Everyone loves barbecue season and a chance to get outdoors and have fun with family and friends, but with all the food and fun, a backyard party can be a dangerous place for a dog. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to dog proof your summer BBQ.
Dog BBQ Safety Tips
1. Teach your dog to be BBQ safe.
Especially when you’re visiting other people’s homes, you can’t always expect the BBQ to be 100% dog safe. Instead, start your dog off right by teaching them some BBQ Ground rules.
- Four on the Floor – Teaching your dog not to jump up is a gift for you, your dog and other BBQ goers. Making sure your dog keeps four paws on the ground ensures that they don’t jump up on any tables and they don’t knock over guests who are trying to balance food/drinks in their hands.
- Chillax, man – Teaching your dog a relaxation command can be hugely beneficial. Some people choose a “go to your mat/crate”, others are happy with a basic sit/stay. Whatever command you choose, a relaxation command is a great way to let your dog know that they need to get out of the action and lay down for a while. It’s also a great way to keep your dog away from a hot BBQ. If your dog is easily overwhelmed or anxious, make sure you place their relaxation space well away from the action.
- OFF! – I can’t tell you how invaluable this command is! When you have a food hound like Kolchak, he needs to be reminded that his snout is not welcome on any serving trays or plates. Making sure your dogs has a bullet proof “off” command and that other party guests know that this is his word to back the woof up off their snacks will help make sure your dog doesn’t eat anything he shouldn’t.
- Umbilical Training – If your dogs is young, still learning or can’t be trusted around food, consider umbilical training. Wrap a long leash around your waist or chest and clip it onto your dog’s harness. This ensures they are never more than an arm’s length away and you can reward or redirect behaviour as needed. We used this tactic when Kolchak was a puppy with great success. Just be careful, your dog’s safety relies on you keeping your head in the game. Make sure that you don’t accidentally drag your dog into things or force them into spots they are not comfortable.
2. Keep hazardous food away from your dog.
The biggest hazard to your dog at any BBQ is the food. It smells delicious, it tastes fantastic and it can make your dog really really sick.Make sure you keep your dog safe by limiting access to things that can hurt them.
- Foods to Avoid – Use covered containers or covered plates to keep foods with bones (steaks, chicken ribs etc), corn on the cob, onions, sauces (almost all contain onion), desserts and all other dangerous foods away from your dog. Bones can cause your dog to choke or perforate their bowl, onions (and many other foods) are toxic to dogs and corn cobs can cause a bowel obstruction. Chocolate is a classic dessert food and it can be fatal to your pooch. Even foods that are dog safe can cause harm when they’re hot off the grill. Last summer a friend’s dog serious burnt their mouth & throat after poaching a sizzling hot burger. For a list of foods to avoid, check this out.
- Encourage safe snacking – Your friends have the best of intentions, but I guarantee, at some point, someone will slip your dog a secret treat that they should never have. Head ’em off by bringing a bowl full of dog safe snacks with a note encourage guests to share from that bowl. I love filling ours with carrots, sweet peppers, grilled sweet potato or potato chunks, lean chicken or steak, apples, watermelon or whatever your dog’s favourite low calorie treat is.
- Your garbage is your dog’s “delicious treat” – Felix is total garbage dog. Make sure your dog keeps his snout out of the waste by getting a closed top garbage can to use. If your dog is really persistent, consider one with a lock.
- Don’t forget about BBQ Tools – A chewed up BBQ Brush, a BBQ skewer or a swallowed tin foil packet can cause just as much, if not more harm than elicit foods, make sure these are kept well away from your dog.
3. Contain your dog.
Summer is a prime time for lost dogs. With guests coming and going, it is too easy for a guest to leave the gate open and for your dog to take themselves for a walk.
- Teach your dog that the gate is a no-go zone. Train your dog that they can only cross the threshold of the open gate when invited. I know a dog that sits by the gate and woofs to ask to go out. It’s the cutest thing. Teaching your dog to know the boundaries, even when the gate is open isn’t 100% reliable, but it’s a good start, just in case.
- Install an automatic closing mechanism on your gate – For less than $20, you can buy an automatic close hinge for your gate. This ensures that even if someone forgets to close the gate behind them, it will always swing shut.
- Put up a sign – Even if they mean no harm, non-dog owning guests can forget to keep the gate closed. A sign placed at eye level by the gate can help remind them how important your pooch is to you.
- Know your dog – You know your dog better than anyone and you know if they can be trusted or not. If your dog is not the kind you can be certain will stay in the yard, consider using a zipline or safe tether and long line to keep them in the yard.
4. Keep your dog cool.
The lazy hazy days of summer can be long and hot. Make sure your dog is protected from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Provide plenty of cold, fresh water – Consider sitting your dog’s bowl in an ice bath to keep it chilled longer or use a special frozen bowl (Check back next week for our DIY ice bowl for dogs). Change out the water often and consider offering flavoured water for dogs who are reluctant drinkers.
- Offer plenty of shade – If your yard doesn’t have trees to provide shade, consider using a deck umbrella, a roll out canvas or a simple tent to provide your dog with a shady retreat. You can even get special dog houses that offer a cool spot.
- Help your dog Chill out with a special bed – There is nothing Felix loves more than a cool spot to lay. Last year we made him a DIY cooling dog bed out of a kid’s air mattress. Even if you don’t have a large enough freezer, an air mattress filled with cold water from the hose could be nice and cool or you can buy special cooling beds.
5. Be Fireworks Friendly.
Too many dogs are started by the loud, scary sounds of fireworks and more dogs get lost during fireworks displays than any other time. Don’t take any chances.
- Practice fireworks safety – It’s so hard to firework proof your dog when they only happen once a year. We used YouTube Videos and DVDS to help teach Felix that fireworks are no big deal. We started with the volume very low and then slowly increased it over time. As he became used to the noise, we started watching them in dark rooms, so he could get used to the flashing lights. It’s not perfect, but it’s totally helped.
- Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife or you know, just hide your dog – Why take a chance? I strongly encourage you to hide your dog away inside the house or in a safe, secure crate before any fireworks displays start. Even if your dog is not normally sound reactive, the excitement of the day, the other people around and the unpredictibility of fireworks can scare the woof out of your dog.
- Create a safe space – For Felix, the best spot for him during fireworks is a a place with black out drapes or a black out crate cover so he can’t see the lights and as sound proofed as possible. Basements are a great choice, as are the hard plastic airline crates. Just be aware that if your dog has a severe fireworks phobia, the best way to prevent unwanted fear and destructive, dangerous behaviour may be to stay in their safe place with them, offering comfort.
- For more tips, Check out this ebook – The Dogs and Fireworks Help Guide is full of ideas to help you and your dogs better manage fireworks. I can’t recommend it enough.
How do you keep your dog safe at BBQs?