Gearing up for Spring Activities with your Dog

Dust off the gardening equipment, put away the storm windows, sharpen the lawn mower blades...what else? Oh, yes! Get ready for spring with your dog.

Around the House

The weather in spring is often not conducive to having dogs, but it's something we put up with because it means the end of the winter snow! Hang a hook near the door to hold old towels you will use to dry the dog's feet to cut down on the actual amount of mud that gets into the house. You won't get it all off, but you can at least cut it down some.

You may want to take up the area rugs on any hard floors, making it easier to mop up the mud that will likely be tracked in from the yard. You also might want to put up a baby gate to keep your dog on the hardwood floors until he or she is completely dry. Of course, by then, it's usually time to go back outside!

Dog with tulip flowers

In the yard

One of the ways most of us like to "keep up with the Joneses" is to have a lush, green lawn year round. Although you will likely have to deal with burnt urine spots, there's no reason the rest of the yard can't look good. However, you'll have to take care in achieving this beautiful lawn, as it usually takes chemicals to bring out the green, and these chemicals can be harmful to your dog.

Look for natural or organic fertilizers and weed-killers when you go to the store. Common non-toxic ingredients are manure, fish, and kelp. Look for a seal on the bag that says "Veterinarian-Approved" or "EPA-Certified". As a general rule of thumb, stay away from ingredients you cannot pronounce. If you have the time and desire, you might consider composting your own garbage to use as pet-safe fertilizer.

You can even make your own home-made and completely safe weed killers and weed preventatives. Mix together one gallon of vinegar and two gallons of boiling water. Stir in clove oil and lemons. Use a spray bottle to treat weeds, but keep this mixture away from the plants you want to keep, as it is also toxic to them. To prevent weeds in a pet-friendly way, spread corn gluten meal on your lawn in the spring and fall to prevent clover, dandelion, and fox tail weeds from germinating.

Give careful thought to where you will put your garden. In addition to wanting your dog to stay out of your flowers and vegetables on general principle, you will also want to prevent your dog from eating any mulch which can be toxic. For example, cocoa mulch contains theobromine and caffeine, the same ingredients that make chocolate bad for dogs.

Grooming

Warmer weather only means one thing in the grooming world - more shedding! If you have a short-haired dog or one that has only a single coat, you may not notice a big problem. However, most dogs with long hair or double coats shed copiously with weather changes.

There are three general schools of thought regarding shedding.

1. Clip the dog's hair as short as possible in the spring and fall, leaving very little that will fall out on your floors, couches, and clothing.
2. Brush the dog daily.
3. Wait until shedding season ends before starting spring cleaning.

Although any of these methods will work, the second one is probably the best option, depending on your tolerance for fur flying around your house until you start your spring cleaning.

Keep in mind that the dog's fur does serve an important purpose in temperature regulation. If you shave your dog and the weather gets too warm, the dog may easily become over-heated if left outside. Sunburn is also a concern.

Brushing your dog daily pulls out any loose fur in a contained environment, cutting down on the amount that will fly off the dog as he or she travels throughout your home. Some brushes are made specifically to combat shedding, such as the Furminator. This product is also available at a lower cost through e-bay.

At the vet

Spring is a good time to schedule your dog's annual check-up with the veterinarian. If you don't give heartworm preventative year-round, your dog will need to be tested in early spring. Once a blood test has confirmed that your dog is not currently infected, your vet will advise you when to start giving the preventative, based on when the mosquitoes are expected in your area.

You can also use this time to make sure your dog's shots are up to date and to discuss any differences you've noticed in your dog's behavior, eating habits, or appearance that might indicate a developing health problem.

Spring is also the time when dogs are so excited to be allowed outside to play, they may be tempted to wander off of your property. Before this happens, make sure your dog is spayed or neutered so you don't have to deal with unwanted puppies or behaviors related to your dog answering the call of the birds and the bees.

Vacation planning

Whether you are beginning to plan your summer vacation or if you are already packing for spring break, you need to give some thought to what you will do with your dog while you travel. If you will be leaving the dog at home, check out commercial sitters, boarding kennels, and neighbors. Many well-meaning friends offer to keep a dog without giving any thought to whether or not their home is safe for a dog. Before you leave your dog with someone, be sure to check for common household items that can be poisonous to your dog such as certain houseplants, cleaning chemicals, and foods. See our article on household poisons.

If your dog will travel with you, make sure your car is equipped with proper safety harnesses or a kennel to keep your dog safe in the event of a wreck. Make sure your dog's tags are legible and that they provide a way for a Good Samaritan to contact you even while you are on the road. Make sure you remember to bring plenty of water and plan your trip to allow extra comfort stops for your canine traveling companion.

We will now let you get back to all the other tasks you have to do in the spring: clean the gutters, wash the salt off the car's undercarriage, plant flowers...

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