My family adopted a puppy about 16 months ago. We have a nice-sized property and wanted him to be able to run and play, learn to fetch, and have freedom of movement. We paid a good amount to have our property fenced in but cannot allow our pup to run free because many feral cats run wild in our yard and the wooded area behind our home. They use our yard as a litter box.
Whenever we allow our dog to run free, he rolls in the feces left behind by these feral cats. How can we keep them out of our yard? I have contacted local rescue groups and the town, and they have no solutions (other than me paying to trap and spay/neuter them, which I cannot afford).
Additionally, I have learned that a neighbor places food and water out for these cats and has set up "shelters" for them on her adjoining property. I don’t feel comfortable approaching the neighbor as she has behaved unreasonably in the past. I get extremely frustrated by keeping my dog chained up to avoid constantly having to bathe him. Please help!
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— Jamie, East Islip, New York
Let your dog move about freely in his fenced backyard. The sight, smell, and sound of a dog can be a deterrent. When you confine him, cats understand where their boundaries are in the yard. Give him space to mark his territory, so the cats learn he is everywhere. Get some doggie bathing wipes to clean his fur to reduce the need to bathe him.
Next, try a motion-activated sprinkler that will go off every time the cats try to enter the yard. They are inexpensive and do a good job of establishing boundaries. You can turn the sprinkler off when you or your dog are in the yard.
If you like to garden, introduce highly-scented plants, which cats (and deer) don't like. These may include rosemary, lavender, lemon thyme, geranium, and oregano.
Remove food sources, like garbage with discarded food, your dog's food bowl, or bird feeders that may attract hungry felines. If you feed birds and want to continue feeding them, consider installing a cat fence, which is netting that runs atop your current fence line and keeps cats from climbing into your yard. (It's more expensive, so try motion-activated sprinklers first.)
Your recent column mentioned dogs doing their business on private lawns. In it, you said, "If your pet really has to go on someone's property," or words to that effect. In my experience, there is never a time when a pet has to go on someone's lawn. I walked my dog for years in my neighborhood and never let her go on anyone's property. She stayed in the street, went there, or waited until we reached the public park about 400 yards away. Your advice is off-target.
Cleaning up your dog's pee is not an option, and when dozens of dogs have it on my lawn, it turns an attractive shade of brown. I prefer green. Having dogs mark their territory on my bushes is not polite either. What amazes me is that pet owners think this is fine, and nearly all dog walkers allow it, as if this is the norm.
Your column is influential, and your latest advice gives tacit permission for pet walkers to continue trespassing and allowing their dogs to pee and poo on my property. Excuse my accusation; I feel that you also may let your pet do this and, therefore, are reluctant to be hypocritical in advising others not to. Thanks for listening. Enjoy your column.
— Fred, Emmaus, Pennsylvania
I am unaware of giving anyone permission to walk their dog into a neighbor's yard. I have said that dogs can be trained to learn where and when they can relieve themselves, and I encourage pet parents to train their dogs to do so.
But I also have said sometimes things don't go as planned. My 13-year-old dog has more sudden “urges" than in his youth. If we have yet to make it to one of his permissible locations, it might mean he pees on the sidewalk or the street instead of grass, which is not popular with neighbors either.
This is a people problem, not a dog program, so my advice remains consistent. Train your dog to pee where and when you want, keep your dog out of your neighbor’s yards, and pick up after your dog in all circumstances. That’s the only way to be a good “dog” neighbor.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)