10 Safety Tips For Dog Owners

Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe

Rear view of mature woman and labrador retriever sitting in sunlit wildflower meadow
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The world is full of risks and hazards. Danger lurks around every corner, and it can strike our dogs in the blink of an eye. Alas, this is no reason to become paranoid. Learn about the major threats to your dog's safety so you can avoid them in the first place.

  • 01 of 10
    Dog Toxins and Poisons - Photo of Chocolate Toxic to Dogs
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    Your dog's world is full of exciting scents, sights, and adventure. Unfortunately, there are many things your dog can eat or touch that will cause toxicity. Learn what substances and materials are most likely to poison your dog. Then, take the necessary precautions to avoid exposure to your dog. Most important, know what to do if your dog does become exposed to a toxin.

  • 02 of 10
    aggressive dog
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    Dogs are everywhere, and some are friendlier than others. As dog owners, we must train our dogs well and keep them under our control at all times. We must also help spread awareness to others about proper behavior around dogs, dog safety, and preventing dog bites. It is essential to learn how to prevent your dog from biting people. You should also know how to keep yourself from being bitten by a dog.

  • 03 of 10
    Two dogs playing
    Photo © Jenna Stregowski

    A dog fight is a terrifying thing to witness. Dog play may look similar to fighting, so it’s hard to tell when the line is about to be crossed. When should owners step in and stop the interaction between dogs? One of the most important things for dog owners to understand is how to prevent dog fights. Equally important is learning how to safely break up a dog fight.

  • 04 of 10
    A beach dog on vacation
    A beach dog on vacation. Photo MJ Kim / Getty Images

    Summer is a great time for you and your dog to spend time outdoors. Unfortunately, this season can be dangerous as well. In order to keep your dog safe, learn about summertime hazards like heat stroke, sunburn and more. Find out how to prevent these things from endangering your dog.

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  • 05 of 10
    Photo of Golden Retriever in Snow
    Photo © Susan D'Angelo

    Cold water can be just as dangerous as the heat. There are numerous winter hazards out there, such as frostbite, antifreeze, ice. Take steps to keep your dog safe with these winter safety tips.

  • 06 of 10
    USA, Illinois, Metamora, Lost dog post
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    One of the scariest things that can happen to a dog owner is the disappearance of a beloved dog. Dogs may run away to explore but are unable to find the way home. Some jump or dig out of fenced yards, others slip out of leashes or run out of an open door. Sadly, some dogs are even stolen. Take measures to protect your dog from becoming lost or stolen and learn ways to increase the likelihood of your dog's safe return if the worst happens.

  • 07 of 10

    Wellness Exams to Prevent Illness

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    Most diseases are much easier to prevent than cure. Are you taking your dog to the vet for annual (or semi-annual) checkups? That routine vet visit isn't all about vaccines. More importantly, your vet is examining your dog for signs of health problems that are just beginning or have gone undetected. That way, your vet may be able to help your dog before he even becomes sick.

  • 08 of 10

    Water Safety

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    Many dogs love to play and swim when it's hot outside. When spending time outdoors in the summertime, it's essential to keep your dog safe and cool in order to avoid things like heat stroke, poisoning and more. Safety is just as important when it comes to swimming and playing around water. Here are some things dog owners need to know in order to keep dogs safe:

    Not all dogs can (or will) swim. It's nice to think your dog can just jump in the water and automatically know what to do....MORE While some dogs (especially breeds like Labradors and Goldens) may instinctively know how to swim, many others do not. Some dogs can't swim and need to be taught. Don't assume your dog knows how to swim, no matter the breed. Others dogs hate or fear the water and refuse to try. Never force a dog into the water. You can try getting in the water and coaxing your dog with toys. If he's not interested, don't push it.

    When introducing your dog to water for the first time, take it slowly. Begin with a gentle, shallow body of water where your dog can wade. Work your way up to pools and lakes, as your dog adjusts. Make sure to supervise your dog at all times. When in the pool, make sure he knows where the exit steps. 

    Get a doggie life jacket. If your dog is still learning to swim, a life jacket is a great idea. However, this is not the only use for the life jacket. All dogs on boats, rafts, canoes, kayaks, etc should be wearing life vests. This goes for even the best of swimmers. A life jacket will not only help save your dog from rapids, waves, undertows and more -- it will make your dog easier to find and grab if he does go overboard. Consider buying your dog a life jacket. compare prices

    Watch what your dog drinks. Most dogs will gladly lap up the water they are swimming in. This can be a problem depending on the type of water. Pool chemicals, obviously, are not healthy to consume. Ocean water can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The salt content in sea water can also lead to serious dehydration. Lake, river, pond and stream water may seem harmless, but can actually contain parasites like Giardia or other nasty "bugs." Parasites and bacteria are more likely to be found in standing water than flowing water, so pay attention to this.

    Most dogs are going to try and drink some of the water. They will also likely ingest some by accident. Small amounts are not usually a problem. Keep plenty of fresh, clean water available and encourage your dog to drink that. Always watch your dog for signs of illness, especially after swimming. If you have any concerns, contact your vet and let them know where your dog was swimming.

    Prevent sunburn. Yes, dogs can get sunburns too. Those with lighter hair, short hair or pink noses are at a greater risk, but all dogs are susceptible (long-haired dogs can get sunburned noses). As you likely know, water reflects light, so a sunburn is more likely around the water. Make sure your dog has plenty of shade available while swimming.

