We want to take care of what’s ours. Our homes. Our property. But most of all, those who are important to us. This means our families which are made up of our spouses, our children and our pets. We wouldn’t let our kids roam around the backyard unguarded, unfenced or untethered. The same goes for our puppy.
Does your yard protect your puppy or will it end up looking like the raptor paddock from the original Jurassic Park movie? Let’s go over what you’re doing right as a puppy parent and what you can do better.
Why is my puppy a backyard escape artist?
They say the grass is always greener. The same goes for our canine companions. They always want out, it seems. But why? There are a few answers to that question.
Your dog is a social creature. (Maybe we should have said paw-rty animal?) They want to meet and make new friends. You’ve heard and seen those stereotypical ideas and commercials of yesteryear that have a dog chasing after a car? It’s honestly not too far from the truth.
It’s this incessant need for companionship and new experiences that drive this primal force to jump over or dig under the barrier that stands between them and the outside world.
But maybe your dog is skittish around people and things they don’t know? The same desire to get away and be free to hide where they can feel safe applies here too. We have all seen how a dog responds during a thunder heavy rainstorm or with all of the explosions of a July 4th celebration.
Minor versions of these could occur on any given Sunday. Any tiny, unexpected auditory or visual incursion could send them running for the hills. Literally.
It could be something deeper. Genetics might play a huge part in how a dog acts. Dogs have been bred for centuries to do very specific activities. Whether it be dogs bred for hunting or herding or several other sporting types, there is a voice inside that beckons them to focus on the one thing that they’ve known at a DNA level their entire existence. And there’s very little, outside of training, that you can do about it.
Boredom sucks. If you had to go all day without your cellphone or laptop or best friend then you might go a little stir crazy too. When left outside for lengthy periods of time, your dog wants to interact and play and find new activities to kill the time. Just as they should. Running away or escaping seems like a sensible next step for them.
There are a million other reasons that your dog tries to escape, but while they are in the yard, is your yard safe and comfortable for them?
Less surf, more turf!
Speaking of the green grass of home… There are two main things that dogs love to do in the backyard. Dig holes and use the bathroom. There are things that you can do with your lawn in the rear to make it safer, more comfortable and less likely to be destroyed by your pup.
For those of you with smaller yards, a hardscape made of brick, stone or stone mulch might be a suitable replacement for the more traditional scenery. But this isn’t for everyone as especially those with larger lots will want some semblance of a yard.
A walkway constructed of stone or brick can prevent mud or dirt from getting caked in between their little paws and toenails. But this is only a place to start. You still have to make sure that the verdant lawn will withstand the constant bombardment from your dog.
For those of you in warmer climates, Bermuda grass is a tough one to beat. Places with an actual four seasons will probably want Kentucky bluegrass. Ask your local home and garden store what the best native grass is for your area as they’ll know what your climate can best support.
You might not like to exert yourself mowing and hedging that lawn, but it could make your dog’s life a lot easier. This simple, yet tedious, set of tasks can prevent fleas and ticks from swarming your animals. Added bonus: having a simple and clutter-free yard leaves little to no places for enemies like snakes to hide. It goes without saying if you are using chemicals to treat for vermin, insects or weeds, do your research and verify that they are pet friendly.
Like it or not, there are some plants and trees that are toxic to your pet. The APSCA is an excellent resource for which plants might hurt your furry friend. If you already know that one or more of these are in your yard, don’t panic! You can either surround them with a tinier fence or cage designed with chicken wire to ward off curious canines. Of course, you can remove them altogether. There’s always time.
Also, a quick reminder: exposure is a beast battled best with shade. On hotter or just sunnier days, your pup will need to beat the heat by making certain that a covering of some kind is available and obvious to your dog at all times. While your glade loves the sunshine, your dog needs the shade.
Backyard safety & preventing the four-legged great escape
There are but three ways a dog might escape a fence. Over, under or through. There’s a simple solution to each of these problems.
Like we said before, dogs love to dig. How do you prevent them from traversing underneath your fence? It’s as simple as a few rocks or some chicken wire. If they can’t get to the dirt, they can’t plow into it. That’s where the rocks come into play.
If a foundation of stones doesn’t appeal to you, then consider installing chicken wire underground. While this won’t prevent them from shoveling the ground, it will keep them from succeeding in getting through.
Maintenance is key. Fences don’t last forever. While they’re not fairweather friends, over time, wood and other such materials can rot and decay. Replace and repair any holes in the perimeter to prevent the inevitable attempt of a breakout.
We would love to communicate with you some elaborate plans for a dog that is taller or spryer and can leap tall fences in a single bound. The answer is pretty simple. Build a taller fence, add an extension so that your whole fence isn’t lost. For those who can climb rather than jump, affix a dog-friendly paint application that will make the surface slippery. For those first-time fencers, plywood is a great way to fend off the tricky alpinists.
Distraction is a solution as well. Instead of allowing them to dig up all sections of the yard, put in a space that will allow them to excavate to their heart’s content. Don’t we all love a good sandbox?
Timing is everything!
Your dog LOVES you. The easiest and best way to keep your dog safe and sound, staying at home in your backyard? Don’t leave him or her there for long periods of time, especially alone.
Make your pup a place where you, your dog and your family can spend time together. If you’re playing ball with them, they more than likely won’t burrow to China. If you’re watching them gallop through the sprinkler that you’ve placed to water the lawn, chances are they won’t try and run away.
Almost every solution to an issue with a puppy is time and training. Demonstrating that you love your dog constantly will both impress him or her and breed loyalty within your pet. A few treats when they’re doing what they’ve been taught doesn’t hurt either.
Does your dog see the backyard as an environment where the four walls are containing him or her from the fun and excitement that runs rampant on the opposite side? Or does it see the yard as a place where it can frolic and play while engaging its friends and family? If you answered the latter, then you’re doing right by your furry friend.
Does your dog see the backyard as a place where he's constantly threatened and uncomfortable? Or is it a place that's been portrayed and demonstrated as cozy, having all the amenities that are desired? If you answered the latter, you’ve done your due diligence to consider, not just yourself, but also your dog.
Can your dog run through the broken slats in your picket fence? Or have you taken the time to “puppy proof” this well-intentioned barrier? Again, if you answered the latter, your dog is all the better for it. Just a few simple steps and your backyard is safe for your dog, allowing you to sleep easier at night.
Jenna and the JLDD Team