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Trends and Ideas for Canine-Friendly Commercial Landscaping

Us Americans love our dogs. According to, approximately 89.7 million of the four-legged furry friends are kept as pets in the United States. Increasingly, and especially among baby boomers, we want to take them with us everywhere we go — whether on vacation or business trips, or into the retirement community.
Hotels and master-planned retirement communities have taken notice and acknowledge that it would be wise to accommodate the demand for pet-friendly amenities — especially dog-friendly amenities.

As a result, hotels are developing, marketing, and advertising their pet-friendly features. Master-planned retirement communities are more likely to be designed with dog parks.
What does that mean for your commercial landscaping business?

Somebody is going to have to install and maintain those outdoor, dog-friendly landscape features, and that somebody is you!

Hitting the road with Fido

According to a Trip Advisor survey, backed up by research from a leading outpatient telemedicine in veterinary clinic, 53% of Americans travel or plan to travel with their pets. On the flip side, 25% of Americans take fewer vacations because of their pets. 20% of those surveyed by Trip Advisor confessed to sneaking their pets into hotels despite restrictions.

People definitely want to travel with their pets. But without pet-friendly accommodations, it can be a challenging headache.

According to Adrian Kurre, global head of Homewood Suites and Home2Suites by Hilton, the demand for pet-friendly hotels is real. “People are certainly traveling more with their pets today,” says Kurre. “The hotel industry has responded by not just being pet-friendly, but pet-welcoming.”

And an undeniable part of being friendly and welcoming is offering outdoor spaces where dogs can stretch their legs, run about, sniff around, and do their personal business.

And when dog-lovers aren’t traveling, they’d probably appreciate having a dog park within walking distance of they’re home. Behold the rise of the dog park in the master-planned community!
Dogscaping and the modern master-planned community.

You’ve probably seen them and maybe have contracted to landscape them. Master-planned communities definitely have a market. Some of them seem to target young families, whereas others are strictly for the 50-plus demographic.

Either way, many master-planned communities are being designed with man’s best friend in mind — with private dog parks as a part of their landscape design.

One such retirement community called Hampton Lake in Bluffton, South Carolina has an enclosed dog park that is a virtual paradise for dogs. Hampton Lake’s dog park features sand pits for digging, earth mounds, and a grass field big enough for a large dog to break out in a sprint.

Situated in the mountains in the Western half of North Carolina there is a luxury and dog-centric retirement community called Headwaters. It was designed with a dog park which covers over one-acre worth of terrain. Its dogscape includes an abundance of shade trees, boulders, and a cool tunnel made of landscape rocks in the shape of a bone.

In Sunset, South Carolina, if you’re a dog, you can’t do much better than if your owner were to call The Reserve at Lake Keowee home. The lakefront community has its very own dogscape called “Turkey Ridge Park.” At Turkey Ridge dogs are treated to water features to wade into and drink from, an obstacle course, and wide-open spaces.

A master-planned community in Tennessee, called Rarity Bay, features a dogscape of its own specially designed according to the standards of the American Kennel Club’s criteria to maximize socialization and the safety of the dogs.

7 ideas to Incorporate in a Quality Dogscape

“Dogscaping” is a form of landscaping that is focused on the habits and safety of dogs, but designed and installed for the aesthetic satisfaction of their owners. It needs to be fun for both the dogs and the humans who love them.

1. Fences for safety — Some dogs, like beagles, are escape artists. Without hesitation, they’ll just take off on you, and require you to go on a long hunt with them — which would be a really bad thing if you’re staying in a hotel in a downtown urban area. To ensure safety, a fence will probably be a required feature in a good dogscape.
2. Patrol paths — Dogs love to scout out and patrol an area. A path installed around the edge of a dogscape will be a welcomed feature.
3. Use less turf — Dog urine and grass don’t play well with each other. Dog urine will burn up and leave dead spots in the turf. Our furry friends also take great satisfaction in digging holes and trenches in the turf. The idea is to use more hardscape and soft mulches. Also, consider the use of artificial turf (more on that below).
4. Include a water feature — Some breeds are irresistibly drawn to water. All dogs get thirsty, especially when it’s hot out. A shallow water feature filled with fresh water is a perfect addition to a dogscape design.
5. Create shaded areas — Include trees in the design to create shaded areas for dogs, and humans alike — a cool spot to retreat from the heat.
6. Make it a fun and busy place — dogs love to be entertained, and not just by playing fetch or tug-of-war with a toy. Dogs enjoy taking the high ground on a platform or mound where they can survey the lay of the land. Dogs love to dig! Create a sandy digging pit where treats can be buried and unearthed.
7. Select plant material that is durable and safe for dogs — Some plants are toxic to dogs! Don’t find out which ones are the hard way. Before placing an order at the nursery, research what plants are safe for dogs to be around. And of course, you’ll want plants that can withstand some trampling.
Dog versus lawn — why synthetic turf might be the way to go
Just one dog of the right size and personality can lay absolute waste to the turf in a landscape. Put a whole pack of dogs in the same area day after day, and well…it’s probably not going to work out very well for a lot of turf varieties.

Before long, what used to be a lush carpet of turf that had been rolled out, fertilized and watered with great care and at some expense, will be reduced to patches of grass surrounded by bare soil — sure to transform into a muddy mess every time it rains.

Synthetic turf to the rescue!

As mentioned above, dogs enjoy excavating a yard — digging holes to bury treats and toys, and trenches in pursuit of underground critters. Synthetic turf will help maintain a seamless lawn and clean paws.

An essential feature of a quality synthetic turf is that it is porous and drains well. Dog poop can be picked up off of synthetic turf just like you would at a busy park. The remaining bits of poop can be rinsed away with ease.

One of the best benefits of a synthetic turf in the dogscape is that you don’t have to worry about dog urine killing the grass. Dog urine is high in nitrogen and will burn grass at the roots and create dead spots where grass cannot grow again until the area has been aggressively flushed with water, or the soil has been replaced.

More good news! Fleas, ticks, and other pests attracted to a dog’s coat don’t like synthetic turf. Added bonus — snakes and ants don’t much care for synthetic turf, either.

For less spacious areas, especially at hotels and rest stops, a quality synthetic turf might be just the thing. But not all synthetic turfs are created equal. If you are looking for a synthetic turf make sure that it is durable, soft to the touch, low-maintenance, permeable, and easy to clean — and that it has a natural look, of course.

There’s Still a Place for Natural Grass in the Dogscape

Despite the benefits of synthetic turf, some customers are not going to have it. Or, if they do, they might want to keep the fake stuff to a minimum and use natural and more durable turfs and groundcovers for most of the landscape.

Ferns, sedum, mondo grass, liriope varieties, switchgrass, and plants with a silver leaf tend to coexist well with canine traffic. Buffalo grass is drought tolerant and tough.

You might think tall fescue wouldn’t do well in a dogscape — but it does. Tall fescue, with deep roots and broad leaves, tolerates lawn burn from the nitrogen in dog urine better than most grasses.

Dogscapes are becoming more common. Landscape architect and designers are likely to include them in their designs for specific projects, particularly for master-planned communities.

Hotels and other travel type lodges should definitely consider a dogscape to attract more business if they haven’t already.

If you have such a commercial client, you might suggest they consider letting you install one. They might end up thanking you.

Download your brochure on dogscaping here!

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