How To Keep Your Dog Safe Outdoors
Dog running outside

Keeping Your Dog Safe Outdoors

By Diane Morgan

Your yard is an important place for your dog. It is his playpen, bathroom, and laboratory, where he carries on all sorts of exciting experiments, often involving digging up dirt, swallowing strange objects, and meeting new friends, including hornets, snakes, and dognappers. 

There is much you can do to make sure that your pet has only safe, enjoyable outdoor experiences. Ideally, your dog should be outside only when you are. (Puppies should never be left alone.) Unattended dogs face the following challenges:


Depending on where you live, your dog may encounter bears, skunks, porcupines, alligators, hornets, poisonous toads, rabid cats, and bigger, meaner dogs. Many of these critters are not deterred even by a fence.


Dogs were bred to be companions to people, and they dislike being alone. Lonely, bored dogs are more apt to bark, chew, chase bicycles, dig holes under the fence, and escape. 

If your dog is spending part of the day in the yard, give him plenty of interactive toys.


The following is a list (not exhaustive) of poisonous plants: almond, amaryllis, apricot pit, autumn crocus, begonia, bleeding heart, caladium, castor bean, sacred bamboo, choke cherry, daffodil, delphinium, Easter lily, foxglove, hibiscus, hydrangea, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Jimson weed, kalanchoe, lantana, lily of the valley, marijuana, milkweed, mistletoe, morning glory, oleander, peach pit, philodendron, rhubarb leaf, rosary pea, shamrock, and yew. 

The friendly garden mulch or compost pile can contain dangerous molds and bacteria, so keep your dog away from it. The once trendy cocoa bean mulch, like chocolate, can be toxic to dogs who are attracted to its flavor.


Fence your yard. Even the happiest, most secure dog may be seized by wanderlust, so a sturdy fence is essential to his safety. If your dog is a digger, you may actually need to pour a concrete curb along the base of the fence or bury the fence several inches belowground. You can also bury cinderblock a foot underground right by the fence. 

Although some people swear by electronic fences, a conventional fence not only keeps your dog in but also keeps other dogs and neighborhood bullies out. Some dogs, if given sufficient motivation, will even tear through an electronic fence. And once they’re out, they tend to stay out, unwilling to risk another shock to get back in. A standard fence doesn’t require electricity, special collars, or electric shocks to confine a dog. Padlock all gates to keep out dognappers and curious children.

On trips or in places where a fence is not available, you may need to stake your dog out using tie-out cables. The easily portable Four Paws® Walk About® Spiral Tie-Out Stake screws easily into the ground. This is a great device for temporarily tethering your dog when you are on a trip or outing. 


Dogs suffer severely from temperature extremes, with some breeds being more sensitive to heat and others to cold. No dog of any breed has fun standing around alone in a yard shivering or panting. 


Your dog can drown in the family swimming pool if he is not supervised. Pools should be fenced off from curious dogs, who find them absolutely irresistible, especially, it seems, when the solar cover is on. Solar covers cannot support a medium-sized dog’s weight, and if your dog gets trapped underneath, he could drown. 


Make sure that your dog has plenty of fresh water. An automatic watering dish is a must for all but the briefest outdoor stays.

Four Paws®, Magic Coat®, and Wee-Wee® products are available at major pet stores everywhere in the U.S. Please check with your local retailer for product availability near you.