Spring Showers - A Mixed Blessing for your Dog?

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Well, it seems that our recent guest blog by Elizabeth Bublitz on 'Paw-friendly gardening' was a popular topic, judging by the busy comment queue! Luckily for us, Elizabeth is turning out to be an enthusiastic blogger. In addition to taking the time to respond to comments (thank you!), she has plenty more to teach us about making our gardens as safe and friendly as possible for our cherished pets. With all the rains we've had recently, she's just contributed a new post that you might find very informative. Read on...

The rains have been great for our gardens and have created a beautiful spring, but it’s posed a few problems for pets. 

Many homeowners don’t realize they have mushrooms in their backyard due to the moisture.  Before letting dogs outside, check the backyard, if they’re growing, promptly remove them, they are toxic.  They tend to grow around rotting wood stumps too– so if trees were recently cut down but the stumps remained, look in those areas for mushrooms. 

Also, due to the storms, high winds can blow open gates or blow down sections of fences and dogs can escape.  The most frequent emergency seen by veterinarians is a dog or cat being hit by a car.  There are so many ways to prevent this tragedy.  Always check fences and gates after high winds and storms before letting dogs in the yard.  If there is a pet door and nobody is home during the day, install a padlock to the gate so it won’t blow open.  If the fence is questionable during high winds, lock the pet door until the fence can be secured against high winds or until someone is home to monitor the dogs.  Always be prepared for dogs to escape by having them microchipped by a veterinarian or local animal shelter.  Microchips last forever and dogs will be returned when they are scanned. 

Another problem we’re seeing with dogs and high moisture are the problems left behind when they dig at the foundation.  Dogs tend to stay cool by digging (or nesting) along the foundation of the house.  By doing so, dogs are creating negative drainage which creates puddling.  In Colorado, we have bentonite in our soils – it is a mineral that expands when wet.  It is imperative to keep moisture away from foundations by creating positive drainage (i.e. - the area around your foundation should be higher than any other part of your yard) so water literally runs away from the foundation.  When moisture is away from the foundation, bentonite will not expand and the foundation will not crack.  With a low spot or depression next to the house (the grade is towards the foundation rather than away from it), water will collect, bentonite will expand and the foundation could crack due to the moisture.

When dogs dig, they create a depression or negative pitch into the foundation.  This allows for puddling thus bentonite expands creating foundation problems.  Depending on the size of the crack, the cost of repairing a foundation can be at least twenty thousand dollars or more.  An easy solution to prevent this is to install chicken wire between the mulch and the ground (or if there is landscape fabric, install it on top of it).  When dogs dig at their favorite spot, their paws hit the chicken wire and they stop digging.  However, the sides of the chicken wire must be protected because they’re very sharp and dogs can cut themselves.  Seal the ends of the cut chicken wire with duct tape or roll it into the fabric and pin it down with fabric pins. 

Lastly, high moisture and standing water will attract mosquitoes.  Infected mosquitoes carry heartworm so be sure your dogs are taking their heartworm preventative medicine every month.  They usually start in spring and end in fall.  Be sure to check with your veterinarian.

Elizabeth will be contributing regularly to our blog, so stay tuned for more educational messages about living (and gardening) with dogs and other pets. Her next class takes place in August 2008- join us for a fun evening of conversation and problem-solving for dog-lovers!

This post written by Celia Adamec.

Comments

Elizabeth
Hi Jackie: Great question! Since your yard is small and your doggie eats plants, have you explored synthetic sod? There are many places that install it and they do the prep work, installation, delivery and guarantee it for eight years! No more watering, fighting urine burns or having your dog eat it! Another solution is to remove the existing sod and install rock mulch. Depending on her size, pea gravel or 1.5" river rock (not granites -they're too sharp!) will do the trick. You can install beautiful hanging baskets or containers that hang on the fence so she won't eat them. Depending on her height, if you can install tall containers, she may leave the plants alone. But if you want to plant in the ground, installing textured or thorny plants are best (or deer resistant). Dogs do not munch on them! Keep me posted! I'm eager to hear how everything works for you! Take care, happy planting! Elizabeth :D
Ron & Linda
I landscaped my yard a couple years ago but after getting my third dog, it is a mess. My dogs have taken it over. How can I clean it up and make it theirs and mine? Ron & Linda, Denver
Cheryl Valdez
Great book! The tips are helpful and well thought out. I have a question: There is a cat that comes in our yard and marks territory near a basement window - located behind shrubs in my backyard. Obviously, this stinks and I'd like to get rid of the odor and take steps to stop this behavior. Any recommendations?
Elizabeth
Hi Cheryl: Thanks for the compliment on my book- it was so fun to write! Anyway, regarding your unwanted visitor, there are two ways to deter cats - one is to throw citrus peelings on the area. You can use orange or grapefruit peelings, for example. For some reason, they do not like citrus. However, these need to be refreshed when they age. The other solution is IF YOU DO NOT OWN A DOG (or no dogs are running at large) then you can use mothballs. Some dogs eat mothballs AND THEY ARE TOXIC so I do not like to suggest them unless the yard is 100% free of dogs. Thanks so much - keep in touch and let me know if that works! Good luck and get dirty! - Elizabeth :D
Jackie
I have a small yard, I live in a townhome. My female dog has left urine burns on it. Do you have any suggestions? She is a terrier and seems to eat plants. I want a pretty backyard but she's driving me nuts. Please advise as soon as possible. Thank you.
Elizabeth
Hi Ron & Linda: Congratulations on your third doggie but I'm sorry to hear about him and his friends destroying their (oops, I mean your) yard. Your situation is not uncommon, especially with multiple pets, I like to tell folks that dogs are simply designing their yard. I'm not sure how they're destroying it but here are some common problems/solutions. I hope they answer your question - if not, please write again. 1) Problem: Heavy foot traffic is killing sod! Solution: Since dogs get triggered by squirrels, neighbor's dogs, human foot traffic, etc., I tend to see dead sod against fences. Since no plant will survive heavy foot traffic, we remove the sod about 3' wide to create a "runway" for the dogs, install roll top or CMC edging, fabric and rock mulch. If your dogs eat rock mulch, then install pavers. Be sure the rock mulch is 1.5", pea gravel and wood mulch migrate. Also, shy away from granites, they're sharp and poke their pads. Another tip, create contour lines against the fence, it will make the sod's shape more interesting too. If dogs are cutting through the grass and leaving a path, simply put flagstone in the sod and follow the dogs' natural path. It's easy to mow and install. 2) Problem: Urine burns are killing the grass and other plants. Solution: No plant will survive urine - we have to create dog bathroom areas with either wood or rock mulch. If a dog is killing a shrub by urinating on it, we remove the plant and install a statue or container. He can continue lifting his leg on it but nothing dies. :D 3) Problem: My dogs eat plants. Solution: Simply install thorny or textured plants (deer resistant are best!) - this will deter them from nibbling. 4) Problem: My dogs are eating sprinkers. Solution: Run sprinklers at night and keep the pet door shut so they are not triggered by the sound of water. If these problems/solutions do not answer your specific question, please email me. Thanks so much, stay dirty! :D - Elizabeth

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