John Collins, Real Estate Agent
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Downsizing With Your Dog - Yard Space

by John Collins 04/24/2019

So, you recently downsized your living space. You mentally prepared to adjust your lifestyle to a more compact living area, you reorganized all your belongings, implemented new storage systems and found the most effective furniture arrangements, but what about the dog? While the new living arrangement might be a little adjustment for you, it could be a more significant adjustment for your pets, especially for dogs used to a large backyard and play area. How can you help your pet make the transition? Try some of these tips. 

Design their backyard ahead of time.

Just as you investigated the best way to layout your new home to make the downsizing transition work for you, your dog will need help designing their new yard space to make the smaller area work for them. Start by separating and designating areas your dog needs as much as possible. Did your pet have a specific bathroom area in their old yard? It usually is in a corner far away from their play areas or your entertainment areas. Having a designated place to "go" is a comforting factor to your dog. It may be harder for them to find and keep a specific location in a smaller yard without infringing on their play area. Before bringing your dog into the new yard take a look at the space and figure out the best place for their house, potty area and play areas. Try keeping their home and the potty regions in opposite corners with a corridor, or the most extended angled area you can find, available for play. When you first introduce your pup to the yard walk them around the perimeter, introduce them to their house, and get them to mark in their new bathroom corner. You should do this daily for at least a couple weeks to help ingrain the different areas and help them separate the spaces in their yard.

Keep your dog entertained. 

If you have an outdoor dog that is used to a large yard, particularly if you have a larger breed, you may find that they are having trouble adjusting to a small yard. While they used to be able to occupy your time at work with chasing birds or squirrels and generally running around, they now have less natural entertainment in the small condo or bungalow yard. When you come home from work, do they seem bored? Are they very antsy? Are they tearing up your new yard looking for something to do? Depending on your pet's play preferences - chewing, tugging, digging - there are simple DIY backyard projects you can tackle to provide more independent play activities for your dog.

  • Tug of War - Installing an independent tug toy is a very effective entertainment source for your dog. You can DIY this set up using a fence or stair railing post, or by planting a large stake in the yard. Grab a short bungee cord and a long piece of thick rope from your local hardware store. Tie several large and tight knots at the end of the rope, then tie the rope around the center of the bungee cord. Wrap the cord tight around the post several times until it has no flex when hooked together. If you don’t have a post available invest in a long metal stake that you can secure in the ground, then use a medium size carabiner to clip the rope toy to the post. Introduce the toy to your dog and entertain them for hours.
  • Digging Area - If your dog likes to dig but can quickly dig up your entire new yard, try establishing a specific digging area for him. Take another corner of your yard, or a place along the side yard if you have one and dig out a small pit. Fill the hole with heavier sand or mulch to make it easier for your dog to dig. Convince them the new pit is the right place to dig by burring a bone, their favorite toy or a treat and show them they can dig to find it. Continue establishing the spot with your dog over the first few weeks, and they'll soon be burying their bone there themselves and have a new independent play option.

Maintain the yard. 

Work to keep your yard space clean and usable—for you and the dog. You may not have had to pick up poop daily on your larger property. It is now imperative to keep the bathroom area clean and contained. And, maintain as much usable space in the yard as possible. If you host a bbq make sure you clean up and restore any furniture that encroaches on your dog’s play area.

If you have a large dog who needs a bigger outdoor space, make sure you take up this concern with your real estate agent while you look for your new home, so they can help you find the best option for downsizing that keeps you and your pup happy. For even more life enjoyment expand your pup's living space with indoor activities as well. Spending time with you in your space is also good for the dog's stimulation. See part two of this article for tips on entertaining your pet indoors.

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