my backyard is mostly dirt and very shady. 2 dogs that keep paths worn down. Very slanted and poor drainage.

Cathy A
by Cathy A
I wish "Yard Crashers" would show up but probably not. Any suggestions for plants that will grow in shade and the dogs won't dig up? Or should I just give up?
a work in progress?
  18 answers
  • Melissa K Melissa K on Jun 07, 2012
    Yep, know about teh dog paths. I did find however that when I placed beds in my yards, the dogs went around them. Imagine that. Respectful to say the least, especially small dog. Also, people had a habit of throwing dog toys into the yard for the dog to fetch. Had to stop that habit, and disallowed the lab in the front yard. Grass is now growing in the path, but shallowly because it was so packed down. So if you try beds, till the area first, and learn to say "NO" to those beasts. They'll get it.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jun 08, 2012
    Dogs and shade are a no-win combination if you want to have grass. Seriously, I would suggest you consider artificial turf. You can break that up with beds of shade-loving plants, but you'll have to figure a way to keep the dogs out of those.
  • CONNIE W CONNIE W on Jun 08, 2012
    Kathy - Would not recommend plants to you, as we are in a different part of the country. Suggest you do native plants for your area, how about rock gardens? I do though have two large dogs, and found unless they are after a bunny or chipmunk they stay on my paths. Start out small and create the paths as you go. Walk the dogs along and they will get the idea to stay on the path.
  • Erica Glasener Erica Glasener on Jun 08, 2012
    We have a big black lab and the backyard has no real turf, just clover and some grass which we mow down. If you can start with some small shrubs 2-3 gallon size container grown, things like Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire ) come to mind and clumps of yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) which like moist soils and can grow up to 4' tall so they look good even when they are not blooming. I agree with others about establish bed lines (maybe lined with rocks) and give the dogs open space to be in, unless you have young puppies you should be ok.
  • Sandra R Sandra R on Jun 08, 2012
    Check out My Dog Bed article on Hometalk.
  • Melissa W Melissa W on Jun 08, 2012
    I have two large dogs (one 100lb+) and finally gave in to the dog path and placed flag stone in it. It looks nice and helps keep the dogs' feet cleaner. I planted Texas natives along it and placed tomato cages around them until they were more established. This also helped the dogs lose interest in them.
  • Becky H Becky H on Jun 08, 2012
    Cathy A. I have had as many as 3 large dogs at one time and found MY keys for lawn and garden survival. The first stage was to install something substantial............either large shrubs (planted directly into the ground) or plants planted in 20 - 30 gal. pots. These are things the dogs cannot turn over or step on. Once they understand that, other plants can be planted around those items, establishing plant beds. Large planter pots and 1/2 walls dictate traffic. Dogs cannot dig up pavers, stones, decking or turf block. Hardscaping plays a major part in doggie traffic control. So, I'd recommend you study your area; decide what you love, and go for it. The dogs will fall into line, or you modify just slightly by throwing an obstacle in their way.
  • Cathy A Cathy A on Jun 11, 2012
    Becky, you are right, form follows function. I have been watching the animal and people traffic and have started forming a plan. brick and stone walkways and plants/flowers in planters. Maybe I can post some pictures . .
  • Becky H Becky H on Jun 11, 2012
    Please do! You can win this battle!! 8-)
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jun 13, 2012
    I see you are in Texas and that is a different environment than what I have so I will not recommend any plants! But you can add rocks to delineate special areas. If you do not have help moving large rocks, mound some dirt and stack rocks you can manage to give the illision of size. Then top this off with an accent piece, i.e., a level rock with a large pot filled with a tall grass. Keep the paths and enjoy your dogs but make some special places for you too. The artificial turf sounds great. A shop vac will keep it clean and is not more trouble thatn mowing, fertilizing, weeding, etc! A small irregular shape laid over sand will accommodate a sitting area and table! Go for it.
  • Jackie Prim Jackie Prim on Mar 20, 2015
    I will tell you don't give up.First I got a small dumpster purge the yard.If you can drive a car you can drive a backhoe.Your backhoe can be a rental ask them to del. with a rake and bucket combo and a quick how to,.Go slow and it will be ok move all rocks in a pile to the side and then start raking for a few hours over and over the yard till their is not old blade of grass left;Then buy a good grass seed following instructions Just before the first rain lay the seed by hand you don't need a spreader.When your yard is one big green blanket you can decide what you want I loved the yard so much I only needed a few plants and a flagpole and flag.Enjoy the ride
    • Cathy A Cathy A on Mar 20, 2015
      I haven't given up. Move a bunch of big flat river rocks from my Mom's house and almost have a pretty good sized patio built. I have collected a lot of galvanized tubs/buckets to may interesting garden spots. The struggle continue s . . .
  • Jackie Prim Jackie Prim on Mar 22, 2015
    Hang in there It sounds like a plan :)
  • Jackie Prim Jackie Prim on Jul 04, 2016
    How is it going, Cathy?I know you Tx. girls are touch ​I will be looking for some fine pics soon :)
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jul 05, 2016
    Hey, with dogs making paths, you just have to work smarter. I would design the yard with a little upkeep as possible because I know dogs can undo all your hard work. The first thing you need to do is designate the use for every space and then mold it around its use. For example, lay of simple patio for the lounging area using whatever surface fits within your budget...from plain squares to decorative. Then make walkways through straw beds. Put the playground equipment on some of that chipped rubber material with a border of landscape timbers held in place with rebar. Use pots for planting...set smaller ones on concrete blocks or stacked brick or even a tree stump!
  • Carey Carey on Sep 13, 2016
    My dogs make trails too. At first it bothered me, but I decided that it just adds a little character to my yard. Less stress on me and you can use them as a way to designate different areas in your yard without interrupting their travels so they are less apt to undo your work. If they are diggers, try to figure out WHY they dig. My Doxxy digs to chase gophers and has trenched my back yard. (Caught them too!) She has pretty much quit digging though she faithfully keeps checking for them! Meanwhile, the gophers have moved to the front yard. So soon I can rebury the trenches and things will improve. Do what you can and don't stress out about what you can't for now and later you will find a way to do it or a better option!
  • Yvette Huesler Yvette Huesler on Oct 02, 2016
    Hostas are the plant of choice for dog owners. Most Hostas will tolerate being peed on and most dogs don't care to eat them. I have 7 dogs in my yard and have beebalm, zucchini, and acorn squash in my yard - planted along the fence of course. My lawn is mostly tough green weeds that I keep mowed (I'm in Wisconsin). Make sure that you don't plant anything in their most traveled paths as they will trample it. You can add plants in containers as I do. In summer, I have (spray) painted tall buckets in the yard with Marigolds, Wave Petunias and a few other easy to grow flowers and it looks great. I will occasionally group 3 flower buckets together, putting them on graduated heights of stumps. Depending on how large and rambunctious your dogs are, you may have to wrap some chunky rope around the stumps/buckets so they don't knock them over. You can also make some 'tables' for your dogs to climb on or to use as shade by getting some concrete blocks and a piece of plywood. Paint the blocks, then add a bucket of flowers on a corner or two. The dogs will love their new platform and so will you because it looks nice. Spray paint is your friend and will really brighten up your yard.
  • Patty Patty on Oct 25, 2016
    Rocks gardens! You have the paths now just add more rocks and plant drought tolerant plants for your zone in the nooks and crannies!
  • Julesatlanta Julesatlanta on Jun 07, 2017

    First thing first, take care of water drainage problem! Nothing is going to grow in mud. Is water standing do to level of yard, puddling with no runoff, downspouts, etc? French drains are usually the answer to drainage problems but I can give better adivce once thats answered. 2nd, are you wanting to have an actual designed backyard, i.e. outdoor furniture area patio, grill, fire pit, specific dog play/potty area? What's your budget, cheap as possible or set dollar? BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN SELECTING PLANTS! Non-toxic to dogs only! I also need to know type/breed of dogs. Does make a difference. Once you answer those questions, I can help you put a plan together