Keeping Your Dog Safe From Lawn & Garden Hazards
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
The first day of spring is such a happy day, full of the promise of better weather, green leaves and grass, and flowers. As the temperatures rise, our neighbors start to come out of hibernation and the snow shovels and containers of ice melting salt at the garden store are replaced by seeds, plants and mulch and people start to pay attention to their neglected gardens and lawns.
Yesterday I shared an older post from when Jackson was a puppy that I like to call The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree in a play on words on the KT Tunstall song. The story of The Big Black Dog and the Cherry Tree is a cautionary tale about the importance of researching the trees and plants that you plant in an area that your dog can access. Jax was fine after eating the cherry tree leaves, and we learned that our particular tree was not poisonous, but it was definitely a wake up call.
I grew up in the woods. Not a wooded lot, but the woods in the mountains. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that my parents never purchased a tree for that house or had to plant additional trees. In fact we also never had to purchase firewood, another suburban thing that mystified me after moving to this area. And so as an adult it never occurred to me that I could end up purchasing a tree for our suburban yard that could hurt or kill my dogs.
Fortunately the ASPCA has an extensive list of poisonous plants and trees on their website. Anytime you plant a tree, flower, shrub, herb, fruit, vegetable or any sort of vegetation in an area that your dog can access, consult this list: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants. There is also a printable version that you can print and take to the garden store with you: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list if for some reason you cannot pull up the list on your mobile phone. There are also Pet Poison apps that you can and should add to your phone that can be helpful when at the garden center as well as if your dog eats something questionable.
Mulch is another area to use caution and do your research. A fairly new and eco-friendly option is the Cocoa hull or cocoa shell mulch. However, it is far from dog friendly; in fact cocoa mulch is quite toxic to dogs if they eat it. I suggest watching your dog around any type of mulch, wood or rubber, because consuming any of these items is not going to be great for your dog. Here is a link with some suggestions on the best mulch options to use in your fenced areas if you use any at all: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/mulch-use-around-animals-36077.htm. We use stones in our garden areas in our back yard; although the dogs tried to chew on the rocks as little puppies, they leave them alone as adult dogs, unlike wood mulch which they still try to eat if given a chance.
Fertilizers and pesticides are also harmful to dogs, so going organic in your own yard or garden is much safer for pets as well as the humans who live in your home. There are some great ideas for organic gardening at this link: http://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/grow-chemical-free-garden/. Use caution if you follow their advice to use coffee grounds in your garden; you don’t want your pets eating the coffee grounds as those can make them quite ill.
As a general rule, I always recommend supervising your dogs anytime you are outside in addition to dog proofing your yard. A persistent dog can still get into something with you there, like Jackson proved with the cherry tree. A fast and determined puppy can still snatch up and eat something they shouldn’t like Tinkerbell proved when she managed to get a rotten cantaloupe that we had not noticed rolled away from our garden and up against our fence a few years ago. No matter how much we train them, sometimes a dog on a mission is just going to ignore your stern commands to “drop it” or “leave it” and they are going to wolf down a contraband item with the speed and determination of someone competing in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest.