“When pet owners go out to run errands, the majority of them leave their dogs alone in the kitchen, which is the No. 1 place dogs accidentally start fires,” says American Kennel Club (AKC) spokeswoman Lisa Peterson. “Not many pet owners realize that their pet can actually be the cause of a devastating fire.”
Dog owners Chris and Kay Wardlow of Oklahoma know this all too well. After leaving their home for a short while, their dog, Lucy, accidentally hit a stove knob, turning on a gas burner. Within minutes, the Wardlows’ entire home filled with smoke, which was fortunately put out thanks to their smoke detector and home security system, ADT. Would you be so lucky under similar circumstances?
Dogs and Fires
An analysis conducted this year by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) determined that 1,000 house fires are started annually by dogs and other pets. Dogs tend to be frequent culprits simply because they are inquisitive, larger than other animals and capable of doing things like turning knobs.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Starting Fires
The American Kennel Club and ADT offer the following tips:
- Remove stove knobs. According to the NFPA, a stove or cooktop is the No. 1 piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire. To help prevent this from happening, remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before you leave the house.
- Extinguish open flames. Your curious dog, when given half a chance, will likely investigate cooking appliances, candles or even a fire in your fireplace. “Puppies that don’t even know what ‘hot’ is are especially prone to such self injuries,” says Peterson. Ensure that your pet is not left unattended around an open flame and that all open flames are thoroughly extinguished.
- Invest in flameless candles. Halloween candles in jack-o’-lanterns can be dangerous if dogs rub up against them or knock over the pumpkin. Instead, seek out flameless candles that contain a lightbulb. A small flashlight can also be placed into Halloween pumpkins.
- Protect wiring and holiday decorations. Many homes now contain a sea of electrical wires, used to power everything from the TV to Christmas tree lights. Puppies and other playful dogs may play and chew cords. “This can short-circuit the electrical system and may lead to a fire,” says Peterson. She advises that you place a baby gate or other decorative barrier between the dog and the wiring.
Keep Your Dog Safe
The AKC and ADT say taking these additional measures will also help to safeguard your dog:
- Keep your dog near an entrance when you’re away from home, with a collar and leash at the ready. Firefighters can then rescue your dog quickly.
- Secure young pets behind a baby gate, in a crate or other safe spot if you need to leave them behind for a short while.
- Install a smoke detector in your home. Detectors connected to a monitoring center are even better.
- Affix a pet alert window cling. This is a list, which you attach to a front window, that contains the number of pets in your home, their names and general descriptions. According to ADT, “This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets.”
As a final tip, Peterson says it helps to think like your dog. “Get down on the ground at your dog’s level to see what hazards are lurking,” she advises.
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