How to make the driveway safe for dogs

Learn how to make the driveway safe for dogs and cats.

The design of modern homes allows for driveways to be a dog’s main limited visual access to the outside world. The gate, whether manual or electronic, forms the highly prized territorial boundary for the confined canines, particularly valuable to unsterilised, untrained, territorial male dogs.

Many negative human-animal and dog-dog activities occur in this area and it is very important that pet owners realize the vigilance required keeping the patrolling animals at a barrier that may open at unpredictable times and predictable occasions.

Over the past 3 decades there has been an enormous reduction of stray dogs for various reasons:

  • Less dogs are owned per family, and per property, due to spatial restraints, affordability and time availability
  • Increased responsibility of keeping the beloved pets indoors
  • More secure properties
  • Developments with “no pets” policies

Stray dogs were often brought in to veterinary practices with motor vehicle accident injuries and fight wounds obviously as a result of increased exposure to these possibilities. These days a large percentage of dog bite injuries, and pets being run over by a car, occur in the driveway of their own home.

The most common driveway victim is the geriatric dog or cat that has become deaf to the sounds of the vehicles, too accustomed towards the in-house traffic. People become complacent about their animal’s tolerance as well. The old pets may be too slow, due to arthritis, to escape the wheels of the car or bike. Most of these unfortunate accidents are fatal and occur because people are in a hurry and the animals are not. Pet owners should always take stock of the whereabouts of their dogs and cats before driving off or, rather, have the driveway totally fenced off so that there is no access and no chance for problems to occur. By isolating animals from the driveway can increase their sensitivity towards the smell, sound and movement of vehicles, whenever, by chance they enter that area.

Any resident cat or dog will instinctively sniff out any delivery or service vehicle on the property. Whether the dog urinates on the bumper or the cat scent marks the tyres these animals may decide to lie under the chassis to observe the situation in a strategically controlling manner. Lying under a car has other attractions:

  • Warmth from the engine
  • Safe refuge for small animals from large animals
  • New, attractive odours

This can cost them their lives.

The driveway gate is a sensitive threshold where highly stimulating activities take place. Besides chasing and barking at passersby the excitement conjured up at the gate can reach such proportions that an uncontrollable aggression may develop between two supposedly compatible dogs. The release of endorphins (brain chemicals), adrenalin etc. during the episode of euphoric, delirious and hyper-excitable behaviour at the gate can induce such a displaced behaviour between two individuals that the outcome can be fatal. This is not a sudden event; but rather a gradual build-up of numerous frustrations and tensions between the resident dogs over a lengthy period of time because of the intermittent external stimuli thereby precipitating, what we would regard as, a sudden inter-canine conflict. This is most likely to occur amongst dogs of the same sexes that belong to the terrier or working dog groups.

Highly active, confined and socially deprived dogs are most likely gate aggression candidates. Pets who are socialized early on in their lives at puppy classes, obedience training, that enjoy a meaningful bond with their owners and have had the positive experiences of getting out of the property on a regular basis for walks or runs in the park are highly unlikely to become threshold “aggro”. 

The driveway gate creates another stress for pet owners as it is the line between freedom and imprisonment. Once a dog has had the frisson of escaping from the house it can be very difficult to cure. The owners and the home environment would have to be far more attractive, than the adventure just up the street, for the dog to have the desire to return to its house. When dogs escape through the gate people chase after their pets often screaming blue murder and once caught they belt their dogs for running away. This act of human ignorance has two serious impacts on the escapee:

  1. Running away is one of the greatest thrills imaginable, especially having people chase after them. This becomes a powerfully stimulating game, certainly worth repeating for all the attention received, and will make it happen again when the first opportunity to find a gap arises.
  2. Punishing the dog for coming home is a negative reinforcement and a good reason for the pooch to high-tail it again. If it is not loved and welcomed for coming home it would rather seek areas of more positive interaction.

Once again it comes down to basics:

    • If the dog has a bond with its owner it will most likely not want to run away under any circumstances
    • If any dog is trained to “sit!”, “down!” or “stay!” it will not run out the gate if commanded so.
    • Certain dogs and individuals are uncontrollable when the gate is open e.g. a Bull Terrier’s instinctive drive to dash out in to the road, attack and maul an unsuspecting dog, far overrides the training discipline it received from its owner to “Leave!”

Driveways can become a toileting area for newly acquired dogs that have been housed on concrete or paving during the impressionable puppy period or kenneled, as an adult, for a long time. This can be counter-conditioned by denying access to the driveway and fencing off the dog on a grass and sand area only for about 2 months.

The driveway gate may also have gaps at the base, sides or in the structure itself. When any dog found running loose in the road, whether under distant owner supervision or not, there is an instinctive tendency towards confronting dogs behind a gate trying to bite or bark at them. All this happens in a flash of a second. The aftermath can be quite amazing for people witnessing the fight through the gate. What initially appeared as a mock attack may subsequently prove that the outdoor dog had an ear torn off and the dog behind the gate may have had its nose ripped apart.

It is important that dog owners walking their dogs keep them under lead restraint at all times unless it is a dog that totally ignores its own species under all circumstances. A dog fight at the gate often develops into a civil case because of the veterinary expenses and trauma to the pet.

What surprises does your driveway have in store for you?!

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