12 Ways to Keep the Backyard Furtastic for Your Dog


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our June-July issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Now is the perfect time for a quick refresher on safe backyard fun for dogs. Both canines and humans enjoy outdoor play more than emergency veterinary visits. Here’s a quickie refresher on how to keep yard time game-on!

Dog on grass by Shutterstock.
Dog on grass by Shutterstock.

1. Keep it fenced

Allowing your dog to play loose in an unfenced backyard can be problematic for even the most trained of dogs. He might be tempted to leave the yard to run after a stray cat or bolt if he’s frightened by a loud noise like thunder, fireworks, or a car backfiring. Or an unfriendly dog could wander into your yard during playtime and pose a safety threat. Unfenced playtime is risky, at best, and dangerous, at worst.

2. Don’t neglect your fence

Do regular fence checks for areas large enough for your dog to squeeze through, and close those gaps. Is your fence high enough? Can your dog tunnel out? Think like a dog, and walk every inch of your fence looking for weaknesses.

3. Include “peeking” areas

If your fence doesn’t have knotholes or spaces between the slats, your dog can’t see anything beyond it, which can result in barking, fence stalking, digging, and other behavioral issues.

4. Dedicate a digging area

For dogs who like to dig, a flower bed or newly planted garden is an irresistible temptation, especially if you fertilize with manure or something else that smells tasty. Create a digging corner filled with fresh sand. Even easier, buy a child’s sandbox from a toy store. Look for a sandbox with a cover, so local cats can’t use it as a litter box. Bury treats and chew toys beneath the sand to encourage your dog to dig there.

5. Create a water feature

A simple plastic or inflatable baby pool can be a source of great fun for water-loving dogs. Sprinkler hose attachments can serve as a cooling blast while also watering your lawn. If your pooch doesn’t appreciate the fun of a good dunking, toss some stinky treats into the baby pool, and see how fast that changes!

6. Deny access to dangerous materials

Lock away paint, fertilizer, fungicides, rakes, hedge shears, rat poison, snail bait, and other backyard care essentials in a shed, or put them in an area too high for your dog to reach.

Dog with ball by Shutterstock.
Dog with ball by Shutterstock.

7. Offer some shade

Your yard should have a cool, shady spot where your dog can take a break from play when he begins to overheat. Place a water dish in that area to encourage hydration.

8. Dogscape your yard

Create enough drainage so your dog isn’t mucking in the mud on rainy days. Laying down gravel is a good way to keep mud away from furry paws. If you have male dogs, add a few “marking” features to give him a “territory.” Large rocks, tree stumps, and potted trees will give your leg-lifting pooch a place to call his own.

9. Research all plants and trees

Include only those that are nontoxic and safe for pets in your yard.

10. Don’t use cocoa bean mulch

It’s toxic to dogs and smells just good enough to ingest. Gravel or bark are better choices. Many fertilizers are also appealing to dogs, so keep Poochie away from newly planted trees and flower beds.

11. Get a doggie door

Unsupervised backyard play isn’t recommended, but allowing your dog to let himself out to do his important business is definitely convenient.

12. Don’t scrimp on flea and tick protection

No backyard is immune to pests. Keep up to date with your dog’s heartworm medication as well, especially if your area is known for mosquitoes.

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