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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Avoiding Danger in Your Yard

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(c) photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2007
Tanner and Xena Share the Float
While I Act as Lifeguard

Today's post is another of my soapbox rantings: dog safety. Our yards can be a mecca for many dangers to our pets. Here are a few you might take particular notice of:
  1. Know your plant names and which are toxic. Check out my post at Organic Journey Online, Dogs and Plants: What is Safe for Them?
  2. Keep your fence in good repair to avoid escapes and injury.
  3. Clear out heavy underbrush to diminish the chances of snakes or rodents making homes there.
  4. Remove thorny vines, plants and bushes.
  5. Be aware of wildlife and your dog's risk. For instance, Oliver, my Papillon, is a likely target of the Barn Owl that lives in a nearby wooded area. My veterinarian has suggested I do not use our Invisible Fence for him, but always take him outside on a leash or with close supervision. Likewise, the local bear population is quite active right now, so Tanner and Xena, my Retrievers, must be supervised when outside after dark.
  6. Water and its inherent danger can come in many forms.  Check out my post on water safety and also learn more about how to teach your pup to swim at Swimming Isn't Just for Lab Lovers. If you live on a waterway or have a swimming pool or spa, be sure your dog knows how to swim if he has access to it. Teach him how to get out safely, practicing from different locations to assure he knows how to reach the exit point. This is especially important for smaller dogs that can only exit at very shallow areas. Be aware, too, that natural waterways carry other dangers such as snakes, gators and shells that can cut feet. Maintaining a clear water line will help minimize critters, but you must also be sure to teach your dog to swim with supervision only. Even with my pool being right outside the back door, Tanner knows he must wait permission to swim. He plays on the pool deck for several hours a day, but is well aware that he must follow my rules. This may save his life one day.
  7. Know your dog's ability to open gates. If you have one, be sure it is secure. Likewise, if you have a fence, can Fido jump it? Think about whether a bit of encouragement on the other side might give him more energy to make the big leap? They can surprise you sometimes. I probably don't even have to mention that they can also dig under your fence. Dogs have been known to dig under and get stuck. Keep your eyes open for trouble spots.
I know all of you out there have had some sort of crisis in your yard. We all have. Tanner came in one day with a puncture wound; we never figured out how he got it. I suppose a freshly trimmed bush branch could have been the culprit. We'll never know. We found nothing like a sharp pipe or other similar-shaped sharp object anywhere in the yard.

Take a few minutes one day and tour your yard. Look for anything that might injure your dog or catch him. Having a family yard clean up day will be fun for you and the dog, and will help to reduce the chances of vermin in the underbrush.

Finally, I cannot stress supervision enough. Even the cleanest back yard in the county can hide danger you may not be aware of: a new ant hill, a snake hole, a misdirected snapping turtle. I have found each of these in one of our yards over the years. Mother birds nesting nearby can also wreak havoc on a pet playing nearby. Keep your eyes out LIKE A HAWK, AND for hawks. Keep your dogs safe!

One last note: If I've struck a chord here, check out my earlier post on Dog Proofing Your House.

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