Dog talk with Uncle Matty: The yard’s the thing

By From page A10 | May 24, 2013

If our dogs could speak words to be understood by the likes of man, they might wake with the sun, stretch and, as padded paw hits grassy earth, reflect as Thoreau did in “Walden,” “I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.”

The yard. It is as cherished by the dog as bling by the rapper. And we are its custodians. That’s right — spring-cleaning applies as much to our yards as to our homes. With that in mind and summer just around the corner, here is a list of things to stay on top of:

• Mushrooms. If we’re not paying attention, we’ll venture outside one bright warm day to find more fungus growing on our dog’s turf than in a fraternity fridge.

There’s an old saying: “There are old mushroom hunters, there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.” Most vets advise that all wild-growing mushrooms be regarded as toxic until proved otherwise. So unless you’re a mycologist by trade, keep your yard free of ‘shrooms.

• Blue-green algae or cyanobacteria. These toxic algae grow in both fresh and salt water in warm regions and are potentially fatal to pets and wildlife. So keep your ponds, fountains and pools clean. Also watch rivers and lakes when traveling, particularly stagnant water in warm climates.

• Compost piles. First of all, high-fives for composting. Second of all, make sure you keep that compost beyond the reach of curious pets and wildlife. Decaying matter can contain tremorgenic mycotoxins that are potentially lethal to pets and wildlife. And of course, dairy and meat products don’t belong in compost piles.

• Fertilizers, including organic fertilizers and mulch products. Most people grasp that chemical fertilizers and pets don’t mix. But just because a fertilizer is organic doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog. Blood meal and bone meal, both great organic fertilizers, and iron, which is added to many fertilizers, all cause problems ranging from unpleasant to dangerous if ingested by animals. And cocoa bean mulch is attractive to dogs, particularly, because of its chocolate aroma, but it, too, can cause harmful effects.

• Heat stroke/exhaustion. This almost goes without saying — almost. Dogs need access to shade outside if they don’t have ins and outs to the house. If your yard doesn’t offer natural shade by way of a large shade tree or two, you’ll need to step up and create a manmade version — covered deck or patio, a kennel or dog run with a canopy, thermal dog house.

But we can’t stop with shade. Access to fresh drinking water is a must. Always leave several full water bowls outside, in case your dog spills or steps in one of them. Or consider combining your standard water bowl with a pet fountain, which filters and aerates continuously moving water, keeping your dog’s water fresh all day.
And water has its uses beyond drinking. A child’s wading pool works to keep water-loving dogs cool on hot days, and misters are great for pets — and parties. Add tiki torches and fire up the grill, and let me know what to bring.

Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.

Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc. 

Matthew Margolis

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Special Publications »

    Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service (updated 4/30/2015) and Privacy Policy (updated 4/7/2015).
    Copyright (c) 2016 McNaughton Newspapers, Inc., a family-owned local media company that proudly publishes the Daily Republic, Mountain Democrat, Davis Enterprise, Village Life and other community-driven publications.