Category Archives: dog safety

5 Things City Dogs Need to Know to Stay Safe

city dog luluBy Linda Cole

I’ve always lived in a small town, and though I can see the appeal a big city has for many people, I’ve never wanted to live in one. Dogs really don’t care what your preference is when it comes to rural or urban living, but city dogs need to have some specific skills to stay safe.

My dogs are used to a laid back and quiet environment, and we rarely meet other people walking their dogs when we’re out for a stroll. The only distractions include an occasional rabbit, deer or squirrel. If we take the dogs with us to a city, they’re excited and act like a tourist trying to take in everything at once. But they are also unsure and a bit uncomfortable as well. Big cities are full of life and activities that can take a little time for dogs to get used to.

Staying Calm in a Sea of People

Crowds of people fill the city sidewalks, all heading to their own destinations. Some are wearing uniforms or dressed like clowns or other characters a dog may not recognize. It’s important to help your pet feel comfortable and calm in a more chaotic environment. There may be people who want to pet your dog, and it’s up to you to make sure he knows how to politely greet people and when you should tell someone no. The last thing you want do is force your dog to do something he’s not comfortable doing. Some dogs are wary of strangers by nature.

Being Attentive to His Owner

With a lot more traffic and other distractions in a big city, a dog needs to pay attention to his owner, and it’s a must to keep him under control at all times. Retractable and long leashes can put a dog at risk of being injured if he steps out into traffic or rushes out of an elevator when the door opens. City dogs need to know and obey basic commands Dog-Animated-no-offerregardless of any distractions around him, especially when meeting other dogs while out walking. The “watch me” or “look at me” commands get your dog to focus on you and can be crucial if you need to get your pet’s attention.

Leave It and Drop It Commands

A city dog is more likely to find litter and garbage lying on the street or sidewalk, and it only takes an instant for a canine to grab something up. The “leave it” and “drop it” commands can save a dog’s life and save you money at the vet when you can prevent your pet from eating something he shouldn’t have. Since dogs are closer to the ground than you are, it’s not difficult for them to find a wrapper with part of a sandwich inside, cigarette butts, bones, cups, plastic bags or plastic utensils with bits of food on them. You may not see him grab something off the ground before you can tell him to leave it, but you can at least get him to spit it out by telling him to drop it.

Acclimating to Distractions and Noise

Larger cities have a variety of scents, distractions and street noise – people on skateboards, skates or bikes, someone pulling a wagon, in a wheelchair, pushing a shopping cart, jackhammers and other loud construction equipment. If a dog hasn’t been exposed to these sights and sounds, it can cause him to be nervous or scared of the noise and movement. Cities also have a lot more car and truck traffic on the noisy streets. Dogs that aren’t used to hearing the sound of garbage trucks, blaring sirens or honking horns may be bothered or scared by sudden loud noises.

Walking on Different Surfaces

city dog stephenCity dogs will encounter different types of surfaces they need to feel comfortable walking on. If they live in an apartment it could be a slippery hallway, stairway or lobby floor. Elevators, automatic or revolving doors can also be confusing for a dog that isn’t used to being around them.

The American Kennel Club recently added a new title to their Canine Good Citizen certification program. The Urban Canine Good Citizen tests dogs in specific skills they need to know in a big city environment, skills that help you keep your pet safe and under control.

A well mannered dog that’s comfortable and relaxed makes life easier for his owner, whether it’s in a large city or a small town.

Top photo by Lulu Hoeller/Flickr
Bottom photo by Stephen/Flickr

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Should You Let Your Dog Drink From Lakes or Rivers?

dog drinks michelleBy Linda Cole

Dogs are notorious for eating some disgusting things at times, which gives a false impression they must have a cast iron stomach. So it’s easy for dog owners to assume that a natural water source like a pond, river, stream or lake is safe for Fido to drink out of. However, there can be some nasty things lurking in the water that can harm your dog and put you at risk of developing a disease, as well. As responsible pet owners, we must beware of bacteria, parasites and chemicals that could be lurking in outdoor water sources.

There’s a reason we need to boil water taken from a natural water source before drinking it, and it’s the same reason pet owners shouldn’t allow their dog or cat to drink from ponds, streams, rivers or other water sources. Different bacteria species like E. coli and Leptospirosis, which are zoonotic diseases, can live in water and may pose a health risk to pets, along with other types of bacteria and infection-causing parasites like Giardia. Very young or very old dogs, and canines with depressed immune systems are at greater risk of developing medical concerns. Also keep in mind that boiling water won’t remove any chemicals present in it.

