May 9 is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day: Dog proof your backyard

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day: How to dog-proof your backyard

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To your dog, the backyard is a safe space- the canine equivalent of a bedroom. It's a place to play, relax, and feel at home. Dogs don't associate the backyard with danger. Sadly, dogs have ended up in the emergency room, falling victim to something that was in their own backyard. Disasters can happen anywhere, and National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day is a great reminder to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That's why it's so important to dog-proof the backyard using these tips!

Comfort and containment

Always make sure that your dog is safely contained. My dog Keira is notorious for finding new and innovative ways of escaping the backyard. There are many ways to secure the backyard. If your backyard is already fenced in, do a walk around the perimeter to check for weak spots like loose boards or chain link that is not tight to the ground. If you can move it and put your arm through, chances are your dog can too. 

Some people have large yards and are unable to fence around them. Building a fenced-in dog run may be ideal in this case. A dog run is a fenced-in portion of your yard large enough for your dog to run and play. Some dog owners will use an electronic fence and collar; however, these do not always prove effective. You can also attach your dog to a tie out- just make sure that it's strong enough to withstand some pulling. Make sure your dog has an identification tag on at all times. I also recommend getting your dog micro-chipped

Many dog owners still use dog houses. Dog houses are great for providing your dog with shade and shelter. It should be large enough so that your dog has room to stand up and turn around comfortably. You should always provide your dog with shade and clean drinking water in the backyard. Stagnant water can attract mosquitoes and wildlife, which can promote the spread of heartworm and bacteria like Leptospirosis.

Proper playtime

There's nothing wrong with providing your dog with toys to play within the backyard, but it's important to offer safe toys. If you're unable to monitor your dog during play-time then giving a toy that can be torn apart and ingested is not a good idea. Child-sized pools can be refreshing for your dog on a hot summer day. Some retailers even sell pools made specifically for dogs! My dog Hazel loves her pool! Monitor your dog when playing in the pool, especially small dogs. If you have a human pool in the backyard make sure your dog can't get through the fence around it. It's difficult for a dog to get in and out of most human pools without their owner’s assistance. 

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day Dog proof your backyard

Garage and garden items

All garage items should be locked up and kept far out of your dog’s reach. Chemicals like antifreeze and rodent poisons are highly toxic to dogs. Pets love anti-freeze because it's sweet. Your shed should be locked up because it can contain sharp objects and machinery that can harm a curious canine. 

Garden supplies can be dangerous too. Most fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are highly toxic to dogs. Some mulch is made using cocoa beans, which are deadly if ingested by your dog. Some forms of grass seed are harmful as well, so it's best practice to keep all garden and garage items far from your dog. Do not use these items anywhere on the grass, garden, or perimeter of the home if your dog has access to the area.

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day Dog proof your backyard

Toxic plants and flowers

One of the biggest backyard risks to your dog is vegetation and plant life. Some plants, flowers, vegetables, and mushrooms are highly toxic to dogs. Some may be growing wild on your property, but others may be something you have intentionally planted. Research is key when it comes to gardening in the same space where your dog will play. Onions, garlic, and other members of the allium plant family are highly toxic to dogs. Many mushrooms found in North America aren’t necessarily deadly to dogs, but they can cause gastric upset. Grapes and rhubarb are also highly toxic to dogs. Flowers like Tulips, Azaleas, and Oleanders are beautiful but can be deadly if ingested by your dog.

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day Dog proof your backyard

Parasite prevention

You may see your dog eat grass from time to time. In many cases this is normal; your dog could be trying to induce vomiting or encourage digestion. There are no known forms of grass that are toxic to dogs and eating grass is natural dog behaviour. But in some cases, eating grass can be a sign that your dog has an intestinal parasite. Worms can be transmitted through feces and dead wildlife, and some worms (hookworm) can even be transmitted through your dog’s paw pads! It’s important to clean all carcasses and poop- including your own dog's poop- from your backyard regularly to reduce the risk of worms because some worms can be transmitted to humans. 

Long grass and leafy areas are a great breeding ground for ticks and fleas, so mow the lawn regularly and cut back and areas with long grass. Keeping your dog on a preventative parasite treatment through the peak season will reduce the risk of contracting parasites. Select prevention that includes flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. You may also find that some broad-spectrum parasite prevention also prevents some intestinal parasites. Always purchase these products from your veterinarian, and talk to your vet about the product that is best for your pet, based on his or her environment and lifestyle. Pet safe bug spray can also be used to keep away nasty insects and make your dog more comfortable.

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day Dog proof your backyard

Expect the unexpected

There's nothing wrong with a dog owner hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. It doesn’t matter how careful you are; unexpected emergencies still happen. Dogs can escape from the back yard even when it seems completely secure. Wildlife like squirrels can bring items in the backyard that a pet can ingest. The wind can blow over a shed during a storm, exposing toxins that were otherwise locked up. That’s why any pet owner who allows their dog to play unsupervised in the backyard should consider getting pet insurance. Pet insurance is the best backup plan when it comes to dog proofing your backyard, and many plans offer accident and illness coverage. Make your backyard a safe space, so you can be reassured that your dog will enjoy some fun in the sun this summer!

May 9 is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day- CLICK HERE to find out how to prepare your pet for a natural disaster!

National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day Dog proof your backyard

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