10 tips to keep your animal safe outdoors

Do you spend a lot of time outside with your dog? Here’s a few outdoor safety tips to keep in mind!

Outdoor safety is an important consideration for any animal guardian. Many people assume the back yard is one of the most secure places for their pets, but this isn’t always the case. Safety becomes even more important when you take your animal off the property, whether it’s for a walk around the block or a ride in the car. Below are 10 tips that are always worth reviewing, so you can keep your animal friend safe from harm’s way:

1. Supervise

Protect your dog or cat from being injured, lost or stolen by supervising him when he’s out of doors. If constant supervision isn’t possible, ensure your friend can’t get out of the yard when your back is turned. If you have a relatively small property, a fenced-in yard with a locked gate is the best way to keep a dog contained. Failing that, secure him by a long lead or tie-out near the house where you can keep an eye on him. Check that the lead can’t get wound around trees or other obstacles, and avoid choke chain collars that could strangle your dog if he gets caught on something.

Like dogs, cats should not be allowed to roam the neighborhood. Many cats can be trained to wear a harness and leash when outside. Another alternative is to build an outdoor enclosure for your feline friend (see story on page 40).

2. Use caution around gardens

Many garden plants are toxic to dogs and cats, while thorny shrubs can injure paws, eyes or ears. Keep your animal away from the garden or supervise him when he’s near the flowerbeds. If this isn’t possible, try a granular or spray-on product designed to repel animals from plantings. Choose a non-toxic, environmentally friendly product – those containing hot pepper are effective.

3. Provide clean water sources

Animals will drink almost anything if they’re thirsty. Get rid of standing water in flower pots, watering cans and other containers and depressions — it can harbor bacteria, algae or chemical residues that may make your animal sick. Supervise pets around garden ponds and cover your swimming pool when not in use.

4. Keep wild animals away

Take steps to humanely wildlife-proof your property so your companion doesn’t come into accidental contact with a skunk, porcupine or other critter. It’s also wise to regularly check for wasp or hornet nests.

5. Protect against the elements

Protect your pet from sun exposure and mosquitoes with natural, non-toxic sunscreens and insect repellents formulated for animals.

6. Use natural lawn and garden products

Avoid chemical pesticides for your lawn or garden and keep your companion indoors if neighbors are having their lawns sprayed. Ask your neighbors to warn you when the sprayers are coming.

7. Invest in the right tools

Daily walks should be fun for both you and your companion and keeping safety in mind ensures they stay that way. Start by choosing the right collar and leash. A well-made collar that won’t snap or slip off is crucial, but avoid choke chains – even the most well-behaved dog sometimes pulls or lunges and a choke chain can put a lot of strain on his throat and neck muscles. Even a regular collar can have this effect if your dog pulls a lot, which means you may need to consider an alternative such as a head collar or harness.

Leashes need to be strong and sturdy. A retractable leash is a good choice because it offers you a secure grip handle and also gives you the option of keeping the dog on a short rein, when necessary, or playing out the lead to give him more freedom. Check your leashes periodically for fraying.

If you walk at night, a reflective collar and/or leash is a good idea. Not only it will make you and your companion more visible to passing traffic, it will also help you re-locate your dog should he get away by accident.

8. ID!

Make sure you provide your dog with proper identification. A securely attached and legible ID tag is paramount, while microchipping and/or tattooing provide backup in the event the tag gets lost or damaged. Identification is also important for cats, even if they rarely get taken off your property. Explain to children about the importance of identification and advise them not to remove it from the animal.

9. Keep him on-leash

Train your dog to walk well on a leash. Unless you have access to a dog park or designated off-leash area, don’t let your companion run loose in parks, wooded areas or along beaches. Be on the lookout for broken glass, and don’t let your dog eat any discarded food or other refuse. Avoid construction sites or areas that have been sprayed with pesticides.

10. Travel safely

Consider your companion’s well-being when he’s traveling with you in a vehicle. Cats should be transported in a carrier, while dogs can be secured by means of a specially designed pet seatbelt. It isn’t wise to let your dog ride loose in the back of a truck, or stick his head out an open window. Not only could he fall or jump out, but his eyes or ears could suffer injury or infection.

Be aware of the weather. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle, even with the windows open, can rise to a stifling 102 degrees in just ten minutes, and 120 degrees in half an hour. If you’re going to the store, or some other place that doesn’t allow animals, it’s kinder to leave your companion at home.

A pet ramp or set of steps will make it easier for your dog to get in and out of the vehicle, especially if you own a van or SUV. These products are especially invaluable for older dogs, or for large breeds that are difficult to lift.

Protecting your animal from potential injury when he’s outside requires a little effort and foresight, but it’s time well spent. Accidents can happen in a second, but prevention can keep your companion safe for a lifetime.

Case study #1

David and Lee were mystified when one and then the other of their dogs came down with severe diarrhea. The dogs had no fever and remained in good spirits with good appetites so they suspected the dogs had gotten into something rather than succumbed to a disease. Since the dogs were always walked on leashes, the couple turned to their backyard. They had recently installed a small pond and though they had been careful to block access to the dogs, pawprints in the dirt showed them they had missed one spot. Suspecting the dogs had been drinking from the pond, they put them on a bland diet and planted a prickly evergreen where they spotted the pawprints. The dogs were back to normal in a couple of days.

Case study #2

When Georgina’s husky got out by accident one afternoon, she felt confident that if someone found Reena before she did, the dog’s identification would lead her home. She didn’t know, until two hours later when she found Reena at a distant neighbor’s, that her three-year-old daughter had removed the vital information from the collar pouch that the dog wore. Georgina added a button to the enclosure to prevent small fingers from opening the pouch again.