Enjoy the yard with your canine

Martha Stewart /

Published Mar 19, 2013 at 05:00AM

Dog-proof your backyard so you and your canine buddy can enjoy warmer months al fresco — and stress-free.

A cool drink and sunshine is about all we need to relax in a backyard, but our four-legged friends require a bit more. ''Your dog is a full-time family member who is ideally inside when you're inside, and outside when you're outside,'' says Trish McMillan Loeher, director of applied research and behavior for the ASPCA. Keeping your outdoor space free of physical dangers and emotional stressors will keep everyone happy.

Limit alone time

Dogs need some supervision outside. Leaving a dog unattended outdoors not only increases its risk of escape or injury, but can also cause feelings of anxiety and isolation. Pay attention to your dog's personality and need for interaction. If your dog is vocal or mischievous when alone — gnawing on a fence post or digging compulsively — play with it. More dependent pups will prefer lying on an outdoor dog bed or a weatherproof cushion alongside you. If your pet plays well by itself, it's OK to leave it with outdoor-friendly toys, says Mychelle Blake, executive director of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. An independent dog might even appreciate the solitude of a doghouse, though this should never be its permanent home.

Fence them in

Many pet owners install a fence, only to discover they're living with “Houndini.” To prevent jailbreaks, make sure your dog can't climb or jump over, push its way through, or slip under the fence you install. If your pet likes to dig, bury chicken wire under the fence, or line the base with heavy rocks or cinder blocks to keep it secure. Loeher says that a six-foot wooden privacy fence works well for most dogs, since it obscures the view of temptations, such as the neighbor's cat, and protects them from other potentially harmful animals. The clear view provided by electric fences can cause shy or reactive dogs to become overstimulated — plus, the shocks from electric fences can make dogs afraid of the yard. Steer clear of tie-outs, trolleys and chains, since these can tangle dangerously and cause some dogs severe stress.

Tend your garden

Ingesting some springtime flowers, such as daffodils or crocuses, can make canines sick, so consult aspca.com before buying plants for your yard. Avoid using insecticides, herbicides, mulch containing cocoa beans, or toxic fertilizers in areas where dogs play or eat. Keep gardening tools, power cords, hoses and watering systems in a shed; some dogs will view those items as chew toys. After garden play, help prevent muddy paw prints on your floors by placing mats inside and outside your doors.

Head out back

Our backyard-friendly picks make it a breeze to entertain and protect your dog while outdoors.

Safety first: A cushioned collar keeps dogs from squeezing between fence railings or under gates. Try Puppy Bumpers, from $24.50 at puppybumpers.net.

Fresh-picked fun: Bring the garden to your furry friend with chew toys like Orbee-Tuff Toys With Treat Spots, from $7 each at planetdog.com.

Lounging in luxury: A plush, durable and chic outdoor dog bed will satisfy both finicky canines and their owners. Try the Marina dog bed, from $105 at frontgate.com.