A Dog-Friendly Yard

Last month we talked about how to protect your veggie or flower garden from doggie destruction. In this edition we want to tell you how to build a yard that is not only dog-proof, but dog-friendly!

The first step is safety. What is in your yard that could potentially harm your dog? There are many common flowers that are toxic to pooches, including daffodils, azaleas, and rhododendron. If you have a vegetable plot, make sure that harmful items like garlic, onions, potatoes and tomatoes (the green parts can upset tummies!) are moved out of the reach of Fido’s curious mouth or have a barrier around them to prevent snacking. Cocoa bean mulch is awfully appealing to dogs but dangerous if eaten. Consult the extensive list at aspca.org if you are uncertain whether your plantings are toxic to dogs or not.

This is also a good time to walk the perimeter of your yard and ensure that your fence is intact and doesn’t have any loose spots where your pup can wiggle under. Make sure gates latch securely and fill in any holes in the lawn that can cause your dog to stumble in while running around.

Next, if your dog spends a good amount of time in the yard does she have access to a shady spot and plenty of clean water? There are several outdoor water fountains on the market that attach to a spigot and provide your dog with fresh water, some even have a motion detector! Not only will this give your pooch access to limitless water, but that water will not be stagnant and filled with the leaves and bugs that can contaminate a water bowl. Dog houses aren’t ideal spots for a dog to seek refuge from the sun because they trap heat. An enticing spot under a tree, the shade of an awning, umbrella, or tarp is safer. There are also “cooling” beds on the market that provide a hot dog with a cold spot to lay when the days really heat up.

Even if your yard is small, consider making room for some things for your dog to do while he’s out there. Jumps and tunnels can be found online or you can make them yourself with a little ingenuity! See our instructions on making a simple bar jump that can be taken apart and tucked away when not in use . More DIY agility equipment ideas can be found here and here.

A dedicated digging pit provides not only a place for Fido to burn off energy but a cool place to lay. Bury stuffed Kongs, outdoor toys, or dry treats just below the surface and encourage your dog to dig for the prize! You can build up a specific area in an out of the way spot using lumber or garden edging to mark the boundaries or grab a child’s sandbox to fill with sand or dirt. A box with a cover has the added advantage of being safe from wandering cats and rain. Make sure your dog’s digging area is at least partially shaded, he won’t use it if it’s uncomfortable to hang out in. More digging pit tips can be found here!

In hot weather, some dogs enjoy a shallow pool to wade or lay in. Empty and refill with fresh water every few days to prevent mosquitos from breeding! You can encourage your dog to climb in by floating fun toys or treats in the water.

Enjoy the warm weather and sunshine, and most of all, enjoy your dog!

Dog-Proof Gardening

You’ve gone to the market and loaded your basket up with tomato plants, tender pea shoots and colorful flowers. Your soil has been turned, the mulch is ready to spread, and the watering can is at the ready. The flowerbeds and veggie plots have all been planned, but have you thought about how to keep your pooch from digging up all of your hard work?

You have a few options for keeping Fido out of your garden. Some consistent boundary training work with your clicker can teach him to stay away from the begonias but isn’t foolproof (if he smells a bunny in there and you’re not in the yard to catch him there’s no guarantee your training will hold!). Raised beds or container gardens can prevent paws from trampling delicate shoots, as will a border of chicken wire or a garden fence appropriate to your dog’s height. Motion-sensing sprinklers might deter not only curious pooches but wandering cats.

Putting down a clear path for your dog to follow will help to guide them around flowers instead of through them. Stepping stones or paves will mark a place for him to walk.

Digging and trampling aren’t the only damage your dog can do to plantings! Teaching your dog to potty in a specific area will protect your flowerbeds and lawn from urine burn or worse. You can use your clicker to train him to eliminate in an out of the way spot, which not only saves the roses but makes cleaning up the yard a lot easier. To do this, leash your dog and go out with him on potty breaks. Take him to the area where you’d like him to go potty and give a cue (“go potty!” or “hurry up!”) then wait for him to “go”. When he does, click and treat him! If you are consistent in rewarding him for using the bathroom in a specific spot, other areas of the yard become less appealing.

