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Safety and Dangers

In many ways, our dogs are like perpetual children. Many of them never mature, and unfortunately, they never learn to avoid certain dangers.  Therefore, it is our job to protect them. I don’t want to scare anyone unnecessarily, but you always need to be aware of possible threats to your dog’s well-being.

Many dogs eat things that could be very harmful. Some will eat nearly anything (rocks, pantyhose, electrical cords, safety pins, etc.), some breeds seem more prone to the desire to eat non-food items, a condition known as Pica. In particular, retrievers can make a snack of anything they can manage to swallow. This may have to do with the fact that they’ve been bred to use their mouths extensively in their work. If you have a dog who is prone to Pica, you will learn to become very neat and tidy.

Many dogs die from ingesting poisons. Anti-freeze seems to be particularly attractive to dogs. It has a sweet taste, but just a small amount can kill a dog in a very short period of time. The same is true of many pesticides. Even lawn chemicals can do damage over time. If you use lawn chemicals, make sure you keep your dog off the lawn for at least twenty-four, preferable forty-eight hours. The chemicals from lawn treatments stick to the dog’s paws and then the dog licks them. Always wash off your dog’s paws after is has been on a treated lawn. Human medications, such as Tylenol and Advil, can be deadly for dogs, even in small doses. If you ever suspect that your dog has eaten human medications, or anything toxic, call the veterinarian immediately. Every dog owner should go to the ASPCA website and look at all the things we use and eat on a daily basis, and all the things that your dogs can come in contact with that are Toxic.

“Leave it” and “Trade it:”
A very useful exercise that may help you control what your dog puts in her mouth is the “leave it” cue. You teach the dog that “leave it” means to move away from the object she is approaching. You begin teaching this cue by showing the dog a piece of food. As the dog starts to take the food say, “Leave it” (in a pleasant tone) and wait for the dog to stop trying to get the treat and looks up at you. Say, “Yes!” when the dog looks up at you or looks away from the treat and give him the treat. The idea is to offer your dog something better than the object you’ve asked your dog to leave alone. Once your dog knows what “leave it” means, you can use it for anything you don’t want her to touch. Trade it is a similar command. I use, “trade it” when the dog already has an object in his mouth I want him to give up. I wave a tasty treat under the dog’s nose as I ask, “trade?’ Usually the dog will drop the object to take the treat. You can then give your dog the treat and move the dropped object away.

Lost Dogs:
Many, many dogs get lost and never return home. Often this is a preventable problem. First of all, a dog should never be allowed to run loose, regardless of where you live. Loose dogs get hurt and lost. If you allow this you are knowingly putting your dog in danger. Your dog needs to be on a leash or in a secure, area when outside.

Having a current license and identification tag can help get your dog returned should he accidentally get lost. You can also have a tiny microchip implanted between the dog’s shoulder blades for identification. The microchip is registered so that a scanner picks up the number on the microchip and you are notified if your dog is found and taken to a vet or a shelter. Implanting the chip is no more painful than getting a shot. Many lost dogs end up being hit by cars or even stolen. It is never safe to let your dog run loose unless you are in a safe, designated place and the dog is under voice control.

Outdoor Confinement:
Even if your dog is in a fenced yard or enclosure, you still need to keep an eye on him. Many dogs dig under fences or jump over them and escape. They can also be threatened by people or animals that come into your yard. Someone could open a gate and accidentally release your dog. Many people use “invisible fences” and are very happy with them. However, there are several possible problems. One of the problems with these fences is that they don’t keep others out. Someone intent on harming or stealing your dog has easy access. Also batteries in the collar can run low and die. Many owners don’t remember to check them often enough. In addition, some dogs are willing to take the shock in order to get to what they want. Dogs
who love to chase will not be deterred by the shock. Once through an invisible fence, a dog will not return and risk another shock. You must take the time to “train” your dog what the invisible boundary is before trusting the invisible fence will work with your dog.

Leaving a dog tied in your yard on a rope or chain is a very bad idea. Your dog could become tangled in the rope or chain and either choke or hurt herself. As with the other methods of outdoor confinement, someone could let her loose or steal her. Other dogs may attack and harm her and she cannot escape.

Seasonal Dangers:
We are coming into warmer weather with the summer season. Be careful of extreme temperatures. Your dog needs plenty of shade and fresh water if outdoors in the summer. Leaving your dog in the car in summer, even with the windows down, for even 10 minutes is asking for trouble. It is also against the law in many states. Your car heats up very quickly, and your dog may die. If the sun is shining, and it is above 20 degrees outside, it can become too hot for your dog to remain in the car. If for some reason I have to leave my dogs in my car, I leave the car running with the air conditioning on. You can carry 2 sets of keys and lock your car while it is running with the air conditioning on. Use the other key to open the doors when you return from your “short” absence. Never allow your dog to ride in the back of a pickup truck. The dangers of falling out or being killed in a minor accident is very high. This is only common sense. If your dog needs to ride in the bed of your truck he should be contained in a proper crate that is attached to the bed of the truck.

Bee stings and bug bites are another summer danger to be aware of. Many dogs have allergic reactions to stings and bites and some are deadly. Keep Benadryl on hand in case a bite or sting occurs. You’ll usually notice a swelling of the face/eye area if your dog is having an allergic reaction. Call your veterinarian and ask about the proper dosage of Benadryl for your dog should a sting or bite occur. Seek veterinary care immediately for an allergic reaction.

A rule of thumb is if it’s too hot for you to be outside in the heat for long periods of time in the summer it’s too hot for your dog.

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer with your “Best Friend.”

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