Consider feeding your dog organic, natural, locally sourced food — always in ceramic or stainless steel bowls. Avoid plastic, which can leach chemicals.
Seek out safe, planet-friendly toys without preservatives, toxic metals, chemicals or latex that dogs can absorb with they lick and chew.
Skip the car for errands. Train your pup to ride in a cart or basket, and take your bike.
Some portion of the grooming products you use will end up in your dog’s belly and wash into waterways. Use shampoos and conditioners with nontoxic, organic and biodegradable ingredients and free of coloring, preservatives and fragrance. Bonus points for shampoo bars that cut down on plastic waste.
Fight Off Fleas
Nasty fleas make our dogs so miserable that we’re often tempted to reach for the chemicals. Recently, however, the Environmental Protection Agency issued warnings about adverse health reactions in pets and children exposed to many topical flea-and-tick preparations as well as to flea collars containing propoxur. There is an alternative — a natural, albeit proactive, way to control these pests, according to Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
• Bathe your dogs every two weeks (lather drowns fleas; leave it on for three to five minutes).
• Wash dogs’ bedding regularly.
• Vacuum carpets every week to remove flea eggs.
• Use a flea comb daily. It works!
For a complete breakdown of good, bad and ugly fleaand- tick control methods, go to greenpaws.org and check out NRDC’s GreenPaws fact sheet.
In the Garden
Grow your own organic produce in a dog-friendly garden. Planting a garden doesn’t mean excluding your dogs from the yard — instead, include them in your plan. Set aside an area (or areas) for your pup, with shade in the summer and protection from wind, rain or snow in the winter. If your dog is a digger, create a digging pit.
One of the easiest green investments you can make is to grow vegetables, fruit and herbs for you and your dog, organically of course. That means no chemicals — no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Use allnatural compost, and bone up on ingredients, absorption rates and application instructions before applying such products; even organic fertilizers such as manures and fish emulsions can be harmful to your dog.
Plant shrubs and grasses in masses to discourage dogs from entering an area. Raised beds also act as a deterrent to digging or unauthorized “harvesting.”
Avoid cocoa-bean mulches; their chocolaty smell makes them pup catnip, but they contain theobromine, which is toxic for dogs and causes serious gastrointestinal problems.
Create dog zones. Not all fruits and vegetables are safe for dogs to eat. Put a barrier around plants of the nightshade family, including eggplant, tomato and potato; their leaves contain alkaloids that can harm a dog.
Do not use slug or snail bait, even those that purport to be nontoxic, such as Sluggo. Alternatives include setting out a dish with beer in it (snails love the odor and so do dogs — cover the dish so only mollusks can enter); placing copper strips (available at most gardening stores) or pet fur around the base of plants; or scheduling early-morning “snailgathering” forays. (For more snail-defying schemes, visit sustainable-gardening-tips.com/garden-snails.html/.)
Need help with yard work? Enlist your dog. Think of easy chores for her to do, perhaps fetching a small tool, such as a hand trowel. Large breeds can be taught to pull small carts to help move soil, plant trimmings and other garden material (be sure not to overload the cart). Help with digging? Great for dogs who are trained to dig on request; dogs have also been known to help turn the compost!
Keep pet waste out of landfills and waterways.
Want to make a dog-loving environmentalist’s heart sink? Collect dog poop in non-degradable plastic and pitch it into the garbage. Or worse, leave it; uncollected waste is not only a source of bacteria, but also may contain chemicals from canine medications that can be washed into local waterways. Luckily, there are other options.