Few things can be as exciting as bringing a new pet into your home.
But the experience can also lead to worry, especially if you are dealing with a dog that hasn’t been trained. Whether you’re adopting a puppy or a dog with a few years under his collar, there will be an adjustment period. Dogs can be curious. And that can lead to mischief. And that can uncover hazards and potential dangers throughout your home.
As a responsible pet owner, you want to prepare and create a safe haven for your new furry friend. You want to puppy proof your home and make it a safe environment for your pooch by eliminating as many dangers as possible.
This is similar to what parents go through when they foresee having a curious toddler in the house. Whether their own or a guest, we’ve all witnessed the mad scramble to move anything fragile or sharp from within 30 inches of the floor.
Like that, it’s just that this curious toddler can jump and climb with greater dexterity than your average 1-year-old.
Your new dog will want to check every nook and cranny, top to bottom.
And this is normal. It’s instinctual. Your new pup is drawing on genetic knowledge to look for hidden dangers and secret rewards. In a den situation it is up to the dog to find all possible factors as quickly as possible in case a dangerous situation arises.
What are the escape routes? Are there predators lurking? Where can he hide? What can he defend and from what position? Is there a secret stash of food he can use if needed?
Dogs are born looking for what they need to survive. And that need gives dogs amazing investigative qualities. They draw on their superior senses to suss out and locate anything that may help them survive. Until the dog is fully acclimated to his new home, he will always be looking for more. Just in case.
So you will want to make sure that you’ve removed anything unsafe.
But complete safety is simply not possible. The greatest danger is the one that is unforeseen. So, if nothing else, I want you to be aware of potential pitfalls you may not have considered.
And this guide may vary depending on a lot of factors.
Some breeds are obviously bigger than others so heights and shelf locations may vary. Smaller breeds can squeeze into tight spaces. Some breeds have a keener sense of smell that may be able to sniff out hidden issues. Some are more curious or have higher food drives than others. Try to see your home through your particular dog’s perspective and judge what may seem tempting.
Before you bring your new family member home, there are some things you can do in advance to give you peace of mind.
You won’t want your new pet to have full run of the house. The best way to keep risk at a minimum is to choose an area for your pet and block off other rooms. Baby gates will be lifesavers during those early days, restricting your pet’s movements when you don’t have doors that you can close in certain areas.
The crate can be a very valuable tool in acclimating your pet to his or her new environment. At the very least, you can use it to constrain your dog when you have guests. You may choose to have your dog sleep in his crate at night. You can even use it as a training tool. Whatever use you choose, a crate is something nice to have on hand when you bring your dog home.
Eventually – on purpose or not – all dogs discover the rest of the house. While your intention may be to limit access to other rooms, you should give the rest of the house a once-over to identify dangers.
Dogs are naturally curious and have a keen sense of smell. It’s easy for them to find and get into things in your home that they shouldn’t. The living room, as the main living area of your home, offers many but easy-to-fix hazards.
If the living room in your home is anything like mine, cords are the number one concern. In these modern times everything is powered and that means everything has a tempting cord hanging from it. Tempting to grab, pull, and chew.
Electric cords and chewing do not mix. Tack cords to the wall. Zip tie them together. Route cords behind furniture where the dog can’t reach. Or hide them in cord keepers that are essentially pvc-like pipes so they are not visible. The less visible they are the less tempting they’ll be to chew.
Plants can also be problematic. Pay close attention to plants that might be toxic to pets. The ASPCA has a list here, but it’s so exhaustive you might just want to move all household plants out of reach. They can also make a huge mess if knocked over. Muddy footprints may not be dangerous but they can cause major damage to your patience and mood.
If you have children, toys can be found just about everywhere. Stepping on a stray building block isn’t the only danger…they can also be a choking hazard for pets. Just about any toy with small or removable parts can be a concern.
In general, you’ll have some ongoing work to do regarding tidiness. Anything left within reach can become a chew toy to younger dogs. While you probably don’t want to lose your prized possessions, another concern is that your pet will get a hold of something that is toxic or presents a choking hazard. Make a household-wide effort to keep the pet’s area(s) clutter-free until you’re sure he isn’t likely to grab something and tear it up.
Decorative bins can be an easy and affordable solution to many of your challenges in the living room.
Fireplaces and hearths present a huge potential danger. There is not much you can do but block access to fireplaces any other places where your puppy is literally run into fire – like stoves or space heaters. If you have an open fireplace or space heater, you should never leave your puppy unattended.
Curtain and window dressing cords can easily be a strangulation hazard. Make sure to tie them up properly and get rid of the excess cord.
Around the holidays, pay close attention to how you lay out decorations. Not only can many stringed lights and hanging ribbons and bows be choking hazards but the chance of losing a beloved family heirloom is not worth taking.
And clean your remote controls regularly. As odd as it seems, the build up of crumbs on that ubiquitous piece of electronics can make any dog mistake it for a chew toy.
If you have a long-haired dog that sheds fur, protecting furniture from fur and drool is another sanity saver.
You can get seat covers for your sofas. These are removable and can often be washed. It is a good idea to keep your seats covered and protect them from your curious dog.
You should also do regular grooming to minimize shedding. Trim nails to minimize scratches on your furniture. Remove excess hair to prevent shedding and build up in corners.
I advise my clients to keep dogs off the furniture. Period. These elevated perches are loved by dogs because it gives them a place to survey their territory. This is a first step into losing control and other behavioral issues.
