3 big dogs in backyard

I have 3 large dogs in a backyard. They wrestle non stop and have literally either trodden down every blade of grass, dug it up or, in the case of shrubbery, chewed it up. The only thing remaining is an enormous old black walnut tree. So, not only have they completely torn up the yard, it's shady too. We need to do something to hardscape the backyard without breaking the bank. Part of the yard will have wood decking, other parts will be patio pavers. I was thinking of trying something like astroturf for the remaining areas. thoughts?
  43 answers
  • Carole Carole on Feb 18, 2015
    There is apparently a brand of fake lawn that is suitable for pets. If they pee or poo on it, you can just hose it down. Unless you can fence off an area for your dogs to keep them off the garden, then I think you have the right idea. They will only destroy any plants you put in and ruin your grass. Our dog has also ruined a section of grass that she has access to. She digs it up with her paws after peeing on it. Naughty girl. Her urine has burned brown bald patches in the grass too. You can see where she has been and the bits she does not use as the bits she does not pee on are lush thick lawn in stark comparison! Good luck.
  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Feb 18, 2015
    Hi Jean. I have 3 big dogs too and the same problem. "Grassology" is a brand of seed we are going to try next. Section off an area, enclose it and put chicken wire over it so the grass grows through the closed circles of the wire. Hopefully, this digging will stop since they can do it through the wire! Hopefully!
  • Liz Holland Liz Holland on Feb 18, 2015
    I have the same issues with my dogs, plus they like to dig holes. I have put down chicken wire so they won't dig and I use big pots for spots of color where I want them. I have flower beds in front of the house, we put an electric fence up around it about a foot off the ground. We only had it plugged in for a week or so. Now 2 years later they still will not get in the flower beds! I have given up on having a lawn!
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Feb 18, 2015
    See some potential for vet bills with the chicken wire. I'd think about fencing off an area for the dog's play area. Have they a variety of tough toys like Kongs to distract them from wrestling? Daughter has 3 dogs, too. Has some tough ones that she puts some peanut butter in. Keeps them real busy trying to get at it.
  • Pat Nolan Pat Nolan on Feb 18, 2015
    Thought: your dogs are bored and they need more space and exercise. I'm having the same problem with just one medium-sized dog. My solution, living in suburbia, is that I harness the dog to a bicycle and let her run until she wears herself out. She loves it. Got the harness from Amazon. It attaches to the pillar that the bike seat is on.
    • Jean Blakeley-Cook Jean Blakeley-Cook on Feb 18, 2015
      Not bored, one is a puppy. 6 months. Going to be running with my daughter, a XC runner, but can't start training until 1 year old. The old man dog, 8 year old terrier mix 70 lbs, is a digger
  • Karen Irvine Karen Irvine on Feb 18, 2015
    I have two great danes, and have the SAME problem. It's like we have a horse barn yard instead of a backyard. We resodded last spring, but that is completely gone too. Fake lawn is about $15,000 for our yard, not an option. They go to daycare so they are tired. They are just honkin' big dogs. Kongs are no match for them. They can chew them apart in about 15 minutes. We are to the point where we want to sell the house to get a bigger yard and just tell the purchasers that we will resod once we are out. Love our girls, but had I known how big dogs are, I think I would have got a toy pomeranian! lol
  • Barbara Matson Barbara Matson on Feb 18, 2015
    put down beauty bark instead of grass
  • Janet Manger Janet Manger on Feb 18, 2015
    We live in the country and also in a woods so we have no grass and mostly shade. At one time we had an outdoor dog and she made a mud area very fast which was not good for her. This is what we done and it was free. We found a local lumber mill which have large piles of sawdust lying around where they cut the trees up for lumber. We took the pick-up truck and they gave us a whole load (could have as much as we wanted) of sawdust and we put that in the dog's pen. She (the dog) thought it was the greatest stuff as she could play in it and then shake it off when she went into her dog house. You can keep adding sawdust over time if you want or it maybe something to use until you can afford something better. If you use sawdust, keep in mind any wood product attach termites of course but you can always spray. Hope this helps some.
