Make a pet-friendly yard

KINGMAN - In Arizona's hot, desert climate, creating a welcoming and safe place for your pets in your backyard can seem daunting. But a few tips can create a safe and hospitable place for man's best friend.

Arizona's backyards are a mixture of rock landscaping, desert plants and (hopefully) low-water usage. But these elements don't always lend themselves well to pets. Rocks are not the softest place to lie, shade is often hard to come by, and many desert plants are poisonous to dogs.

According to Linda Queveto, owner of the Flower Patch Garden Center on Northern Avenue, there should be a spot in the backyard dedicated to your furry friends. A sandy or grassy area in the yard allows dogs to have a soft place to lie down, as well as a spot where they are allowed to dig down a little to find cooler ground to lay on. Watering the sand once a day will keep it cooler for your dogs.

"Many dogs labeled 'problem diggers' are really just trying to keep cool. They instinctively dig nests in shady places to access cooler soil deep down and sprawl out for the heat of the day," said landscape design expert Maureen "Mo' Gilmer in her eBook, "The Dog-Scaped Yard."

Gilmer said creating a spot that is damper and cooler than flowerbeds is an easy way to prevent digging. Sand, she said, won't make mud or stains, and easily falls away from fur.

Shade is also important to dogs, Queveto said. Even if you are just building a dog run in your backyard, a small spot just for them, covering it in green netting will keep it cool during the hottest parts of the day, she said.

Arbors are another attractive way to create shade. Using deciduous plants such as honeysuckle to weave over the arbor will give dogs a shaded spot during the summer, but when the leaves fall off in the fall and winter, the sun will warm the spot during the cooler days.

Gilmer said to keep the dog's views in mind if you decide to place a doghouse.

"Doghouses all over America sit abandoned and unused in a million backyards. The main reason for this is that we put the dog's house where we want it rather than where the dog wants it," she said.

While doghouses provide shelter from the elements, as well as shade, dogs will generally want to be able to keep an eye on the house. If they can't, they'll usually just find somewhere else to lie, she said.

Another concern regarding landscaping for pets is creating a dog-safe garden, Gilmer said.

"When planting gardens inhabited by normally behaved backyard dogs, the best approach is to avoid plants that we know are super poisonous," Gilmer said. However, this task can prove difficult for those who are not expert horticulturists.

Oleander, a common bush found in Kingman, is poisonous. It takes only a handful of leaves to kill an average-sized dog; however, Queveto said it is generally only dangerous to small, rambunctious puppies. Once dogs grow old enough not to chew, oleander ceases to be a problem.

Nightshades and lilies are also very poisonous for dogs. To ensure your garden remains safe, a more thorough list of toxic plants can be obtained from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The full list can be accessed on their Web site at www.aspca.org/toxicplants.

Seriously dangerous plants include castor beans, narcissus, wisteria, foxglove, delphinium, poke, buckeye and yew.

While there is a long list of plants not good for your dogs, Gilmer said there are some that are good for them. Rose hips are medicinal, she said, and are rich in vitamin C and other beneficial nutrients. Some plants are even known to repel fleas, such as fleabane, fleawort, sweet bay and eucalyptus.

To obtain Gilmer's full eBook, visit her Web site at www.moplants.com.