and play in to avoid dehydration, or worse, heat stroke and don’t leave your pups unattended in the sensory garden for long periods of time.
I hope you found this helpful! Who’s off to the garden centre to buy some plants?!
If this blog post encourages your hooman to create a sensory garden, be sure to send us a picture - we’d love to see what they’ve created for you! And we’ll be sure to share ours too!