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The Singapore Dog Lifestyle Blog

Balcony safety for dogs

dog on balconyA man has been fined S$5,000 for keeping his pet dog in the balcony of his apartment, and exposing it to the sun and rain for long periods of time… Ling had said he was not aware of causing any suffering to his pet as it was healthy. – 3 Sep, 2013 channelnewsasia – The balcony is not a safe environment for dogs when unsupervised.

dog lying on side on balconydog on balcony

When you live in a high-rise apartment with a dog like we do, the balcony is the closest to the outside world for the dog. To humans, it is an area of relaxation and it can be so for a dog as well. But would a dog do well on the balcony by himself for at least 8 hours a day when the human is out at work? Can you, the human, imagine staying on the balcony for the same amount of time?

Let’s imagine this scenerio and look at how safe the balcony is for a dog.

1. Is it possible for the dog to jump over the balcony and plunge down to its death?
Balcony rails are typically about waist-height or slightly higher, right? When calm, Donna is fully capable of launching herself up on architectural structures in the park that stand at 50-60cm in height. When excited, this is approximately the height Donna can reach without launching off the floor.

We don’t know if she can launch herself over the balcony railing, but we don’t intend to test that out! What we do know is, another dog from her litter has already proven that dogs can jump down to their deaths from the window, due to thunderstorm phobia. Not all dogs have thunderstorm phobia, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a reason to jump.

I have a friend who lives on the fourth floor of a building. Saturday was a pretty day, so he left his balcony door open so that the dog could lounge out there if she wanted. A few hours later, he gets a call from a neighbor, telling him that the dog jumped off the balcony and is hurt on the ground…landed in gravel. – Emmy, August 2011, Shibainuforum.org

And we may not always know why and when they would do it.

2. Can the dog cope with being outside on the balcony and exposed to the wind and rain?
Some dogs, like ours, get thunderstorm phobia. What is thunderstorm phobia?

Symptoms of a dog freaking out due to bad thundderstorm

It starts with the restlessness and attention to the weather sounds. Then the dog starts to achieve height by climbing. No place is good enough. The dog doesn’t listen to you and continue to roam around uneasily. Her ears will be pulled back. She startles easily. She stands frozen, panting and dripping copious amounts of saliva on the floor. She forgets house-rules. You need to manage her way to the newspaper/peepad once she shows signs that she needs to go. You cheer her for doing the right thing on the newspaper. Skin contact lets you feel her shaking violently and uncontrollably. She tries to climb on you and burrow her head against your chest. Even when the storm lightens, she may not shake herself out of the fear for some time, but you can try to distract her and get her on her feet so she may do that “reset” boogie.
Apologies if this picture/description is upsetting.

This is what being over threshold looks like. I’m sorry if it upsets anybody. 

  • Symptoms of Thunderstorm Phobia

    • Selective deafness – dog focuses only on the thunder and not to you anymore
    • Restlessness
    • Climbing
    • Freezing in place
    • Violent shaking
    • Ears pulled back
    • Whale-eye
    • Panting/Salivating
    • Needing to eliminate immediately

How much worse for a dog all alone on a balcony? And even if the dog does not suffer from the debilitating fear of thunder, it wouldn’t be the best place to stay when it is wet and windy, would it?

At least, I for one like to keep snug and dry indoors.

3. Let’s say the balcony is totally grilled and secure like a prison cell and it is not the rainy monsoon season yet, can the dog be left in the balcony then?
Interestingly enough, I have never seen anyone chilling out on those balconies in the middle of the day.This is the tropics after all… glaringly bright, humidly hot. No, thank you.

But seriously, what are the risks? Despite the hair on their bodies, dogs can get sunburnt too. And that includes the associated risks, such as skin cancer.

According to Dr. Karen Campbell, veterinary dermatologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, sunburn starts as redness and hair loss on the ear tips, bridge of the nose, or abdomen and can lead to skin ulceration, infection, and carcinoma…  “The belly is prone to sunburn because of sunlight that reflects up from the sidewalk…” says Dr. Campbell… Sunburn and repeated, excessive exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer… in dogs and cats as it does in humans. .. Excessive sun exposure can also exacerbate existing skin problems… – vetmed.illinois.edu : Protect your pets from Sunburn, Jun 6, 2005. Kim Marie Labak.

