How to Make Your Yard a Pet-Friendly Oasis

Owning real estate means getting the opportunity to really make a home out of your house — for everyone who lives there. If you have pets, they don’t need to be left out, you can make your yard their favorite playground. You wouldn’t be alone in doing so.

According to recent Zillow research, 60% of Gen Z adults consider pet-friendly features essential in a home they would buy, and 22% of Gen Z pet owners say they’d move out of their home if it wasn’t working for their pet (only 12% would do so for their partners).

Home buyers are entering their pet-friendly real estate phase.

[Read: Ways ‘Barkitecture’ Turns Your Home Into a Pup-Friendly Paradise]

Why Create a Pet-Friendly Yard?

Just like with children, your pets need a lot of stimulation to help keep their minds and bodies busy. A bored dog is often a dog that can develop emotional problems, injure themselves with inappropriate behavior or tear up the house. This is why pet experts recommend making a pet-friendly yard.

“Enrichment in the yard is one of the easiest ways to increase stimulation for your dog and reduce problem behaviors, especially vocalization, chewing and other forms of destruction,” says Molly Sumridge, owner and anthrozoologist at Kindred Companions in Helena, Montana.

Having a yard that’s pet-friendly is more than just a place for you and Fido to unwind, though. It says something about you and the life that was lived in your home when it comes time to sell.

“People who are connected to their pets in a meaningful way consider them as part of the family,” says Jill Eber, real estate broker and co-founder of The Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker Realty in Miami Beach, Florida. “A home that reflects that has an added appeal. Most homes have a personality. A home that welcomes a pet gives a wonderful first impression.”

[Building a Backyard Pond: Is It Worth It?]

Yard Enrichment Tips for Your Pet

Although you may have grand plans for a huge and complicated pet playground in your yard, you don’t have to go big. Dig boxes are some of the most universally recommended additions to yards by pet professionals.

“If you want to up your enrichment game, a dig box is a great solution,” says Sumridge. “You can build a large one with a wooden frame and add clean sand. For smaller dogs, you can place sand in a buried or unburied kiddie pool. Wet sand is more fun than dry sand but keep a lookout for any mushrooms or fungus growing. You’ll want to remove them prior to use.”

Be sure you place your dig box at the other end of your yard from gardens and areas where you want to discourage digging, Sumridge adds.

Realtors also see a lot of interesting modifications that might work for your house today, and down the road. If your neighbors are dog friendly, for example, a peephole can add a whole new dimension to your dog’s life.

“One of the best modifications I’ve seen is the clear dome installation in a privacy fence,” says Thom Quinlan, real estate agent at Century 21 Bradley Realty in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in an email. “Dogs, in general, are social so they really just want to see what is going on outside their ‘world.’ ”

For cats (and other small pets), fully contained, safe enclosures are generally the better option. Since cats can easily scale many heights and types of fences, it’s hard to keep them contained to a backyard safely. Catios, enclosed outdoor patios for cats, are a great option.

“All cats need enrichment,” says Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy in Plantation, Florida. “Catios provide our feline friends with mental and physical stimulation, which they need in order to be happy and healthy, by offering a safe area for them to play, engage in natural behaviors, like stalking and scratching, and to observe the world.”

[How Much Does It Cost to Add a Screened-In Deck or Porch to Your House?]

Keeping Your Yard Pet-Safe

It’s important to look at your new pet-friendly oasis from their vantage point. For example, a water feature might seem like a great idea, but unless it’s carefully monitored, easily escapable and only dog-safe chemicals are used, it might be the reason your dog ends up at the emergency vet — or worse.

Other serious hazards, according to Sumridge, can include toxic or otherwise dangerous substances like “paint, stain and varnish, spray foams, pesticides, cocoa mulch, decorative rocks or gravel, hot surfaces” and dangerous plant species. You can and should consult with an expert local gardener or your university extension to ensure your plants are all safe for your pet if you’re not positive what types they are. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains a poisonous plant database if you’re picking out new plants.

Many pet owners opt for artificial turf, at least in sections of the yard, to help minimize damage to grass and increase the ease of care. Quinlan says turf is a great grass replacement for many reasons: no pet urine stains, easy waste removal, consistent height — “Anyone’s dogs refuse to ‘go’ when the grass is too high?” he wrote — and ease of washing away evidence … “plus it always looks good.”

However, if you want to keep your grass, your lawn service has to be safe for your pets, too.

“Engage with a green lawn service that uses nontoxic, environmentally friendly products on your lawn and avoid fertilizers, pesticides, slug/snail baits and weed killers in areas where pets have access,” says Nelson.

Pet Friendly Features and Reselling Your Home

If you’ve already built a pet-friendly yard, or you’re considering it, knowing you’ll be moving in a few years, you may be worried about how your modifications will affect your ability to sell. After all, it’s not like your dog is staying with the house. Although pet-friendly features may not clinch the deal, they don’t seem to turn off buyers as long as they’re not overly personal or difficult to remove.

“(Pet-friendly) features may not sell a home,” says Eber. “What they may do is attract a buyer who might otherwise not have been interested in the home, but the attention paid to the pet may cause them to give it a look. On the other hand, not all buyers have pets, and you want to attract the largest possible buyer pool when you are selling, whether they own pets or not.”

For this reason, Eber says, “super cutesy” or personal branded features, such as a pet’s name engraved on a stone wall, should be avoided.

The general attitude of buyers looking at homes where pets live seems to be changing. This could make selling your home easier, so you might as well do what makes you both happy today and swing for the fences.

“Almost more important than the response to pet-friendly features is that the stigma of pet ownership has subsided in recent years,” says Quinlan. “Sure, there are still those with cat allergies, etc., but more and more people are accepting of pets in the home now.”

More from U.S. News

How to Make Moving With Your Cat or Dog a Success

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10 Home Renovations Under $5,000

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