ARTICLE Stephanie Matheson
Are you looking for renovation solutions that will provide your furry family member with a home that is safe (and durable!)? Keep reading - we guide you through ideas for basic, mid-range and high-end budgets.
For a basic set up that will keep your pets safe and happy, you should plan on spending roughly between $10,000 and $20,000. The lower end of the budget spectrum would primarily provide fencing and possibly a few raised garden beds. Depending on the size of your outdoor area and the size of your budget, you could consider including pathways and more extensive garden beds in your landscaping design.
What are the best fences for pets?
Keeping your pets contained within your garden is, of course, a priority. Fences need to be sturdy, have no gaps or holes that your pets could squeeze through and be higher than usual. A small fencing job might cost around $5,000, but for a new fence that encloses an average size section, you should plan on spending somewhere from $10,000 onwards. Most fences at the lower end of the price spectrum will consist of simple pine boards and have small gaps. Boards can be installed vertically or horizontally, but some dogs may take the horizontal gaps and boards as an invitation to try to climb or scratch.
If your dog likes digging it may be worth thinking about baseboards that are dug into the ground to keep them from digging a tunnel underneath the fence. Installing a brick or stone wall foundation that your fence can sit on is another good way of ensuring that no escape tunnels can be dug. It goes without saying that gates need to be sturdy too, and close/fasten safely.
For smaller animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, fences really need to be ‘airtight’ and have no holes or gaps at all so they can’t slip through. Of course, you won’t keep cats contained within your garden with a normal fence, so if that’s a concern you could talk to a landscaping specialist about fences with a special overhang.
Basic fence costs
From $150 per metre
Which plants are safe for pets?
When planning your landscaping and flower planting, it’s important to be aware of poisonous plants. Pets often like to nibble at flowers and foliage, so it’s best to avoid anything that might be toxic or irritating. High on the danger list are hydrangeas, oleander and rhododendron, to name a few. Most lilies are toxic to cats. If you have a dog that likes digging out plants and bulbs, be especially careful of many common plants like daffodils and tulips, as their bulbs are toxic. As for a veggie patch, most vegetable plants are fine to plant with pets, with the exception of onions, chives, garlic and potatoes. Fruit seeds and pits contain toxic chemicals, so you will need to keep your pets away from these.
Annual plants, such as petunias, are a great choice and give your garden an instant hit of colour for a low price. For only a few hundred dollars you will be able to kit out your whole garden. However, they will only last one season, while perennials and other shrubs and trees keep growing and flower every year.
Roses, amongst other plants, are typically a safe, if prickly, choice! And while prickly plants might be unpleasant for a dog nose, they may be handy to keep your dog from getting into a certain area of the garden and protect your flower beds. If you have a bit of budget to spare, a landscape specialist can draw up a planting plan with plants of different sizes and types to create a harmonious, safe and ‘dig-proof’ flow.
Growing plants in containers, planter boxes or raised garden beds is often very useful to protect both plants and pets. Basic planter boxes and containers are a very affordable choice, and if you’re a handy DIYer you can even build a few yourself. Motion detector sprinkler systems can be worth the investment as they are not harmful, and help keep pets out of planted areas. Fencing may also work, however, do stay away from clothes and nets, as animals may get entangled in them.
Basic plant costs
Pots and planters: from $20 each
Potting/flower mix: from $1 per litre
Vegetable seeds: from $3 per packet
How can I keep my pet safe from mosquitos?
Not just for us, for pets too, mosquitos are a nuisance. Their bites itch and they can transmit diseases and parasites. There is a whole host of natural, pet-safe sprays on the market. And while they can certainly help to keep the little biting insects at bay, it pays to address the cause of the problem and remove possible breeding grounds from your garden.
Key to decimating the mosquito population in your garden is to remove any sources of stagnant water, as that’s where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Consider removing birdbaths and ensure you use a weed mat that allows water to drain under your deck.
