Dog Safety At Barbecues

The sun is shining, the drinks are chilled and soon the guests will be arriving. It won’t be long before the enticing aromas of a medley of meats fill the air. It’s time to relax. Unless, as a conscientious dog-owner, you want to keep your dog safe at a barbecue. Here are 5 tips to ensure that while you flip burgers, your day is not overturned by canine chaos or harm coming to your precious pooch.
Dog Safety At Barbecues

BBQ Horror Stories

Dog safety at barbecues really does need careful thought and planning. Sadly there are some tragic stories describing dogs suffering very serious and near-fatal injuries.  Reports of dogs swallowing skewers [1] or corn on the cobs [2] make for difficult and grim reading. Never mind the possibility of the many other hazards which can cause illness in dogs unless you ensure the barbecue is pet-safe. 

Remember not only do dogs love food, including those foods which are not very good for them, but they also investigate, understand and experience the world around them with their mouths.  

With all this in mind we have put together these dog safety bbq tips to help you protect your beloved pet as the sausages sizzle.

#1 Confine your dog to the house
#2 Train your guests not to feed the dog
#3 BBQ food can be dangerous – keep it away from your dog
#4 Grill safety and careful disposal of hot ashes/charcoal
#5 Clear up as you go

Related Post:
Keeping your hot dog cool in the summer

#1  Not in the dog-house, just in the house

Dog Safety at Barbecues - Tip 1
I know there’s food out there – I can smell it!

In all honesty, the best and simplest way to protect your dog at a barbecue is to keep them inside.  Or at least away while the cooking and eating is taking place, such as on a leash somewhere in the shade and at a safe distance away.  Of course, once the plates have been cleared and all left-overs safely stored or trashed your sociable pal can be released. 

This will absolutely guarantee that your pet will be safe.  But before you offer your dog a consolatory food parcel, please read our tips on food safety for dogs at barbecues below!

In  case it is not practical to leave your dog inside, or you just don’t have the heart to do it, please read on for tips to keep your pooch protected if he or she is still on the guest list.

#2 Don’t feed the dog – training for humans

Dog Safety At Barbecues - Tip 2
Some very badly trained guests

If you have a very well-trained dog who will immediately respond to commands to go to their safe-place, such as a blanket or crate, you will have an easier day.  It is possible, however, that you do have a dog who will not always obey; particularly with delicious smells floating in the air.  This means that you might need to offer a crash course on dog-safety at barbecues to your guests.

Do not be embarrassed to advise them that your dog should not be fed anything from the barbecue, including left-over scraps.  Many dogs have developed begging to a fine art and can make themselves hard to resist.  These consummate beggars have, after all, actually evolved to make appealing expressions to humans [3]

However, your guests must be warned that they could make your dog ill if they surrender.  A way to soften any sense of guilt and ease temptation to give in is to provide some healthy treats or dog-safe foods during the barbecue. Your guests could give these to your dog who will feel well-loved and popular. Not only that, they will very likely be one of the healthier eaters at the barbecue.

#3 Burnt offerings, dangerous foods and them dry bones

Dog Safety At Barbecues - Tip 3
I don’t think anyone saw me take this

If you burn food, and let’s face it most of us do, please don’t give this to your dog.  This can, in the short term, lead to stomach upset and diarrhea.  Experts also warn that, longer term, carbonized food can cause cancer in both humans and pets.

Under-cooked meats are nearly as bad for your dog as a seared sausage or burger.  These can also lead to vomiting or diarrhea, particularly if they have been left out in the warm weather for any length of time.  Ensure these are out of the reach of your dog.  Throw any scraps in the trash with a secure cover to prevent your dog pillaging them.

The dangers of corn-on-the-cob and skewers as highlighted above are obvious.  However, remember also the foods that are harmful to your dog in any context that might be more readily available at a barbecue.  These include onions, garlic and chives.  Look out for  any desserts containing chocolate or the artificial sweetener Xylitol.  Both can be very toxic to dogs.  Excessively salty food is also not good for dogs.  This is particularly true in warm barbecue weather as it can contribute to your dog being dehydrated.

Finally, remember that any cooked bones are brittle and therefore more dangerous to your dog.  If consumed these are liable to splinter and could cause intestinal damage [4].  As advised by the VCA, there are a range of quality chewing products which can be provided as an alternative to gnawing on bones including kongs and tough chews.

#4 Grill safety and the cooling-off period

Dog Safety at Barbecues - Tip 4
There’s no smoke without food

In the first instance, check that your grill is fully secure on a very flat surface.  This means there is little chance of it tipping over should an over-exuberant pet manage to get anywhere near it.  Always remember to close the grill when it is not in use to keep any pets and children away from hazardously hot surfaces.

Always be vigilant while you are cooking on the grill.  Remember that in hot weather it is always a good idea to give your dog a break from the sun and go inside as outlined in our guide to keeping dogs safe in the sun.  When you are busy cooking this would be the optimal time for your dog to take a break.   If you have not had the heart to keep your dog inside or on a leash, then try to arrange for a distraction.  Perhaps a kind guest or family member might choose this moment to take your dog for a short walk or play with them in a safe area.  

After the barbecue avoid tipping hot charcoal or embers out as these could pose a risk to your dog.  Remember to cool these off immediately and dispose of them securely and safely.  

#5 Clearing up as you go

Dog Safety At Barbecues - Tip 5
You owe me a lot of treats

It is no surprise that I have left this part until last. Clearing up  is something that I generally  like to leave until the last moment.  But, if you want to keep your dog safe at a barbecue it is a very good idea to clear up as you go.  Place any barbecue utensils which might offer tempting remnants of grease and meat out of your dog’s reach.  Any form of lighting fuel should also be removed once the barbecue is lit and placed somewhere safe.  Any other waste such as greasy foil or plastic cups should be thrown away immediately.  This is particularly true if these cups contained alcohol.

All foods should be covered or placed in safe containers as soon as practicable.

Looking after your hot dogs

With these bbq tips for dogs in place the biggest problem for your dog on barbecue-day will be persuading some reluctant and lethargic humans to play when the dining is done!   

For more general tips to keep your dog safe in hot weather click here.

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