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    • Janet Manger Janet Manger on Feb 18, 2015
      @Brenda, that is a dog (like a watch dog) that lives outdoors all the time as opposed to an indoors dog that lives inside all the time.. They have their own dog house and they are either in a large pen like ours was or chained up.
  • Marion Marion on Feb 18, 2015
    I love dogs, raised labs, beagles, had a shepherd, and a malamute. But our dogs were kept chained separately with their own houses, my husband would take the lab for a walk every evening, we lived in the country. I don't understand why people have so many large dogs, what is the purpose. I guess I will get banned, but think it's almost criminal to have so many dogs in a confined area. The best thing, make a fenced in area.
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    • Cristina Cristina on Feb 18, 2015
      @Marion You pretend you love dogs, but it seems to me that you have no idea of what they deserve. Dogs are pack animals: they need to be together, play, fight and organize their hierarchy. Chained, and separately, is cruel. And how many big dogs people have in their backyard is none of your business. You don't know the backyard, so don't criticize.
  • Grady Grady on Feb 18, 2015
    If they're outside 24/7, let them inside. They could be tearing up the yard on purpose to get revenge on you. My dogs have done stuff like that.
    • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Feb 28, 2015
      @Grady Laughed about the revenge of the dogs! So true. Daughter was expecting me for a visit, so did a good vac on the black rugs in her bedroom, and closed the door to keep the shepherd out. He associated the vac with being shut out and demolished it.
  • Focus your curb appeal in the front area for now and use natural wood bark, river rock, in the back for the dogs, I don't think you can have both happy dogs and a great back yard. The dogs give more love and happiness than a yard ever would. It's like the area under the swing set - it just is what it is. Perfection is an illusion - accept and enjoy.
  • Barbara Matson Barbara Matson on Feb 18, 2015
    Wood bark. Natural. Do not use cedar or cocoa bark as they are dangerous for animals. Just plain beauty bark. My sister uses large pea gravel.
  • Don nall Don nall on Feb 18, 2015
    artificial plastic grass
  • Gretchen Gretchen on Feb 18, 2015
    I also vote for wood bark mulch. You can get it in various sizes - large chipped wood that will not stick in the poodles fur down to finely milled pieces that will not make mud when mixed with water. Pea gravel will work too as long as it won't get wedged in the pads of their feet. Don't use rubber mulch - it often has metal pieces in it. And don't use the mulch you get from the dump for the same reason. Nothing is going to grow under that black walnut tree anyway, so create what I call a "Mulch Garden." Just put mulch on the ground - if you want to put it in an "island shape" you can use some sort of edging (I vote for rubberized so there are no hard edges to hurt the dogs) to keep it in place. If you have the money, then go for astroturf - when I lived in CA there were people putting down fake lawns to avoid having to water. So there definitely are companies out there who do it for yards. You can surround shrubs with tomato cages until the youngest grows up some. Puppies are going to play so you sort of have to choose if you want happy dogs or nice grass. For the digger? Make a sand box for him...and let him dig to his heart's content in one corner of the yard. He will love you for it!
  • Kathy Kathy on Feb 18, 2015
    Our yard is small but we had the same problem. So we poured concrete stamped to look like a brick patio in part of the yard and on either end is a "green area" one of which includes a weeping Chinese Cherry tree. Then we put fencing around this area to keep the dog out. The very back of the yard is a stoned area for the dog to do his thing. Since there is no grass, I implement greenery with lots of planters.
  • Laura Laura on Feb 18, 2015
    Natural cedar isn't dangerous to dogs, actually, its a natural flea repellent. Any chemically treated wood would be dangerous though, so just know your supplier.
