I am a certified master garderner from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Our family has two Old English Sheepdogs and a Golden Retriever. We struggled with dog vs. garden problems for many years. The sheepdogs laid on the plants and then the retriever would go along and dig them out. The lawn had burned patches all over it, and in other areas the grass wouldn’t grow in spite of my best efforts. The trees were chewed, as were the garden tools. Ralph - the retriever left new holes for us each day. As my interest in gardening grew,  my frustration with the damage the dogs  were creating,  greatly increased.

Last year I informed my husband that it had to end. I was not going to watch
my garden get ripped up any longer. He built the dogs a chain link, fenced
in dog area and we filled it with 15 yards of evergreen bark mulch. We can
let the dogs out the back door straight into their area which is cleaned
twice daily. We purchased a lovely metal arbour and gate for the entrance to
the garden area of our yard. It was wonderful to watch the plants grow and
thrive last summer.  There were no more holes chewed in the garden hose and
life was generally much better.

It gets very cold here in the winter and once the snow comes no one cleans
up after the dogs until spring arrives. This spring we had the yard cleaned
in under an hour.  The mulch made the task so easy and quick to do. There
was no mud tracked in during the spring melt. It was heavenly. I will never,
ever  go back to grass for the dog area. The mulch looks tidy, is easily
topped up as it decomposes and is relatively inexpensive. It does not
require watering or cutting as a lawn does.  It is light weight so spreading
it around was easily and quickly accomplished.

We have a raised garden bed made from railway ties, in the centre of the dog
area. It is filled with perennials and helps to make the area more
attractive. This year we are going to plant a rose garden the full length of
the dog area fence, on the garden side of the fence.  The dogs have a large
play area and are happy to be inside it.

Setting up a dog area in the yard has made a huge difference and I strongly
recommend it to anyone with a dog. Both the dogs and you will be much
happier and your garden will thrive. We should have done this years ago, but
hadn’t wanted to limit the dogs to a smaller space. The dogs don’t mind the
changes in the least and are quite happy to be in the dog area while I
garden.

As to the recommendation of using straw, I personally would avoid that as it
smells when it begins to decompose, and it blows everywhere and makes a big
mess. It will also get caught up in the dogs coat and get tracked into the
house. Mulch is much more tidy and doesn’t smell. It is heavy enough that it
doesn’t come in on the dogs.