Re: dog path mess
I think you're on the right path (no pun intended ) with shrubbery. I'd create flower/plant beds around the perimeter of the yard and install bark or tree shavings from an arborist. I'd plant a thick hedgy type of shrub along the fence to keep the dogs out of the area altogether, with a bark/shavings buffer in front with other shrubs or plantings. A benefit to this is that it reduces the amount of grass to water and care for, and if you plant drought resistant plants, you'll have very little watering need, in fact the neighbors watering may provide enough, at least along the fence.
I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!