Dog safe plants for the gardeners among us

With Memorial Day coming up, gardeners are salivating over websites and catalogs, planning their summer plots. If you’re in that cohort, think about dog-safe plants for your garden. An astonishing array of plants are toxic to dogs. 

True confession – the only gardening we do is making sure the lawn is short enough so the neighbors don’t call the village to issue a citation. But we know many people are avid and wonderful gardeners and love their plants almost as much as they love their dogs. 

If you fall into this category, for dog’s sake, check before you plant. When we started looking at the common garden plants that are actually toxic to dogs, we were amazed by the number. And by how often we see all of them in local gardens.

Even, we found out, in our own yard. We had no idea that day lilies were toxic! And they’ve taken over a good chunk of territory in the dogs’ potty area! Fortunately, now we know and can get rid of them. To tell the truth, we don’t remember ever planting them in the first place, and we’ll be happy to get rid of the rabbit hiding place. We can’t even begin to count the number of times bunnies have been flushed out of the lilies. The dogs think it’s great fun, but we’re not that crazy about the game. Especially when we have to pick rabbit fur out of our dogs’ mouths.

Other culprits in the plant world

Many people don’t realize that dogs can actually eat tomatoes. But the plants, including any of the green bits, are poisonous for dogs. If you are a vegetable gardener, there are lots of tasty plants that are off-limits for your dogs, including: onions, garlic, leeks, grapes, rhubarb, mushrooms, and avocados.

Most dog owners know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but may not realize that cocoa mulch is, too. It just isn’t a safe choice for dog owners. 

Look pretty, but not good

In the last year we’ve heard several stories of dogs dying from eating Sago Palm, which is a fairly common ornamental plant in warmer portions of the country. We’d never heard of it before, so thought we’d mention it. 

Photo of a fawn French Bulldog and flowers that are not dog safe plants.

Looking over the lists of plants that are toxic to dogs, they seem to fall into a couple broad categories. Almost all lilies are on the lists, as well as the “nightshade” plants, including tomato and potato. Another culprit family seems to be the plants with bulbs or rhizomes – tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris, etc. 

Not so pretty, very good

The more we read about dogs and plant toxicity, the happier we are that we’re really bad at gardening. The clover and dandelions that are taking over our yard are dog safe plants. And we’ll be using that excuse for not getting rid of them!

There are a few other options. According to, go crazy with any of these dog-safe plants:

  • Black Eyed Susan 
  • African Violets
  • Hibiscus
  • Snapdragons
  • Alyssum
  • Zinnia
  • Impatiens
  • Aster
  • Pansies
  • Magnolia Bush
  • Petunias
  • Sweet Potato Vine


  •  Basil
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Cilantro
  • Rosemary
  • Marigolds
  • Catmint
  • Flowering Currant
  • Raspberries
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Zucchini
  • Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, etc)

Comprehensive list

We found an alphabetical list that seems pretty comprehensive, as well as showing photos and listing toxicity. You can find it over at Rover.

Cool treats for dogs

When our dogs start panting, we start looking for cool treats for dogs. A few out-of-season warm days, while appreciated, are too sudden a jump for our dogs (and us!). The ‘80s aren’t really all that warm, but after the frigid winter and cool spring, the dogs just aren’t ready.

Dogs are like people that way. In August, 80-degree temperatures are pleasant. In April and May, it’s too much too soon. The dogs loved it – lying in the sun and basking. But after just a few minutes, they’d had enough. 

Easy cool treats

Picture of a panting white dog who could use some cool treats

One of the easiest treats to occupy your dog with some gnawing and cooling are veggies and/or fruits straight out of the refrigerator. Many dogs love chewing on carrots. Celery works too, but it seems to be an acquired taste for dogs. Ours love it, but not all dogs appreciate its celery-ness. Apples (cores removed), blueberries, cucumbers, green beans – all are safe and shareable with dogs.

If you’re less lazy than we are and don’t want to just toss your dog a treat from the vegetable bin, you can go to the next level and concoct teats dogs adore.

Recipes for frozen treats

The best “tool” to have on hand for making cool treats for dogs is an ice cube tray. Depending on the size of your dog, you certainly don’t have to fill every compartment to the brim. A spoonful in each section will do just fine.

The base for most frozen dog treats is plain or vanilla yogurt. You can certainly use lower-fat varieties if your dog is a bit chunky. Be sure not to use anything sweetened with xylitol – it is poisonous for dogs. 

Some of the things you can mix with the yogurt to make your dog’s frozen treats:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Any Nut Butter
  • Blueberries
  • Banana 
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Spray Cheese
  • Grated Cheese

If you’d rather have a smooth, creamy mix, you can certainly use many flavors of baby food as a mix-in. This widens the possibilities to include squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, chicken, beef, etc. Just because it wouldn’t be our choice for a delicious snack, doesn’t mean your dog won’t love it!

Really ambitious

We actually do have a favorite recipe for baked dog treats. It’s versatile, adaptable to just about any dog’s dietary quirks, and makes a nice big batch. You’ll find the recipe on here.

Careful with the calories

Just like us, we have to watch the total calories our dogs consume. Obesity is an issue for dogs.