Dogs need to drink more when it’s hot outside, particularly on the balcony that faces the sun during the day. Some balconies are not deep and provide little shade. That man mentioned in the news article right at the start of this post? From the picture in the news article, it seemed he provided the dog with his water bowl and a plastic crate. But is that good enough? Remember dogs overheat and die in parked cars.

In a plastic kennel just the right size for the dog that provides shade but possibly not enough airflow. Chances are the kennel will start heating up as the sun moves across the sky, right?

Of course, a car and a kennel are two very different things. But I, for one, would need some serious convincing/on-site demonstration from the salesman to give that plastic dog house the benefit of the doubt.

Outside in the blazing sun or inside the the hot, stuffy crate? Left alone on the balcony, the dog doesn’t have the choice to escape the heat, does it?

So why do some people lock the dog out of the house, on the balcony, when they go out?
I could hazard a guess that the dog is not house-trained and may mess up the house when the human is gone. Perhaps the human has other animals in the house and need to keep them separated? 
Regardless of the reasons, keeping the dog alone on the balcony is not the solution.

Agree, disagree? Are there other balcony dangers you know of that is not shared here?

If you found this post useful, please share with people whom you think may find it helpful too, for example:

  • first-time dog adopting families
  • existing dog idiots living in a flat/apartment with a balcony
  • working families who leave the dog home alone with a full-time domestic help

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22 Comments

  1. I hadn’t seem that video of that man in the car. It really is awful. I’ve mentioned it to someone at a supermarket and they were saying should they take it shopping with them then and stormed off. I called to dog warden and we had the dog out within 20 minutes but it was on the verge of collapse. Hot weather kills.

    I didn’t think about anything to do with balconies as I’ve never had one but I have one piggy with an extreme fear of thunderstorms to the point where it could hurt itself. Playing loud music to it in a room with curtains across and all lights on got us through it but whenever I wasn’t home I’d come back to find the cage a mess and him quivering in the corner.

    xxxx

    • I’m so glad you got the poor dog out in time! Nice work. It makes sense that some piggies will get thunderstorm phobia too, same as cats and dogs. I am very sorry for your loss and hope Nacho will recover from his grief in time. :( Take care!

  2. Regardless of the situation …. whether it be a fenced yard, or an unfenced yard with some form of tethering system, indoors or out … people just DON’T THINK. It’s every pet owner’s responsibility to assess situations and ensure an animal’s safety and well being. it’s sad really.

    Interesting post.

  3. Excellent information! People are alarmingly ignorant of their fuzzy friends’ needs. Even simple things like leaving a pet in a hot apartment can be dangerous. I always leave the air conditioning on if I’m not here to judge how hot it is in terms relative to my Persian cats, with their long hair.

    Your consistently useful and meaningful information of care of dogs makes this one of my favorite blogs. You do a great service for all the suffering hounds who live with people reading your blog postings! (Well, and Donna is such a sweety, I enjoy reading and seeing what’s going on in her world each day! Woof!)

    • Thank you for the kind words. I do hope it is useful, although I suspect the ones who actively seek/read such information usually are well-informed already. But at least the information is posted, with every intent of making it graphic and hopefully leaves an impression.

  4. Great awareness post Mrs. P and I wish some of the folks here would read up on it. I would like to print it and stick it up their noses and that man should not be fined only but he should be marked and never be allowed to get a pet ever again in his life…not even a spider. People don’t realise that pets are like small kids – they can’t think for themselves and react to their instinct. As their ‘parents’ we should do everything in our power to keep them safe and healthy and by just giving them food and water just doesn’t do it. Some folks just shouldn’t be allowed to have children or pets Mrs. P but again, that is life and that is people for you. I am glad Donna have a safe and loving home and that there are people like you and Mr. P in this world. That’s what’s important here. :D
    *big hugs* to you and Donna and lots of kisses from Simba. xxx

    • Thank you. It is as you say, the people who want to know more will google and look it up themselves. And if this post is useful enough, maybe they will find it eventually :) As for those who don’t there is always the law, haha! At least the news makes people more aware that this is abuse and with a $5000 fine as a deterrent, people would pay attention.

