How to Make a Balcony Suitable for Dogs

By Bridget Johnson

A sweeping city view from the comfort of a chic balcony can be liberating for you but disorienting for your dog. Railings that keep you safe and secure can prove hazardous for little heads, while plants that bring your balcony alive with color could be disasters waiting to happen for a taste-and-see pup. Make balconies a little safer for prying noses while making the environment more enjoyable for you and your dog.

Plant Peril

Potted flowers and plants beautify a balcony when the weather turns warm, but if you're letting a pooch roam on the porch, you need to ensure that he won't be nibbling on anything toxic. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals keeps an extensive list of plants that can harm your dog, from azaleas and buttercups to peonies and periwinkle. Here you can find a list of nontoxic alternatives for the porch. If you don't want to part with the spring color yet don't want a curious nose rampaging through pots, try a rail flower box out of the reach of small dogs or hanging baskets that keep blooms away from the big boys. A small, locking deck box can keep insecticides, plant food, lighter fluid and other outdoor products out of paw's reach.

Accidents Happen

The last thing you want is a dog relieving himself and some of it ending up on the downstairs neighbor's balcony. If you have a balcony constructed of wooden beams, consider clear plastic outdoor mats from the hardware store that can be cut to fit the size of your deck. This keeps everything from birdseed to potting soil to pee from seeping through the cracks between the beams. If the floor of your balcony is concrete, you don't want stains from a dog mess. Take your dog outside to relieve himself before it's balcony time, or provide a pee pad or fake potty grass for trained dogs. Plastic mats can be used on concrete to make spills soak-proof and make the surface a bit easier on his feet. Have a pee pad handy to soak up any messes.

Rail Safety

Even if you have a secure railing on your balcony, the city of Chicago recommends never letting pets onto the balconies of high-rise buildings. If you live on a lower floor and want to make your balcony as safe as possible for your pet, look at the potential dangers. Your dog could be so small that he could fall through gaps in the railing. Any size pooch could run the risk of getting his head or legs stuck in the railing. Consider lining the railing with a chew-proof height-appropriate "fence" composed of fine chicken wire or Plexiglas. This doubles as a guard to keep curious kids and cats a bit safer as well. Inflatable bumper collars can keep a dog's head from getting stuck. Some balconies and dogs may just not go together, such as a large, rambunctious dog and glass railings or a balcony that gets frequent wind gusts and a tiny pup. Keep dogs off the balcony when operating barbecues; you don't want him hopping up against a hot surface to get a whiff of the goodies only to harm himself or start a fire.

Creature Comforts

Make moments out on the balcony enjoyable for your dog. Instead of making it a place of exile away from the family, supervise your dog's time on the deck. A walk-through mesh screen curtain can let your dog come and go while keeping bugs outside. Don't let your pup roast on a hot balcony without any place to take shelter. Put a weatherproof pad out for soft, comfortable sun basking and make sure fresh water is available. Ensure that balcony gates latch securely. If you want to enjoy a balcony on a warm summer evening together without any fear of your dog falling, invest in a comfortable harness and appropriate-length leash.