How can I keep my dog out of my raised bed garden?
March 28, 2012 7:59 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep my dog out of my raised bed garden?

I have a 4ft by 8ft raised bed garden in my back yard and a dog who likes to dig in it. Last year I put up a 3ft chicken wire fence around the garden, but this dog is a jumper (she can go over a 6ft fence) and it made no difference. Additional difficulty: I have little kids, so the solution can't be dangerous to them.

I'm open to advice on training the dog out of this behavior and for ideas for a physical barrier.
posted by ellenaim to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could you put some wire mesh on the soil of the garden bed itself? That would allow the plants to grow through, but stop any digging (it's what I do with my chickens).
posted by Cattaby at 8:01 PM on March 28, 2012

We bought wire rabbit fence cut it into sections, bent the ends into 1' "legs," and placed them over the beds. However, we were really just trying to keep our dog out until the plants took hold and the delicious delicious compost lost most of its fragrance. At that point we pulled them off and set them aside.
posted by Good Brain at 8:18 PM on March 28, 2012

We used bird netting on top of the fence - like a roof - to keep our dogs out of the garden.

It worked great for a couple years, until last summer one of them discovered they could just jump on it, and as a bonus it mad getting the strawberries very easy - they just popped up through the netting.

I almost had a dog for dinner that night, let me tell you. Anyway, we're going to do the same thing this year, but with some sturdier supports for the netting. It seems to work OK and was cheap as hell.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:25 PM on March 28, 2012

I build these cloches for all my raised beds, and switch between sturdy netting in summer and polythene in the winter. I think that's all the security that can be reasonably afforded a veg bed - any further requirements would have to be addressed with firmer dog training.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:41 PM on March 28, 2012

could you provide something like a sandbox as an alternative for the dog to dig in? I read about this somewhere a few years ago, for dogs who are problem diggers. They even suggested burying a few toys in the sand as a treat to dig up. It's a redirection strategy.
posted by annsunny at 8:45 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have hoops made of flexible PVC pipe, and use row covers over those. The row covers have lots of other benefits--keeping the puppy out was just one of them. Now he's a grown up dog, it doesn't seem to occur to him to step in the beds.
posted by HotToddy at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2012

Hoops with garden cloth covers. Keeps out annoying insects, lets in plenty of light and water. You might need to let them breathe for pollination for some things like squash.

I installed large metal hoops on the insides of my raised beds, then threaded those with PVC piping. Then make a round hoop overtop, kind of like this. They make easy little hoops too.

Some people build a similar structure, but in a cube. It's easily removed for tending to the plants, then plopped back on afterwards.

These new pop-up mesh covers and tents look great. I might try one this year - seems like a simple and convenient solutuion.

In the future, you might consider building higher beds. You can fill the bottom with other material if you don't want to bother with so much soil. Even if your dog can jump up that high, for some reason, when they can't see the dirt, they're much less likely to go investigate.
posted by barnone at 9:20 PM on March 28, 2012

I'm wondering if a smell-based solution might work. I put citronella oil on anything I don't want peed on, but what about using the stuff they put around wounds to totally deter a dog from getting at it? [Dimethyl Phthalate I think - that's what it says on my bottle] I just have to open the drawer with that bottle in it and my dogs to get the hell out of my way, even if that is not my intention. If you could dampen some rags with it and lay them around the edges of the garden beds, could that work?

On my childhood farm, they'd use a strand of electric fencing wire. One quick shot from that would keep the hardiest working dogs from going near the meatsafe where fresh carcasses were hanging - until they forgot a few weeks later. [I would never do that to my precious puppies now though - city living has made me much more caring than my parents' generation.]
posted by honey-barbara at 12:18 AM on March 29, 2012

I would focus on training the dog, mainly because you have 3 children who probably have friends over. An untrained dog can be dangerous. It is a lot of work to train a dog (or expense, if you go that route) but it is part of being a responsible pet owner. Consistency is key, which can be hard when you are looking after 3 children. Is one of your children old responsible enough to train the dog? There are books you can buy.
posted by myselfasme at 6:01 AM on March 29, 2012

I'm with annsunny - redirecting your dog to a place where it's okay to dig is probably the easiest and best thing to do, aesthetically and for sanity's sake.

