Is Black Mulch Safe For Dogs?

Black mulch made from wood is safe for dogs. However, black mulch made from Cocoa is NOT safe for dogs. Cocoa mulch is made from the shells removed from cocoa beans when making chocolate. As most dog owners know, chocolate is not good for dogs. 

Many people use mulch as the finishing touch in their gardens. Mulch is great for ensuring the health of our plants, but what about the health of our dogs? Certain kinds of mulch are potentially dangerous for dogs, so here’s what you need to know to avoid any problems. 

A Rainbow of Mulch

Mulch is available in a wide variety of colors. Red, brown, green, white, and black mulch are all easy to find at your local garden center. Recently, there has been a lot of concern over what kind of mulch is safe for pets. Black mulch, in particular, has raised some concerns for pet owners.

Colored Mulch

While there are numerous possible mulch colors out there, there is no evidence that one color is worse for your dog than others. The color of mulch is just determined by what has been used to dye it in a factory. 

Color does not determine toxicity, but rather the material that was used to make the mulch. Certain types of plant matter are more toxic for dogs than others, but they can be dyed any number of colors for aesthetic purposes.

The Dangers of Cocoa Mulch

Cocoa mulch is widely used because of its positive attributes. It does not break down as easily as other mulches, meaning that it can last a lot longer in your garden. It also has a pleasant chocolate smell that appeals to many homeowners. 

Cocoa mulch is made from the shells removed from cocoa beans in the process of making chocolate. As everyone knows, chocolate is not healthy for dogs. It can cause severe organ damage and can even lead to death. 

Cocoa mulch is no different. If your dog eats cocoa mulch, they could get the dreaded theobromine poisoning that every dog owner fears. Definitely skip the cocoa mulch if you have a dog.

Wood Mulch

The good news is that most mulch is made from wood, not cocoa. Wood mulch comes from a number of different sources, but not all of them are good. 

Mulch is the final way to use wood when it has outlived its usefulness in other areas, such as construction. This means that mulch is made up of a bunch of recycled material that may actually contain toxic chemicals. 

Many wood treatments use poisons or other chemicals to lengthen the life of the wood. None of these chemicals will do the same for your dog. The use of arsenic in mulch has been outlawed since 2000, but any mulch made before that time could still be poisonous.

Before considering using wood mulch, know the source! You should not take the risk if you have even the slightest doubt regarding its origin.

Rubber Mulch

Some landscaping suppliers offer rubber mulch as well as traditional plant-based mulch. Rubber mulch is often made from shredded tires or other industrial rubber sources. 

Just like wood that has been treated, rubber that has been treated is not a good idea for dogs to chew on. Many chemicals are present in rubber because tire companies do not assume that pets will chew on their products. Avoid rubber mulch in your garden if your dog has access to it because it may pose a health risk.

Why Do Dogs Chew on Mulch?

Mulch is not dangerous if your dog just walks on it, but if your dog tries to eat mulch, you may want to avoid having it around. 

Consumption of any kind of mulch can lead to intestinal blockages. Choking and obstructions are always a danger when your dog is chewing on something that is not meant to be chewed on. 

If your dog loves chewing on mulch, you are probably wondering why.

Savory Smells

This is the biggest factor. Almost every kind of mulch is designed to have a pleasing smell. Of course, for our pups with super sniffers, any kind of smell that we can register is even more powerful to them. 

Fragrant mulches can be a siren’s call for your pup, so it is especially important to be conscious of the temptation mulch can provide your dog. Even the dreaded cocoa mulch has a smell that will appeal to your dog’s nose.

Fibrous Chewing

Mulch is very pulpy and fibrous, which appeals to a lot of chewing breeds. To dogs, anything that provides the right level of resistance while being enjoyable to chew can be a perfect chewing medium. 

Mulch checks these boxes, though chewing may release the chemicals inside the mulch. Of course, this kind of appeal is entirely subjective to the dog itself. What one dog loves to chew may not excite another dog in the same way.

So How Do I Keep My Dog Out of my Mulch?

You may have already invested a sizable amount of money into mulch for your outdoor areas. If this is the case, you still need to make sure that your dog is safe. As long as your dog is not tempted to chew on the mulch, there won’t be any problems. 

But if you find that your mulch will not stop calling to your dog, here are a few techniques to keep your dog away from the digestive issues that may come from mulch ingestion.

Odor-based Repellents

Since the main appeal of mulch is how it smells, you can take away this factor by changing its odor. You can easily find an array of scents to spread on your mulch that will repel your dog instead of attracting them. 

Cayenne pepper, dry mustard, and other intense spicy smells can be a great way to get your dog away from the mulch. Dilute them with water to make the odor more of a spray. 

Plant Guardians

Dogs will also naturally stay away from certain plants. By placing these plant “guardians” around your mulch, you will drive away your dog in a harmless way. 

Some classic plants that your dog will not care for include citronella, rosemary, rue, lavender, and lemongrass. A lot of these plants have additional benefits as well. Citronella has been shown to help repel mosquitos as well as dogs.

Chicken Wire

Chicken wire can be used as a fence, but you may not have thought about using it horizontally! A layer of chicken wire on top of your mulch will hold it in place. This will also discourage digging from your dog, as they will not be able to get past the metal wire. 

While this won’t stop your dog from walking on the mulch, it will hopefully keep them from chewing on it.

The Bottom Line of Mulch and Dogs

While mulch may pose a danger to dogs if they like to chew on it, you can find ways around this problem. Always supervise your dog if they are outside, especially if they are around mulch. If you want to forego mulch altogether, just to be safe, you can use pea gravel or another substitute. If you still want to use mulch, stick to either cedar or pine mulch. Always double-check the source of your mulch to make sure that it does not contain any nasty chemicals.

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