  • Sue Scully Sue Scully on Feb 18, 2015
    Why don't you try exercising your dogs or at least play lots of games with them. Exercised dogs are happy dogs and are not as destructive. Try giving them a new job that is fun; such as agility, fly ball etc. I don't know why you have 3 big dogs if you are not willing to put in the time with them.
    • Tess Rollins Tess Rollins on Feb 18, 2015
      @Sue Scully I just happened onto this and was curious to see the responses because we have two large dogs and a disappearing lawn also. It is not because the dogs are doing anything destructive - it is just that they do run and play enough that it just tears up the grass. This includes us playing with them - so please don't blame this woman. It sounds to me like the dogs are getting plenty of time outdoors and plenty of exercise! I keep a mat on top of our carpet at the door where mud gets tracked in...we put down some gravel at the approach to the deck steps, but it still gets muddy...
  • I have astroturf and it is amazing! Looks very real and lush and green and soft to step on. You can also just rinse it off. The only odd thing is when it is winter around here, or grass is still green and lush while others have went dormant!
  • Lynn Whinery Lynn Whinery on Feb 18, 2015
    Do the dogs spend any time in the house? (You only mention the back yard). Dogs that are outside constantly will be far more destructive. However, multiple dogs can still be destructive. You can set aside one area in the yard for digging by creating a little 'sand box' type area. Bury their toys there to encourage them to dig there. Praise them for digging in that specific area. When you see them digging elsewhere, just call them to the correct place and praise them. There are various toys that use the same concept as Kongs. Different shapes and sizes. You can put soft food and kibble in them and freeze them, then hide them in various areas of the yard for them to find. That helps keep them busy. There are some dogs that like to play tetherball! Something like pea gravel can be used as ground cover. You can also create raised flower beds out of wood, or large pots, for decoration. I would never, EVER use electric fencing! It can cause neuroses and even aggression! If a child were standing near the dog when the dog got shocked, it could mistakenly think the child is somehow responsible, and snap at the child. Electric fences cause tons of behavioral issues. anyway, mental stimulation can be as fatiguing as physical stimulation, so see what you can do to create a stimulating environment for them.
    • Jean Blakeley-Cook Jean Blakeley-Cook on Feb 18, 2015
      Dogs are inside dogs. They are happy, healthy, exercised dogs, having Tons of fun being dogs. They have a doggy doorbell and they choose when they go out. All good, not a behavior problem or a lack of care on my part, just a dirt problem
  • Pat Nolan Pat Nolan on Feb 18, 2015
    Jean, I've enjoyed hearing the different ideas presented on this topic. Please let us know in the end what solution you go with. The only yard problem I've had is my dog walking ruts into the grass.
  • Cristina Cristina on Feb 18, 2015
    Same problem: three Carpatian sheperds in my backyard (used to be five - about 100 lb each). No way to have a lawn but a kind of meadow with a lot of couch grass. All flowerbeds and the kitchen garden are fenced in and we built a terrace in order to limit the dirt when they come in. It works. You cannot have a perfect garden and happy dogs, and we chose the dogs.
  • Rebecca Rebecca on Feb 18, 2015
    She didn't ask how to take care of her dogs. Why do people assume they just need to be exercised, allowed to come inside or she needs to play with them? I have three dogs who get lots of attention, lots of exercise, come inside, etc. But, the Jack Russell still digs holes, the Toy Poodle always wants to be petted and the Husky suddenly turns into Houdini when we leave the house in the evening and could be in a coma but would jump up and play rough if the next door husky came over. Just because a dog continues to be a dog doesn't mean it is neglected.
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    • Lynn Whinery Lynn Whinery on Feb 22, 2015
      @Rebecca For one thing, not everyone allows their dogs in the house. Not everyone exercises their dogs properly. These suggestions are just that - just in case that IS the problem. If it isn't, great! Fantastic! But since the original post doesn't give much detail, people are covering all the bases.
