A Sensory Garden

Turn your dog’s yard into an enriching experience! Put items around the garden that give your dog a variety of textures to walk on, such as stepping stones with various items on top, a wood log, or plots of gravel or wood chips. Make several structures for your dog to enjoy, such as a sandbox to dig in, a cave to use for shade, a bench for you both to sit on, or a raised dog house. Use willow branches or bamboo to make an area for your dog to rub against or weave between. Put a kiddie pool, fish pond, sprinkler, or other water feature in the yard for them. Pick up some used tires, stack the tires in piles of two, fill each stack with dirt, and plant dog-friendly medicinal plants in each tire, such as wheat or barley grass, lavender, marigold, or peppermint. Hide treats or toys around the garden for your dog to find and occasionally put a new item in the garden for them to experience, such as a cardboard box or blanket.

A sensory garden is all about enriching the lives of our pets and stimulating all of their senses. The garden contains a variety of textured surfaces which are based on Tellington Touch principles and is designed to help dogs to become more confident and encourage them to interact with their surroundings.

It also incorporates carefully chosen medicinal plants for self-selection. The use of self-selection is fast becoming popular amongst rescue centres as an alternative way to treating stress and behavioural issues such as aggression and phobias.

It is a safe place to take your dog for a relaxing, self calming session, building on life skills to assist with any behavioural problems, or a place to self select the herbs they need to help them at that particular time.

A sensory garden can feature such things as a willow igloo, bamboo forest, interactive highline, doggy mound and cave, pond area, sandpit, raised platform, green clay wallowing area and a selection of medicinal plants and herbs for dogs to self-select (see notes below).

The objects are to build confidence, with different surfaces for them to investigate and to use. It can be a safe area for dogs that do not like big open spaces. A sensory garden is an ideal place to practice some safe on-lead handling skills.

Plants featured for self-selection:

▪ Green Clay (good for its anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial properties)
▪ Birch (known to help with muscular and inflammatory pain)
▪ Catnip (good for its relaxing properties and stimulates playfulness in dogs)
▪ Chamomile (often selected by anxious dogs and those with skin and stomach upsets)
▪ Chickweed (known to help with stomach and skin problems)
▪ Clary Sage (often selected by highly-strung animals especially those with hormonal imbalance)
▪ Hops (good for calming the mind and often selected by hyperactive and stressed dogs)
▪ Lavender (known to encourage scar tissue regeneration)
▪ Marigolds (often selected by animals experiencing grief or emotional distress)
▪ Marshmallow (known to help animals with delicate stomachs)
▪ Meadowsweet (often selected by animals with digestive problems, arthritis and rheumatic conditions)
▪ Peppermint (good for its cooling properties and often selected by animals with skin irritations and can also be offered as an aid for training)
▪ Plantain (known to help with gastric irritation and inflammation)
▪ St John’s Wort (a good sedative, pain relief and often selected by animals experiencing depression)
▪ Thyme (selected by animals with bacterial infections, skin irritations and diarrhoea)
▪ Valerian (often selected by anxious dogs for its calming effect)
▪ Violets (selected by nervous animals and those who have recently changed home, or may be anticipating physical pain)
▪ Wheat Grass (animals that are nervous, anxious and exhibit hyper behaviours often select wheatgrass)
▪ Willow (animals in pain often select willow bark)
▪ Yarrow (selected by sensitive dogs and is offered to animals with inflammation, urinary problems and internal and external wounds)