June 18, 2024 – 

Thank you to Bark’n Big for guest writing this blog, as part of our monthly Business Partner Program. Learn more about Bark’n Big here.

Summer’s here and the livin’ is good for canine family members.  What dog doesn’t love to spend time outside in the summer?  With proper shade and a cool drink, dogs can nap and play outside for hours.

For yards that face a side street or a park, pups love to be able to see what’s going on.  Fortunately for them, dog parents can give their pups a yard with a view by installing a plexiglass globe. A few clever and savvy dog owners accomplished the same thing, without having to buy the globe (or keep the plexiglass clean from nose smudges!).  Genius!


Life for humans, on the other hand, is busy….especially in summer when lawns need to be mowed, weeds need to be pulled, and kids need to be carted to various sporting events and practices.  With so much going on, we can’t always be there to keep an eye on our pups.  Even in the most diligently dog-proofed yard, accidents can still happen.  Let’s take a stroll around a typical backyard to see where potential dangers exist and what we can do to keep our pups as safe as possible.

Everyday Backyard Hazards

Fertilizer and Chemicals – If you use fertilizer or weed killer, be sure to keep your dog off the treated areas for a few days until the applications have been watered in and have dried, or until it rains.  Before spraying any chemicals, don’t forget to pick up any water bowls, toys, or bedding and bring them inside so they aren’t exposed to accidental over-spray.

Fence Gaps – Since it’s now summer, no one is thinking about snow.  Unfortunately, if you live in an area that typically gets winter moisture, the residual effects may have created some unforeseen hazards for your pup.  As snow melts, it can cause shifts in the ground beneath fences, exposing gaps that can become escape routes — especially if a determined pup helps the process along by also doing a bit of digging.

Since fence gaps can allow your pup to get OUT, they can also allow wildlife to get IN!  In addition to the potential wounds your pup might get if they find themselves in a confrontation, these animals also carry rabies and other contagious diseases.  It’s hard to keep venomous snakes and poisonous toads out of any garden. Even non-poisonous reptiles can transmit salmonella, bacteria, and parasites if your pup’s curiosity gets the best of them, and they gobble one up.

Do your best to secure your yard by eliminating gaps at the bottom of your fence.  Be sure to look at your fence from both sides to have the best chance of identifying potential breaches.  As an added precaution, consider burying chicken wire about a foot below the bottom of your fence to keep Fido in and Wile E out.

Uncovered Window Wells – When dogs are in hot pursuit of a ball, a squirrel, or a bird, they are laser-focused on the prize and the thought of looking before they leap doesn’t even enter their minds.  Because basement-level windows are intended to allow people to evacuate in case of an emergency, window wells are usually pretty deep.  An accidental tumble down a window well will definitely affect your pup’s confidence for a while and may even lead to a broken limb.  Heavy-duty plastic window well covers will prevent your pup (or a bunny) from falling into the well, while still allowing light to reach basement rooms.

Standing Water – Most homeowners don’t have to look very far to find incidents of standing water on their property.  Bird baths, empty buckets, kiddie pools, and even dogs’ water bowls are common culprits.  While water bowls are cleaned and refilled often enough that they are unlikely to pose any health risks to our pups, other sources of standing water can become unintentional breeding grounds for mosquitos, which carry heartworm larvae that can be transferred to your dog through a single bite.  Believe it or not, catnip may act as a natural flea repellant in your yard (and, if eaten by your dog in small quantities, catnip provides a good source of vitamin C).  While catnip won’t make your dog loopy like it does cats, you may notice that it’s a mild sedative for dogs.

Touching briefly on water bowls, it’s best to choose stainless steel.  Plastic dog bowls scratch easily, and the abrasions are natural breeding grounds for bacteria, especially if the water bowl sits in the sun.  Stainless steel is a more sanitary option, and unlike plastic bowls, they won’t crack in winter months.

Paw Injuries – You would be surprised by how many vet visits are required each year because of gashes in dogs’ paws from exposed metal landscape edging.  While some landscape edging has a protective coating, the harsh sun can cause it to crack and expose sharp edges that dogs have an uncanny ability to find!  Do a periodic check around your yard to ensure all sharp, exposed edges are pounded into the ground or receive a fresh coat of protective covering.

Splinters – Weathered boards on wooden decks or porches can cause splinters to puncture your pup’s paws.  By keeping them painted or treated, incidents of splinters hurting your dogs’ paws will be less likely.

Artificial Turf – The benefits of artificial turf – especially for pets – are many.  Cleaning up after your pup is super easy when they go on turf.  Muddy floors – during winter months when squishy lawns inevitably bring mud into your house every time your pup goes out to the bathroom – are a thing of the past.  Dogs quickly realize that turf isn’t ‘diggable’ so they don’t usually try.  Surprisingly, snow actually melts much faster on artificial turf than it does on a traditional lawn.  For pups with a grass allergy, that problem is eliminated too.  There is one potential downside to artificial turf in the summer – it gets HOT!  If you opt for artificial turf for your yard, be sure there are shady spots where your pup can still relieve themselves without burning the pads of their paws.  If heat is a problem as the sun moves across your yard throughout the day, a cantilever umbrella or a shade tarp both cover larger areas, giving dogs ample space to escape the heat (and enjoy the best afternoon nap ever!).

Swimming Pools – Swimming is great exercise for dogs and most of them really love it!  In addition to getting a good work-out, cooling off, and having some fun, this is an activity that naturally brings families together.  As a low-impact exercise, swimming can be especially good for older dogs and even overweight dogs.