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Five Dog Park Risks You Need to Consider

dog park donBy Linda Cole

Dog parks are secure areas where your pet can race around with his friends and play off leash. It’s a great way for your dog to interact with other canines in a social environment. However, dog parks also come with some risks that could affect your pet’s health and behavior.


When a dog is having fun at the dog park, he may not stop when he gets overheated. Hot, humid days can zap the energy from humans and animals in the same way. Add in a heat index that makes it feel even hotter, and a warm dog can have a hard time trying to cool down. Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh drinking water and shade, and watch for signs of heatstroke.

Depending on age, health and whether he’s wet or dry, a dog can suffer from hypothermia on colder days even when the temperature is above freezing. Hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 50 degrees. There’s a risk for humans and animals whenever the body loses more heat than it generates. If your dog’s core body temperature falls below 90 degrees, he’s at risk of developing mild to severe hypothermia. Dogs don’t worry about how hot or cold it is when they are playing and having fun. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to know the symptoms of hypothermia.

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Home Remodeling Hazards for Pets

remodel jenniferBy Linda Cole

Many homeowners like to spruce up their house with fresh paint, needed repairs or a complete makeover for an outdated room. However, homes with pets need to be especially vigilant when the power tools and paint brushes come out. Regardless of whether you do it yourself or hire someone, there are home remodeling hazards for pets that you need to be aware of.

Lead Paint

It’s common to find lead paint in homes built before 1978, and many homeowners aren’t aware of it. Lead can be found in linoleum, old putty around windows, or old paint covered over with non-leaded paint, wallpaper or paneling. When lead paint is scraped off or sanded, it turns into dust and contaminates the air. This dust can put pets at risk of lead poisoning when they ingest the dust while grooming. Pets can be exposed to lead by chewing on woodwork or ingesting flakes or chips of paint that have fallen off.

If you aren’t sure whether the existing paint is lead based, testing kits can be found at many home repair stores; it’s recommended to test before beginning any scraping or sanding. If you find lead paint in your home, it’s best to talk to a professional who is knowledgeable about lead-based paints before continuing.

Paints, Stains and Varnishes

Most products for inside use are water based and not as toxic to pets, but they can cause diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog or cat gets a water based product on them, it can be washed off with warm water and dish soap. If you’re dealing with an oil-based product, keep your pet from licking it off and wait for it to dry. When it’s dry, use scissors or clippers to cut it from their coat. Paint thinner, turpentine or mineral spirits should never be used to remove paint, stains or varnishes from your pet’s coat, because they can cause painful chemical burns. Keep pets away from opened cans of these products.

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How to Choose Safe Toys for Your Dog

By Laurie Darroch

Although dogs will play with just about anything, not every dog toy is safe or appropriate for each individual dog. Choose the toys for your dog as carefully as you would for a human child, to keep them entertained and safe.


Many dog toys are made specifically for a certain size of dog. Read the labels when looking for toys, and purchase the size range that is appropriate for your dog. A toy that is too big and unwieldy for a small dog or puppy may just frustrate the dog and they won’t play with it. A toy that is made for a small dog may be dangerous for a larger dog. It can even pose a choking hazard. Choose a toy that is the right size for your dog. If you have a puppy, replace his toys as he grows to keep the toys age and size appropriate.


Dog toys are made of every kind of material, from soft fabric to hard plastic or rubber and everything in between. A heavy or aggressive chewer may instantly destroy a toy that a smaller or less aggressive chewer plays with for a long time.

Always pay attention to labels. Check for toys that are non-toxic. If it is a homemade toy, be sure to use materials that are dog safe. It may look like a cute dog toy, but unless you are secure in the manufacturer or creator’s experience, it is better not to take a chance with an iffy toy.

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What to do if Your Dog Encounters Wildlife

By Linda Cole

For the past few months, I’ve been checking my dog pen before letting the dogs outside because an opossum has been visiting us nearly every night. I missed seeing it once, and my dog grabbed it and shook it. As soon as the marsupial sensed danger, it played dead. The tactic befuddled my dog and he promptly dropped it. My concern is for both my dogs and the opossum. I don’t want either one to get hurt, and it’s a bit uncomfortable pulling dogs away from a wild critter not knowing for sure how either one might react. Because encountering wildlife can present a problem for dogs, it’s always a good idea to know what to do in various situations.

Possums are docile animals that don’t normally pose a threat to dogs or cats. However, they can attack when provoked, sick or protecting their young. When attacked and there’s no way to escape, a possum “plays dead” and won’t move for any reason. You can’t prod him along no matter what you do. The best thing you can do is leave him alone. When he feels the danger has passed, he wiggles his ears to listen before raising his head to check around to make sure it’s safe to move along. This can take a couple of minutes, up to an hour or so.
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