A life-guard for my dog?
February 20, 2011 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Where should I leave my puppy in my house? Swimming pools and dogs.

I recently got a new puppy. He is an 18week old Beagle. Everything is great.

I am lucky to work from home 3 or 4 days a week. So, I can be with him all day most days. But, some days I do have to work in the field. The question is, where do I leave him on those days?

There is only one place inside the house where I can leave him safely. That is the kitchen / laundry area (about 150sq.ft.).

But I could also leave him outside in my backyard (about ½ acre). The yard is securely fenced, and I am getting an invisible fence to compliment the actual fence. I know that he can be safely contained in the yard.

It seems like a no-brainer, I should leave him in the yard. But there is a pool, a big pool. It is 30ft x 15ft and 8ft deep. I live in Florida, so the pool is open and swimmable all year round. The pool is also a concrete bottom, so there are no worries about him tearing the pool liner. The dog is welcome to use the pool.

I am going to teach him to swim. I want him to feel welcome to swim with me and my guests. Also, if he every fell into the pool, he needs to know where the steps are and how to get out. But is the dog safe alone with the pool?

I cannot invisible fence the pool. If he every fell in with the collar, he would have to swim out while getting shocked by the fence collar.

I do not really want another fence inside my fenced backyard. And frankly, I simply do not have the money to fence off the pool. Perhaps I could spend a few hundred, but anything that cheap he could get through.

Is the dog safe in the backyard alone with the pool? Some people have told me that I should have a pool alarm for the days when I am home with him, and I should never let him be out by the pool unattended.

But that means keeping him in the kitchen on days when I work in the field. I want him to be healthy and happy, and having a big open backyard seems like the better idea. But is the pool a deal breaker for the yard?

What do you think, does the dog need a life guard? Am I crazy to leave a dog outside with access to a pool for 8 or 10 hours?
posted by Flood to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the premise that the yard is better then the kitchen is flawed from the jump, especially given how hot it is during the Florida summer. I'd be concerned about the pool as well, but I think your dog would be happier inside to begin with. He's not really going to run around playing by himself out is your yard. He's more likely to find a shady spot and sleep waiting for you come home and spend time with him.
posted by JPD at 6:40 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your best option, on days you are not home, would be to keep the dog confined in the space you identified inside the house, or to use a crate.

My opinion is that leaving the dog outside when you are not home has the potential for a number of terrible things to happen to the dog.

In addition, Beagles are loud dogs at times. If my neighbor were to leave his/her Beagle home attended, and it started making a lot of noise, I would be very, very unhappy, and would eventually call animal control.
posted by tomswift at 6:40 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

We have a dog and a lovely fenced yard. In the summer, even with my husband working on the screen porch, the dog is generally kept indoors/on the porch. Why? He digs. Your dog may be a digger as well, which could be an issue with escape.
posted by kellyblah at 6:53 AM on February 20, 2011

Admittedly, I am no dog expert, and I do not really know what he does when I am not home.

But when I am home working, and he is in the yard - he is out there playing by himself. I go out to check on him, and he is playing with one of his balls. Or barking at a cat on the other side of the fence line. Or rolling around in the mulch. Or romping around.

Would this play stop if I were not home?

Barking is not an issue. My neighbors are far enough away. I do not in tightly packed suburbia. I live in a rural, citrus farming area.
posted by Flood at 6:57 AM on February 20, 2011

Would this play stop if I were not home?

Dogs sleep a lot. Like 12 hours a day +, and they don't sleep that in a steady block. Eventually he'll get bored and take a nap. Then he'll wake up and maybe go looking for trouble.
posted by JPD at 7:06 AM on February 20, 2011

My wife grew up in Florida, in a house with a pool. Her family had a puppy that drowned while unsupervised.

Leaving him inside is the responsible thing to do. He'll get plenty of outside time when you're home.
posted by gnutron at 7:16 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd agree with the general consensus. Even without the pool issue, the dog's going to just get hot being outside in Florida weather for that long at a stretch. It seems like he'll be a lot more comfortable inside.

Or if you feel bad about him being contained in a smaller area... work on slowly dog-safing more of the house?
posted by Stormfeather at 7:17 AM on February 20, 2011

I have a cam set up to watch my dogs (2 & 3 yrs old) when I'm not home. At first I kept them confined to the cam area when I wasn't home because I was sure that they were all over the place, getting into trouble. After a few days of watching the videos I saw that all they do is sleep. So I started leaving the doors open, etc. And still, all they do is sleep, right in front of the camera.