When we notice any of our dogs’ waistlines disappearing, or if we’re giving more treats, we decrease the amount of kibble they get. It’s a good idea to use a measuring cup as a scoop for dog food – you always know how much food they’re getting.

If you must reduce your dog’s rations for weight control, he/she doesn’t have to be hungry. It’s an old trick, but still a good one, to add some frozen green beans to the bowl equal to the amount of kibble you remove. It will help fill them up.

Dog Rules Part 2: Dogs rule the roost

Last time we told you how our life-long love for dogs started with our first Boston Terrier, and how he was such a lovely dog, adapting to all Mother’s Rules For Dogs. Spunky and Mother are together again. Both would be a bit perturbed. Dogs rule the roost these days.

Bit of an uprising

There have been half a dozen or more dogs between that first, angelic little guy and the current crew of unholy terrors. We freely admit – it’s all our fault.

There isn’t a single piece of soft furniture that the dogs aren’t allowed on. We do draw the line, still, at tables: kitchen tables, dining room tables, coffee tables are all off limits. It took years to convince Teddy that we truly didn’t need his help preparing meals up close and personal in the kitchen. He finally got the message and lent his support from the kitchen chair.

Golly ruled the roost

Golly taught us the most about how to treat her species properly. She didn’t actually fuss a lot. No whining or barking. Golly just made her wishes known by staring at you with those huge, puppy-dog eyes and not moving until she got exactly what she wanted. To the best of our knowledge she wasn’t telepathic. But don’t make us swear to that.

Predisposed to sympathy

Golly came shortly after Mother went. We were probably very vulnerable at that point. When we discovered that our four-month-old puppy needed heart surgery, we were sitting ducks for anything her little heart desired. We were doomed. Golly, spoiled rotten? Just like every dog we’ve had (before and since)? Sure! Why not? It’s not like any dog has to grow up and be a responsible taxpayer!

Dogs rule the roost

When Booker wakes up from a nap – we hurry to take him outside so he’s able to comply with the rules. Simon gets hangry, so dinner is on a schedule. When Torque shoves Hope’s legs aside so he can get comfy on the couch, she moves. When Tango insists that the best sleeping place is at the head of the bed next to Fran’s face, she puts a dog bed there so he’s even more rotten.

We schedule our days so the dogs can go out at regular intervals. When vacations were a thing, the dogs came along. We invite friends who don’t like dogs to meetings elsewhere than home.

With that understanding, it’s still true that there are absolute rules for dogs in the household. Everybody has to eliminate appropriately. Everybody has to play nice. No fighting allowed. And, even after all these years, no begging at the table. Mother would be so proud.

The Evolution of Dog Rules

The beginning of dog rules

Once upon a time there were two little girls who begged and begged their mother for a dog.

“Okay,” Mother eventually said, having been worn down by constant whining, chore completion, and an impressive book report all about Boston Terriers (Mother’s favorite breed). “But here are the dog rules: the dog can’t go in the living room and can’t be on the furniture. No begging at the table. He’ll sleep in the kitchen, not in your room or ever on the bed.”

The two little girls, who were dog-mad and would have agreed to anything, solemnly promised. 

Having reached contractual agreement, six-week-old Spunky the Boston Terrier joined the family. He was the best friend two little girls could ever have. And he was a good boy and never went in the living room (without an invitation), never jumped up on the furniture (without an invitation), and never slept in the girls’ beds. He obeyed the dog rules as diligently as he had to.  

Black and white photo of a Boston Terrer, Spunky, who started the dog rules

It was never admitted out loud, but there may have been occasions (thunderstorms) that Spunky was allowed in Mother’s room. It’s unclear who needed the company. There are suspicions it may have been Mother.

Different dog, different rules

In time, as all good dogs, Spunky crossed the Rainbow Bridge to wait for Mother. The girls, now almost-grown but not quite, did more research and, with Mother’s agreement, Brussels Griffon Dragon joined the family. He was not allowed in the living room, not allowed on the furniture, but did sleep in the girls’ room. In his own bed, until Mother closed the door and said “good night.” After that, no one who knows is saying.

Dragon was also a good boy and kept the family safe from all intruders. He sat on the window sill at the back of the breakfast nook and “barked his fool head off,” according to Mother. One day an old towel appeared on the window sill. Mother said it was because of condensation. The girls did not believe her.

As children do, the girls grew up. One day one of the girls opened the door and yelled “Are you decent? I have someone I want you to meet!”

Mother may have hoped it was a suitor. She hollered back “No, come on in!”

Her possible hopes were in vain – it was a Boston Terrier puppy. They named him Daemon.

More broken rules

Daemon decided that the most comfortable place to watch television in the evening was with his elbow across Mother’s leg. He had claimed the territory of both Mother and the couch. Mother may have had a particular soft spot for Boston Terriers. She did not put up much of a fight.

Dragon and Daemon were both very good boys. Who obeyed all the dog rules of the house, of which there were very few. They cuddled on the furniture (as long as they weren’t in the living room), minded their manners when the family ate, and only sometimes burrowed underneath the covers in the girls’ beds. 

In Part II – The Dog Rules Stretch Even More