Keeping Your Dog Safe Outdoors

Updated on September 15, 2016

It can be one of the most beautiful things you'll ever see: a dog running and playing to his heart's content outside. There are dangers for your furry family member outdoors, too, but with a little caution and a few simple guidelines, you can be sure that your pet enjoys the outdoors for years to come.

Always Monitor The Weather

Dogs love to go with us everywhere, especially outside. However, they don't always respond to the weather the way that we do. They have a different method of cooling themselves than we do and they can become overheated or hypothermic much faster than we can. Certain breeds do not handle the heat very well at all, such as bulldogs. Others, such as those with thin coats, do not handle cold weather well. Dogs should be brought inside when weather is too extreme. Never leave your dog in a car with the windows rolled up, even for a minute and even if you don't think it's that hot outside. If your dog cannot come inside with you, he will be happier at home.

Signs of overheating in dogs

  • Panting
  • Disorientation
  • Fast, noisy breathing
  • Collapsing
  • Convulsing
  • Bright red or blue gums
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Signs of hypothermia in dogs

  • Shivering
  • Slow shallow breathing
  • Weakness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blank stare
  • Fixed and dilated pupils
  • Heartbeat that’s hard to find
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma

Always Check Your Dog For Parasites

Dogs that go outside can be bitten by fleas, ticks, chewing lice, mosquitoes and more. These parasites can carry diseases that can seriously harm your pet, like Lyme Disease. Always check your pets for parasites and put them on a preventative treatment to control the number of parasites that affect them. If your dog exhibits signs of anemia or Lyme Disease, take him to the vet right away.

Signs of Anemia in dogs

  • tiredness
  • exercise intolerance/difficulty exercising
  • decreased appetite
  • pale gums

Signs of Lyme Disease in dogs

  • fever (103 and 105°)
  • lameness; trouble walking or moving
  • swelling in the joints
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • lethargy or acting tired
  • loss of appetite

Don't Leave Your Dog Tied Up

It goes without saying that your dog should not live outdoors on a chain, but even if your dog is only on a tether for a short time, he can still be hurt. Dogs on chains can become strangled or injured by the chain, especially when they are frightened. They may panic and attempt to escape a loud noise or other frightening situation, causing them to get hurt. There is also the danger from a dog on a chain. Because they know they are unable to flee from danger, dogs on chains often become hyper-territorial and overly aggressive; in fact, many dog attacks involve chained dogs. If your dog bites somebody, he could be taken from you and destroyed.

Living on a chain is also a lonely, excluded life for your pet. Dogs want to be part of our families, but more than that, social interaction is necessary for them because they are a pack animal. Dogs that interact with the family are more social, friendlier and happier. Dogs, like all family members, have a place and a job to do within the family structure. They are happiest when they are able to do it.

Most importantly to the safety of your pet, though, is the fact that a dog on a chain is an easy target for predators and people who steal or are cruel to animals. Your dog cannot run away from danger when he is tied up.

  • Don't leave your pets tethered outside for any length of time where you cannot see them
  • Place tethers close to the house so that anyone approaching your dog will be seen
  • If you hear your dog barking while he is tethered, check to see why
  • If you leave the house, put your dog inside

Don't Let Your Dog Run Loose

Not only is this illegal in most areas, it is dangerous. Dogs that run at large can be hit by cars, killed by predators like coyotes in rural areas, attacked by other dogs, eat things that make them sick, and they can also harm other people's animals or destroy other people's property. They can become lost, they can become injured to where they cannot get home, they can be bitten by snakes or even shot.

Whether you live in the city or a more rural area, nothing sours a neighbor or community relationship faster than a dog that will not stay in his own yard. If your dog uses the bathroom in a neighbor's yard, the neighbor will be very unhappy with you and your dog. If your dog kills a neighbor's livestock, attacks their pets or chases their children, he may be seized by the county and euthanized. Even if your dog is friendly, not everyone is kind animals. Many tragic events have happened in situations where dogs were allowed to run at large. Dogs that are not with their family are easy targets.

  • Never allow your dog to run at large, even if you live in the country
  • If you do allow your dog off-leash, always keep him in your sight
  • Train your dog so that he will obey if he must be called back
  • Socialize your dog well so that he does not go after people or their animals
  • Always clean up after your dog

Don't Let Your Dog Bark Excessively

Dogs bark. It's just a fact of life. Fish gotta swim, bird gotta fly, dog gotta bark. However, dogs that bark excessively are a nuisance to the entire community and people may decide to take matters into their own hands if you do not do something to control it. Many wonderful pets have been stolen and even killed for this very reason. Dogs that bark too much also lose their ability to guard the home (their primary function and a job they take very seriously) because when a dog barks all the time, people start ignoring it. This creates a situation where the dog may be trying to alert their family to a real problem but the family does not notice because they are used to the dog's constant barking about everything.

Dogs bark for many reasons. They bark because they are alerting others. They bark because they are happy. They bark because they are afraid. They bark because they are overstimulated. They bark because they are bored. Excessive or nuisance barking is a sign that there is a problem somewhere. This problem should be found and addressed. Adequate attention, training and exercise are the best ways to curb nuisance barking.

  • Don't allow your dog to bark excessively while he is outside; bring him in
  • If neighbors complain that your dog is barking too much, don't ignore it
  • Exercise your dog so that he does not have to spend excess energy in other ways
  • Socialize your dog well so that he does not bark at every noise or person

Keep a Reasonable Number of Dogs

Loving animals often means the more the merrier. However, more dogs means more noise and more potential for problems, even if you live in the country. Dogs that "pack up" can display behavior they ordinarily would not. They can become aggressive and territorial. They may seek out other dogs to fight with, or pull down livestock. If they escape the yard, they may run the streets chasing or attacking people. Many fatal dog attacks involve more than one dog. Dogs in a pack may also turn on weaker members of the pack and attack or even kill them. This can result in your dogs being poisoned or shot by neighbors, killed by other animals or seized by the county and destroyed. Police officers that encounter aggressive dogs will also shoot them.

Most areas have ordinances against having too many dogs. It is best not to have more than 3 adult dogs, regardless of the law in your county. This prevents them from all ganging up on one dog or other animals in the house. The best way to keep the number of animals in your household down is by spaying and neutering your pets. Pets that have been sterilized are happier, healthier, friendlier and they live longer.

  • Spay or neuter your pets
  • Don't take on more animals than you can control or care for
  • Make sure enclosures can hold the number and type of dogs that you have
  • Don't allow your dog(s) to run with neighborhood dogs, even in the country
  • Learn to recognize the signs of dominance in dogs

Don't Leave Your Dog in an Unlocked Enclosure

Dogs love being outdoors, so there may be times when your dog wants to stay outside for a while, especially when it's nice out. If you can't stay out there with him, keep him in an enclosure that has a lock. This not only prevents him from escaping and eliminates issues involved with tethering, it prevents other animals from entering and it stops people from stealing or harming your dog. If you must leave the house, bring your dog inside.

If you choose to place a shelter in the enclosure for your dog, make sure that he cannot stand on it and escape - or injure himself trying.

The dog cannot get to the roof of the doghouse
The dog cannot get to the roof of the doghouse

We love our dogs and we love being outdoors hanging out with them. Our pets are our family and as long as you follow these simple guidelines, you can lower the risk to your furry family members considerably.

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