Warmer weather might mean more time outside for you and your pups. Before you head out for some fun in the backyard, we rounded up some of our best tips to make sure your yard is a safe place for the dogs. While you’re working through your spring cleaning list, you may also want to give your backyard some TLC.
Provide adequate fencing
If you want to have your pup off-leash in the backyard and ensure they can’t run away, a fence is your best bet. In the late 90s, electric fences were all the rage but we recommend that you stick with a physical barrier.
Choose a fence that your pup can’t jump over, crawl under, or otherwise escape. Dr. Melissa Nelson suggests that your fence be at least 6 feet tall. The taller your pup, the taller the fence should be.
If you have a dog who enjoys digging, make sure the fence (or some chicken wire) extends far enough into the ground that your dog cannot dig under it.
For swimming pool safety, you may wish to consider fencing around the pool as well. Even if your dog knows how to swim, you don’t want them in the pool without proper supervision to prevent an unnecessary tragedy. If you don’t opt to fence the pool separately, you don’t want your dog in the yard alone -- ever.
Dog proof your garden
If you allow your dog free reign of the backyard you want to ensure your garden and any landscaping you do is safe for your pup. Try planting pet-safe trees, plants, or flowers like spider plants, African violets, sunflowers, Boston ferns, orchids, and roses. These colorful plants and flowers will provide your pup with something interesting to look at and sniff.
You can also grow fruit and vegetables that your pup will enjoy with you. Strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, and leafy greens grow well in many backyards. If you have space and you’re feeling up to it, you can even try to grow your own pumpkins.
You want to avoid seasonal flowers like tulips, daffodils, azaleas, and amaryllis as these can be toxic to dogs. If your pup does find its way into these flowers, call your vet immediately. Consuming certain plants or flowers like oleander or cyclamen can even be fatal. So check before you plant anything new in your garden.
If you use fertilizer, weed killer, or any other type of lawn treatment, check first to see if it is safe to use around your pet. If not, you’ll need to keep your pet away from the treatment, or a better option would be to choose another product.
Special consideration for puppy proofing your yard
While we’ve reviewed some of the biggest safety hazards for dogs, you may need to make special considerations if you have a brand new puppy! If your dog is under a year old, they are still learning a lot.
Puppies often learn about the world around them with their mouths. If you have gravel or mulch in the yard, your puppy might try to taste it. At best this could cause an upset stomach, and at worse a few small pebbles of gravel could need to be removed from your puppy’s tiny tummy. The same goes for grass, plants, and even your fence - if your pup tries to chew something you don’t want them to hurt their teeth or get sick.
Ideas to keep your dog entertained in your dog-proofed yard
Just because your yard is safe for your dog, that doesn’t automatically make it a welcoming place for them. A few things you can do to make your yard the place your dog wants to be include:
Provide ample shade
This is especially important in warmer weather. While your pup might love to sunbathe, having a cool spot to take a break is important. A large shade tree, a dog house, a cabana or even an outdoor bed with an umbrella are perfect for this. If you live somewhere that gets very hot you can add a cooling mat to the setup of your choice.
Access to water
Hydration is important. Make sure that even when you are outside your dog has access to clean, fresh drinking water. For dogs who love to play in the water, a hose, small pool or even a sprinkler can provide hours of fun and a bonding experience for you and your dog.
If your dog is nervous about the sprinkler or a pool, don’t force it.
Dog specific enrichment
While your backyard may be full of fun things to see and smell, you can always add more. Consider balls, tug toys, other things to look for or smell, and even things to chew. Some stinkier treats like freeze dried salmon skins are best enjoyed in the great outdoors. (You just might want to remember to brush your dog’s teeth before they come inside.)
If your dog is athletic, consider getting a backyard agility set. You can work on jumps, going through the tunnel, and staying still on the table. For dogs who like the weave poles, backyard sets can be found online relatively inexpensively too. For something that doesn’t take up as much storage space, a frisbee can also be a lot of fun.
However you and your pup decide to make the best use of your backyard, make sure to have lots of fun and stay safe.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.