Energetic, eager to explore, and ever-curious, dogs love to discover every nook and cranny of the great outdoors. As they take in all the sights, sounds, and scents, they’re bound to come across water features that may contain a world of wildlife. Some dogs may be wary of water, but others feel the need to jump right in and take their limbs for a swim. If you have an ornamental or wildlife pond in your own garden, chances are it will be a place of wonder and excitement for your pup.
Unfortunately, dogs and ponds don’t always make the best pairings. Though some breeds and well-trained dogs can restrain themselves from terrorizing the pond and its inhabitants, others may treat it like their personal bathing pool and water bowl, with the fish as a form of entertainment. Drowning accidents may occur. Moreover, diseases and pests carried by your dog may adversely affect the pond system and vice versa.
If you have a dog or any other pet that cannot be disciplined around the pond setup, it would be best to fully dog-proof it. The tips below would help boost the pond’s biosecurity and allow your dog to enjoy the sights and sounds from a safe distance. Minimal proofing methods may be adequate for small dogs, but larger dogs may require sturdy barriers. The dog-proofing methods you choose would have to be suited to your dog’s behavior and size.
1) Use a removable pond cover
Pond covers come in all creative shapes and sizes. They are usually made of a sturdy material that can withstand outdoor heat, such as steel or iron. These tend to form a three-dimensional canopy over the pond, protecting it from all sides. The cover can be dome-shaped, with the peripheral barriers angled towards the center to form a pointed roof. It can also consist of a fully upright fence, with an additional, meshed plane forming an even roof on top. These are usually made for child-proofing ponds, but they can work perfectly well for dogs too.
If your dog has a knack for jumping over fences and outsmarting barriers, this is a fool-proof solution. Just make sure the gaps between the slats are narrow enough to prevent them from slipping through or worse – getting their heads trapped. While most pond covers are usually made to be easily removable, the downside is it does obstruct the view of the pond and may prevent it from looking more natural while in place.
2) Install a pond net
If you dislike the appearance of a full pond cover or feel it is too protective a barrier for your dog, a pond net may be an effective alternative. This is usually made of a fine mesh material that can easily blend in with the pond’s surface. Nets are effective at keeping most animals out of the pond itself, but they may not prevent a dog from attempting to drink the potentially dangerous water. Also, as only the surface is protected, dogs that visit the pond’s edge may attempt to urinate around the pond. This can introduce a number of harmful pathogens in the pond system, including leptospirosis.
Nonetheless, a net can play a major role in keeping the pond clean and free of wild visitors. It prevents large debris, such as fallen leaves and twigs, from settling on the pond bottom. It also protects pond inhabitants from potential predators, including dogs.
3) Build a fence around the pond
Fences are frequently installed around ponds in gardens that are accessible to young children. If you have a small to medium-sized dog, a fence may suffice to effectively keep them away from the pond’s edge. This would need to be high enough to prevent your dog from simply jumping over the top. It would also have to be securely installed so that the full weight of a running dog won’t cause it to topple over. Dogs may attempt to dig and make their way under a fence. You can make use of large rocks or bury chicken wire underneath the fence perimeter to discourage digging.
4) Edge the pond with thick vegetation
Some dogs are easily dissuaded by natural barriers, particularly if they aren’t hell-bent on making their way to the pond’s edge. Thick pondside vegetation can effectively mask the pond and help drown out its sound.
Dense shrubs planted next to one another, with shoots that arise from the ground instead of pots, can be a struggle to get through for determined dogs. The danger lies in the possibility that your dog will attempt to gnaw or eat its way through the shrubs. This method is ideal for lazy or old dogs with no interest in destroying plants.
5) Create a rock border that hides the pond from your dog’s view
In place of plants, a tall rock border may also aid in keeping your furry friends out of the pond area. Again, this would work better for small dogs that aren’t able to scale large rocks or jump over them. You can pile stone slabs above one another or go all out by creating a well-designed edge with a variety of stone sizes and colors. Make sure that the final structures are secure enough to withstand harsh weather. The base components may be secured with concrete or supporting structures to prevent them from being dislodged.
