© Copyright of
this design, research and plans will remain the property of Jo Baker Garden Design.
Garden designer Jo Baker recently designed and built an
agility greenspace for a dog daycare Centre in Surrey. The brief was to create a practical
design that would provide a stimulating and sensory environment which was fun and safe for
dogs, staff and visitors. Her design encompassed the benefits of
agility and combined them with horticultural principles. Most importantly,
the dogs at Dogstroll love it!
My brief was to
provide a stimulating and fun outdoor exercise area to occupy and stimulate the dogs. During
the early stages of this
project, I spent a lot of time with Mark Scott, Dogstroll Director, at his dog daycare centre in
order to get the design of each component right and to deliver something that would work
specifically for Mark's requirements. Altogether it took about four months to develop the idea.
My plan was to create
sustainable, multi-functional systems that would benefit people and the
environment as well as the dogs. Consultations with various dog training centres were necessary in the research and
development stages to ascertain the correct spacing and safety aspects such as jump heights and
The design needed to incorporate
innovative garden design with traditional agility training features so I had to find suitable
plants and natural materials to create the agility components. Primary consideration, as
always, was for the safety of the dogs.
It was important that
features/plants chosen would also be dog-friendly. Plants selected needed to be:-
It all began with a woven willow
tunnel for the dogs and expanded from there. Willow structures represent a link between
interaction, imagination and the environment - something that is appealing to both people and
animals. Living structures such as this are often seen in rural settings, community gardens and
in play areas for children.
The agility space measures
approximately 289m2 in a fairly dry field in full sun. It is fully enclosed to provide a safe
and controlled environment for socialisation, play and agility training.
The overall design has a radial form
to create dynamic function. In a central position to the site, a front wheel tractor tyre was
used to create a rest point, something which the dogs really love. The design radiates out from
Weave poles were created using
standard trees spaced at 75cm. This calculation took into account the girth of the clear stem
on the tree, the desirable width for weaving and the rate of growth over 10 years. This close
spacing in terms of tree planting reduces their eventual size. Eventually the top growth will
be clipped to form a pleached hedge. The wear and tear on the grass caused by the dogs will
reduce the lawn maintenance necessary by eliminating the need for a strimmer or weeding around
the base of the trees.
three hurdle hedges are 2m in length. The first metre is clipped at a height of 30cm for small
dogs and the second metre is at a height of 50cm for bigger dogs.
The tyre hoop jumps were the
trickiest obstacles, requiring the most thought. Diameter, height, materials and safety needed
to be considered. The heights are changeable between three positions for small to large dogs.
The dogs are clearing these well. The tyre diameter measures 53.3cm and heights range between
49-80cm diameter from the ground. The inner section of the tyre is lined with foam pipe
lagging, this will soften any contact blows.
tunnel is a woven willow structure. All growth is directed upwards towards the sun. This will
need clipping at least twice per year. Weed mat and wood chip line the base. This provides a
soft texture under foot and keeps weed control in check.
Sunlight illuminates the structural
elements of the components, casting strong shadows throughout the day. In winter the golden
stem work on the tunnel can be appreciated and by late spring its vigorous growth provides lush
green foliage and shade for the dogs.
A handler will take the dog through
the agility training. Supervision also means that any undesirable behaviours such as chewing or
fouling of any of the components can be checked.
The agility space is a new
innovation at Mark's daycare centre and the dogs are being introduced to it at a New Beginner
he started by familiarising the dogs to the area in groups and letting them have a roam around
the space to build confidence. He started training by getting them all to remain seated on the
rest point and then calling them off by name, one by one. A lovely group activity, its quite
impressive to watch the elegance at which they do this.
He is working towards a structured
rotation, with each dog getting one-to-one agility training for up to 15 minutes to build
their confidence and ability. Even the tiny dogs are jumping the hurdles. A few dogs have
managed to weave the poles but this seems to be the most challenging task.
Clients look forward to daily photo
posts on Facebook of their dogs
performing newly acquired agility tricks!
Mark Scott said 'Watching the
dogs’ reactions once in the enclosed agility area is fascinating. It is a place where they can
use all of their senses. There are a variety of textures underfoot set against the grassed
landscape. Each plant selected has its own unique smell and a physical element is provided
through variation in height and width of the obstacles that they have to navigate through or
It has brought quite a lot of
attention to my daycare centre. Local people and clients are all intrigued as to how it looks,
works and feels so I have invited a few along to have a look. The response has been
amazing. People have never seen anything like it before and have commented on how lucky their
dogs are to be part of this unique experience.
The dogs are returning home more
tired than ever. I predict that it wont be long before owners will be wanting to go with them!
This project has exceeded my
expectations completely. Clients have been to visit, which is not a normal occurrence. An Open
Day is planned for May 2015, weather permitting.'
Mark Scott (Director) Dogstroll – Daycare, Walking & Photography, Ockham, Surrey
GU23 6PF. www.dog-stroll.co.uk
a broad and flexible garden design service in London and Essex. Established in 2007, she
encompasses a wide range of skills and expertise to produce innovative and practical solutions
for gardens and landscapes, private, commercial and community-based projects.
Jo Baker o
To commission a unique design for
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© Copyright of this design, research
and plans will remain the property of Jo Baker Garden Design.
25 February 2015