The other essential thing to do is to plant plants that are believed to be natural mosquito repellents. Not all of them are pet-friendly however, so ensure that you consult a specialist who understands the needs and requirements of different animals. Citronella, for example, is often used. However, this can cause skin irritation and other problems in dogs. Other popular mosquito repellent plants, like eucalyptus, geranium, wormwood, and tansy all pose a risk to pets. If you have a dog or other animal that loves to chew on plants, make sure anything you plant is safe.
These cost hardly anything and could conceivably be considered best-practice gardening anyway. If you have a real mosquito problem and are willing to invest more money into mosquito control, there are further options to consider, including fans and mosquito traps.
Mosquito repellent sprays
From $15 each
What’s the best play space for my pet?
A flat area of lawn is without adoubt the best play space for your pets. Giving your grass a quick makeover by eradicating weeds and sowing additional grass seeds, is an easy and cost-effective way to provide an allocated play space. You will need to keep your animals off the lawn for a while to help the new grass grow. However, pets can be tough on grass and plants, so installing pavers or other forms of hard ground cover may help.
As with any play space, a variety of pet toys and implements helps keep boredom at bay. There is a huge range of chew toys, balls and other toys on the market to fit any budget. It’s also important to provide a shady area so your pet can have a rest, and to provide plenty of drinking water in a drinking bowl.
Cost to create lawn play areas
Lawn seed: from $11 per 1kg
Dog outdoor essentials (shelter, food & water bowls, toys): from $120
Is there a dog-friendly fertiliser for my lawn?
There are many commercially prepared pet-friendly fertilisers available. Ensure you follow the instructions and keep your pets off the lawn for at least the specified minimum period. You can also use several natural ways to fertilise your garden, including seaweed and compost. It may be worth staying away from manure, bone meal and blood meal, as dogs typically like the smell and may dig it up, roll around in it or even try to eat it. Herbicides and pesticides are a no-no.
Dog-friendly lawn fertiliser
From $5 per 40 litres
Lawns are the most cost-effective, lower maintenance way to go, and will help you stick closer to the lower end of the price range. For a mid-level makeover of your fences, lawns and decks, you should budget anywhere from around $20,000 and upwards, depending on how fancy you want to go with garden paths and raised garden beds.
What’s the best grass or lawn type for my pet?
Keeping more lawn space in your garden will help you to keep the costs down, and allow for plenty of play and exercise space for your pets. The most cost-effective way to revitalise your lawn is to simply apple new lawn seeds. This is normally the lowest cost option per square metre. Slightly more expensive per square metre, but still cost-effective, is the application of hydroseed, which is a combination of seed and pulp. It is sprayed onto the existing grass to maintain moisture and help the new grass grow better.
Pets may be interested in lawn seeds and, especially if your garden is very muddy or muddy patches where weeds have eradicated, they may roll around in the mud and prohibit the new grass from growing properly. Ready lawn, at a more expensive cost than lawn seed, is an excellent option in these cases, and means that your lawn will be ready ‘as is’ without muddy paw prints all over the house for weeks on end, while seeded grass is trying to grow. Be aware, however, that ready lawn needs to be watered in carefully over a week or two. It may even be worth trying to keep your pets off the new lawn for the first week or so.
Another great alternative at a similar price point as ready lawn, is a product called ‘Woolgro’ – a wool mat with grass seed embedded into it. This mat is laid on the desired lawn area with 10 millimetres of lawn mix spread over the top. It provides consistent grass coverage and retains moisture extremely well. Grass still has to grow, but there is no muddy mess and the seeds can’t be moved or eaten, as they are embedded within the mat. The product is completely natural and biodegradable.
Mid-range lawn costs
From $15 per metre, installed.
Should I install pathways?
Plain and simple pathways can be installed to cover up any tracks your pets happen to wear into the lawn or other areas in the garden. They are also a good method of separating zones and adding a structure to your garden, as well as a means of trying to guide dogs past flower and veggie pads. It’s a good idea to use smooth river pebbles instead of crushed shells, as they are kinder on sensitive paws. Large stepping stones and pavers are also good options.
From $25 per paver/stepping stone
How can I keep my pets from digging up my garden?
Bark or mulch often ends up being scratched at or dug up by pets. That’s why pebble or rock gardens may be better options, and while they require a bit of investment upfront, they typically last better, protect plants and mean less maintenance in the long term.
Elevated environments for gardening, such as containers or planter boxes also help limit pet access. As a more substantial way to create gardening spaces, built-in retained garden beds are a great way to landscape and design your outdoor areas. A selection of suitable, pet-safe plants at different sizes brings it all to life.
Some dogs are more into digging than others, and there may be different reasons for why your particular pet digs up your garden. Boredom is a common cause so ensure they have enough exercise. They may also try to get cooler soil, in which case a cool, shaded spot might help. If the digging habit of your dog just simply can’t be broken, it is worth considering if new and different toys may help, or if a designated digging spot could be created somewhere in your garden.
Cost to deter digging
Riverstone pebbles: from $150 per ½ cubic metre
Professionally built retaining walls: from $310 per metre (professional installation is recommended, as walls over 1.5m will require building consent).
What kind of deck is best for dogs?
You might be worried about your deck scratching when your dog or other pets scurry across it, and rightly so. Timber decks, of course, do scratch. And so do composite decks, however, with composite decking you can sand back the scratches. Another advantage, for example with the BiForm system, is that composite decking uses a hidden fixing system, which means there aren’t any nails popping up to harm your dogs. It’s ideal for pets of any kind really, as it does not contain any toxic chemicals and does not splinter. Pricing wise it’s a mid-to-high-end product.
Other decking or paving materialism such as pavers or bricks, might also be a good option when you are living with pets. Keep in mind though that concrete stains when urinated on.
Composite/paving installation costs
Paving: from $315 per m2 (professionally installed)
Composite decking: from $450 per m2 (professionally installed)
Which toys and shelter should I get for my pets?
The classic dog hut is quite an iconic home accessory, but today there are many other options to choose from. From commercially available plastic or wooden huts through to custom-made fully fenced-in kennels, you can create a cosy corner for your four-legged companions that is both practical and stylish. Shelters and play spaces for smaller animals can also look the part and be integrated into your overall garden design. Cats usually like a scratch tower and cosy, hidden spots to hide and sleep.
If you get a landscaping designer to makeover your space, they will have some useful ideas on how to incorporate resting spots and play areas within your garden design. Building an outdoor tunnel is a great way to jazz up your garden and make things more interesting for your pets. A tunnel will also stay nice and cool in summer and can double as a cool shelter. Another great choice is a doggy paddle pool.
Finally, when it comes to pet toys and other essential items, such as food and water bowls, there are countless products on the market. Simple watering bowls will usually do the job just fine, but you can also invest in a doggy water fountain that connects to your garden hose.
Dog toys/shelter costs
Dog kennels: from $200 each
Wooden cat towers: from $350 each
Pet water fountain: from $110
Paddling pools: from $30
The work that goes into providing your pet with a wooftastic outdoor area starts underground and is often less visible once completed – think digging up lawn space to improve drainage, undertaking dirt work to level a site and serious landscaping projects to install pathways, garden beds and planter boxes. Redoing your lawns and paved areas and installing a quality fence and shelter for your pet may cost you around $50,000 and more.
What should a doggy play area include?
Wave your tail goodbye to a simple dog hut – and bark hello to a fully kitted out allocated space for dogs with plush cushions, shiny water dispensers and more. For dogs, a large kennel with a fenced-in play area will set them up nicely for outdoor living. Kennels or fenced-in pet areas are also a good way of separating spaces and creating a pet zone in your garden, so you can keep your pets and guests separate when entertaining and hosting garden parties.
An adventure-style playground will keep your dog’s fit – and take the pressure off other planted areas. Try to ‘think like your dog’ and include features to suit their personality. Some dogs like little pathways through long grasses, others may love a bridge or tunnel, or a marshy landscape for digging…With a little planning and consideration, creating the perfect doggy play area is easy. It’s a good idea to fence or mark their special place, and invite them in by placing their favourite toys there or even burying a bone for them.
