Letting your dog have a free romp in your yard keeps him exercised, active and happy; however, dogs that are kept in a bland backyard all day are far more likely to misbehave. See tips for making your yard more comfortable and appealing to your dog.
Dogs that are bored or hungry will be tempted to eat plants, flowers or mulch, which can be toxic or splinter in their mouths or stomachs. Ask your vet for a list of poisonous plants. Avoid gardening with your dog present – he may conclude that playing with plants and digging are acceptable activities. Also, put away dangerous products like lawn chemicals, fertilizers and weed killers, antifreeze, pesticides, and outdoor grilling supplies, like charcoal and lighter fluid.
Digging is normal behavior for dogs. They dig in search of food, to investigate sounds and smells, to improve their shelter or to escape. Digging can be triggered by boredom, separation anxiety, chasing rodents or bugs, and/or a nutritional deficiency. There are many things you can try to stop your dog from digging, but because all dogs are different, what works on one dog may not work on another. A combination of training, prevention and safe deterrents is the most effective approach. Fill in the hole and place dog droppings just under the surface of the hole (make sure they are covered). This is mainly for dogs that return to the same holes. You may need to persist for a while. For big holes, peg chicken wire deep into the ground. Provide your dog with a sandpit where he can dig, and fill it with dog toys.
Dogs chew for various reasons such as stress, boredom, teething or diet deficiency. The easiest way to stop your dog from chewing is to apply a product such as Bitter Apple to it. Give your dog an alternative and keep him entertained by providing high-quality puzzle toys that reward him with treats. Every few days rotate what toys are available to him. Do not use empty water or soda bottles, containers or cooked bones that can splinter and lodge in your dog’s gums or digestive tract.
A dog will scratch the back door because all the good, fun stuff is kept inside – including you! Consider giving you dog a bone or scatter food when you put him outside. Scatter food appeals to your dog’s natural instinct to forage. Scatter bits of raw vegetables, dog kibble and other food that won’t attract wasps around the yard when you leave. Try hiding a few other treats so your dog spends extra time looking for them.
Be sure your yard includes a large water bowl filled with fresh water in all seasons. If you choose to incorporate a water feature in your yard, such as a small pond, be sure it circulates water to help avoid mosquitoes. Still-water ponds need harmful chemical additives to kill larvae that will grow there.
While being outside can make for a happy dog, being stuck in the blazing sun is unhealthy. Create a cool spot for your pooch by creating an indented area in shady place where he can relax in comfort – otherwise your dog may create his own spot in an area not of your choosing.
Dogs are more relaxed when they are covered and in familiar surroundings. Place a dog house next to you family’s house so that your dog feels like it is an extension of the larger “den”. Provide a blanket or other comfy bedding. Choose a house made of a naturally rot-resistant material such as plastic or red cedar, but do not use pressure treated wood, which can contain arsenic. Use rustproof, galvanized nails and screws.
A fence helps to keep your dog safely on your property and out of harm’s way. If your yard has a traditional fence be sure all gates latch correctly each time they are closed. If there are any holes, fill them with bricks or large stones.
Maintain your yard’s cleanliness by regularly picking up after your dog. Some dogs can be trained to use one area for toileting. While the nitrogen in dog urine can be very hard on lawns, watering the area after the dog has urinated can help minimize the damage. Keep your dog off the lawn after any yard treatments until the chemicals have dried completely. Also be careful of metal lawn edging, which could seriously cut his paws.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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