Spring Home & Garden Basics

Spring is springing! 

Spring photo.jpg

The daffodils are blooming, the grass is growing, and your dog and cat are getting spring fever as fast as you’re adding to your list of seasonal household updates.

When planning this year’s projects, consider your pet.  Does your dog spend a lot of time outside?  The unpredictability of Northwest weather makes it a good idea to have a doggie shelter to protect him from sun or rain.

Spot recently reviewed Ruth Strother’s book, The Dog Friendly Home, which features a number of cool dog-friendly projects.  For the diva dog, there are plans for a custom dog castle, moat not included.  The suburbanite pooch might like Strother’s ranch dog house, and for colder regions with more snow, there’s even an insulated dog house.

For pampered pooches who spend much of their time indoors, check out those dog beds.  There are even furnishings designed to help keep pets comfy (and out of the way) so you’re both happy as a dog in . . . a den!

All plans include lists of needed materials and tools, plus step-by-step directions and full-color pictures.  There are many styles, so you’re sure to find one suited to your pet’s preferences. Of course, Spot’s own Jake Faris has covered some great ideas in the past, too, in “Animal House.” Check out the archives on the web for more fantastic projects to bring spic and span to your spring!

Of course this is prime time for updating the yard and garden.  Before heading to the nursery for plants this spring, do a little homework.  Strothers points out that Azalea, Rhododendron, and Tulips are poisonous to dogs, to name but a few.  Most have heard by now, but it bears repeating:  while cocoa mulch might tempt, especially chocolate lovers, get your fix elsewhere; cocoa mulch is toxic to pets. 

A common challenge in the garden — slugs and snails — is also a challenge to combat while keeping pets safe.  Beer is one safe alternative among many; Strothers offers tips on taking on slugs in a pet-safe way, plus many more tips for the garden. 

Other pests are out and about more this time of year, too.  If your dog has ever encountered a skunk, you surely prefer it never happen again.  Skunks, raccoons and possums are all bound to visit at one time or another.  Simple steps that can help ensure they pass your home in favor of another include not leaving pet food outdoors, locking kitty or doggie doors at night, and making sure garbage bins have a strong seal.


Walk the fence lines after winter each year, checking for holes, loose boards, or sunken dirt that might allow predators in, or your babies out, should something attract them to the other side.  If updating or installing fencing this year, consider adding buried underground fencing or concrete edging.  Even hot wires along the top and bottom are being used these days to prevent unwanted visitors.


If rich, green, golf-course style grass is your goal this year, look into different types of grasses and what causes the dreaded yellow or brown spots. 

You’ll also find safe tricks to repelling your dog from chewing on your favorite yard foliage using simple household items.


Spring pool pup.jpg

If you have a pool or pond or are considering adding one, make safety a priority for people and pets alike.  Be mindful of footing around the pool, fencing, chemicals, depth, and entrance and exit points.  Whether or not your pets are swimmers, don’t let him drink — the pool or pond is not a water dish!  After swimming, a bath is in order as chlorine can burn eyes and skin.  Other chemicals used in ponds and pools can be harmful, too.  And did you know: algae is toxic to humans and animals alike?  Pools and ponds are wonderful.  To ensure all good times and memories, learn all about how it works, and how it should be equipped and maintained.

All pools and ponds should be surrounded by fencing that stays closed and locked at all times and is high enough to prevent dogs and small children from jumping or climbing over it.  There are floating pool alarms that go off in- and outside the home in the event the surface of the pool is disturbed. 


Before you dive into that load of honey-dos, make a list — and check it twice — to ensure your feline or canine companions’ well-being and safety.

Where to begin?  As with many things, preparedness is king.  Always have on hand the supplies to manage an at-home pet emergency.  Begin with the phone number for your local emergency pet hospital, and know their hours and how to get there.  Make sure your phone book includes the Pet Poison Hotline:  1-800-213-6680.  Experts in pet poisonings are on hand 24/7 to give advice in a pinch.

Next, check common household products to make sure they’re all pet-safe.  Many household projects involve a variety of chemicals, many of which are harmful through contact, ingestion, or inhalation.  Check products you plan to use against the information provided at PetPoisonHelpline.com. The site includes seasonal concerns as well as lists of household, kitchen, and outdoor toxins, as well as plants to avoid.  Even when using pet-safe products it’s important for you and your pet to maintain good ventilation, and when using tools that could harm curious noses or toes use a baby gate or crate to keep pets out of harm’s way.

Every family with pets should have a pet emergency kit on board.  The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association offers a list of recommended contents (see below).  Keep in mind, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Hotline before administering any of these products.

With the Internet and countless great how-to books available, great projects, and pet-safe products abound. 

Sprucing up your humble abode in a pet friendly way is completely doable with a few precautions. Heed these tips for a safe season and look forward to enjoying more quality time with your canine companion when the work is done safely and non-toxically. Check out The Dog Friendly Home DIY Projects for Dog Lovers and let us know what you think, too. 

Pet First Aid Kit

  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (within the expiration date)
  • Liquid hand dish-washing detergent
  • Rubber gloves
  • Triple antibiotic ointment (with NO other combination ingredients and for use on dogs ONLY)
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Diphenhydramine tablets 25 mg (with NO other combination ingredients)
  • Opthalmic saline solution or artificial tears
  • Can of water-packed tuna or canned pet food
  • Sweet electrolyte-containing beverage
  • Corn syrup
  • Vegetable oil

Courtesy the OVMA


Kennedy Morgan is a Portland-area dog mom, customer service manager for a small software company, and now freelance writer. Kennedy, her Dane, Vegas, and new addition, a Pomeranian, Leo, can be found playing with their many Dane friends (and their people) at weekly Portland Great Dane Community meetups. Contact her at kennedymmorgan@gmail.com. Photo is Vegas (Apache Vegas Rose)