Sensory Yard Series: Creating a Textured, Sensory Rock Garden For Our Dogs

When I say the following words, I'm sure you can picture the feeling immediately in your mind:

Soft grass between your toes.


Smooth, warm stones under bare feet.


Crunchy leaves in autumn.


The ripple of water under your fingers.


I'm sure many of these sensations bring you joy, or even spark a memory. What if I told you that feelings and textures could bring added happiness into your dogs' lives, too?


After all, Enrichment is largely about variety and novelty. Something as small as offering dog safe choices in your homes and yards can have an effect on your dog's wellbeing, and that's pretty neat!

(Read more about some cool enrichment studies that talk about this, here).


This spring, Joe and I set out to make our dogs a Sensory Yard so that they could enjoy their space and home as much as possible.


Using the five senses, we soon came up with a plan and got to work. We've already shared how we made our Sniffy Wall, so now it's time to share about our Textured Rock Garden!


The Original Space

When we moved into our new home, this tiny little side section was largely blank and neglected. Since our yard isn't that large, I knew I wanted to use every. single. inch. when it came to our sensory garden. So, this was my blank canvas.


The Process

First, we used a rototiller to till the soil and removed all of the weeds. Then, we began the transformation!


What we used


Pea Stone

Not only because it looked nice, but because pea stone tends to be round as opposed to sharp and pointy. Also, the sound of pea gravel offers a different auditory element in the yard. We got ours at Home Depot, similar to this bag here (we used approx. 6 bags).


Black River Rock

Like Pea Gravel, river rock is smooth as opposed to sharp, which is much nicer on the paws. They're also a bigger size and a completely different texture when compared to Pea Gravel. Our space is small so we didn't need much, but you can also find good deals when you buy in bulk (if you have a larger space). Similar ones to what we have can be found, here.


Pavers

Nice and flat on the feet. We went with plain concrete as opposed to black, so that they would be nice and warm on paws and feet but never scalding hot.


Columbine

Beautiful and fairly easy to take care of, I chose Columbine to plant here because the right side of the fence is nicely shaded. Columbine's are perennials, and are amongst some of the best pet safe perennials I could find. Columbine's were also mentioned as growing well in rock gardens, which was perfect for our space.


Shrubs

Here I'm using small cedar shrubs, not to be confused with White Cedar variations, which are toxic to dogs. If you're worried about Cedar shrubs of any kind, opt for some dog safe ornamental grasses such as Tufted Hair Grass, or some other pet safe options discussed here.


Pansies

These cute dog safe perennials are fairly easy to maintain and come in a variety of colours for your garden.


Boston Ferns

Not only do ferns add a lovely pop of green, but they offer a great "natural snuffle" element to your garden. They thrive in shady spots, so our little side alcove worked perfectly.


Solar Lights

We also added some dim solar lights, so that the space could be navigated easier in the dark.


Stay tuned and we'll continue to share our Sensory Yard Transformation! Next up, the Sensory Pathway.


Looking to start your own Sensory Yard? Use this Worksheet to brainstorm some elements!


Sources & Further Reading

10 Best Dog-Safe Perennials - Garden Lovers Club

Are Cedar Trees Poisonous to Dogs? (gardenguides.com)

50 Dangerous Garden Plants for Dogs (homesalive.ca)

Dog Friendly Ornamental Grasses | Florissa | Flowers, Roses, and MoreFlorissa | Flowers, Roses, Fruits and Veggies

10 of the Safest Flowers for Dogs You Can Buy or Grow | The Dog People by Rover.com

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