      • I totally agree and I am sure they will but I would still like to go and print this and stuff it up some’s noses here where we live as they shouldn’t be allowed to have pets. Unfortunately the law here is very slacking where that is concerned. They should report more things like this on the news here as well. Here a R10000 fine should do very nicely and they should stay on the record as animal abusers. :D

  5. Wow – great post on safety. We have an awning on our balcony which helps Ruby but it pulls itself in when it’s windy (which is often). Big thing in Australia is cat/dog flaps on the balcony screen door. We haven’t got one but I’ve been thinking about it…

  6. It’s something I never thought about. I guess it would depend on several factors. On a nice day where the dog has shade and water and the railing is too high for him to jump over, I see nothing wrong with it. After all, wouldn’t a dog be happier there than locked inside a crate all day? But add heat, rain, or other adverse weather and I would say no way. I would also consider my dog’s tendency to bark. And what about my neighbors? What if one of the neighboring kids decides to tease the dog from their own balcony by yelling at him or throwing things at him?

    • That is very true about the dog’s tendency to bark.

      I wouldn’t say its either the balcony or all day in the crate. If one decides to keep a dog, then perhaps it is most ideal for the dog to have a designated room/space big enough for it to move around a bit in safety, versus being in a crate or on the balcony all day. That’s where I was coming from, but yes, I think it is not clearly stated in the post.

      • We crate our dogs if they aren’t outside in their runs. They do just fine in them. They are big enough for them to stand and turn around in. As you know our dogs get plenty of exercise and attention. Exercise is the important part. Being outside provides mental stimulation no room can provide.

        • I think the brown dawgs probably get a phenomenal amount of exercise that all the dogs living in flats will envy :P At least ours will, we take her out for walks between 45min to up to 1.5hours daily, and she gets loo breaks in the morning and before bed time. But aside from that, if both of us are out of the house working, she would be alone at home for at least 10 hours. So probably not the best idea to crate a dog living in a flat in the city? Most city dogs living in flats with working humans will face the same issue unfortunately.

          • I think it would be hard to have a young retriever in the city. Hubby and I stagger our work time so the dogs are not really locked up for long periods of time.

            But before Chessies we had a Golden Retriever. My job at that time allowed me to bring him along. All he did was sleep. Every day snooze, snooze, snooze. Eventually I left him home. He was uncrated until he ate the glass ornaments off our Christmas tree. That is a whole other story. :)

          • Oh you must tell the glass ornaments story sometime! :D

            Golden retrievers are very popular over here, apart from small dogs, because they are perceived to be friendly for families with kids. It’s good to hear they can spend the whole day snoozing. Because everybody works minimal 8-10 hour days with 1-3hours commute depending on where you leave, these families usually get their full time domestic help to walk the dog. And sometimes those full time domestic help would rather hide in a corner of the park to talk on the phone rather than really walk the dog. It is very hard to actually find something, short of a low wage part time job, to be able to stagger and ensure we do not leave the dog at home for long hours.

  7. I don’t think leaving a pet on a balcony is a good idea, unless it is fully enclosed and has appropriate shelter including cooling fans and water available.

    We have fully enclosed runs in our yards and we leave our dogs out a lot. They prefer to be outside to inside. They have insulated dog houses and we provide water. But in extreme weather, (too hot, too cold, storms possible, etc), they stay in. Don’t want to risk their health.

    • Lucky brown dawgs to have your care for them and such well-planned areas to play or to lounge as they please! :D Since land is a premium in the city, most people don’t have that luxury. Free run of the living room is the next best thing we can afford Donna. Since she has no playmate, she sleeps alot while keeping me company and prefers to wait to go out for her walks, where as you said rightly, she is happy.

      For those with yards, what you have described sounds like pretty good practice! :D

  8. If I had a balcony I would really wonder about whether or not I would like my dog to go out there!

    • It’s not a bad place to chill out with the humans when it’s cool and breezy :), but no, not for the dog to go alone. That, I agree :)

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