The Best Methods to Keep Dogs Away From Your Yard

When dogs are allowed to roam off-leash (or on very long leashes) they can do damage to your landscape. The need for effective dog repellents is clear to those who have had to clean up a neighbor’s dog’s poop, for example. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep stray dogs off your lawn that won’t harm the dogs. You can use home remedies for dog repellent, as well as commercial products. They’re fairly inexpensive and easy to set up. But some, such as the scents that will keep dogs away, must be reapplied on a regular basis.

If you’re struggling with how to keep dogs away from your yard, here are some methods that can help.

Keeping dogs out of your yard goes beyond just wanting to avoid having to pick up unexpected dog poop. Dog urine can damage grass and other plants. Plus, some dogs might dig in your yard, as well as chew on or otherwise damage landscaping. If you’re not a pet-owner yourself, you may have some plants in your landscape that are toxic to dogs. And if you have an edible garden, damage from a dog or dog waste might cause you to lose your crops.

There are several smells that will keep dogs away from your yard, but some products—both DIY and commercial—can be problematic. For example, the smell of any type of pepper can act as a dog repellent. However, sprinkled pepper can burn a dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth if they inhale it. Plus, rain and irrigation will quickly wash it away (and wind will blow it away), requiring frequent application. A good DIY dog repellent spray is one that is safe for the dogs and low cost for you.

You can use vinegar to keep dogs away from your lawn by spraying it around the perimeter of the area you want to be canine-free. Dogs don’t like the strong smell of vinegar and thus will be deterred by it. As a bonus, a vinegar dog repellent also can help to neutralize urine odors, so passing dogs won’t be compelled to mark over where another dog had previously peed.

Using white vinegar is typically the most inexpensive option, but any vinegar will do. You can use it straight or dilute it down to as much as a 50-50 vinegar-water solution in a spray bottle. However, do note that sufficient amounts of vinegar can kill vegetation, including lawn grass. In fact, some people use vinegar as a natural weed killer. So to protect your plants, stick to using it along sidewalks or pathways. Reapply when you can no longer smell it.

Dogs also dislike the smell of citrus. So you can use citrus essential oils or even the peels as a dog repellent. However, note that the peels might attract rodents and other critters, and they can be unsightly when used on a public-facing portion of your yard. If you want to avoid this, lightly spritz citrus essential oil where you want to repel dogs instead. But don’t get too heavy-handed with it, as citrus can be somewhat toxic to dogs. The goal is for the scent to be present without providing enough for the dog to ingest.

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Store-bought dog repellents can get pricey because they need to be reapplied often. These products also might contain harsh chemicals. So read the labels carefully to make sure they are safe to use around your home.

There are numerous dog repellent sprays on the market. Many are meant to protect humans from dog attacks, but others are suited for yards and contain scents that dogs don’t like. These dog repellents come in both granule and spray forms.

Critter Ridder is an organic dog repellent put out by the maker of Havahart traps (humane traps used to relocate live animals). Available in both granules and sprays, Critter Ridder works as a dog repellent because it gives off a smell of black pepper, which canines find offensive. Havahart also offers Cat & Dog Granular Animal Repellent. One major selling point of this product is that it is supposed to be long-lasting (up to 60 days).

Liquid Fence works on a different principle from many other dog repellents. It depends on the fact that dogs seek out areas with familiar smells to do their business. Liquid Fence masks those smells. So instead of repulsing dogs with offensive odors, this product removes the welcoming odors and helps to keep dogs from peeing and pooping in your yard. Be sure to get the Liquid Fence specially formulated for dogs.

Certain types of fertilizers can actually attract dogs, especially ones that contain bone meal, fish, and blood. The smells of these products can bring in curious canines who might be interested in eating the fertilizer.

To avoid unintentionally drawing dogs to your lawn, try switching to a plant-based fertilizer. Its smells shouldn’t be as appealing to canines.

A natural plant barrier can be effective to keep dogs away from your yard. Specifically, prickly or thorny plants can do well to deter dogs—especially in hedge form or otherwise planted close together. Some dogs also don’t like to walk on ground cover plants, especially vining ground covers that would be cumbersome to walk through. 

Most gadgets that repel dogs will also repel other types of wildlife, including cats, deer, rabbits, and raccoons. They are typically safe and quiet, and they use little electricity to do the job. Beware, though, that motion-activated gadgets can set off any time they sense motion, even human movement. So you might not want to use them in high-traffic areas for people.

Unlike dog repellents that come in powder, granule, or spray (liquid) form, no reapplication is required with gadgets like motion-activated scarecrow sprinklers. These can be found under many brand names, such as Orbit, Havahart, and Hoont. Just hook the scarecrow sprinkler up to your garden hose, and let its motion-activated sprinkler mechanism do the work to scare dogs away.

Another advantage with this product is that there is no need to take separate control measures against each of the various types of pests that might infiltrate your yard. Scarecrow sprinklers will repel stray cats and garden pests just as surely as they will keep dogs away from your yard.

Yard Gard is a safe, silent, and electronic dog repellent. Like scarecrow sprinklers, it is effective against other pests, as well. But unlike a scarecrow sprinkler, you have a choice of two modes. You can continually blast would-be pests 24/7 or allow its motion-activated mechanism to alert it when pests approach.

This dog repellent works by emitting sonic and ultrasonic sound waves that canines find offensive (but humans can’t hear). Mount it on an outdoor storage shed, tree, or fence near where stray dogs tend to roam. The units typically have a plug or run on batteries.

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While putting up a fence is usually a considerable expense, it can offer multiple benefits. Not only do fences provide privacy and curb appeal, but they also can keep stray dogs out of your yard and away from your landscaping.

Here are a few relatively affordable options for fencing that can keep stray dogs off your lawn:

  • For a rustic yard, erect a chain-link fence accented with painted horizontal wood boards.
  • For less public areas of your yard, consider mesh or hardware cloth containment fencing, which is also often used to keep deer out of yards.
  • For your front yard, you might only need a short picket fence that is just restrictive enough to keep curious canines off your property. You also can put short landscape fencing directly around plants you want to protect.

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If you’re trying to keep your neighbor’s dog out of your yard, the best scenario would be for them to understand your concerns and work with you. They might not realize that their dog roaming on your yard is a problem, so your first step is to bring it up in a non-accusatory manner. You can say that you have plants or use lawn chemicals that are toxic to dogs as encouragement for your neighbor to keep their dog on their own property. Or if you have children, your own pets, or allergies, you can bring those up as reasons for the dog to remain on its own property.

If your neighbor still isn’t cooperating, it’s time to check your local ordinances to determine the rules for loose pets and not picking up after pets. Take photos and/or videos of the dog when it’s breaking any of these ordinances, and report it to your local authorities. Issuing the dog’s owner a ticket is a common punishment for breaking such ordinances.

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