Dogs and gardens often don't mix, but can get along with the right training and the right planting. Having several large dogs leaping around their garden would give many gardeners nightmares, but some people do it on purpose.
A large A-frame and various jumps make unusual garden features on Yvonne Lowe's well-kept lawn, but these are no ornaments. Yvonne spends many weekends travelling to compete at shows with Journey, her agility champion Huntaway-cross dog. At her Bell Block home, Yvonne juggles her passion for the sport with caring for her teenage family and working part-time as a dog trainer, teaching agility classes and looking after her two other big dogs and various pets.
Having dogs playing on a lawn can wear the grass down, particularly in winter, so Yvonne has pieces of netting on two pegs that can be moved about and placed in areas where the grass is getting damaged by frolicking paws. (...)
Having a good-sized area of concrete around the house helps minimise the mud carried in by the dogs. Yvonne has recently paved an area near the house with some pieces of Taranaki's doggy history. The paving stones came from outside the old dog training club at East End Reserve, which was removed to make way for the skating rink some years ago after the North Taranaki Dog Training Club moved to its present Glen Avon grounds.
Yvonne rescued the pavers when the building at East End was being demolished. Now, after a professional clean and set with potted plants, they look as good as new.
"Sometimes I sit here and wonder how many people have stood nervously on them waiting to go into the ring," she says. "I could name a few people who've spent more time than me!"
One of them could be Patricia Martin, who has trained and competed with her dogs in obedience, agility and working trials for many years.
But no matter what their specialty is, her three border collies all scurry at the shout:
"Getoffthegarden", whether she's inside or outside the house.
Patricia uses temporary fencing to keep the dogs off the gardens at her Omata home while they are puppies, and the garden on the lawn where she trains the dogs is a raised bed, which helps protect it.
"If you can, have raised gardens. We put up ropes and that works quite well, except when David (her husband) or myself fall over the damn ropes!
"I've put pathways through my vegetable garden, rather than have one great long strip. The dogs know to walk around the edges or through the paths, although Rosie (the puppy) is still figuring out where she's allowed to go in the garden."
Patricia says she doesn't select plants with the dogs in mind, but finds some are more dog-resistant than others.
"Roses are quite good, the dogs soon learn that they're prickly, and things like natives and grasses are good – they can handle a dog running over them at great speed."
Some people have a part of their property fenced off for their dogs and put plantings in areas where the animals don't spend much time.
Dog groomer Jane Tett of New Plymouth owns two bichon dogs, but can have up to 14 canines at her home for grooming and boarding. Jane has bred, shown and groomed dogs for 28 years and last year opened Jane's Dog Grooming Studio.
She has gone for easy-care planting around her section, using tough plants like agapanthus, along with potted plants and pebbles.
Even though Jane only works with small dogs, the animals could make a mess if not managed well. She doesn't have kennels, so the dogs live in the house. She has a downstairs room set aside for them. This opens on to a yard where the planting is strictly utilitarian and dog-proof agapanthus and grass.
* A dog-friendly garden
Dog trainer Yvonne Lowe knows how dogs and gardens can work together. "A lot of people come to me about digging, which can be difficult to stop, but here's some ideas."
* They always dig more after rain, especially during summer.
* For holes being dug repeatedly in the same area, fill in the hole and peg a small square of wire-netting over it, then leave it there until the grass grows back.
* Another idea is to fill in the hole, then leave the spade or a fence standard standing up, stuck in the earth.
* Only feed the dog raw bones, preferably brisket bones they can eat in one session. Bigger bones are likely to be buried.
* Sometimes, burying a few of the dog's own droppings in the hole will stop a repeat digger.
* Confining the dog in a kennel and run is better than a chain because it looks neater in the garden and stops them digging when they are bored.
* A solid fence with no peepholes will stop dogs running up and down along it and wearing a track.
* A larger sheet of netting, pegged down at the edges, can prevent holes being dug in areas where you're likely to step in them in the dark.
* A small battery-powered electric wire can be set up to deter dogs from trampling gardens.
* Don't put any cooked food or tasty scraps in the compost bin if the dog can get into it.
* If you are using snail bait, put it under a margarine container with a stake to hold it down.
* Don't use blood and bone or animal manure where the dogs can wander because they will dig it out.
* Deep wood-chip mulch is good – dogs don't seem to like walking on it.
* Male dogs prefer to poop in one area, so this can help with training them to use an out-of-the-way area.