How to Plant a Dog-friendly Herb Garden

April 2, 2015

By Langley Cornwell

The first day of spring just passed and where I live that means it’s time to start planting. Here in coastal South Carolina, it’s usually safe to sow your seeds around this time of year, so I jumped right in. I was worried that I started too soon, though. After I planted my raised bed and some giant containers, it rained and rained and rained. It rained so hard and so long that I was afraid I’d wasted my time; I was sure the seeds were going to either wash away or rot. Well, guess what! They’re poking their tiny heads up already. I think they liked that long drink of water because they are responding with hardy germination.

As someone who shares her life with dogs and cats, I’m always mindful about what I’m planting and where I’m planting it. If you’ve ever seen your dog chew on grass, you know that animals have an instinct about plants. They will seek out certain plants and eat them when they are not feeling well. Because of this, it’s vitally important to keep any harmful and toxic plants out of your pet’s reach.

On the other hand, you can make your life easy by simply planting a dog-friendly herb garden like I did. With the herbs listed here, it won’t matter if your dog goes in and chomps on anything. In fact, some of these herbs are even being used by pet care professionals who lean towards herbal or homeopathic remedies. Here are some of my favorite dog-friendly herbs.


If you’ve ever taken a giant whiff of a handful of freshly picked basil, you know what summertime smells like. This has to be one of the best smells offered by nature. Easy to grow from seeds, this healthy herb adds a sublime dimension to everything you include it in. You might use it to make a big batch of pesto or a fresh Caprese Salad, but did you know basil is loaded with antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties? So if your dog decides to sample the basil, there’s no harm done.


Another classic in Italian cooking, oregano is a dog-friendly herb. Like basil, it contains antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Oregano is also high in flavonoids and antioxidants, and is used to aid with digestive problems. If your animals romp around in your oregano or even if they take a bite, this non-toxic herb will not harm them.


There are people who avoid adding peppermint to their herb garden because in some climates it can become invasive. I like it so much that I give it plenty of growing space and let it go. This aromatic herb can be used for so many things around the house. I recently read studies that show peppermint to have radio-protective effects. It looks like this herb can be used to reduce radiation-induced sickness in pets undergoing chemotherapy treatments.


The way rosemary grows around here, a sprig can turn into a full-grown bush in a few seasons – and that’s fine with me. Rosemary and olive oil roasted new potatoes, braised fennel with rosemary and green olives… oh wait, I’m supposed to be writing about dogs, not food. The good news is no matter how big and inviting your rosemary gets, it won’t harm your pet if he takes a bite. In fact, this herb is high in calcium, iron and vitamin B6.


I plant a lot of parsley because it grows easily around here and I use it in a lot of things. As far as dogs are concerned, parsley is non-toxic. Once used only as a garnish, we now know this herb is a good source of antioxidants, vitamins and flavonoids. It’s also known to contain carotenes and lycopene. All of that, and if you dog happens to take a bite, it might just freshen up his breath.

Other dog-friendly herbs include milk thistle, lemon balm, burdock and astragalus.

With my veterinarian’s permission, I’ve occasionally sprinkled a small pinch of the above fresh herbs on top of my dogs’ CANIDAE PURE Elements dog food. Please don’t feed your dog anything that’s not specifically produced for dogs without first consulting your vet.

So get out there and dig in the dirt. Spending time in the fresh air and sunshine with your best four-legged friend by your side is good for anything that ails you. Welcome, springtime!

Top photo by Tony Alter/Flickr
Bottom photo by Lulu Hoeller/Flickr

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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