Keeping cool in style can be a real canine pleasure if you provide a water feature for your dog. An urban style doggy swimming pool (don’t forget to fence this in) or romantic pond with rock garden could be just the ticket. The important thing to keep in mind is appropriate pet access and easy ways for your pet to get back out of the water. If you’re in a rural area or own a lifestyle block, you could consider building a proper pond with beach and reeds; or even a moat around a little island.
High-end doggy play area
Custom-designed dog kennels: from $2,200
Dog enclosures: from approximately $200
Dog pond: From $2,500 (professionally installed)
What is the best way to design our garden boundaries?
Fencing with your pets is, of course, anecessity. With some playful twists and a few thoughtful touches, you can turn the boundaries of your garden into interesting and pretty features. High-end fencing materials, such as luxury timber or natural stones will make a real difference to the look and feel of the space, and for the sake of your pet it’s a great idea to ‘green’ the fence by planting hedges or creepers.
Dogs like to patrol the boundaries of their territory, so plan this in and create pet-friendly pathways and ‘marking points’ such as posts, trees or sculptures. Gardening experts can also give advice on the selection of sturdy ground creepers and grasses that can withstand a bit of ‘pet abuse’. This will keep your pets happy and help to distract them from scratching or digging at the fence.
‘Looking glasses’ or windows are a quirky feature and add a bit of fun to your fence. At the height of your pooch, they can provide doggy entertainment for hours. Some ideas include ‘bullseye’ windows or coloured Perspex panes.
Cost of creating high-end boundaries
From $1,200 per metre
Am I okay to plant exotic plants and themed gardens?
From resort chic through to exotic island paradise, no matter what kind of themed garden scheme you’ve got in mind for your backyard, it has to be hardy enough to withstand regular ‘paw treatment’. Some say that styled gardens and pets don’t mix, but with a few extra precautions and a thoughtful design and planting plan – the two usually coexist in harmony.
Expensive plants can be protected by planting them in layers behind other less precious kinds of plants, or by planting them in large, luxurious pots. It pays to invest in larger, already established palms and other slow-growing trees as smaller specimen may be too vulnerable. Pots and sculptures are great accessories with pets and can add a real wow factor, especially to dark and shady areas that usually don’t support a lot of lush plant growth. Be mindful of adding water features and fire features – they may attract your pet’s attention and need to be installed in a safe fashion.
How can I improve my lawn?
Depending on the layout and slope of your garden, it may be worth undertaking groundwork to level your site. Moving large amounts of soil usually means that your landscaping crew will need to bring in a small digger. This will have an impact on the cost of your gardening project, as will general issues around access to your garden and any retaining work that will need to be completed. The result is well worth the effort though, with, for example, retained garden beds and flat lawn spaces for playing.
Drainage systems for lawns will help keep your grass healthy and will eliminate the appearance of soggy or muddy areas that your dog may otherwise like to roll around in. As with any kind of groundwork, there is a sometimes not insignificant cost attached to it.
When it comes to grass types, at the top end of the lawn spectrum is – believe it or not – synthetic turf. It’s a somewhat different approach to lawns, but definitely worth considering with pets. In fact, there is a product on the market called TigerTurf pet turf, which is specifically designed for pets and medium to heavy traffic. It’s non-toxic, safe and durable. There will be no muddy patches, no dried out areas and no more weeds on this lawn. No dug up areas or scratched dirt. Liquids simply drain and for maintenance, all you have to do is rinse the synthetic grass and groom it as needed.
Cost of hiring a professional
Landscape designer: from $75 p/h
Landscaping labour: from $30 p/h
Synthetic lawn costs
From $70 per metre (professionally installed, excludes groundwork)
Get in touch with Zones to discuss your landscaping project
If you would like to discuss options and ideas for your pet-friendly landscaping project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your landscaping design and build. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*Please note: the costs within this article are rough estimates only and are subject to change. All costs are exclusive of professional installation unless otherwise stated.