Sprucing up your yard – for the dog, of course

I wrote last time about getting your dog ready for spring and summer by taking him to the vet for a check-up and making sure his microchip is working properly.

But your pet’s outdoor environment, making it the safest and most enjoyable, is also important as the warmer months approach.

For Teddy, my family’s 10-year-old black Lab, his backyard is his retreat, sanctuary and haven, squirrels beware.

First, if you’re thinking of changing parts of your yard, plan it so you can start before most of the summer is over. Ask yourself how your backyard is situated. Do you have a quiet, peaceful, watch-the-birds-on-the-feeder view or one with joggers, bicyclists, kids chasing each other and dogs walking with their own people?

Does your yard need a new fence? If so, does it need one with spaces allowing for views outside your yard or a solid barrier that does the opposite?

Our backyard backs up to a small, wooded area so we purchased a fence that allowed us and Teddy to enjoy a view of the woods but was tall and sturdy enough that he couldn’t wander off.

If you have no fencing concerns, move on to a general spring yard cleanup. I know that by the end of March our backyard looks tired and could use one.

This is where Ed, my husband and Teddy’s fearless leader, comes in. He tackles lawn raking and debris removal, cleaning out our flower beds and picking up any dead leaves we missed last fall.

Next, with Teddy’s help, Ed does a thorough inspection of our backyard, looking for small rocks, nutshells, small twigs and sticks that need picking up – anything that Teddy would love to nibble and chomp on but could harm his teeth.

We’re fortunate Teddy isn’t a digger, but if your pooch is, your yard probably looks like the golf course in “Caddyshack.” To stop your dog from digging, it’s important to understand why he does it. Common reasons include boredom, fun, looking for a cool place to lie down or to hide a treasure.

Try creating a specific digging area just for your furry one and limit his digging to that area. Check out the source box with this column for suggestions to make the unwanted digging spots less appealing. Regular exercise, such as daily walks, and training could also help. Because this is an innate behavior, punishing your pooch won’t help.

When adding flowers, plants and trees make sure what you are choosing is not poisonous to your dog or any other pet you may have.

Finally, try to create fun spaces for your dog such as a sandbox for digging, and if your pooch likes water, a wading pool or sprinkler that he can learn to turn on without your assistance.

Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry animals who inspire her. She can be reached at spicerkarin@gmail.com.

Ways to stop your dog from digging in a spot he’s started.

1. Partially bury flat rocks.

2. Bury plastic chicken wire.

3. Citrus peels, cayenne pepper, or vinegar may wrinkle their nose.

4. Set up a motion sensor sprinkler.

5. Use rose bushes and thorny shrubs for borders.

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