When Dogs Bark Up the Wrong Tree: What to Do if Your Dogs Start Attacking Your Trees

Young, energetic dogs and well-tended gardens are the kind of combination that drives green-fingered gardeners barking mad. When you bring a new pup into your household, and while focusing on house training them, it's easy to forget that your well-ordered and beautiful garden may soon fall prey to their exuberant explorations.

Trees too, despite being far more robust than most plants, can fall prey to dogs. Not only do dogs love chewing on them, but trees make excellent territory markers, and young dogs relish the challenge of tearing up tree roots.

So what can you, as a dog and tree lover, do about it?

Call a Professional Arborist to Assess Any Damage

Dog's generally harm trees in three ways:

  1. By Urinating: Dog urine is harmful to trees and can lead to infection.
  2. By Tearing Off Bark: Trees shorn of their bark, especially when completely girdled (bark removed from the entire circumference of the trunk) may die because the food produced by the leaves may not be able to reach the vital parts of the tree.
  3. By Tearing Up Roots: If enough roots are removed, a tree may not be able to find enough nutrients and water to survive.

You may not notice the damage until after the fact. In this case, you first need to call an arborist to assess the damage already done.

Remove the Tree

If the damage is too great, your tree will likely die a slow death, and you will end up with a pest's paradise just sitting there in your yard. The best thing to do at this point is to have an arborist remove the tree. While it might be a terrible loss, there will be more room for your dog, and you can plant another tree somewhere safer in future.

Repel, Prevent and Distract

If your tree is still in a stable condition despite the damage it has suffered, you need to take measures to keep your dogs from harming the tree further.

  • Repel: To stop your pup from chewing the bark, use cayenne pepper, chilli sauce or a bitter tasting repellent to keep dogs away. Spread it over the bark and your dog's sensitive taste buds will get a shock next time they decide to clamp their jaws around a section of bark.
  • Prevent: Encircle the trees with a barrier of chicken wire to keep your dogs from tearing off any strips of bark. You can also create a fence made of chicken wire to keep them from getting close enough to pee.
  • Distract: Provide your dog with lots of chewy toys and treats while they are out in your garden. Remember though, that the toys you provide need to be more desirable than a nice, chewy strip of bark or tough length of a tree root.

If you keep your dogs away from your trees long enough, eventually, the habit will die and they will find something else to do. However, if your dogs are adamant that your tree is their chosen plaything, then you may have to remove the tree. If it dies, it will have to be removed anyway. However, if you are fond of your tree, you could always hire an arborist to take care of tree removal.