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Archive for Water features

Water Features for Dog Friendly Landscapes

Dog friendly water feature in Willamette Heights neighborhood Portland Oregon

Jack and his water bowl

Water Features for Dog Friendly Landscapes

Lots of dogs love water.  It’s just a fact of life.

And sometimes, or maybe all of the time, when I have clients with a furry friend, the dogs “opinions” are part of the equation when designing a new landscape for the whole family.  There are many aspects of  a landscape design to consider when creating a compatible situation for two species.  Water features are one aspect.  People and dogs want to enjoy the water feature but they have different ideas about what is fun.  For people the sound of water can make a landscape feel like a garden and has a way of taking a space and turning it into a place.  Dogs have different ideas.

I started using echo chambers to create water features for my clients some 20 years ago when the echo chamber (designed by local Lew Smith) was a new thing.  They were safe for kids and easier to care for but then I saw how much the dogs loved them and that if I planned well most dogs could interact with the echo chamber water feature without harming it or themselves.

Take Jack Hofmann, a dog who knew a good thing when he saw it.

Jack and his Echo Chamber

I was hired to create a new entry design for a sweet old Portland craftsman home.  Technically the water feature was designed and placed to enhance the  new entry and to see it from inside the dining room.  Now Jack is kind of a one person dog, so he never fawned over me, much as I would have liked that. He would remember me politely when I came to check on his guardians landscape but when the water feature was installed, he claimed it immediately as his own and posed for me. He knows where his new toy came from.

I wasn’t the only one smitten by Jack’s photo. I was interviewed for an article in Houzz (check it out!) and his mug was featured in  “Protecting Your Pet From Your Yard and Your Yard From Your Pet”  a comprehensive article about dog friendly landscapes.

Jack’s “water bowl” is pottery plumbed into an Echo Chamber, which is a steel box under the pottery.  It creates an easy to care for water feature with great sound and because it has a dry return instead of a pond, it’s safer for kids.  There is no pond to worry about or a liner you need to keep safe from dog claws.  Read more about Echo Chambers in this blog post.

Water Feature for dog friendly landscape Portland, Oregon

This black lab thinks the water feature was set up to quench her thirst.

Zoey’s Spitting Frog Fountain

Some dogs specifically like to drink the water and make a game of it.  Does your dog love it when you get out the garden hose?  Your dog would love a water feature.  Zoey, a plump black lab loves water. This frog spitter fountain is an  inexpensive water feature that pleases people and the pups.  It’s safe for kids because no pond. The water pump recirculates the water through the frog and is under the round rock surface safe from doggy attention.

Remember to design access to the water for the dog and for kids too. If you plant all around it, expect those plants to be trampled.

Water Feature hydrant for dog friendly landscapeFireplug Water Feature

My client Patrick is a retired firefighter. He plumbed an old fire hydrant to use with his echo chamber.  The water feature was specifically designed for his dogs to drink out of.  The dogs loved their fire hydrant water feature and their new back yard which had two fences running parallel at the back property line.  This plant-less space between the fences was their  daily race way.

The Big Rock

Standard poodles and the neighbors kids loved the big rock (Montana Mud 8′ across) water feature which was a focal point for a home in Raliegh Hills.   I would find tiny little plastic toys and tennis balls tucked here and there, evidence of neighbor kids and tennis ball obsessed poodles who played in this water feature.  My clients thought this was adorable and loved how this unusual water feature looked with their NW Natural style front yard.

Water feature for dog friendly landscape in Raliegh Hills Portland Oregon

A fun water feature for two poodles.


For many people, life is better with a dog and designing a happy outdoor life for two species, not just one, is what makes happiness for this designer too.


Before and After New Construction

Before: Skinny and Tricky Lot      

Last month, we highlighted the ‘Hidden Craftsman Gem‘ redo. One of my customers emailed me saying it looked like it was doctored in Photoshop.  I took it as quite the compliment!  It was indeed a very dramatic before and after photo! We could not have completed the installation so quickly and beautifully without a team effort – designer, clients and contractors working together – are what makes a design sing.

This month, we’re showcasing something different.  Instead of working with an established landscape, I started with a clean slate and clients who preferred to be more hands-on.  We completed our Landscape Design in a Day for the front yard pictured below. The large back landscape was designed and completed the following year.

Osborne Before and After Design

“We planted it exactly as designed and it turned out great!” – John Osborn

After: Calming Entryway

My clients had a funny pie shaped lot. Well over half the front yard needed to be hardscaped. I designed the front walk in large paver squares and ran plants between. This was very successful in visually breaking up the large amount of concrete. Working with their builder, Rick Waters, we selected the paver color and finish in subtle shades of similar colors. This trick makes the hardscape look smaller than it really is.

The water feature was hand built by the homeowners and turned out fabulous! We put a lot of thought into the sound as well as the appearance. The boulder fountain used an echo chamber system we recommended. It sounds great. They have enjoyed many compliments.

We have been plagued by uncooperative deer who have not read nor do they follow along with the list of plants they are not supposed to eat! The specialty dwarf twisty Spaan’s Dwarf pines were fine for three years. This spring the deer severely damaged them. The Tiarella ground cover also proved to be a tasty treat.

June 2013 NW Renovation MagazineI often work some minor miracles with difficult landscapes. The design for the Osborn’s has worked very well to match the beauty of the home. Their home will be featured in an upcoming issue of  NW Renovation Magazine.

What’s happening in your landscape?

Call 503.223.2426 or email today to get your landscape beautification process underway!