March 10, 2020 4 min read

Prevention is always the best medicine and we all want to keep our adventure companions safe.  We’re vigilant in protecting them from cars, from unfriendly wildlife, and even other dogs. But how often do we think about preventing them from being poisoned? What types of things are poisonous and how do we keep our dogs from getting into them?

Know your poisons

Turns out, there are a quite a few things that are poisonous to dogs.  Some of them are fairly common sense: antifreeze, human medications, bleach, rodent poison, lawn chemicals, etc.  But some of them also might surprise you.  

Take the array of human foods that are toxic to dogs, for example.  Most of us know that chocolate is not something your dog should eat.  But did you know that grapes, garlic, yeast dough and onions are also on the list?  Even some peanut butters are off limits for your dog. Xylitol, a common sweetener found in some peanut butters and things like sugar-free gum, is very toxic for dogs.  So if you use peanut butter as a treat for your dog, take a look at the ingredients and make sure xylitol isn’t one of them.  

There area also several common garden and houseplants that are poisonous to dogs. Beautiful flowers like daffodils, tulips, azaleas, day lilies, asparagus ferns and even tomato plants can all cause poisonous symptoms for your dog.  Thankfully, most dogs don’t go around demolishing every daffodil and tulip that they see, but if your dog spends a lot of time in your yard unsupervised, you may want to think twice before putting these flowers in.   

Control the Environment

One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent your dog from getting into things they shouldn’t is to control their environment.  Make sure that dangerous foods, chemicals and other substances are well out of their reach or capability to get into. 

Even substances we would never think would look appetizing to a dog should be kept out of the access zone.  Antifreeze, for example, has an inviting sweet smell and taste that many dogs want to try, but comes with disastrous results.  Even a small amount of antifreeze, we’re talking 4-5 tablespoons for a medium sized dog, can cause kidney failure and death in just a few days.  

Not only do dogs want to investigate and eat things that aren’t good for them, they also clean themselves up with their tongues.  If they walk through chemicals or puddles of toxic substances, like bleach or antifreeze, they will clean off their paws with their tongue and ingest the toxin as a result.  

So what can we do?  Make sure that puddles of cleaning substances like bleach, rat poison, puddles of antifreeze, etc. are all cleaned up from anywhere your dog has access to.  Garages are a common location where these types of substances can be found. Make sure that toxic substances are kept in cabinets with doors or shelves above your dog’s reach and try to assess areas from your dog’s point of view.  

Train Impulse Control

Impulse control is one of the dog training essentials for good behavior, but it can also save their life! Most poisonings don’t occur when owners intentionally give their dog something they shouldn’t have, but when the dog finds it themselves by jumping up on the counter and taking it, eating medications that fall on the ground, getting into the trash, etc.   By training impulse control, you’re teaching your dog that good things come to those who wait. This means that they won’t dive after the medication that you accidentally dropped on the ground, or root through the household garbage that could hold who knows what. This is an especially vital skill for when you go on off-lease adventures with your dog. You wont’ always be right next to them when they encounter something intriguing but potentially harmful.  

There are lots of great ways to work on impulse control with your dog, but the simplest version is teaching them to wait for something they want.  Maybe this means sitting quietly in front of the door before it opens and they get to go outside. Or maybe it means waiting to be given permission before eating something they want or their dinner.   

Try it at home! Take a treat that you know your dog loves and put it in the palm of your hand.  Kneel down and present it to your dog. When your dog dives at your hand for the treat, simply close your hand around the treat.  The second your dog backs off your hand, open your hand again. Your dog may dive at your hand again. That’s ok, just close your hand until they back off.  Continue doing this until you can open your hand without your dog diving at the hand or barking. As soon as they do, give them the treat! By playing and expanding on this game, the next time you drop something on the ground your dog shouldn’t eat, they will sit quietly and expectantly instead of diving right in.  

When it comes to substances that are poisonous to your dog, the world can seem full of unknown dangers.  I mean, tulips? Seriously? But keeping your dog safe comes down to three basic principles: know your poisons, control the environment and train self-control.  Using those basic principles, you can keep your adventure buddy healthy and roaming for years to come. 

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