Lastly, make sure that your dog has something to do while he’s out in the yard and that he has had adequate exercise. A ramped up dog is going to find fun wherever he can!  A kiddie pool for him to wade in when it’s warm is a good way to redirect energy, especially if you float interesting toys in it for him to fish out. Outdoor toys like the Jolly Ball are appropriate for solo play and are especially appealing to herding breeds. Most of all, interact with your dog in the yard. You can litter the lawn with toys but if someone isn’t out there to make them move Fido might not care much. Go out there with him and toss the tennis ball so that he doesn’t decide that uprooting your magnolias or eating the cucumbers off the vine is a good way to burn off energy!

Living with Multiple Dogs

To twist an old idiom into dog-speak; one’s company, two’s a crowd, three’s a pack. Taking responsibility for one dog is a not a decision to be made lightly, and taking on additional canine family members is something to be considered even more carefully.

There are the practicalities to consider, of course. How much time do you have to dedicate to walking, training, and bonding with each individual dog? If one of the dogs develops (or comes preloaded with) a behavioral or obedience issue will you have the resources available to solve it?

Finances are a factor as well. More dogs of course means more food, more vaccinations to pay for, more leashes, toys, bowls and miscellaneous dog gear to buy. It also means more fur on the floor! (And the couch… And your clothes…)

Three plus dogs really introduces more dynamics than a twosome does. Personalities can clash and the mannerisms of one dog can inspire new behaviors in the others. A determined dog can challenge the confidence of the others, resource guarding becomes more of a possibility, and a shy dog can get lost in the shuffle when the others are pushier. Take an honest look at your schedule and make sure there is time in your day to spend with each dog alone, even just a half an hour for each to have a walk or a few minutes to spend doing one-on-one training. It’s important for your leadership to have a relationship with each pup!

People often consider adding another dog to keep their current dog company. As long as personalities mesh and expectations are reasonable this isn’t a bad idea. Your dog might very well like to have a pal to hang out with while you’re at work. Multiple dogs in the house also creates the environment for a lot fun! Group play time at the park or in the yard can be more energetic and might even encourage a dog who doesn’t normally play to join in the antics. And more dogs means more snuggles for you, more wet noses to kiss at the end of the day, and more furry butts to warm your lap

If you’re thinking about adding a second, third, or fourth dog to your household and would like more info or advice, get in touch! We’re here to help you make good decisions for you and your dogs!

Mine! Mine! Resource Guarding in Dogs

If your dog grumps when you move him off the bed, growls over his precious bone or snaps when you approach him while he’s eating you may be dealing with a resource guarder. Although incredibly common, many people don’t realize that resource guarding is a serious issue. It implies a misunderstanding on your dog’s part that what he is currently protecting (whether that be a toy, a spot on the couch, or YOU) belongs to him, rather than it being a resource that you are lending him for the time being. Whether your dog is guarding from you or another dog in the household, the first step is to correct this misunderstanding through tighter leadership and to prevent escalation through management.

Although it can turn ugly, mild resource guarding between dogs is a normal behavior. Fido thinks that Bingo is eyeballing his bone and is willing to protect what he considers a valuable resource because he doesn’t understand that there are five more in the pantry. As long as Bingo acknowledges that the bone belongs to Fido with only a look passing between them, this is nothing to worry about although you may want to grant bones only when the dogs are separated. If the conflict turns to growls, snaps, or an all out fight then action needs to be taken.

If your dog is guarding from you or others in your household, in any way, you should consult your Fido trainers. Showing teeth or even stiffening over toys, his food bowl, his spot on the couch, or something stolen from the trash is not acceptable behavior and should be taken seriously. Forcing the object from your dog’s mouth or punishing him for protecting it will only make the problem worse, as your dog will learn that you are willing to go to battle over whatever it is he deems important enough to guard. Training your dog that your approach means good things for him and not the loss of his treasure with nothing in return is a much more effective way to correct this problem. This, combined with consistent, clear leadership and positive reinforcement by all humans in the house, will lessen, if not completely alleviate, the problem.

Has your dog snapped or bitten you because you dared to take something from him or disturbed his resting spot on the bed? Has he had an altercation with another dog over a special toy or treat? Although not to be taken lightly, these are solvable issues if time and effort is taken to get to the bottom of them and we are here to help!