6) Consider building a raised pond
If you have yet to build your pond, consider creating a raised structure. This is akin to creating a small pool, which can effectively contain a miniature ecosystem of live animals, plants, and microbes. Depending on the size of the raised pond, it can even be designed to have multiple depth levels with room for marginal plants. The high walls can effectively keep out small dogs. Note that they may be dangerous for large ones that can perch on or jump above the edge. In case of accidents, it may be more difficult for a dog to make its way out of a raised pond than a sloping, sunken one.
7) Place motion-activated sprinklers around the pond area
Some dogs adore getting wet, whereas others absolutely detest it. Motion-activated sprinklers would surely be the bane of the latter. Placing these around the periphery of a pond would be an ingenious dog-proofing method with bonus benefits. Apart from keeping curious dogs away, it would be an effortless way to water pond edge plants. If the water comes from a clean source, the sprinklers can be placed right at the pond’s edge so that the spray can rain onto the pond’s surface and promote oxygen flow.
8) Create sloping edges
Despite utilizing a few of the aforementioned methods, you may find that remarkably resourceful dogs may still manage to enter the pond. In the event that they do, sloping edges should help them exit the water. Steep edges are quite dangerous, especially if your dog is not supervised, as they may be unable to make their way out of the pond. This goes for dogs of all sizes, as even large ones may struggle to lift themselves out of the water.
9) Install hiding places & add floating plants to protect your fish
Many dogs are drawn to ponds not so much because of the allure of the water but because of the animals in it. Like us, dogs are often enchanted by the movements of fish. Unlike us, they may find themselves wanting to grab the fish with their mouths or paw at them. The fish should ideally have many places to hide so that they can remain calm whenever a larger animal is close to the pond’s periphery. If the fish instantly hide, curious dogs may also find themselves getting bored and searching for other forms of entertainment away from the pond.
10) Create distractions
A pond is often a key point in any garden, so a dog honing in on one the moment it steps out of the house is understandable. To prevent them from darting straight toward the pond, try to create mobile distractions. You can play fetch and reorient the dog’s focus by throwing the ball or toy toward an area that is clear of the pond.
You can also take them out on a walk before they are released into the garden so that all their excess energy is expended. This way, they can calmly explore the pondside area. They are less likely to try and scale pond barriers once they are tired.
11) Maintain supervision
Nothing beats supervision when it comes to ensuring pond safety with pets. This will also help you observe your dog’s behavior around the pond and gauge what needs to be done. If the pond is easily accessible and visible from a window in the house, you need not remain outdoors for the entire duration your dog is allowed to roam free.
Simply make it a point to check in on your dog’s location and behavior every now and then. Even if your pond is “dog-proof”, it is advisable to keep an eye on your dog so that you can ensure that the proofing tools are effective and stable.
This tip is paramount to keeping your dog safe around natural ponds and lakes. These freshwater systems may contain pathogens that can severely affect your dog’s health. When warm temperatures spike in summer, toxic algal blooms may occur. The toxic algae may cause fatalities when ingested. Do not allow your dog to approach stained, bright green, foamy, or pungent water.
12) Ensure your dog’s water bowl is consistently full
A thirsty dog is infinitely more likely to attempt to drink pond water. Though it is safe for fish and should generally be safe for wild animals, pond water is dangerous for household pets. Dogs that are kept at home may not be immune to many pathogens, particularly those found in natural, slow-moving sources of water. Moreover, the waste materials in pond water can be toxic to your dog and induce a string of troublesome symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting.
The Key to Pond Safety – Training Your Dog
The best way to make sure dogs are safe around a pond is by training them. Repeatedly introducing them, with your full attention, to the pond area will help them grow accustomed to its features. Over time, your dog may begin to treat the pond as a regular fixture in the garden, losing the need to meticulously explore its every nook and cranny.
It’s a given that basic commands, such as ‘no’, ‘leave it’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ are also integral to ensuring that your pet can be disciplined and well-mannered around water features and their inhabitants. Your own personal enjoyment of a pond would be heightened by the company of a calm and docile dog. After all, it would be tantamount to admiring nature with the most loyal of friends.