Now that spring is here (well, depending on the day of the week here in Chicagoland) I have watched as our neighborhood has started to come out of winter hibernation. With so many adults and kids out and about again, it is a good time to have a refresher course with your dogs and your human kids on methods of making sure the dogs do not get out of fenced yards, screen doors or front doors that open and close constantly.
In our neighborhood we are blessed that not only are we adults friends, but our kids are friends too, and they love to play outdoors all day and every day whenever the weather permits. I compare their movement throughout our connecting yards to a school of fish that suddenly darts to a new location without warning. Don’t get me wrong, this is fantastic and certainly beats having them in their rooms playing video games, but it also creates some stress on my part because of the amount of time the doors and gates to the yard open and close.
Here are my spring training suggestions to keep your dogs safe this season:
- Latch your screen doors: We do this ever since the day we were at a graduation party and we watched one of the host’s dogs jump up on the screen door to see something outside and accidentally press down the screen door handle. Without skipping a beat the dog and it’s canine sibling were out the door and racing down the street with a roomful of humans racing outside to try to lure them back inside. Fortunately the dogs came back quickly and nothing bad happened. Our screen door has been latched ever since on nice days when we have the front door open.
- Check your screen doors for holes and weak spots: Give your screen doors a thorough examination to ensure that there are not places that a young dog (or one who loses all training and composure when someone is outside) could jump through.
- Consider replacing screen doors with special pet screen like Phifer Pet Screen or New York wire. Pet screen is considerably stronger and more resistant to nail scratches. We switched to this after my late German Shorthaired Pointer went through our screen door and it has survived two Labrador puppies since then.
- Teach your kids the importance of making sure the fence gates are closed each and every time they go through them and how your dog’s safety depends upon them.
- Instill in your children the importance of shutting and checking the gates themselves rather than relying on their friends to do so, so that they let their friends in or out first before they go through.
- If you have multiple gates, lock all but one of them to reduce the chances of a gate being left open.
- Check each gate every time you let your dogs outside and accompany them outside.
- Teach the dogs to sit/wait if you take them through the gate.
- Lock gates or use a carabiner or other method of securing the gates to ensure that a dog does not accidentally open them by jumping up on them like Dutch once did.
- Keep your dog on leash with you or in their crates inside the house when having large groups or parties in your yard.
- Train your dogs to sit/wait at the door whenever someone comes to the door or a visitor enters the house.
- Require your dogs to sit/wait any time you go in and out of the house with them.
- Use a leash when answering the door if you are uncertain about your dog’s willingness to sit/wait with an open door.
- Teach your children the dog’s rules of sitting and waiting before the door is opened.
- Instruct kids to step outside to talk to their friends or invite the friend inside (if you do not have a screen door) instead of holding the door open to talk to friends.
- Teach everyone in the family the art of body blocking the dog’s access to the door in case they break their sit/wait. Body blocking means using your body to restrict the dog’s movement.
- Depending on the design of your home and your dog’s obedience abilities, consider blocking off your foyer or front hallway with pet gates to prevent your dog from lingering by the front door.
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