5 Important Tips For Dog Proofing Your Balcony
It seems that wherever you go these days, downtown cores are rife with high-rise condos filled with car-less and lawn-less urbanites who just thrive on that inner-city vibe. It’s a cool vibe, so we get it. Sure, there isn’t much space available for those who care crammed like sardines into a condo, but who needs space to live when you’ve got all those vibes!
Of course, because life without dogs is life without our best buddies (and arguably, not a life worth living), it also seems that in spite of ultra-tight square footage and non-existent personal green space, these same city-folk have found a way to carve out room to incorporate canine companionship into their lives. How cool is that?! (Answer: super cool, obviously. Not only that, but it is definitive proof that there’s a perfect dog for every situation.)
So, what do you do when your little guy is craving some fresh air and opening the back door to a fully fenced yard just isn’t an option? It’s time to doggie-proof your balcony. If done properly, your balcony can provide Rover with a place where he can lay in the sun, listen to the birds, and even do his business. (Yes, that’s right. We said your balcony could be a place where he does his business, and can we tell you that’s a fabulous thing?!). Your balcony can be something of a second home for your pooch, the only challenge is that making sure that it’s absolutely safe for Fido to go out there.
Please, though, make no mistake. While we’re going to show you how to make your balcony fun and safe for your dog, opening the doors and letting him fend on his own all the time is not what we’re suggesting. For one thing, it’s still important to supervise your pup while he’s on your balcony. In addition to that, these tips are not to facilitate the replacement of the physical and mental stimulation received from a good walk to the local park. And for the best interest of your dog, it should never be considered a permanent location for your pooch. You must be careful, but at the same time your dog will certainly appreciate the opportunity to get a little extra outdoor time on your balcony.
Ready for a crash-course? Well, here it comes! Check out these 5 important tips on dog proofing your balcony.
1. Remove poisonous plants.
It seems obvious, but far too few dog owners even bother to check if it’s healthy for their dogs to be around their plants. Beyond that, even planter baskets and hanging planters can come down in the wind, so ensure whatever you are growing is safe just in case your pooch decides to turn it into his breakfast one day. Did you realize that common container plants that such as: rhododendron, azalea, hydrangea, English ivy, and clematis can be highly dangerous? Probably not. This is not exactly common knowledge. So doing the research before buying any plant that will be brought into a home with a dog is vitally important. You may think that your dog doesn’t have any interest in foraging for foliage because he leaves all the indoor houseplants alone, but don’t take any chances. There are tons of other plants that look beautiful on balconies and are also pup-safe. For a more complete listing visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website. This is a vital resource that more dog owners need to take advantage of.
2. Safely Store Chemicals
So, you’ve chosen safe greenery for your outdoor space. Now it’s important not to forget to check out all those sprays and additives you use to keep your container gardens looking their best, your windows clean, and pesky bugs at bay. We all appreciate the importance of handy access to these products, but on your balcony that can spell disaster when Rover decides to explore. Store chemicals inside your apartment or invest in a lockable container that can be kept close-at-hand, but inaccessible to busy boys. Even better, consider using non-toxic products that will do the job without all those harmful chemicals. We love EcoSmart’s home pest control because it’s pet-safe when used as directed. We also like The Laundress Glass & Mirror Cleaner because it’s unscented and safe for your family and pets. One of our favorite lockable storage containers is this one from Suncast because it also gives you more storage space—a perk in many places where balconies are additional living space. So, even if you don’t choose to use these specific alternatives, make sure to take the time to keep your pooch safe from any chemicals that you plan to use on your balcony.
3. Potty Time
No, I’m not talking about transplanting shrubs or making pottery. I’m talking about when your little guy decides to relieve himself on your balcony or deck. This won”t exactly be something that you hope happens on your balcony. But as they say, “it” happens and you need to not only safeguard your flooring but also the goodwill you’ve established with the neighbors below. Even the most trained dogs may have a mistake moment, so you want to be prepared. Ideally you will have taken your pup out for a walk before setting him free on the deck, but if a whiff of fresh air is all it takes to put your dog in the mood, consider putting down plastic boot mats, a pee pad, or fake potty grass for trained dogs. For those who live in areas where the weather is often an issue even for the walks, and you want to have a place for when desperate times call for desperate actions, you’ll be glad you’ve already put plans and products in place. Trust us on this one. Just make sure to clean up anything that happens quickly and efficiently so that neither you nor your neighbours will experience any nasty surprises later on.
4. Rail Safety
Railings provide a deadly opportunity for any size dog to squeeze through and get stuck, or worse. And don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s no way your Great Dane is going to be able to get his head through that itty bitty railing space. Odds are that no, he won’t, but you don’t want him going to any extra lengths to prove you wrong. Potential solutions include affixing mosquito netting, chicken wire or plexi-panels to the existing railings to eliminate all access points, or a plush collar (for little dogs). If your dog tends to be rambunctious, allowing him out onto a balcony with glass panels isn’t a wise decision. If at all possible, you’ll want to replace the glass panels, and if we’re really honest, even if your dog isn’t super rowdy, glass panels just make us nervous. We have similar concerns about smaller dogs if the balcony is on a higher floor and subject to heavier wind activity. You’ll want to be sure that your smaller dog isn’t whisked into the rails, or worse, whisked away. Something else to consider with little dogs is the odds of predatory birds seeking balconies out as buffet stops (not a pleasant image we know, but sadly it happens!). If you’re worried about that, it may not be a bad idea to have a longer tether out for your pup to stay attached to just in case a hawk decides to try and make your little Yorkie his next meal.
5. Creature Comforts
I think the Home Depot industry was built around selling us deck chairs, recliners, hammocks and other summer creature comforts. Like us, your little guy likes to be comfortable and lying on hard concrete doesn’t cut it. Your dog deserves his own dedicated lounging spot on the balcony. That’s just a fact. A simple, water-proof dog bed, access to shade, and a ready bowl of fresh water can make it an enjoyable experience for you both. In the winter, when you may be using your balcony potty products to entice your pup to do his business despite the weather outside, you’ll want to be sure that the balcony is safe for walking as well. You may have our recommended boot mats already out there but you might want to also consider something like these rubber stair mats in a floor pattern to allow safe walking in inclement weather. Comfort is important, but safety must always come first.
We’ve also never had a dog tell us they didn’t enjoy a small little stash of dog toys or bones out on their balcony either, so that might help him enjoy the fresh outdoors a spell with you too. It’s a great opportunity to keep your pooch stimulated within a confined space. The sights and smells of the outdoors will only keep them stimulated for so long if they can’t go anywhere.
Now, while there are so many different ways to help make your balcony a little safer for your little fury friend, that doesn’t mean that the pup she be left out there alone for extended periods of time. That’s simply not wise. The bottom line is that you should never leave your dog on the balcony if you’re heading out (yes, even for just a couple of hours). Balconies are typically shallow and can get sunny, water bowls get tipped, loud noises or thunderstorms can make an unexpected appearance and frightened dogs will bolt. There are so many different things that can go wrong and lead to disaster. It’s simply not worth the risk, no matter how well behaved your pup is or how much they love the balcony..
Once you’ve pet-proofed your urban-living retreat (aka your balcony), enjoy it with your dog. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise or set over the city skyline with your best pal! The balcony needn’t be a little outdoor oasis just for you after all. Your dog deserves to enjoy the space too. Just make sure to take the proper precautions to ensure that your balcony will be a safe escape and not some sort of serene death trap.
Do you have any suggestions for how to make a balcony safe for dogs? If so, we’d love to here them! Leave your tips in the comments below!
More by Mary Simpson