Tag: pets

Digging Dogs

Do you have any advice on keeping my 5 month old Rat Terrier from digging in my flower beds and lawn? My lawn is St. Augustine, I would have thought it too thick for his liking. Not only does he dig in established plants, but bare spots also. His first plant was a mum about to bloom and he’s even gone after sweet potato vine. What do I do?

I’ve recently become acquainted with a pair of dogs who are a blend of Jack Russell and Rat Terrier, Lucky and Angel. I’ve seen firsthand the breed’s love of digging.

The three most common reasons for digging are entertainment, creating a cool spot to sleep and genes. I suspect genes in the case of your Rat Terrier. These dogs are natural hunters.

The best way to stop a dog from digging in the garden is through training. I went to my library and pulled out my copy of Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs to see what author Cheryl Smith had to say on the subject. She suggests that you set up a special spot in your yard just for the dog to dig. Outfit the area with a mix of soil and sand to keep it loose and well-drained. Make it "as wide as your dog is long and one-and-a-half to two times your pet’s length." When you see Fido attacking your flower beds, redirect their actions toward the new spot through positive reinforcement. Get your dog’s attention, run to the spot and call them over. Encourage them to dig and praise them when they do. With hunting dogs, Smith suggests that you bury a treat or a toy in their digging area.

Training takes vigilance especially with breeds like Rat Terriers, which are quite focused in their ways. You’ll need to supervise and consistently praise the dog for good behavior. Your neighbors will probably think your nuts, but the end result will be an outdoor space that both you and your four legged companion can enjoy.

Cats in Flowerbeds

Kitten with CatmintThere are many humane ways to keep a cat from using your garden for their litter box or naptime. The key is to change the area in such a way that it is no longer appealing to them. Here are a few ideas:

Commercial Repellents – There are many commercial repellents on the market. Be aware that the active ingredient in many is methyl nonyl ketone. This chemical is poisonous and should not be used on food crops. You can also find non-toxic sprays as well based on hot pepper, citrus and oil of mustard. Vinegar may also work as well. Spray repellents must be reapplied every 7 to 10 days or after a rain.

Sprinklers – Get a water timer for your sprinkler and set it to go off several times during the day. Cats will avoid wet areas. Set a random schedule so that your little furry friends will not acclimate to the situation. Or you can purchase motion activated sprinkler heads that run on batteries.

Chicken Wire – Bury chicken wire under a thin layer of soil. Cats like soft dirt to dig in. The chicken wire is uncomfortable on their paws.

‘Scardy Cat’ Coleus – On a recent trip to the garden center I happened on to a new coleus, Coleus canina, that was advertised as being a cat and dog repellent. ‘Scardy Cat’ or ‘Dog’s Gone’, as it is called, has a pungent odor that cats find unpleasant. The plant itself has dark green foliage and blue flower spikes, which makes it an attractive way to rid your garden of cats.

Cat Scat – There are commercially available open weave mats with prickly plastic teeth that you can cut into sections and place throughout your flowerbeds. The teeth irritate cats without harming them.

Cat Friendly Container Garden

We have adopted a sweet seven- year- old cat, Roxanne. She is de-clawed and seems to know that, as she never strays off the deck. What are some container plants that I can use on the deck to add color and to provide a nontoxic stimulus for Roxy? The deck gets sun from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Springfield, VA

With the addition of Marge to my household, I too have been on the lookout for cat friendly plants. Of course the first plant that comes to mind is catnip, Nepeta cataria. In addition to being a favorite with felines, it is a lovely plant. The plants form nice clumps of gray-green foliage and purple flowers speckled in white.

I am also fond of a close cousin of catnip, Nepeta ‘Sixhills Giant’. At the peak of spring the 30-inch plants are lush with gray-green foliage and literally covered in spires of soft purple blooms. Both of these plants will thrive in containers on a sunny deck. Just be sure to use potting soil that has good drainage, and water when the soil is dry. After the flowers fade, cut the plants back to about 3 inches above the ground and they’ll flower again in early fall.

In addition to catnip, cats often like to nibble on grass so you should consider sowing a “lawn” for Roxy in a shallow, but wide container. If you want her to eat really healthy, sow wheat grass or oat grass. Check your local health food store or pet shop for the seeds.

One final consideration is that some plants are toxic to cats, so before you select plants for Roxy’s garden double check the potential hazard. The Humane Society has a good reference on their website – www.hsus.org.