One of the many questions pet owners as me is how to dog proof your yard. Let’s face it, lots of people actually choose a home because it has a large yard for their dog to run and play. And sometimes their kids to enjoy too, but it’s usually the dog let’s be honest.
However, a yard isn’t everything when it comes to pet ownership. Sure, it is extremely convenient to be able to simply open the door and let your dog out to potty. As someone who spent several years in apartment complexes with her dog in the chilly northeast…
I understand the pain of not having a yard. With that said, yards don’t automatically equal mentally stimulating activity. If you need help getting your dog more enriching activity to prevent problem behaviors, our 30 Day Mental Stimulation Challenge is a great resource.
Before you can let your pup run wild in your yard, there are a few important considerations that you should make to ensure your dog’s safety.
Supervision, or Lack Thereof
The first element is supervision. As much as I’d love to let my dogs roam the yard for hours while I do something else, anytime you leave your dog outside unsupervised there is an element of danger involved.
Dogs can run through invisible fences if they are motivated enough, and many pets can jump or scale fences you wouldn’t imagine they could possibly escape from. You also face the danger of potential wildlife encounters, from your dog getting in a fight with a raccoon or coyote, to an owl or hawk picking up a smaller breed of dog.
Animals aren’t the worst danger to your pet, however. A staggering number of pets are stolen from their yards every year while left unsupervised, adding to the number lost through escapes or accidental releases.
The overall takeaway should be this. Anytime you leave your pet in the yard unsupervised, you are adding some element of risk. The yard is not a replacement for exercise or mentally stimulating activity, so you should avoid leaving your dog unsupervised in their yard for long periods of time to help keep them safe.
Preventing Potential Escapes
Perhaps the most important and immediate element of dog proofing your yard is ensuring your dog is contained in some way. Many pet owners choose an invisible or electric fence. Many of those same pet owners lose their dog by relying on that to keep their pet contained.
I have personally heard accounts from clients of dogs who have run through their invisible fence and into traffic. The dog did not survive. Your dog’s safety should be your paramount concern. Physical fences are a must, but you also need to ensure that they are secure and your dog cannot escape from them.
If your dog is athletic and has shown their ability to trounce over gates and other barriers, you should invest in a taller fence. If your dog is a digger, you should invest in an underground barrier below your fence, such as wire, to prevent escapes by digging.
Another important element is your dog itself. Some dogs don’t try to dig out of fences or jump/climb to escape, others do. You need to plan appropriately based on your individual dog, and judge how much supervision your dog should be under when they are in the yard based on their personality.
Anytime you let your dog into your yard, you should make sure to scan for potentially dangerous wildlife. Even if your dog has a rabies vaccine, a fight with the local raccoon can potentially injure them. You should also take responsibility for your dog and their potential to injure the wildlife as well.
For example, thousands of opossums (and probably more) are killed by dogs every year, removing a valuable animal from the ecosystem that would otherwise eat ticks, spiders, and other pests.
Make sure to look outside before letting your pet into the yard.
Additionally, if you live in a region with venomous snakes you might also want to do a quick sweep of the yard as well to ensure no snakes are outside that could potentially bite your dog.
Do a quick search online and learn how to identify your common venomous snakes, and always call a wildlife removal if the snake does not eventually leave on its own. People commonly take bites from venomous snakes while needlessly attempting to kill them.
Another important concern when dog proofing your yard is the plants that are present. Thankfully you do not need to scan for dangerous plants quite as often as you do for animals, which obviously have a greater amount of mobility! Still, certain plants can absolutely pose an immense danger to your dog if ingested.
Primarily, when hiring any landscaping firm or planting anything yourself you should do your research to ensure the plant is not toxic. Even a dog who does not usually eat random things can accidentally ingest a toxic plant. For some plants, it only takes a small amount to seriously injure or kill your dog.
Your next concern should be the plants that are already present in your yard. Use the internet to confirm what type of plant they are and if they are safe for your pet. Though you should be generally familiar with them, trying to search for all the potentially dangerous ornamental and native plants will drive you insane. Instead, try to identify the plants you do have, and make sure they are harmless if your dog ingests them.
For the most part, as long as you take the necessary precautions you should be able to enjoy some great outdoor time with your dog. However, to keep your beloved pup safe it is important to make sure that you dog proof your yard and keep your pet supervised when they are outside.
Having a yard is a great way to let your dog go out to potty and to give them some space to run and play, but always remember that your dog’s safety comes first!