Even if you think you have a safe outdoor space for your dog to play, there may be hidden dangers that could be harmful if left unchecked. Dogs can quickly get into trouble when left outdoors and to their own devices. A detailed sweep of the area around your home for potential hazards, paired with a bit of advanced planning and product research, can help ensure your pup is safe when he's in the yard.
Some flowers and plants can be toxic to dogs if ingested. The ASPCA publishes a list of known toxic foliage on its website (see Resources). While it’s best to avoid potentially dangerous plants altogether if you have outside pets, if you must plant them, do so in raised flower beds or in hanging pots that are well beyond the reach of your dog. Also beware of organic fertilizers like blood meal or bone meal, as well as mulch with cocoa beans or iron. Additionally, avoid using rat or mouse poisons or snail and slug bait, especially brands containing metaldehyde.
Many homeowners store a variety of chemicals outside on shelves, in garden sheds or tool sheds that may be easily accessible to a dog. Gasoline, paint thinner, cleaning supplies and car maintenance products like windshield wiper fluid and oil can all be hazardous to a dog. Make sure these kinds of items are safely secured out of reach of your dog in impenetrable containers. Also use caution with pesticides and weed killers. Look for products that are pet-safe, or keep your dog out of the vicinity of sprayed areas.
Dogs love the smell of garbage. If you put trash in garbage cans that don't have secured lids, you run the risk of your dog not only spreading your garbage throughout your yard, but ingesting it as well. Spoiled or rotten discarded food can make your dog sick, and common trash items like plastic water bottles, chicken bones and various types of product packaging can cause choking hazards. Don’t put trash out until right before pickup, or make sure your lids are tightly secured.
If you have a swimming pool, a large water feature, or if you live adjacent to a lake or pond, they all present potential hazards for your dog. A dog can potentially get mired in the muck and mud of a natural body of water, become stuck and unable to extract himself. Even a dog who swims well can potentially drown in a swimming pool if he is unable to pull himself out of the water because of a high or slippery wall. Keep your pup from these hazards with appropriate dog-proof gates or fencing.
Wild animals and other dogs can potentially invade your yard and get into fights with your pup. Raccoons and possums can sometimes carry rabies, and minks, groundhogs, moles and beavers can be vicious when cornered. Small dogs can be potential targets for birds of prey, such as owls and hawks. All dogs are susceptible to snake and insect bites, particularly if you live in a rural setting.