Dogs: Garden Friend… or Foe?

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It’s hard to say no to a face like this

Dogs.  36.5% of American households have at least one.  Entire industries serve Americans’ dog habit with food, medicine, treats, toys, supplies, dog sitting, pet daycare and even Halloween costumes.  Dogs serve with the police and military, sniff out disease and contraband and trapped or lost people, help the disabled and entertain us.  But does a gardener want one around?

My corgi (that’s her above) has special talents.  She’s a champion licker, ball chaser, snuggler, a good watch dog, and despite her stubby legs, sounds like she weighs 125 pounds.  She’s good company out in the garden.  She’s a born herder (has even tangled with cows and won) and squirrels and rabbits are just barely faster than her beating a hasty retreat out of the yard when we go outside.  As a food finder she excels, and when I mean food finder, she really does. She’s taught me several food forage items growing on my property and if I miss a sweet potato, she’ll dig it up (and eat it).  Once she’s been fed something out in the garden, it’s branded into her brain as food, and that’s not necessarily a good thing when you look up to see your dog face down in the strawberry patch happily “foraging.”  On the whole… as a garden helper, she’s not much of one.

I think that’s true for most dogs.  Dogs can be compatible with gardens — especially one with a fence — but they are not necessarily a help unless you have a specific need.  If you have rodents, a terrier can be a real rat terror, preferably a larger one if you have coyotes and other predators.  (They can also be dedicated diggers, but I doubt they can be trained to only dig up weeds.)  If you have security concerns, a large dog can act as a deterrent and warning system.  Properly bred and trained dogs can herd livestock or guard them.  Energetic longer-legged dogs can accompany you on foraging hikes.  And if you supplement your garden with hunting, a trained hunting dog or retriever can be a helping hand.

Dogs and humans have forged a partnership that goes back longer than recorded history.  If you can find a garden use for your dog, chances are the dog will be trainable to do it.  But garden necessity?  No, I don’t think so.

I’m still keeping my dog, though.

(By Nicole Castle)

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