With a puppy, I wouldn't trust him to stay out of trouble when you're not home, but the kitchen area, stocked with some busy-toys (like food-filled kongs or other treat dispenser toys) should be fine.
posted by dogmom at 7:19 AM on February 20, 2011

The bad things that tomswift mentioned are a real concern. Someone may take your dog. In my area, class B dealers have been known to go 'shopping' for dogs to sell in people's yards. There are people out there that do bad things to animals just to do it. Florida heat. Weather events. Coyotes. Snakes (which I'm don't think a beagle would ignore). Digging and escaping. Eating poisonous plants (beagles eat everything). And even if you taught your dog to swim, pool + unsupervised dog = potential disaster. You wouldn't leave a 5 year-old child alone with a pool, even if that child knew how to swim.

The best thing to do when you are not at home is to put him in a crate in the house where he can safely sleep away the time that you are not there. It's what I do with my dogs, and it works well.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:20 AM on February 20, 2011

We have a border collie/kelpie who is an Outside, All The Time dog. When we lived in a house with a pool, we did leave him outside by the pool all day. He usually found a shady spot to get in a few of those 20 hours a day of sleep he seems to need.

However: I live in a country where most everyone leaves dogs larger than a chihuahua outside all day, so this "OMG terrible things may happen!" mindset is a bit foreign to me (though it's perfectly valid; dogs can be naughty. And stupid.) Furthermore, our dog has a morbid fear of water and never went closer than 6 feet near the edge. If your dog likes the water, this could well be a bad move, for much the same reason that leaving your kid out by the pool is a bad idea.

If you do decide to go for it, try doing what we did: unexpectedly push the dog in the pool a few times, so he knows how to get out from the deep end in a panic. (Prepare for a couple of days of sulking and forlorn doggy looks.) But overall, I wouldn't recommend leaving a non-waterphobic dog by a pool on a warm day.
posted by jaynewould at 7:22 AM on February 20, 2011

Until the dog is a little older, is taught to swim, and to get out of the pool safely, you absolutely should have a pool alarm, and should not leave the dog unsupervised in the yard. The kitchen/laundry area is fine for a dog. An 18 week old puppy will have a hard time being alone for a full day.
posted by theora55 at 7:24 AM on February 20, 2011

I had to save our beagle from drowning once when I was a teen. I just happened to be looking out the bathroom window on the second story of our house when I saw her floundering about in the pool, unable to get herself out. This is a dog that would swim with us regularly. I don't know if she panicked or what, but she was still at the edge trying to claw herself out and paddling furiously by the time I got down there.
To this day I think about what would have happened if I weren't home that day.
posted by newpotato at 7:43 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your puppy is young enough now that whatever you do with him will teach him what is normal. So, one thing you will want to consider are those days where, even though you have to leave him alone, putting him outside is not an option: rainy days, windy days, really cold days, really hot days, etc. No matter what, there will be times when you will not want to leave him exposed to the elements all day long. Now, if you get him used to going outside, these special days where he's forced to stay inside will be difficult and painful for him. If, on the other hand, you raise him to be perfectly happy being inside all day, these days will be no different for him than normal. He'll be happier if he's trained to think of Inside as Normal.

You get to set the rules. And whatever rules you set will be the ones he'll get accustomed to. If you give him consistency, no matter what, he'll be happy as a clam.

And please, please, please don't discount all of the horrible things that can happen to animals outside. My sister-in-law had a beloved, wonderful, sweet cat.... Whom she found in her backyard, ripped to shreds and half-eaten. And she lives in a bustling, well-developed suburb. I can't imagine the pain she must have felt when making that discovery, and I don't think you want to experience it, either. Please, keep your puppy safe.

Also, I'm totally dog-crazy and I'd kill to get to see a picture of your li'l pup...
posted by meese at 7:46 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your dog will be fine indoors for eight hours once a week. Sure, dogs loooove being outside and sniffing and rolling around and chasing squirrels. However. If you leave your dog home alone, here's what he'll do: sleep, patrol the house, sleep, get a drink of water, sleep, go nuts because OMG my human is BACK!
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:28 AM on February 20, 2011

Please keep him in the house. I work in animal cruelty investigations, and the vast majority of cases we get occur when animals are victimized while outside unsupervised. Drowning in the pool is another real concern.
posted by srrh at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2011

I'm sorry, but I can't answer without seeing a photo of your adorable puppy.

Ok, I'll try: It's actually a no-brainer to me the other way round from how you phrased it. What you have is a baby dog. Not even 6 months old yet, he's learning all about the world and how it works. What's edible, what's acceptable to his owner, what's dangerous, what's fun, what feels good, what hurts, what's interesting, what's boring. Is that thorny bush edible? Is it fun to pee on the pool deck? Does it feel good to gnaw on the fence? Maybe, but you wouldn't know it until you got home several hours later to identify, or correct, or even notice.