Food is, of course, the most common kitchen-related potential problem. The top problem foods are probably chocolate, cooked chicken bones, avocados, coffee, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic and anything containing the sugar-substitute xylitol. But there are others, and your dog may have particular allergies.
So it is best to keep all food and garbage locked away.
Other things to watch out for are sharp knives and little things like twist ties that can easily be swallowed. Ovens get hot. And everybody – including your new dog – knows that the cleaning products that smell like fruits are under the sink. Child locks are a great idea whether or not you have children.
You may want to install a door or gate to keep animals out of the kitchen while you’re cooking. The number of potential dangers that can accidently fall or be knocked over from the stove are immeasurable.
Again, I advise to keep bedrooms off limits. Besides the elevated bed position, bedrooms offer too many chew opportunities.
Remember, dogs have a keen sense of smell. They are naturally attracted to anything that smells like you and will be compelled to investigate. Your shoes, clothing, bedspreads, pillows – anything that holds your scent will be irresistible to your new furry investigator.
Shoes are probably the biggest danger found in a bedroom. Not only are shoes so chewable that it is a common pop culture joke…but laces can be strangling, choking, and digestive threats. And that’s no laughing matter.
The best defense is keeping the room tidy and everything put away in a hamper, dresser, or closet.
Coins, pens, and other pocket litter tends to accumulate in the bedroom. Small containers or bins can help store all your hair pins, jewelry, coins, and all other small items that can easily be ingested. Pay particular attention to watch or hearing aid batteries.
Try to keep cosmetics and lotions organized and out of the way. They carry strong scent and the natural ingredient ones can even taste good but cause major illness and upset stomach issues.
Many dogs like to hide under and behind beds and other furniture so try to create barriers to hinder them from doing so in your bedroom.
Ideally, try to keep the bathroom door closed at all times.
Dogs drinking from the toilet bowl is the obvious threat most people consider. But there are a few more issues to consider in the bathroom.
Your dog can eat or chew on razors, cotton swabs, soap, or other sanitary products that are within reach. The eating of dental floss has been found to be a leading cause of intestinal issues for dogs.
Again, the best strategy is for you and your family members to be aware and clean up after themselves all over the bathroom. Use the medicine cabinet and under-sink cabinet to store things. Keep towels, soaps, and toilet paper neatly organized and out of the way. Tidiness is key.
Don’t forget to put your toilet lid down at all times. Drinking from the bowl is not only unsanitary it is possible for a young pup to jump into the toilet bowl and drown.
For the bathroom trash can, upgrade to one that has a closeable and lockable lid. Or you can simply stash it under the sink.
Don’t forget that a lot of bathroom products have electrical cords too. Put away all electric products and don’t leave any cords dangling in the bathroom.
Make sure that you store all medication safely out of your puppy’s reach. The medicine cabinet was literally made for this. If you have a puppy and small children, consider investing in a medicine cabinet with a lock. Safety is worth the slight inconvenience.
And while a lock may seem excessive when you only have a dog, you might be surprised at the ingenuity of a dog who gets a whiff of a fish oil supplement.
Remember that it isn’t just the strong, prescription-strength pharmaceuticals that can be dangerous. Acetaminophen and other over-the-counter remedies can be very toxic to dogs.
These days, everybody has a home office of some sort or another. If you are lucky to have one with a door, use it. There is no reason a dog needs to be in here and explaining that the dog ate your homework never goes over well.
There are a lot of temptations for your puppy in your home office like magazines, papers, and cords. And office equipment might be fun (and messy) to play with but it can also be a choking hazard for your puppy. Expensive equipment can break. Phone chargers and USB cables can be swallowed. Computers or monitors can be knocked down.
Put the staples, pins, rubber bands, paperclips, and pens away and out of your puppy’s reach. Use desk drawers or cabinets whenever possible.
If you have any plants in your office, put them on a shelf or high counter.
Puppy proofing your home should also include your yard and garage if you have them.
In your garage, there are many things that can pose a danger to any puppy or young child. There may be things like paint, insecticides, fertilizers, oil, gasoline, and many other chemicals that are harmful if swallowed. Vapors from acidic cleaning products and detergents can be very toxic to eyes and lungs.
Make sure all containers are properly secured with tight lids. Put these secured containers in another box and store them safely away someplace out of reach. Keep dogs away from areas where you often use these chemicals.
There are plants that are poisonous to dogs. If you have them planted in your yard, you should either replace them with non-toxic plants or simply do away with them completely. You can also use fencing in your yard to secure the areas where the plants grow.
All trash cans should be wrapped or have a tight lid that your curious and keen-smelling pup cannot open.
Sharp objects and broken glass should be boxed and kept separate from regular waste just in case.
Be extra careful about closing doors and windows. Your puppy may be following you without your knowledge. Make sure all your screens and sliding doors are in a good state of repair and are securely fastened to keep your puppy from falling off the window sill or escaping.
Puppy proofing your home should be an exciting time as you get ready to receive the newest addition to your family. But it can be stressful. There is a lot to consider and I hope we gave you a lot to think about and consider.
While we try to make this guide as complete as possible, it is not exhaustive.
If you’re bringing a new pet home, we can help. Our podcast episode, Getting a Puppy for the Holidays? What You Need to Know, is packed full of useful tips. Listen to the episode or read a transcript here.