Outdoor Dog Safety
Dogs love to be outside, especially if you are there to enjoy it with them. Keep your dog safe by following a few simple guidelines to make outdoor time fun for both of you.
Before you let your dog outside:
Before even heading out the door, there are some measures you need to put into place to ensure your dog is safe while they enjoy the great outdoors.
Make sure they have the proper identification
Just like you, your dog should always have some form of identification with them whenever they go out. Various forms of pet identification include:
- Identification tags: Dogs wearing ID tags are immediately recognized as belonging to someone, rather than thought of as strays. Dogs should wear a flat buckle collar at all times with ID tag, city license and rabies tag attached. Petco carries several types of ID tags, including tags that can be engraved.
- Microchips: A tiny chip the size and shape of a grain of rice is injected under your dog's skin between the shoulder blades. The number carried by the chip is then registered with the manufacturer, local animal control, a nationwide agency or all three agencies. A chip cannot be lost like a collar. Shelters and veterinarians have scanners that read the number on the chip and can call the registry or manufacturer to get the pet parent's name and number. Be sure to change your registration information if you move.
- Pet tattoos: Not used as often since the development of microchips, your dog can also be tattooed and registered. Guide Dogs for the Blind puts a tattoo in each ear of their dogs. Tattoos can also be placed on the inside of the dog's rear leg. The drawback to this identification method is that shelter workers or strangers are unlikely to roll the dog over or examine them closely for fear of being bitten. Different registries use various types of numbering systems and often don't cross-register. Numbering systems include the dog's AKC registration number, a phone number or a number given by the registry.
Ensure the area they explore is secure
A fenced yard
A securely fenced yard is the best option for outside confinement. Always make sure your fence is high enough that your dog cannot jump over it. Walk along your fence line and look at it through a dog's eyes. Attach wire mesh fencing to the bottom of the fence if there are spaces where they will be tempted to dig out. Burying no-dig fencing several inches deep will help discourage digging. Repair any loose boards or chain-link sections. Move doghouses or storage sheds out from the fence to prevent escape by climbing.
Use a clip-on gate latches to remind others to secure the gate when they leave. Some dogs can learn how to flip up a latch on their own.
Do you have a swimming pool? It’s best to fence in your pool area so your dog cannot get in unsupervised. Also be sure to teach them how to get out. Go in the pool with them and teach them where the steps are so you are sure they can get out on their own. You can also install a pool ramp to help them get out if they need to.
A dog run
A chain-link kennel with a roof or shade screen is a good alternative when you can't have a fence around your yard’s perimeter or if the dog is a fence jumper. It is also a good solution if you have a pool. Be sure the kennel has shade, water and protection from rain and snow. Get your dog used to it gradually and be sure they aren't sitting in there barking all day when you are gone. Don't leave a dog in a dog run 24 hours a day; they need company, exercise and mental stimulation that a dog run can't provide.
A dog run in the garage with a pet door to the outside provides shelter and access for your dog to relieve themselves. However, leaving your dog in the garage can be a fatal decision. Dogs are attracted to the smell of anti-freeze and some poisons (both are often stored in the garage) and may even knock over shelves to get to them. Dog-proofing your garage is a big job, but necessary. Aerosol cans, fertilizers, tools and chemicals are all potential dangers.
Summer temperatures can go well over 100°F in an airless, closed-up garage. The heat can be worse than outdoors because there is no air circulation. Check the temperature in your garage at midday on a hot day before leaving your dog inside.
Leashing your dog
Leashing up your dog, or tying them to something, is recommended only as a temporary containment method. If you are out and about with your dog and need to step away for a moment, securing their leash to an immobile object is a good way to ensure they do not run out into a dangerous road or get into something they shouldn’t be.
However, tying a dog up in your yard for an extended period can lead to barking or aggression. They see everything happening around them, yet they can't join in. They also can't escape and, if threatened, may bite to protect themselves from real or imagined danger. Dogs that are tied out can learn to pull on a leash when walked. They are used to the tension of the chain and pull against it. A chain might get tangled and prevent your dog from getting to water or shade. They can also get tangled in the chain and become injured.
Check they’re up to date on vaccines
Before venturing outdoors your puppy should be fully vaccinated (typically occurs at around 16 weeks). However, that doesn’t mean your older dog is already in the clear. Many vaccines important to the health of your pet, such as the rabies vaccine, need to be updated yearly or every few years in order to continue protecting your pet. Check in with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is up to date on their routine vaccinations before venturing on your outdoor adventure. And, if you’re planning on traveling far from home, check with your vet to make sure that your destination and activity doesn’t warrant a recommendation for a new vaccine.
Give them their flea & tick preventive
While the warm summer months are when fleas and ticks are typically at their worst, these pests can be present in almost any climate and are threats to your pet if they are not current on a flea and tick preventive. Protect your pet from the harmful diseases they can get from these pests and consult with your veterinarian on their recommendation for an ongoing treatment plan.
Get them groomed
While we all want to look our best when going out, having your pet groomed isn’t always just for looks. Having their coat brushed and groomed can help your pet stay cool when outside in warmer months, while also reducing the risk for mats and various items getting caught in their fur. Making sure your pup’s nails are trimmed also makes sure that they are able to walk safely and comfortably.
While Your dog is outside
Make sure their area is safe
If you’re in your yard, pick up the kids' toys to prevent destruction, chewing or ingesting. Smaller toys can be swallowed and cause an intestinal obstruction that requires surgery. If your dog is likely to chew, remove garden hoses and protect wiring from the air conditioner or heating unit. Remove garden tools and always lock up chemicals.
If you’re out at a dog park, dog beach or a hike, be sure to keep an eye out of where they are able to explore. If you feel something isn’t safe for them to be getting into, put them on a leash so you can control where they explore.
Check the weather
Extreme climates, either hot or cold, can be harmful to your pet. Hot sidewalks can injure pet’s paws while cold weather can cause issues such as hyperthermia. Remember that if you are uncomfortable in any way, your pet is too.
Give them a reprieve from the elements
Ensuring that your dog has access to shade or warmth depending on the season is essential. Protective clothing, dog door access to shelter, an umbrella or doghouse can all help to make sure your dog is comfortable when outside.
And never let your dog out without them having access to water. Make sure you have bowls available in your yard with fresh water and to-go bowls or a travel bottle with you on any travels away from home.
Look for signs of distress
It is not recommended to leave a dog in the backyard all day, but if you must, try leaving them alone outside for an hour or so and observe their behavior. Some dogs are used to being alone while their pet parents are at work. Others become stressed in a new situation and need to be introduced to the backyard routine gradually. Dogs that are prone to sunburn (white fur with pink skin) should not be left outside during peak sun hours–even in the shade, they can become sunburned from reflected UV radiation.
If you’re out exploring somewhere new, pay close attention to your dog’s body language. Raised fur, panting and licking can all indicate stress or that your pet is uncomfortable and could mean it’s time to cut your outdoor time short.
Note: The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian.