Go Play Outside

by | Apr 2021

Keep pets safe, golden dog

Photo: Emily J. Davis

Experts offer tips to keep pets safe at home and at the park.

With many Minnesotans sticking closer to home during the pandemic, folks have been looking for inspired ways to use their newfound time and engage in socially-distanced endeavors. For some, that meant welcoming pets into their homes— some for the first time.

Rachel Mairose, executive director of Secondhand Hounds in Minnetonka, says the shelter witnessed an uptick in interest for pet adoptions and fostering. “Our large dog coordinator had a 75 percent increase in the number of lives saved over the summer,” Mairose says. “Over the summer and into fall, we rarely have dogs stay [available for adoption] on the website more than a couple hours.”

“[Pet adoptions] is the silver lining of this whole pandemic for us,” Mairose says. “The amount of lives not only Secondhand Hounds has been able to save, but every rescue across the country, is amazing.”

With so many first-time pet owners bringing animals into their homes and exploring the sociallydistanced outdoors, it brings to question thoughts about how to properly care for the animals. Spending time outdoors is healthy for owners and their pets, so where are good areas to take pets for a walk? At home, is there anything owners can do to make sure landscaping elements are pet friendly?

Fluffy - Fiana Han

Photo: Joel Schenll



Photo: Fiana Han

We turned to some experts for answers.

There are plenty dog parks dotted throughout the Metro, but did you know that there’s one nestled in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum? The Arboretum Dog Commons is “a place where members (with a dog-added membership) and their leashed dogs can enjoy the beauty of the arboretum together,” says Jean Larson, PhD, manager of the arboretum’s Nature-Based Therapeutic Services and assistant professor at the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.

When you’re out and about, Larson says that it’s essential to let dogs follow their instincts while staying on marked paths. While humans are used to moving at their own speed, it’s important to allow dogs to have a say in the pace. “When you are on a walk with your dog, let your dog sniff,” Larson says. “Sniffing on a walk is extremely important for a dog’s well-being, and it allows us humans to slow down and enjoy the walk, too.”

Patriotic Pup - Lorrie Burdeski

Photo: Sigrid Dabelstein

Heading out for some exercise and socialization is important for pets, but let’s face it, they spend a vast majority of their time in their own backyard. Larson gives pet owners a few tips for pet-safe yard care at home. “Invest in a quality fence for your yard,” Larson says. “Physical fencing allows your dog to roam freely and stay safe.” She also says that careful supervision and recognizing your dog’s habits can be a great way to create a space he/she will enjoy. Is he a digger? Provide a sand pit for digging. Is she a sniffer? Feature areas of heavier cover where your dog can happily sniff. Does your dog like to sunbathe? Find a sunny spot where your dog can warm his belly.

Rosie - Teresa Limtiaco

Photo: Teresa Limtiaco

Larson also recommends using dog-safe materials in your home landscaping and warns against using cocoa bean mulch and commercial weed killers. Kristi Flynn, DVM, assistant professor, Primary Care, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, says that often, fertilizers with bone meal can also be dangerous. “[They] prove to be irresistible for some dogs and can make a dog sick if they eat too much,” Flynn says.

At-home horticulturists should be strategic about what plants are in their gardens, as many can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested. Yews, castor bean, holly and lilies are a few that can quickly become dangerous. “The best prevention for keeping your dog healthy is to research plants that work in your zone and are safe for your dogs,” Larson says. She suggests books like Dog Friendly Gardens by Cheryl Smith. Pet owners can also visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ online library of poisonous plants.

White Huskie

Photo: Emily J. Davis

While owners can’t always know if a dog has ingested a dangerous plant, there are a few signs that are important to note. “Some plants can cause drooling or mild [gastrointestinal] signs right away, while others can have more serious adverse effects delayed after ingestion,” Flynn says. If you are worried that your pet has eaten something he/ she shouldn’t, Flynn recommends contacting a veterinarian or a pet poison center, including the Pet Poison Helpline at 855.764.7661.


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