I'm not one to leave my dogs outside unattended for more than an extended bathroom break, but I recognize that some people have circumstances that allow it. But as long as he's a baby, leave him inside when you're not home. It won't harm him in the least, he won't be any less bored since you're not there anyway, and he'll be safer.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2011

Outdoors, alone, with a deep pool in the yard? Consider the worst case scenario -- and you will not want that outcome. You're also getting a lot of other real concerns from the answers above. Your pup will be fine indoors and far safer. If you need to limit his space indoors but a crate is too limiting, an expandable exercise pen (x-pen) is a good bet.
posted by vers at 8:47 AM on February 20, 2011

Crate train him. Beagles appreciate being told that they are expected to take an 8 hour nap. All we have to do is say the word crate and our beagle goes and lays down in his crate Beagles are scent hounds, if they get a whiff of something an invisible fence and a real fence may not be enough to contain him.
posted by COD at 8:51 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok - I guess I will leave him in the kitchen.

I am crate training, but 8 hours in a crate seems to much for me. He can go in and out of the crate, but I want him to have at least a little room to play if he wants.

Thank you all for your responses.
posted by Flood at 9:29 AM on February 20, 2011

Good choice, and it's good you're doing crate training. But eight hours is likely to be too long in a crate, particularly for a puppy of any breed. Can you bring in a dog walker to break up the day when you're in the field?
posted by vers at 10:30 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two of my dogs had bullets in them, discovered on X-ray, likely years after they picked them up. We don't know how. We used to leave them outside, in a yard with a tall privacy fence and wire mesh underground under the fence, surrounded by other homes that had outside-only dogs in their yards. I can only guess that they must have been shot while they were in the yard, somehow--unless maaaybe they picked them up as puppies, since they were both rescued quite young. One had several BB's, another had a .22! Holey shit. The vet explained that since the bullets are so hot when they go in, they cauterize their own wound and so without blood, often get overlooked. Dogs can be really stoic, and so they may not give any indication that they're wounded.

We stopped leaving the dogs outside at all once we moved to FL, because it's just too hot most of the year, really. It was after that that we discovered the bullets. I wish we had never, never left our dogs outside unsupervised.
posted by galadriel at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2011

Can you bring in a dog walker to break up the day when you're in the field?

Yes, I have a niece that will happily stop by to see the dog while I am in the field. She will feed him at his regular dinner time, to maintain his schedule - and she will play with him for about 45 minutes.
posted by Flood at 10:42 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Personally, I would leave him outside, if there is sufficient shade and (drinking) water. But not until he is much older and you are confident that he is a good swimmer. But I grew up in a rural community where people were shocked at the concept of letting dogs in the house ever, so I am probably biased here.
posted by lollusc at 2:51 PM on February 20, 2011

I see you've already made up your mind, but one more thing that hasn't been covered - you live in Florida, where there's thunderstorms - some dogs FLIP THEIR LIDS at thunderstorms. Especially dogs prone to nervousness and anxiety like beagles. He could dig himself bloody, he could toss himself into the pool, he could run into traffic - we came home from a thunderstorm once to find my in-laws dog had jumped up, opened an unlocked window, chewed through the screen, fallen 10 feet to the bush below, and ran down the street (where luckily we were coming back and saw him). He should be inside for this reason and all the ones mentioned before.
posted by kpht at 5:51 PM on February 20, 2011

Compromise- crate train him then leave the crate outside. That's what my parents do in CA and all their dogs have been perfectly happy with it. If it's rainy or cold they go in their "house" which is an airline crate under an overhanging roof with a bed in it. If it's nice they sack out under a tree on the lawn or in a nice cool hole they dug under the hedge. I wouldn't leave him around the pool until he's older and I wouldn't encourage him to swim in it. Let him know that pools aren't really for dogs and he'll be very unlikely to get in it of his own accord. My parents dogs swim in lakes and the ocean and like to lay in a kiddie pool with fresh water when it's hot but they don't like the swimming pool, presumably because of the chlorine and the hot concrete around it. Basically they act like it's a giant vat of acid which works for everyone.
posted by fshgrl at 7:26 PM on February 20, 2011

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is digging under the fence. If it is a chain link fence, where the chain link part ends at ground level, expect him to figure out how to dig under it someday. We had to attach our chain link to stakes pounded [deeply] into the ground at 6" intervals, PLUS we blocked the bottom with railroad ties and large rocks. It was only then that we were confident we'd blocked that escape route. Now we are concerned our beagle is going to learn to climb the fence, as we've seen him about halfway up when squirrels sit on top.

If yours a wooden privacy fence, figure out some way to prevent digging. (Ours totally ignored the invisible fence, but we bought an off-brand, which was a mistake in retrospect.)

kpht: "some dogs FLIP THEIR LIDS at thunderstorms. Especially dogs prone to nervousness and anxiety like beagles"

Although your point is a good one, not all beagles are nervous and anxiety-prone. Mine cannot be bothered to even open his eyes when there is a thunderstorm.

Another pro-beagle-owner-tip: don't leave anything enticingly smelly in any uncovered garbage can inside the house. We've had everything from leftover food to ... ahem ... used women's monthly supplies scattered around my house in the early days when That Darn Beagle was left alone too long.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:26 AM on February 21, 2011

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