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Fire Safety for Dogs

Dogs may start a fire in your home.

Did you know that over 1,000 house fires a year are started by pets? How about that over 500,000 pets die in house fires each year? While the thought of a fire strikes fear into the hearts of every person for many reasons, losing your dog to such an event is one of the most terrifying things to consider.

How Do Dogs Start House Fires?

There are several ways that dogs can start fires. Being aware of these common occurrences can help you take steps to prevent it from happening in your home. Below are some problem areas when it comes to dogs starting fires:

  • Stove Knobs: The most common way that dogs start fires is by jumping up to see what might be on the stove, accidentally turning on the knobs with their paws when they do. Use stove knob covers like these, or remove your stove knobs when you leave your home to prevent your dog from turning them on.
  • Candles: Candles and dogs don't mix. They can so easily be knocked over or run into by an active dog. Tails can catch fire, too, creating a very easy way to spread flames throughout your home and injure your dog. Use flameless candles such as these to avoid this completely preventable situation.
  • Space Heaters: Your dog can start a fire easily with a space heater by knocking something over into it or leaving one of his toys right next to it. He could also get burned if he gets too close. Make sure that you don't leave your dog unsupervised around a working space heater, ever.
  • Fireplaces: Curious dogs may want to inspect the dancing flames of a fireplace. They could toss their toys into it or reach in to investigate and spread embers or flames around. Keep the fireplace secured, and supervise your pet when it contains a fire. Extinguish the fire before you leave your pet alone around it.
  • Loose Wires and Cords: Look around your home periodically, and secure any loose wires or cords that you see.
  • Curious Puppies: Be sure to confine young dogs when they are going to be unsupervised. Sometimes it's hard to foresee the trouble a puppy might cause when he is alone. A dog crate works great for this purpose. See this article for tips on crate training your dog.
  • Glass or Metal Water Bowls: Sunlight that shines directly into a glass water bowl could heat any wood surface beneath it and start a fire. Although this is a fairly rare occurrence and most commonly occurs on a deck, if you use glass water bowls, keep them out of the sunlight and off of wood surfaces. Metal bowls have the potential of reflecting a focused ray of light onto wood siding, as well, potentially starting a fire.

Dog Fire Safety

In addition to decreasing the risks of your dog actually starting a house fire, employing a few safety tips can greatly increase your canine pal's chance of survival if a fire does occur for any reason.

  • Keep Your Dog Near the Door: If you confine your dog to a crate or small area when you leave the home, do so near a door or accessible window. This will make it easier for firefighters to find and rescue your dog if there is a fire.
  • Keep a Collar on Your Dog and Store Leashes near All Exits: If a fire occurs when you are home, you want to be able to secure and lead your dog out very quickly. Once you get outside, having him on a leash will keep him from escaping and becoming lost in the chaos. But, just in case, make sure your dog always has updated ID tags on his collar so he can be found more easily if he does happen to get away.
  • Use Identification Stickers on Your Home's Windows: Stickers such as these, labelled with the number of dogs present in your home, help alert firefighters that there are pets to look for inside.
  • Make Sure You Have Enough Smoke Detectors and That They Work: In more than 1/3 of human deaths caused by house fires, there were no working smoke alarms in the home. The National Fire Prevention Association recommends the following with regards to smoke alarms:

    • Install one inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home.
    • Test all smoke alarms for function once a month.
    • Replace all smoke alarms every ten years.
  • Sign up for an Alarm-Monitoring System: A monitoring system that is connected to the smoke alarms in your home can increase the chances that your dog (and you) will live through a house fire. The systems will alert your local fire department immediately if your smoke alarms go off. The earlier the firefighters arrive at your home, the more help they can be.
  • Train Your Dog: You can use clicker training to teach your dog to stay away from open flames. Start by using non-lit candles, fire pits that don't have fires in them, or fireplaces that aren't in use. Once your dog reliably steers clear of these items, you can light them, but keep your dog on a leash during training sessions around them. You can also work to desensitize your dog to the sound of a smoke alarm because some dogs will hide if they hear one, making them less accessible for rescuing from a house fire. Start with noises that are much softer, giving your dog treats and praise when he remains calm upon hearing them. Gradually work up to louder noises until he doesn't react fearfully to the smoke alarm noise.
  • Have an Emergency Plan: It's important that you and your family have a plan in case the smoke detectors in your home go off. Every member of the family should know that they are to leave the home as quickly as possible by the nearest exit, and they should stay out of the home until it is verified that it is safe to return. An adult may be designated to bring the dog outside with them if it is safe to do so. If a fire occurs and you can't find or don't have time to get your dog, leave an outside door open and call to him, trying to sound calm.

General Fire Information

In order to decrease the risk of house fires to the safety of you and your dog, it is important to be aware of the most common ways that fires start in homes so you can mitigate or eliminate as many as possible. The following information is from the National Fire Prevention Association, where there is great information about fires:

  • Candles cause many house fires, and these are especially common on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
  • Cooking is an extremely common way that fires begin. Leaving a stove or oven unattended is never a good idea.
  • Electrical fires can be caused by faulty wiring or electric cord problems. Don't overload outlets or extension cords.
  • Home heating can cause fires that are most common from December through February. This may be due to space heaters or faulty furnace wiring. Make sure that your furnace is checked out periodically, and use extreme caution with space heaters.
  • Smoking in the home is the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. These fires occur most often when someone falls asleep with a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
  • Dryers are a big cause of house fires. Keeping the lint trap clean and the vent free of debris is extremely important.
  • Medical oxygen is a source of house fires when it is exposed to a spark.
  • Christmas trees can catch fire when they become dry and a spark from an overloaded extension cord ignites them. January is the most common time for Christmas tree fires to occur. It's important to keep your tree watered, unplug the lights when you are not home, and get rid of the tree once it's dried out.

House fires are terrifying, but with a little planning and attention to detail, you and your dog can have the best chance of surviving one.

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