Determining whether your balcony is a safe outdoor space for your pup depends on a lot of factors. It often comes down to knowing the dangers that exist and knowing how your dog behaves. However, regardless of the balcony and the dog, there are steps that owners can take to mitigate possible risks and make the balcony as safe as possible. Keep reading to find out what our animal experts suggest you do to keep your furry friend safe.
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS MRCVS
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS MRCVS, the advisory board for We’re All About Pets. She is an experienced small animal vet living and working in the UK. She is passionate about animal welfare and loves to help people learn more about their pets so they can take better care of them.
Ensure your dog is as safe as possible
Although never completely safe, balconies vary in their safety depending on their design. It also depends on your dog. Calm, older dogs are less likely to take a ‘leap of faith’ than young dogs.
Most dogs understand that they cannot leap into the air and have a natural fear of heights, but you should take particular care when scary things are happening. Dogs that are anxious due to fireworks or thunderstorms may try to escape without thinking about the consequences. Similarly, take care when things are very exciting, such as the sight of another dog or prey on the next balcony.
If you have a balcony, especially if you are stuck indoors a lot with lockdown, you may want to take steps to make it as safe as possible for your dog. Here are my top tips for ensuring your dog is as safe as possible:
- Fully enclose the balcony where possible to a height above your dog’s head. If your dog is young and athletic, you may want to enclose the balcony to a height that they cannot jump over.
- Reward your dog for calm behavior when on the balcony.
- Consider how slippery the balcony is. Many balconies become slippery in the rain, and this can lead to accidents.
- Shut your dog in if they are anxious or overexcited in case they decide to take their chances with the height.
Determine the safety of the balcony
Balconies are safe for dogs, but not all balconies are created equal. The wider the [gaps in] railing are, the more likely an animal can slip through them. Additionally, the [larger] the gap between the floorboard of the balcony and the railing is, the more opportunity it provides for a furry friend to get under. The size of one’s dog and the attributes of the balcony ultimately determine the safety of the balcony. However, as a general rule, animals have the basic instinct to try to avoid death, and they shouldn’t jump off the balcony unless provoked. Balconies are safe for pets, but there are certain steps that owners can take to ensure their pets don’t get out or fall off.
Daniel Caughill is a professional journalist, marketer, and one of the co-founders of The Dog Tale. His work has been featured on Frontline Education, Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, MassMutual, LendingTree, Cheapism, and Smallpdf.
When deciding whether your balcony is a safe place for your dog, there are a number of things you’ll need to consider, such as how high the balcony is from the ground, how high the railing is, whether your dog can fit between the rails, and so on.
Beyond all of these things, you need to know your dog. Are they calm and happy to nap, or do they get excited by neighbors and passing cars? Do you have a senior pup who isn’t as mobile as they used to be or an agile teen who loves to jump, climb, and get into trouble? These attributes will tell you what precautions to take when deciding where to let your dog play.
Balconies are not the safest place
Balconies are not the safest place for leaving your dog alone. They’re quite dangerous due to the empty spaces in between rods. Your little buddy can slip out of there. There may also be some sharp edges anywhere around the balcony area, which can hurt your dog.
Furthermore, leaving your dogs on a balcony is like leaving them in a prison cell – they feel suffocated there. They feel confused in such enclosed spaces and try to get out from there. The only outlet available at that time is the space between rods or jumping off from the balcony, which happens in many cases. Dogs end up hurting themselves and getting injured.
Risk of Falling
I would always urge a degree of caution when your dog is outside on a balcony. Depending on the type of balcony, some small dogs could squeeze through the gaps between the railings, and larger dogs could jump over the edge, especially if they spot a squirrel or a cat that they want to chase. A fall from a height could lead to a serious injury, so try and supervise your pet.
I once had a puppy come into the clinic that had fallen from a two-story building. Thankfully, it ‘bounced’ off a bush below and didn’t break anything! Other dogs may not have been so lucky.
Keep an eye on dogs that are prone to heat exhaustion, particularly flat-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs, if your balcony is a bit of a sun trap.
If your dog gets stressed easily and barks a lot at passers-by or cars, then a balcony may not be suitable for him.
A balcony is definitely a nice place to get out for some fresh air and sunshine, though and many dogs just like to watch the world go by. Plus, your neighbors may enjoy seeing them out there relaxing too!
At least four feet high
In general, well-constructed balconies with rails that are at least four feet high and have slats that a dog cannot fit through are safe for dogs that are supervised. It is not advised to leave even the most well-behaved dog unattended on a balcony because you never know when the urge will strike them to jump after a bird, cat, squirrel, or other interesting things. If your dog tends to jump onto or over things, then it would be a good idea to keep your dog fitted with a harness and leash when he is on a balcony. Also, make sure that your dog has water and shelter from the elements if he spends a lot of time on a balcony.
Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, Vet expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance.
Proper enclosure of your balcony
Balconies can be a safe and useful extension of [your pet’s] environment with adequate enclosure and appropriate training.
One of the scariest and life-threatening problems with balconies is [the potential for] your pet to fall from them. The proper enclosure of your balcony includes screening off any openings that are large enough for your dog to squeeze through. Closing the area off can be done with canvas, banister guards, or wire.
Remove any poisonous plants that are on your balcony or in reach of your dog’s mouth. The most common toxic plants for dogs include tulips, azaleas, lilies, sago palm, iris, and ivy. If you are concerned about a plant in the vicinity, [check] the ASPCA poisonous plant website.
Also, remove any toxins such as ant bait or rat bait from the reach of your pet. Some of the poisons used in the baits may only cause an upset stomach, but others can be life-threatening to your dog.
Ensure your dog is adequately trained to be out on your balcony safely. Dogs that have the disposition to want to jump or chase after squirrels should not be on a balcony. These dogs can quickly scale over the railing and fall, resulting in injury or fatality.
I also recommend monitoring your dog at all times when they are out on the balcony to ensure their safety. Unattended dogs can chew or scratch, creating a hazard for themselves.
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