Most dogs naturally know how to swim, yet this can be quite frightening for young pups until they build confidence with this skill.  Just as training wheels help small children learn how to ride a bike, doggie life vests can do the same for your future canine swimmer.

With repetition and tasty rewards, dogs can learn how to climb out of the pool using the stairs.  This is a good thing to teach your dog anyway, as there may be an instance when your pup falls in the pool when you’re not around.  Without knowing how to save themselves, a pup could exhaust itself and drown.

Although most canine swimmers will drink pool water because, well, it’s RIGHT THERE, chlorine can cause stomach upset and should be avoided as much as possible.  Make it a point to have your pup lap up some fresh water before their swimming adventures begin.  After a bit of play time, bring a bowl of clean water so your dog can take a refill drink, so they’re not tempted to drink water from the pool.

Mushrooms – Most of us have found mushrooms growing in our lawns (or while on a walk with our pups).  Mushrooms can kill dogs – QUICKLY!  One problem with mushrooms is that they can grow very quickly and seem to pop up almost overnight.  Another problem is that they can be hard to completely remove from your yard.  Dogs are naturally curious and since they have such a keen sense of smell, mushrooms can easily be on the menu anytime they are outside.

Not all mushrooms are toxic, but the ones that are toxic are frequently fatal.  Many dogs are sickened and killed each year after eating poisonous mushrooms.  Prevention is the most important thing you can do!

Depending on the type of mushroom and the size of your dog, it may not take much to cause some serious harm. Eating just one or two mushrooms could be a problem, since poisonous mushrooms attack the liver – an organ that is too important to lose.

While poisonous mushrooms are often found in the wild – on hikes or in marshy areas – that’s not always the case.

Fans of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may remember that he lost his beloved French bulldog, Brutus, due to mushroom poisoning.  Saddest of all is that the mushrooms were growing in his own yard.

Common signs of toxic mushroom ingestion:

  • Weakness
  • Wobbling, problems with balance, or walking like they’re drunk
  • Vomiting
  • Salivating
  • Yellowing of skin and whites of eyes
  • Sleep-like coma
  • Tremors
  • Vocalization
  • Unusual agitation
  • Seizures

So, why do mushrooms grow?  Damp conditions are the leading culprit, yet mushrooms are the result of three different factors – the other two are suitable temperatures and the presence of decaying organic matter (such as grass clippings).  When your lawn remains damp (due to excessive rain or over-watering), fungus grows.  If your lawn has spots that are lower than other areas of your lawn – where water may pool – it may be time to level those areas out, so your lawn is able to drain properly and dry out.

Unfortunately, getting rid of mushrooms is only a temporary fix since the mushrooms you see are simply the above-ground evidence of what’s going on below the ground.  If you see mushrooms in your lawn, pull them out and dispose of them in a closed container where your pup can’t get to them, and the mushroom spores can’t travel to other areas of your yard.  

While most people might think that applying fungicide treatments to areas where mushrooms grow would be the best thing to do, this doesn’t really tackle the issue that causes mushrooms to grow in the first place, and unfortunately, it doesn’t kill the mushrooms either.  A quick internet search will give you some natural DIY ways to help reduce mushrooms in your lawn.

There are more than 14,000 species of mushrooms and many of them are safe and edible.  Note, though, that many of the edible options also have poisonous look-alikes.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution.  If you believe that any of your pets may have eaten a poisonous mushroom, save a sample and snap a few pictures of the mushrooms (making sure to take photos of all the identifying parts – the gills, the cap, the base of the stem), then contact your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline immediately!

Toxic Plants & Mulch – Toxic plants are one of the biggest backyard dangers to dogs.  Common garden favorites such as azaleas, daffodils, daisies, elephant ears, hollies, hostas, hydrangeas, oleander, peonies, tulips, and anything in the lily family are toxic to dogs.  When planning to landscape your yard, it’s best to avoid these plants.  If any of these are already in your yard, you might want to brighten someone’s day by gifting these plants to them.  

Closely related to toxic plants is a certain kind of mulch, namely cocoa mulch.  Because of its insect-repellent properties, cocoa mulch is becoming more popular.  As a byproduct of chocolate production, though, this mulch can be as toxic to your dog as a chocolate bar so if you can find a suitable alternative, cocoa mulch should be avoided.

Vaccinations & Medical Prevention – As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep your dog’s rabies vaccination up to date, yet that could prove invaluable if an uninvited (and rabid) guest wiggles its way into your yard.

We briefly touched on mosquitos and heartworm above.  While catnip can be helpful in naturally keeping mosquitos away from your pup, heartworm prevention is a better precaution against mosquitos.  Flea and tick collars also help to keep your pups safe whenever they’re outside.

Predators!  By nature, predatory animals are survivalists and opportunists.  They WILL eat something, it’s just a question of what.  Tying your dog up in your yard will make your pup an easy target and it will prevent them from being able to run away. One easy option, especially for small dogs, is making sure your pet wears a bright harness or other protective clothing as a deterrent. If you have a backyard deck, porch or patio, pet gates may help corral your pup in a safe area.

Flying predators like hawks and other large birds of prey have excellent vision and can easily tell if the odds are in their favor when they see a small dog or even a cat out in the open in someone’s yard.  What flying predators aren’t used to encountering is lengths of twine, fishing wire, or strings of lights that have been hung in a crisscross pattern across your yard.  The confusing obstacle course created by these strings can prevent large birds from making a dive at small house pets.  An added bonus is that your yard will look stunning at night.

Dogs love summer and they love their owners.  Love them back by safeguarding their playground and giving them the best life they can live!