Digging is what dogs do, both from anxiety and boredom and loneliness - but also because digging is awesome and instinctive. If your dog is well exercised, tired and played with back there, no doubt the digging will decrease. If the dog has toys, is being played with and gets to see plenty of the outside world, that's part of it too (digging can be a wish to escape). There's a good part of the training it out of him right there. But if there's some good smelly stuff which digging releases the scent of, like compost or cat poop in the beds; things like slugs (which my dog likes to pull out, chew a little then roll on); or in the case of my hound - possible rodent tunnels or a squirrel burying a nut right in there - this is what dogs love because they're dogs. It's really, really hard to train their strong, inherent inclinations out of them.

So, my dog has her "wallow", because she is a Basset Hound and they are bred to dig into holes for rabbits and small animals. You don't mention your dog's breed, but that might have something to do with it. To try to train my dog out of it? That way lies madness. She has one area under a bush where she loves to dig out a hole the size of her body, and lay in it in the summer to cool off, and to poke around in it for gross things to gross me out with. She used to dig more (on my trilliums!) but I'd correct her, bring her to the area where it was okay for her to do that, and give her treats and praise her. It only took a few days for her to get it, as she's motivated by food. Sometimes I fill it in a bit, so she has a job, because she also hates to be alone in the backyard unless there's a sunbeam to nap in or raccoons to police. Now when I find her, either enjoying or with work in progress on her wallow, she gets praised on the spot, especially with treats, but she hasn't dug anywhere else in years. Sometimes it's said that dogs observing humans gardening and digging tells them it's okay to do it - but I don't give my dog that much credit.

You don't say if it's vegetables or flowers or both that you want to protect, or whether or not you want to see what's growing. As for barriers, taking something out of a dog's line of vision really helps. A reed or bamboo screen might help. Just build it so you can take down a section to go in and perform your garden maintenance. Chicken wire under the soil will be a deterrent, but it can hurt a claw or pad if they get caught. It's probably best to work on encouraging good behaviour, as you said, as opposed to constantly discouraging. Providing deterrents and barriers will likely just case the digging or behaviour that motivates it to pop up elsewhere.
posted by peagood at 7:15 AM on March 29, 2012

Typos and boo boos: case = cause, sorry. And by providing toys in the backyard, I meant to expand and say "toys with things to engage him", like a kibble and peanut butter stuffed kong; a marrow bone; a frozen treat cake. And where I said he or him, make that she etc.

You can also create a chase game with a ramp (or kiddie slide) and ball, and if your dog is very smart and not lazy like mine, train your dog to amuse himself with it. But neither my dog nor I are that ambitious.
posted by peagood at 7:25 AM on March 29, 2012

You say she can jump a 6 foot fence -- what about an 8 foot fence? My husband and I built a fence for my garden using 4 x 4 foot panels made from wood and chicken wire. Each panel consists of a very simple (cheap!) square wooden frame, painted to prevent rot, with chicken wire stapled to the wood. A locking hinged gate from the same materials allows easy human access to the garden. I don't think it would be much harder, or much more expensive, to create 4 x 8 fence panels on the same basic model.

I agree with others that the best long term solution is to train the dog + provide her with alternative sources of yard-based entertainment, but of course you can't teach her to stop messing with your garden overnight, and spring won't wait.
posted by BlueJae at 7:40 AM on March 29, 2012

Cayenne pepper, bought by the pound at Indian food stores, is what you need. Sprinkle it liberally on the soil. The first time your dog gets a snoot-full of that, he'll learn; eventually, just a few grains will do the trick. Safe for kids, safe for the garden, works on squirrels, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:38 AM on March 29, 2012

I made mine her own digging spot, like what peagood and annsunny suggested. We are both much happier with that arrangement. She is so stubborn and her instincts are so deep? strong? that no barrier or whatever was going to stop her. My friends thought I was crazy, but now the dog's happy and I'm happy.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:16 AM on March 29, 2012

I'm doing square foot gardening in raised beds and once I put a grid of thin wood strips over the bed to mark out the square foot areas the dogs stopped going in the bed as they found it too awkard stepping over the strips. If you find the idea of lifting netting on and off a pain, maybe running some wooden strips to let your plants grow up around and hide might be a way to go even if you don't square foot garden as such.

Image like what I've done here, just scroll down a little.
posted by wwax at 11:01 AM on March 29, 2012

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