  • Sarah Sarah on Feb 18, 2015
    Hi Jean, I live in severe drought prone Northern California, so last year we took the grass out of our back yard and installed a large paver patio with a fountain, raised bed planters and a small 12 x 12 area of artificial grass for the dogs. We love having a bigger patio to entertain and our 4 dogs all use the "grass" patch for their business. One thing though, since we don't get rain in the summer I do have to hose the "grass" down with Pine Sol about once a week to prevent a urine odor. This year we are taking out the front year grass and creating a courtyard!
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    • Sarah Sarah on Feb 28, 2015
      Hi Melinda and Jean, here's some photos of the back yard right after we finished. The paver patio under the table was put in a few years ago along with the pergola and swing. We compromised on materials, I wanted brick and he wanted flagstone so we made the walkway out of flagstone. When we took out the grass we added raised beds for flowers and plants along the fence all the way around. Now the bougainvilla, jasmine, climbing roses and other vines are covering the fence and will look really pretty in the summer. We got the fountain for a steal on Craig' List. My wonderful hubby did ALL of the work himself as well as building the shed. I've repainted the shed and rearranged a bit now. The whole area including the shed is around 50' x 20'
  • Shari Veater Shari Veater on Feb 18, 2015
    Astro turf is really pretty nice. I have a friend who just put it in and her kids and dog LOVE it!
  • Denise L Denise L on Feb 18, 2015
    Jean - sounds like you are a good pet parent !! we live in SW Nevada and are having same issue so I am interested in the "positive" comments made. We also have 3 big inside dogs with a dog door and a fenced back yard. Currently there is old, degraded sandstone in the yard that creates a huge dust storm when we play and red mud when it does rain. We are also looking into the artificial turf for at least part of the yard but am finding it is quite expensive .....like you, we are looking for something safe for them and their paws but easy to maintain for us without it breaking the bank !! good luck with your project -
  • Betsey Betsey on Feb 18, 2015
    I have 5 dogs and have the same problem. We are going to work on some areas this spring and are going with the runner mulch. Has anyone used this before and if so what do you think about it.
  • Betsey Betsey on Feb 18, 2015
    rubber mulch not runner
  • Daveicrave Daveicrave on Feb 18, 2015
    I live in a resort area. When I first moved here everyone had rocked their backyards. I thought it was so tacky. THEN I found out most of the people are retired and have dogs and shade because we live in mostly forest. They don't have to mow any more and the dogs can have a blast. Yes, I have a lot of trees. I am a teacher so we don't have much money. EVERY time, I went to Walmart, I bought 3 bags of rocks. They have different kinds. colors, and shapes and prices. I took the bags down 3 at a time and rocked my back yard. A little at a time. Not bad....I am so glad I did it! Google landscape rocked yards and you may get some more creative ideas. Good luck
  • William Tillis William Tillis on Feb 18, 2015
    If you are handy with needle and thread, get some soft leather and sew them booties. It is hard for a dog to dig with booties on.
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    • William Tillis William Tillis on Feb 19, 2015
      @Jean Blakeley-Cook You offer wisdom from experience. Amen! However, There are essential oils that would be repugnant to the dogs, that could be used to coat the booties.Maybe there isn't the perfect solution, but addressing the action that is causing the problem seems a logical place to start.Always remember that between you and your dogs, you are the intelligent one.
  • Christina Christina on Feb 18, 2015
    A few easy ideas for a dog-human-shared yard: You can edge flowerbeds with rocks or foot-tall shrubs to protect them. I've also seen flower beds protected by a carpet of pine cones, which is pretty and also not something the dogs will want to step on. Just avoid metal edging, which could cut the pups' paws. A water feature would be awesome in the summer. Here are some other ideas for dog-friendly yards: http://www.houselogic.com/photos/outdoors/building-dog-run/slide/ramp-up-a-wood-deck/?seo_sm_sa_ch I wish I had a bigger yard for my boy. Can't resist sharing a picture of him.