Is the back yard an option? It can be, depending on the weather and other factors. All dogs suffer when it is too hot. Some are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke. If you are in a hot climate, make sure you have a shaded area or a porch where the dog can get out of the sun. It is vital they have a secure source of fresh water; by secure we mean he can't easily tip it over. Common sense is important when deciding whether it is safe to leave your dog outside: a short coated dog or a companion dog that is bred to spend his life indoors will not be able to tolerate being left outside in a cold climate.
In Your Yard
Securing Your Yard
It may not make sense to you that the same dog that is so happy to see you when you get home may want to find his way out of the back yard to freedom, but many dogs are lost each year because of this. Most dogs do not have a good sense of the dangers cars represent. Once outside your yard, they may just follow interesting scents and be so focused on those they aren't aware of approaching vehicles. They can also get frightened and run right into traffic. Many breeds are efficient diggers. They can tunnel under a wooden fence with ease. A back gate that is not latched properly can also give your dog an escape route. With smaller breeds, only a few inch gap between slats can be enough for them to squeeze through. Think of this in the positive way: your dog is not trying to escape from your house, he is perhaps trying to find you.
The first thing you need to do is check the perimeter of your yard for any gaps in the fence. One easy solution is to dig down six inches below ground and affix narrow gauge wire fencing material to your existing fence. You can hold the fencing in place below ground by burying bricks, rocks or pavers. This will make it more difficult for your dog to tunnel under, and have the added benefit or making it harder for rodents or snakes to get into your yard. You may also want to padlock your gate. A strong dog may try to push open the gate, and some gates with loose latches can even be blown open by the wind. Keeping your fence in good repair is important. If the dog can find a loose or weak slat to chew through, he will.
Safety Inside The Yard
Your beautiful back yard with the trees, flowers, grass and vegetable garden may seem like paradise to you, and your dog will certainly enjoy romping around back there, but there are safety considerations as well, and you will want to make sure your tender plants are protected from your dog.
Again, dogs love to dig. Some breeds, in fact, simplyhave to dig. For them, it is part of the joy of being alive. They don't care if what they are digging up is a prized flower garden, or the spinach crop you have been carefully tending since early spring. And a dog doesn't at all mind taking a short cut through the flower beds—trampling them as he goes. You may want to consider fencing off areas of your yard to protect your plants. This is particularly the case with frisky young pups. As your dog grows you will be able to train him to stay out the flower or vegetable garden, but to a puppy, it all looks like a playground.
Plants can be dangerous to dogs. Cactus, for example. A dog running past a cactus may injure an eye on the thorns, or species of cactus like cholla that drop segments to the ground can cause a painful wound to a dog's paws. Many other plants have spines or thorns as well. Transplant these types of plants to the front yard, or at least put a fence around them so your dog will not come in contact with the thorns.
Many people are not aware that ingesting certain common plants can be harmful to a dog, including vegetable stalks. Why would your dog want to eat the landscaping, you ask? Because it's there.
Berries, leaves, seeds, bark, twigs, foliage or in some cases the entire plant can be toxic. If your dog should ingest these, he may become ill with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, convulsions; the end result could be the death of your pet. Common plants such as oleander, azalea, hyacinth, mountain laurel and morning glory can all be extremely dangerous. Here's a surprise: the tomato plant can be toxic, too; after all, it is a member of the nightshade family. Some dogs love the sweet tomato fruit; be careful he does not get a hold of the plant itself.
Observing your dog in the backyard and training him not to go into certain areas can help, but you may need to install additional fencing to block access. If you are unsure whether a plant is toxic to animals, take it to your local nursery and ask them.
Poisons, Fertilizers, and Weed Killers
It may seem obvious that you cannot set out things like rodent poison, ant bait, or other deadly substances in a yard where a dog will be, but nonetheless every year dogs are killed because of their owners' failure to observe this simple rule. This is a tragic shame. You also need to be careful about such things as fertilizers and weed killers. With some products, it is recommend that you wait several days after applying these substances before letting your dog back on the lawn. Check the warning labels on the product or go to the manufacturer's website for more information. If you have a pest control professional spray outside, or inside for that matter, ask him how long you should wait before letting your dog around the area that has been sprayed.
Just as you did inside, look around your yard for any other dangers. Keep charcoal stored out of reach of dogs. Make sure paint or other chemicals are kept up or in a secure storage shed. Get rid of mousetraps or similar items that could injure a curious pup's nose or paws.
If the worst still happens and you suspect your dog may have gotten into something toxic or poisonous, call your vet immediately. If it is the weekend or at night, there are 24 Hour Emergency Animal Clinics in most cities you can contact. Keep the phone number handy. Here are other options:
Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA 888-426-4435(888-4ANI-HELP)
--24 hour veterinary diagnostic and treatment recommendations.
Animal Poison Hotline 888-232-8870
--staffed 24 hours a day by veterinarians and experts on toxicology and pharmacology
Remember, time is of the essence. Don't wait and hope your dog simply throws up whatever he ate or gets better. Call a veterinary professional for immediate help.