Preparing your backyard for your pets

A lot of our time as pet parents is spent either keeping our pets in or out of something. It’s not their fault that they’re curious and want to explore, and most of the time they learn where they can and cannot go. But sometimes we need help in teaching them.

A fenced yard is a godsend to dogs, as it can allow them free range over a limited area while being safe and secure. Depending on the size of the dog, you may have to make adaptations to your fences to prevent escape, such as sealing small gaps for little dogs or making sure there is nothing near the fence that a large dog can use to launch itself over.

You may have areas in the yards where you want them to go and others that are ‘out of bounds’. You can even designate an area you want them to “go”. These areas can be defined using barriers, or you use scents to attract or repel them. If you are trying to create a bathroom area, which is a great idea to save your lawn, a plot of pea gravel is best. It is easy to clean with a garden hose, and most dogs won’t have an issue with the texture of the rocks. Be aware that large or sharper gravel might be uncomfortable on their paws, making them shy away from the area.

Once an area is established, you can take the dog to the area and, once they do their business, give them a reward. This is usually enough to train them. If not, there are sprays and posts designed to attract animals to use the area. Again, once the behaviour is set, you should be able to discontinue the use of the attractants.

Keeping dogs out of flower beds, berry patches or vegetable gardens can be accomplished with physical barriers (short-stake fencing) to warn them away, or you can purchase spray or pellet deterrents. These can also be effective at repelling rabbits, deer and other animals, so they can serve a double purpose.

Cats in Winnipeg are not allowed out of the house unless retained on a tether of some sort. I’m not saying that is right, or good, but it is the law. Some people will build a ‘catio’, either attached to a window or pet door, or freestanding in the yard. These are designed to give the kitties some fresh air and sun, but care should be taken to make sure they have some shade and always supply fresh water. For people who want to give cats more freedom legally, I have seen fence toppers that spin, which prevent cats from using the top of a fence as an egress point. If they find a way to jump over the spinners, well, you can bet they will, but with proper attention to the set-up, you should be able to prevent that from happening.

Backyards enable us to enjoy our summers and, with proper preparation, our pets can enjoy them too.

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