Written by Ella White
Wondering how to keep dogs off your lawn or away from certain areas of your yard? Rather than looking for poisons and other toxins to keep either your own, or curious unwanted dogs off your property, we recommend a softer – yet equally effective – approach.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of dogs are poisoned in the USA. It’s an infuriating statistic that becomes even scarier when you learn that most of these poisonings were entirely avoidable and caused by household products and human food that was left in reach of nosy pets.
Poisoning in dogs can result in death or other serious health issues including neurological disease, cardiac and respiratory conditions, and gastrointestinal issues. So it’s important to keep actual poisons far away from anywhere that dogs can access them, and instead try commercial or home-made repellents that will keep dogs away without causing them harm.
We get it: you’re fed up with pesky neighborhood dogs sniffing around and even going to the toilet on your prize flowerbeds. It’s annoying, and we don’t blame you for wanting to keep other people’s pets at bay. But the most important thing to remember, amidst your frustration, is that poisoning an animal – which could cause their death – is illegal in most of the Western world.
So, no matter how much you might like to never see the dog next door ever again, safe and non-toxic repellents are the only way to go. After speaking to the owners and trying to work with them to keep their pet away from your yard, of course. The good news is, there are plenty on the market – and that you can make at home – which will keep Fido off your lawn without doing him any damage.
In fact, these can be even more effective than poisons because they are designed to specifically put dogs and other animals off coming near them. Poisons, on the other hand, will cause the dog harm but not necessarily keep them away or repel them, as dogs won’t have the knowledge that what they’re coming into contact with is toxic. So they won't know to avoid it altogether, like we do.
You can find safe dog repellents easily online and in pet stores in both granular and liquid forms. If you want to keep dogs away from your garden entirely, then a granular repellent can be sprinkled to create a boundary that will keep dogs and other animals off your space.
However, if the dog that keeps destroying your rose garden is your own, this might not be the best solution. To help protect specific plants or areas, liquid repellents can be more effective in making these areas less inviting to curious paws.
If you’ve not had much luck with store-bought dog repellents or you’d rather try something cheap and easy at home first, there are some household items and ingredients that are known to deter dogs.
Installing a motion-activated sprinkler system in your yard doesn’t just keep dogs and other critters away, it also gives your lawn a refresh in the process. It’s easy to install, safe for dogs, and better than using chemicals on your grass.
The noise and sudden spray of water can frighten errant dogs off of your garden and they’ll come to build an association that makes them steer clear. But beware if you live near a main road: you don’t want to scare them so they run into the path of a moving car.
Dogs hate the smell of vinegar. So soaking rags in vinegar, or creating a spray bottle of vinegar to apply to your plants can help keep dogs away. However, be aware that too much vinegar can cause damage to grass and some plants.
Though oils are often used to condition dogs’ coats and help kill fleas, the fact is that they tend to find the smell very unpleasant. Almond oil and olive oil sprayed on surfaces or soaked into rags and left in your garden will help keep unwanted dogs away.
Chilli, cayenne, and black pepper are all effective in deterring dogs because they dislike the ingredient capsaicin. This can be sprinkled into flowerbeds, or diluted in water and sprayed over plants. Capsaicin is also used to keep other critters, like skunks, away from homes and gardens, and is also effective for self-defense when sprayed at aggressive animals.
A simple way to keep dogs away from your garden is simply to fill it with plants they don’t like. Marigolds, lavender, scaredy cat plants, citronella, and citrus fruits are all known to be unpleasant to dogs. Some gardeners also create bamboo barriers around their more precious plants to physically keep animals from getting to them.
Done with your morning coffee? Sprinkle the leftover grounds into your flower beds. Not only do they act as an effective fertilizer, but the strong smell is also off-putting to dogs and other animals that might be sniffing around your garden.
Accidental dog poisoning most often occurs when foods and other products that are unsafe for dogs are left around the home by unwitting owners. These are some of the most common causes for dog poisoning at home, which should always be kept out of reach of pets.
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications for humans can be ingested by dogs, leading to poisoning. So be sure to keep your tylenol or blood pressure medication in a secure cupboard where nosy pets (and children) can’t get to them. Anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant medication can cause particularly severe side effects if dogs get hold of them.
If your pet loiters round your ankles while you’re cooking, begs for table scraps, or is known for making stealth attempts at hunting down human food, be extra aware of these ingredients that are perfectly safe for human ingestion, but can be deadly for dogs:
Some products that are designed to help dogs can still cause them harm when ingested or taken in too large a quantity. For example, topical tick and flea or deworming treatments that are designed to be applied to their coat or skin can be poisonous if taken by mouth.
The most common household product that causes death in dogs is antifreeze, so it’s important to not only keep your bottle away from your pets but also to never apply it to your car when your dog is near. Bleaches used to clean floors can also poison dogs and lead to serious gastrointestinal issues, so it’s important to use bleach-free floor cleaners – especially if you have a dog that likes to sniffle around for crumbs.
Similarly, products used to kill or repel rodents and insects – like rat or slug poison – can also be deadly for dogs if ingested. Dog owners are recommended to seek out pet-safe alternatives when buying rodenticides and insecticides for use at home.
We’ve already mentioned that some plants are effective in repelling dogs, but there are some that are extremely poisonous when ingested by pets. And while most dogs can be trusted not to eat or even go near plants that are toxic to them, it’s still possible that they won’t be aware and might start chewing on a flower or leaf that they don’t realize is deadly.
There is a huge list of plants that are toxic to dogs at varying degrees, but the most important ones to keep away from pets are:
If you think your dog has been poisoned either by one of the items listed above, or something else, seek medical attention immediately. If you can, try to collect any remnants of the toxin – including any vomit – that hasn’t been ingested so that your vet can examine it.
When working with a vet to help treat your poisoned dog, honesty is crucial. Do not try to hide any potential causes of their poisoning for fear that you might be branded a bad dog owner. Vets know that accidents happen, and it’s far more important to be transparent about the cause of their poisoning so that it can be treated more quickly and effectively.
In the USA, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has a phone line that provides guidance to owners of poisoned animals while they wait for veterinary attention. You can reach them on 1-888-426-4435.
The best way to prevent your dog from being poisoned is to make sure they have no access to any products, ingredients, or other items that are toxic to them – preferably by keeping them out of your house and garden. However, in many cases this won’t be entirely possible – are you really never going to cook with onion and garlic or treat yourself to chocolate ever again? So instead focus on preventing exposure wherever you can.