Puppy Proofing Your Home
by Anna Van Warren
If you were bringing a new baby into your home, you’d do everything possible to make sure he couldn’t harm himself, right? Well, you are bringing a new baby into your house, only this one has four legs and can already crawl. Therefore, the best time to puppy-proof your home is before the puppy arrives, but if you haven’t started, it’s not too late. An ounce of prevention here is definitely worth a pound of cure -- and might even save your puppies life.
Puppies are curious, fast and, life most babies, likely to put anything and everything in their mouth. The following list covers just some of the most common potential dangers a puppy faces in and around your home. To find even more things worth removing from harm’s way, you might want to get down on your puppy’s level and observe things from his vantage point. You’d be amazed at the number of tempting “toys” accessible to your puppy that you never even imagined.
The Kitchen: Inquisitive puppies may not have hands to pry open cupboards, but they do have strong little muzzles and surprisingly agile paws. If you don’t want to move all the cleaning supplies from beneath the sink (the safest bet), at least install child-proof cabinet latch.
Be sure to keep your garbage container locked away as well, unless you want to risk having its contents strewn all over the kitchen. Another bit of advice is to place particularly appetizing garbage (such as chicken bones) in a plastic bag and store it out of harm’s way in your freezer until trash day.
Potential Hazards: cleanser, soap, drain cleaner, glass cleaner, bleach, ammonia, aluminum can lids.
The Bathroom: Remember, they can’t eat it if they can’t reach it. A puppy’s sharp little teeth would have no trouble biting through that shampoo bottle sitting on the edge of your bathtub. It probably won’t kill him, but it could make him awfully sick. Install one of those shower caddies that hood over the shower pipe. And make sure all cosmetics are safely stowed in a top drawer. Again, as in the kitchen, keep the trash can out of reach.
Potential Hazards: bar soap, shampoo, tub cleaner, cosmetics, potpourri, aspirin and other drugs, razors, cotton swabs.
The Bedroom: You might think your biggest worry here would be keeping the puppy away from your favorite pair of shoes, but of more concern is what you leave on your nightstand.
“People frequently make the mistake of leaving their medication on the bedside table,” says Christine Wilford, DVM. “I’ve seen animals who’ve eaten No-Doze, Tylenol and even heart medication. All of these can kill a dog.”
It’s not enough to have child-proof caps on the medicine vials: dogs can easily chew right through the plastic containers. Put medicines away after taking them. And keep coins and jewelry away from curious puppies, too.
Potential Hazards: all medicines, coins, earrings, nylons (not an uncommon cause of intestinal obstruction).
The Living Room/Den: While a puppy won’t find an array of chemical dangers here, he can find instant death if he chews through an electrical cord. Try to make cords as inaccessible as possible by securing any extra length of cord with a rubber band and placing the appliance as close to the wall as possible.
See that houseplants are kept safely out of reach. Some of the most noxious plants are those that adorn the house at Christmas time: mistletoe, poinsettia and holly berries.
“Even if a plant isn’t toxic, a dog still shouldn’t be eating it,” says Dr. Wilford, who adds that houseplants are probably the most common things dogs get into that they shouldn’t.
Many people practice their hobbies in the living room. If you paint or knit, be sure to put the materials away after you’ve finished. The same applies to children’s toys such as marbles and jacks. Also make sure your puppy’s own toys won’t pose a threat to him; for instance, throw out that leaky stuffed animal to prevent him from swallowing the stuffing.
You might also want to think about blocking off any stairs with a baby gate until your puppy is sure of foot. Small breeds would likely be hurt the most by a tumble down the stairs, but large-breed puppies are just as uncoordinated in their first months.
Potential Dangers: television and stereo cords, houseplants, needles and yarn, craft paints, small toys.
Beyond the Front Door
The Garage: For many families, the garage often houses everything but the car. That everything usually includes a dizzying number of potentially lethal substances, from paint thinner to anti-freeze to insecticide. It’s probably safest just to keep your dog out of the garage than to try to put every hazardous out of harm’s way.
Potential Dangers: rat poison, petroleum products, fertilizers, slug and snail bait. lead soldering wire, rock salt.
The Yard: Some of the same dangers a puppy can encounter in the house or garage can also be found in the yard -- namely, plants and insecticides. Of course you want your dog to be able to play freely in his own yard, and it is not as if you can hang every plant in your out of reach. So how do you protect your puppy? By giving him things it’s okay to chew on, such as nylabones and hard rubber balls. If he has his own toys, he’s less likely to chew on your rhododendron.
Another thing to remember -- when you’re ready to apply insecticide or fertilizer to your yard, be sure to put your puppy inside the house.
You may be wondering if your puppy is safe anywhere in your house or yard, as well as whether your furniture, books, and anything else within range will survive your puppy. Of course -- as long as you provide your puppy with adequate supervision.
Until your puppy has worked through that “chew everything in sight” stage, try to keep a watchful eye on him and provide plenty of safe toys. However, what about those times when you can’t be with him? You’ll need to make sure he has a safe, comfortable place to stay such as a crate (see Part II: “Crate Training You Puppy”).
There’s nothing quite so adorable as a rambunctious puppy. By making his world safe and protected, he’ll make yours full of fun and happiness. Welcome Home!