Your zen time among plants can be improved by the presence of a dog. More importantly, gardening and dogs can be as good a combination as peanut butter and jelly, but you need to take certain precautions in order to achieve this harmony and keep dogs safe.
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Gardens feature a variety of potential hazards to animals, so your backyard garden needs to be dog-proofed before you allow your pup to hang around there. Here are a few useful tips to help every gardener and dog owner out there.
1. Avoid Thorny Plants
Even if a plant is non-toxic to dogs, it can still hurt your pooch if they have spines or thorns. They can cause cuts, abrasions, eye injuries, to name just a few hazards, many of which can later lead to infections and more serious complications. Either put up fences around them, or completely avoid spiky plants in your garden such as yucca, cacti or blackberries or otherwise keep them out of your dog’s reach.
2. Have Adequate Fencing
Whether you have a fence or a wall, it needs to be at least six feet high if you want to let your dog run and play in your garden freely. This will be enough to prevent your Fido from jumping over it and getting into trouble. It also has to be dense enough so your dog can’t go through either.
Choose safe construction materials, like vinyl, iron, wood, chain link, brick, masonry or concrete. However, keep in mind that some dogs are great escape artists and can climb chain link or some other type of fence that has holes or gaps.
If you choose wooden fence, ensure the lumber hasn’t been treated with Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) since that chemical is toxic to animals (source). Make sure that your dog can’t dig under the fence too. Bury chicken wire just below the surface if necessary to keep your dog inside. Some pet owners choose invisible fences, but others are against them.
3. Avoid Toxic Plants
Some common garden plants that you may want to grow are toxic to dogs. You should either avoid planting these in the first place, or build fences around them so your pooch can’t get to them.
Some of the deadliest plants that cause the most poisonings for dogs include:
- Castor Bean
- Rosary Pea
- Sago Palm
- Black Locust
Don’t assume that a plant is non-toxic to dogs if it is non-toxic to humans. You can check out whether a plant is toxic to dogs or not on this list made by the ASPCA. Remember that consumption of any (non-toxic) plant could potentially cause vomiting and other gastrointestinal problems for dogs, although they are not life-threatening to them.
4. Beware of Fertilizers and Pesticides
Fertilizers and pesticides can be extremely harmful to dogs and if you plan to use them for your home garden, follow the instructions you find on the label closely and pay attention to the waiting period that must pass before your dog can come close to the fertilized plants. Generally, it's best to use non-toxic or organic solutions whenever you can.
5. Provide a Shelter for Your Pooch
Some pets enjoy spending as much time (if not more) as you do in gardens. Your pooch needs shelter if you want to leave him out in your garden by himself. That will protect him from rain, heat and other elements. You can install an outdoor dog house (maybe even take up the DIY approach) or otherwise make sure that your Fido has a shady, covered area that he can easily access, like a gazebo or arbor.
6. Store Away Tools and Chemicals
All of the chemicals, in addition to above mentioned fertilizers and pesticides, should be safely stored away along with any gardening tools that can harm your pooch, like rakes or axes. Keep these items in your garage or shed, or even in your basement if necessary. Dogs are curious animals and they're bound to get themselves into trouble if risk is not minimized.
7. Protect Your Dog from the Sun
In addition to providing shelter or shade, it's important to take other measures to protect your canine from sun exposure since it can lead to sunburns or heatstroke. Especially vulnerable are non-pigmented (white) areas of your dog’s skin. You can buy sunscreen products for dogs; look for them at your local pet store or your vet. If your dog gets sunburned, take him to the vet immediately.
Make sure that your dog is always properly hydrated. Provide him with fresh drinking water when he's in the garden, and watch out for the signs of a heatstroke, like panting heavily and excessive drooling. You can even install a cheap misting system and set it on automation. If you suspect that your dog suffered a heatstroke, wet down his feet and ears to begin the cooling process and then get him to the vet right away.
8. Beware of the Insects
They may be just as annoying to dogs as they can be to us. Pay attention to bee stings and spider bites. Bee sting symptoms in dogs include trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing and collapse. If your Fido gets bitten by a bee, remove the stinger since it will keep releasing venom until you do. You can use a credit card to scrape the bitten area. Put some ice on the area and use Benadryl cream or calamine lotion. Get in touch with your vet immediately if your dog shows these symptoms, especially if this is his first bee sting.
If you think that your dog has been bitten by a spider, look for visible blisters. They are often present, although not always. Your dog could react to the venom in two hours or more. Take him to the vet right away if you notice panting, abdominal pain, drooling, cramping and paralysis, which are symptoms of black widow bite. Brown recluse bite will cause vomiting, pain and seizures. You must react fast or with spider bites since they can even lead to death.
9. Other Garden Hazards
Take precautions to prevent other potential dangers that can harm your dog in the garden, like protruding nails, exposed wires or sharp edges on fencing or your furniture. Avoid having long standing water in your garden, like ponds or bird baths. These can produce hazardous algae and cause infections like leptospirosis among other water intoxication risks.
If there's a risk of it, ensure that vermin or snakes are kept out of your garden by removing debris and cleaning up the leaves since that gives them a place to hide. If you keep your trash in your garden, keep it in bins that have tightly fitting lids or, if you can, store the trash in your shed or garage, out of your dog’s reach. Your dog can have a lot of fun in your garden and it is possible to have a beautiful garden and let your pooch play in it if you follow these simple safety tips.