    Have a reliable recall. Chances are, your dog will be off-leash during the swim outing. This is why it's essential to have a strong recall. You should be able to call your dog back to you for any reason. Your dog should also know to stay close to you or check-in with your periodically. If your dog seems headed towards trouble, you should be able to rely on the fact that he will come when called. That's where the emergency recall really comes in handy. Before heading to an open area for swimming, make sure your dog has this foundation of training. Alternatively, keep your dog on a long leash the whole time.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Safe Driving With Dogs

    dog in car
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    If you drive a car or rely on others to drive you places, it is inevitable that your dog will need to ride in the car from time to time. Many owners are unaware of the many risks associated with dogs and car travel. Even a five-minute car ride can be risky for you and your dog. Fortunately, there are several safety precautions you can take before you drive with your dog.

    Keep dogs restrained. Many drivers allow their dogs to move freely about the car. Some even allow their dogs to ride in their...MORE laps. The distraction of a dog can easily take your attention away from driving, leading to an accident or, at the very least, a close call. Even if your dog is a perfect angel, an accident can still occur. If your dog is unrestrained, he can easily be thrown from the car (or thrown around the car). In addition, he may become a dangerous projectile, potentially injuring you or other drivers. Always keep your dog restrained with a car harness, crate or barrier. Don't allow him to ride in the front seat, as he can be injured by airbags or thrown into the windshield.

    Avoid leaving dogs in cars. In general, it is a good idea to refrain from leaving your dog alone in the car. The major reason for this is heat stroke. Even on a moderately warm day, a car can heat up to dangerous temperatures in a matter of minutes. This not only goes for cars in the sun but for those in the shade as well, even with the windows open. In addition to the risk of heat stroke, a dog left alone in a car may become bored or anxious, leading to destructive behavior. The dog might ingest something harmful and/or injure himself. Finally, a dog left in the car is at risk for becoming lost or stolen. He may escape from the car on his own or be taken by a thief. Therefore, even on cooler days, it is best to avoid leaving your dog alone in the car. 

    Some dogs don't like car rides. Many dogs love going for a ride in the car while others dread it. If your dog is the latter, you are in for trouble. Dogs may become fearful of cars for a variety of reasons. Some become carsick, others get anxious. These behaviors can lead to distractions for the driver. If your dog is not a fan of car rides, you will need to use extra caution when driving. For dogs who get car sick, avoid feeding a meal for several hours before a car ride and ask your vet about anti-nausea options. If your dog becomes fearful or anxious, a calming herb like Rescue Remedy (compare prices) or a pressure vest like the Thundershirt might help. For severe cases, your vet may need to prescribe a sedative. However, in many cases, the best way to handle this problem is through training and behavior modification.

  • 10 of 10

    Emergency and Disaster Preparedness

    A dog and his owner walk through flood waters after a hurricane.
    A dog and his owner walk through flood waters after a hurricane. Photo Stephen Morton / Stringer / Getty Images

    Emergencies or disasters can happen to any of us, causing devastation and endangering our dogs. Emergency and disaster preparedness means taking the time to prepare now, before a disaster occurs. Proper emergency and disaster preparedness can make all the difference later. You can save your dog’s life by making some general plans in advance.

    Identification: Be sure your dog always wears current identification. In a sudden emergency, you may not be able to locate her collar if it is not on her. Mic...MORErochip your pet and keep an ID tag on her collar.

    Evacuation: If you need to evacuate an area, take your dog with you. Remember, if it is dangerous for you, then it is dangerous for your dog.

    Never leave a dog behind in a cage or tied up. If possible, you should evacuate before it is mandatory. This will allow extra time to get to a safe place where dogs are permitted. If you are not evacuating, have a plan to gather in the safest area of the house. Have your dog on a leash or in a kennel until it is safe to roam the house.

    Shelter: Once you have evacuated, you need to know where to go with your dog. Emergency shelters typically do not allow dogs unless they are service animals. Spend some time calling hotels and ask about their pet policies in event of an emergency. Check with nearby hotels as well as those further away. You don’t know now how far you’ll have to go in a disaster. Have a list of veterinary offices and boarding facilities in surrounding areas just in case your dog cannot stay with you.

    Home alone: Be ready for emergencies that could occur when you are not at home and can't assist your dog directly. Place a sign or sticker near all outside doors that states the number of pets you have, the type of pets, and where you or your veterinarian can be reached. These stickers are often available through your veterinarian’s office. This will help in the event someone must rescue your pets. Ask a trustworthy neighbor to check on your pets in case of an emergency.

    Disaster kits: Prepare a disaster kit for you and your dog now. Keep it in an accessible area of your home for easy reach in case of an emergency. This is one of the most important preparatory measures you can take. Your disaster kit should include the following:

    • At least one week's supply of bottled water, food and medication for you and each dog
    • A leash for each dog, plus a one or two extra leashes
    • A kennel for each dog, if possible
    • Veterinary records on each dog
    • Phone numbers of veterinarians, family, friends, hotels and boarding facilities
    • Current photos of each dog (in the event you become separated)
    • Dog beds and toys
    • Flashlights and extra batteries
    • Blankets and towels
    • Any other personal and pet items you think you might need

    Remember to check the kit every few months and replace old or expired items.