Puppy Proofing Your Home
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
There’s a lot to think about when you’re preparing for a new dog. There are many decisions and many preparations to be made. One of the most important things you can do for your new dog is make sure that your home is as safe as possible. We would all like to think that we can be completely attentive to Rover at all times; that he won’t get out of our sights, and we’ll be able to keep him out of trouble. The truth, however, is that Rover can sneak off and get into something dangerous before we even notice he’s gone. The best way to keep your pooch safe is to make sure your home is thoroughly puppy proofed.
Dogs and puppies do not have the luxury of hands to help them explore new environments, so they use their mouths. To get ready for a new puppy, use the same principal you would to prepare for a two year old in your home—If it fits in their mouth, they will probably try to put it there. Puppies can get into anything a toddler can, and more because some puppies are truly adept climbers. My Beagle can not only jump on the counters directly from the ground, he can also climb all the way to the top of the refrigerator.
All around the House
The first thing you can do to get an idea about what needs to change in your home to prepare for a new dog is get on “all fours”. It may seem silly, but this dog’s-eye-view will help you anticipate a lot of the doggie dangers in your house. In each room of your home, look from doggie-level for electrical cords, which should be tied out of the way, or run under covers along the corners of the room. Some dogs are eager to chew cords, and even if they don’t chew them, an excited dog running along can get tangled in cords and pull heavy machinery like TVs and DVD players down on top of them. From dog level, you can also see if there are any loose nails sticking out of walls or furniture that could catch a puppy as he runs by. Also, look for puppy-sized hiding places that can lead to trouble. Make sure you block access to the spaces behind your fridge, your washer and dryer, and behind any other machinery or large furniture. Dogs can get tangled in cords, can access dangerous heating elements, can get stuck, and sometimes will just hide out of reach. Make sure there are covers on all your air vents so little puppies can’t fall in or go exploring. From this low vantage point, you can also see if you have any houseplants within doggie reach. Many ornamental houseplants, including holly, irises, ivy, Easter lilies, oleander, and poinsettias (among many, many others) are poisonous to dogs. Consider removing these decorative plants from your home until your puppy is out of his chewing stage, or place them in hanging baskets out of reach.
As previously mentioned, it’s best to assume your dog is a truly talented climber, because you never know what he might be able to get into when you aren’t looking. Child locks are available anywhere that home supplies are sold, including most grocery stores. They are easy to install and inexpensive, so there’s no reason not to have them on every cabinet. Sure, placing child locks on the cabinets above the fridge is a little excessive if you have a Labrador or German Shepherd, but if you have a Beagle or other small, agile, problem-solving breed, access to these areas is fully within the realm of possibility. No matter what breed of dog you have, you should definitely have child locks on the cabinet under the sink if you store any kind of household chemicals therein. It’s ok to store the bleach, ammonia, and other cleaning products in your kitchen, as long as they are behind a sturdy child-locked cabinet door, and you are confident Rover won’t be able to break in.
You must also be mindful about leaving food out. Not only are foods like chocolate, chicken bones, onions, grapes and many more dangerous for your dog, but food on the counters also encourages counter surfing. When your dog jumps up on the counters and finds food, this is called a self rewarding behavior, which is extremely hard to train away. Most of us train our dogs with rewards, so if their bad behavior results in a delicious reward, how do we counteract that?
Also, make sure your trash can has a tight fitting lid or is in a closet or cabinet with a sturdy door. Dogs follow their nose to the yummy smells of last night’s leftovers in the garbage can, and can make a huge mess and make themselves sick if they get into the trash. A dog left to his own devices will eat every bit of foodstuff in the garbage, much of which can be poisonous, and all that eating can also result in a dangerous condition called Bloat. A small trash can under the sink behind a child lock is your best bet. These trash cans fill up fast, encouraging you to keep up with taking out the trash, which leaves less danger and temptation for your pooch. If you have a small dog like a Chihuahua, or a Yorkie, a large trash can with a tight lid will suffice, but owners of Great Danes, Poodles and other large dogs should consider the under-the cabinet method. I keep my trash can on top of my washing machine behind a large sliding door, and my Beagle gets closer every day to figuring out how to get to it.
The bathroom is another room in which child locks come in handy. If you store cleaning supplies or other chemical products under your bathroom sink, you should absolutely secure it shut with a child lock. You should also consider the climbing opportunities a bathroom offers. Think how easy it would be for a dog to jump on the toilet, jump from there to the sink, and from there, raid your medicine cabinet. Depending on your breed of dog, this may be more likely than you think. The plastic of pill bottles is satisfying to chew and they make enticing noises as the pills rattle about inside. Cut your dog off from this dangerous temptation with a child lock on your medicine cabinet door.
Also, it’s important to keep all toiletries and make up out of your dog’s reach. It is extremely convenient to keep the makeup and lotions you use every morning out on the sink, but they are too tempting for your dog. Maintain the convenience by having one small bag with your everyday necessities stashed in your locked medicine cabinet.
Toilet bowls are extremely tempting to dogs. They are a water bowl that is always full and a fun place to splash around and play. They are also a prime environment for bacterial growth, can hold dangerous chemicals, and can even be a drowning hazard. You should make sure that you and the rest of your family always keep the toilet lid shut. Just in case you forget, don’t use any of the in-tank style cleaners that keep chemicals in your toilet bowl. The best way to keep your pet out of trouble in the bathroom is to make it a habit to keep the bathroom door shut all-together.
Living Room and Bedroom
It may be nice for entertaining to have a candy dish or dish of mixed nuts out on your coffee table, but this is a huge hazard for your dog. Chocolate and macadamia nuts are both poisonous to dogs.
You also need to consider the fact that excited tails and knick knacks do not mix. This is another time when getting on all fours is beneficial. Any vases, lamps, and various knick knacks that are around tail height should be relocated to high shelves.
Crafty folks should take a look at their crafting areas and make sure that no trouble can be found there by a curious pup. Sewing kits are full of tempting, highly chewable spools of thread and dangerously small and sharp pins and needles. Also, many paints, glues, and other craft products can make your dog sick if ingested. Consider storing all your craft stuffs in large plastic tubs with secured tops, or in closets behind closed doors.
Those with children must be conscious of the chewability, and choking hazards associated with children’s toys. Make sure your kids keep their toys picked up, or that toys stay in children’s rooms behind closed doors.
Enticing, chewable possessions like shoes and belts should be kept put-away in closets out of puppies reach, or those expensive leather loafers will be one of Rovers new favorite toys before you know it.
The safest plan as far as the garage is concerned is to make it off-limits to your dog. This is where most people store all kinds of dangerous products like motor oil, antifreeze, moth balls, cleaners, fertilizers, and pesticides. There are many dog, and generally environmentally safe products with which you can replace your fertilizers, cleaners, and pesticides. Nematodes spread on your lawn will kill fleas, and Nature’s Miracle Power Spray works as well, if not better, than dangerous chemical cleaners. However, you still have to worry about antifreeze, which has a sweet taste and smell that appeals to dogs, as well as sharp and dangerous tools and all sorts of other trouble your dog may find in the garage. It’s best to just never let your puppy in the garage without supervision.
In general, the best way to keep your pooch out of trouble at home is to make sure your house is neat, tidy, and uncluttered. Remember that no matter how well you puppy proof, puppies are curious, small and often quite agile, so constant supervision is still a must!