How to keep your pets from ruining your yard, garden

How does your garden grow? If you have companion animals, probably not so well. Here are some tips to keep your hydrangeas unscathed – relatively, at least:

1. Stay off the grass

The list of remedies to prevent those telltale yellow “burn” spots on otherwise emerald lawns is seemingly endless, including feeding your dog yucca extract or tomato juice. Less commonly heard, but maybe more effective: Sprinkle sugar (or any sweet liquid like soda or juice) on the spots: It apparently gives lawn microbes a boost to deal with the high nitrogen content in urine.

But in the end, the best defense is a good offense: Don't give your dogs unsupervised access to the grass.

Emergency maneuver: If you do spot a squat, grab a hose and douse the area thoroughly to dilute the urine and maybe forestall the spot.

2. Nipped in the bud

It's easier to prevent a habit from forming than to break one that's already ingrained. Don't let new additions to the household wander around the yard: Take them on leash to the spot where you want them to eliminate, and continue until the habit is ingrained.

File under “worth a try”: The Pee Post is pheromone-treated plastic yard post that claims to attract a dog to the area to do its business.

(Available for $8.99 from www.drsfostersmith.com or call 800-381-7179.)

3. Smelling like a rose

If only it were so. Owners whose animals eliminate in their yards find that scooping often just isn't enough: The odors linger and make lounging in the vicinity – especially on a windy day – less than pleasurable.

The following recipe has been circulating on dog lists I have been on for years, and I know it works because I've tried it. The mouthwash breaks down bacteria and leaves a pleasant, if medicinal smell; the dishwashing liquid ensures that it adheres to vertical surfaces.

Best of all, it won't kill your plants.

2 cups amber-colored Listerine

2 ounces green Palmolive dish liquid

2 gallons water

Put in pressure sprayer or hose sprayer and saturate the area. It lasts for three to five days; reapply after rain.

Paging Madge the manicurist: I have no idea why you can't use any other brand but Palmolive.

4. You are what you eat

Minimizing your dog's, er, output means less scooping for you. Dogs fed raw or homemade diets have substantially less stool because their diets contain no fillers or byproducts that can't be absorbed and used by the body.

The meat of the matter: For those too busy to make supermarket runs, consider commercially prepared dehydrated raw dog foods from The Honest Kitchen (www.thehonestkitchen.com). Just be prepared for the sticker shock.

5. Go green

While your animals can inflict inordinate damage on your outdoor spaces, the opposite is true, too: Studies show a correlation between pesticide use and certain canine cancers. Live with a few weeds, and potentially live with your dog longer.

How now, canine cow: Don't discourage dogs from “grazing” on your all-natural lawn, unless they do it excessively or they are snacking on chemically treated green stuff.