Securing Your Dog, Home, and Sanity
Do we really have to talk about safety? Who wants to talk about “puppy proofing” when we can talk about that pink belly, those chunky feet, those velvet ears.
You’re bringing a new family member home.
Let’s talk about that. Someone’s moving in who will grow into the dog of your dreams. It’s a little like bringing a newborn home from the hospital.
Or wait…no. Not true, not exactly a newborn.
It’s more like you’re bringing home a toddler — a turbo charged toddler that can run, jump, and has a full set of teeth.
If your dog is a big breed, they’ll be able to get their chunky paws onto counters soon too.
Your puppy can find a way to crawl into cabinets, struggle their way upstairs, find your tax receipts and eat them.
Maybe they’ll chow down on a computer cable or lick up a gross spill without asking what it is.
Puppies are…a lot. They’re wonderful, but they’re a lot.
Look, you likely know that there’s more to owning a puppy than feeding it and snuggling on the sofa.
So before you order the puppy portraits, before you get those matching Halloween costumes, before you set up your puppy’s Instagram account —
You’ll want to make sure your home is a safe place for your dog to grow up and thrive.
You’ll want to puppy proof your house.
Let’s take a look at some places in your home where you could tighten up security.
We’ll see what puppy proofing purchases are a good investment and what will, flat out, need to be purged.
Then we’ll throw some light on what information and support should be handy in the case of an unforeseen emergency.
Puppy Proofing 101: Think Like A Puppy
Puppy proofing is not complicated or expensive, but it takes some sincere attention to a few odd details.
You may look at your place and think, “I closed my office door. I have a crate. We’re good.” But you have to think in puppy terms.
First thing you want to do is get down on your hands and knees. Yes, I am serious. Get on all fours and have a look around. What do you see?
Down on the floor is where your puppy will spend most of their time. There are things there that you won’t notice from your usual vantage point.
On all fours you’ll see a host of things that beg to be chewed, swallowed, or torn up.
So, get down there and scan the area. Find out what potential there is for mishap. Then you can set about fixing it.
Secure the Perimeter
Once you’ve seen things from your puppy’s point of view, it could seem overwhelming to make the place 100% safe.
A good way to begin the puppy proofing is to create “puppy approved zones.”
Close off sections of the house that could be dangerous or complicated to secure entirely.
You can bar “off-limits” areas, like staircases, with safety gates or invest in an exercise pen to create a living room that’s safe and just for them.
Baby-proof locks are great to seal off under-sink cabinets where you keep the chemicals, cleaning supplies, and other dangerous items.
Puppy Proofing Wires, Cords, and Cables
Chewing is the most cited arena of the puppy proofing struggle.
It makes sense. Chewing is a natural exercise and coping mechanism for puppies.
The ASPCA insists that, for puppies, “it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth…Chewing also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration.”
Of course you want to protect your new shoes from those puppy teeth, but the real area of peril are all the electrical doodads running around the baseboards and hanging down from appliances.
Cords and cables are bizarrely appealing chew toys to puppies and even some full grown dogs.
Puppy proofing wires means keeping them entirely out of reach.
Hide them behind furniture, mount them flush to walls, conceal them in cord hiding caddies or even in PVC tubing.
Puppies Looooove Trash
Leftover scraps, discarded to-go cartons, band-aids, cotton, whatever — puppies loooove to get into stuff we discard.
Your garbage can is like a food court to your puppy. Your recycling bin is a playground.
Make an investment in bins with lids. This is one of the easiest fixes on the planet.
This simple puppy proofing method will keep your pup’s mouth and intestinal tract safe — not to mention your home will stay tidy.
Dirty floors are kind of exciting for dogs. They’re rich in scents and full of interest.
Unfortunately they’re also packed with forgotten morsels of potentially dangerous stuff.
Sweep and mop often.
Not only will you catch those sneaky things that drop off your cutting board, it might teach your pup not to be a scrounger.
Puppy Proofing Plants
Do you have a lot of houseplants, trees, maybe an herb garden hanging around? Nice.
Unfortunately, some of these plants can be bad, even deadly, for pets.
I know puppy proofing your flower pots sounds weird, but it’s worth it. Do your research and find out if you own any plant that could be toxic to your puppy.
The ASPCA has a really helpful list of dog-toxic plants.
Remember puppies have a better reach than you think, and plants can drop leaves.
If a plant is toxic, putting it high up doesn’t really count as “puppy proofing.”
Consider gifting your dangerous plants to someone without pets. Be sure to tell them why — just in case they get the puppy urge at some point.
We always hear about chocolate and raisins as being dangerous for dogs. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Before your puppy comes home you need to think about puppy proofing your pantry, or at least getting a handle on what’s dangerous for them to ingest.
Look, I’m not going to tell you to throw out the chocolate. I’m not a maniac.
Still, keep toxic food well sealed up and stored away.
Most containers that seal in freshness, keep out puppies. Puppy proof canisters are easy to find online.
Remember, puppies can be fast catchers. Toxic foods can fly off a cutting board or roll off a counter.
Crate your puppy or put them in a pen if you are preparing anything dangerous for them to eat.
Print out a list of toxic foods too, and post it on the fridge where everyone in the house can see it.
Some dangerous foods include:
- Xylitol (an artificial sweetener in sugar free candy, mints, and gum)
- Caffeine (coffee, tea, etc.)
- Onions, Garlic
- Grapes and Raisins
- Macadamia Nuts
- Fat Trimmings and Bones
- Persimmons, Peaches, Plums, Cherries
- Raw Eggs
- Raw Meat and Fish
- Yeast Dough
- Your Medication
Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst
It’s not a happy thought, but even when we do our best to keep our dogs safe, accidents happen.
A good way to puppy proof your home is to get the jump on those accidents with advanced planning.
Before bringing your puppy home, get all your healthcare and emergency services lined up. That way there are no last minute scrambles when bad things go down.
Like with that list of dangerous foods, have these numbers prominently posted around the house and pop them in your phone for quick look up.
Find a good vet that is, preferably, near-ish to home. Then surprise trips can be quick, even in rush-hour traffic.
Ask neighbors who they go to for their pet’s regular check ups. Recommendations from people you trust is a great way to find a good caregiver.
Emergency Care Hospital
Find the nearest 24 hour emergency hospital before you need it. Again, post the info. This deflects fumbling for a number in an emergency situation.
Again, the closer the facility, the better.
Pet Poison Hotline
The ASPCA received over 167,000 calls in 2010 about pet exposure to poisons. Like with your emergency care facility, don’t wait until your puppy ingests something to find this number.
In fact, here’s the number. Post it. Put it in your phone.
*The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426–4435
Puppy Proofing Your Family
Last of all, or really first, you need to talk to everyone in the household.
Talk to everyone about the fuzzy tornado that’s coming. Talk about rules and boundaries. Talk about patience and procedures.
This may be the most important part of puppy proofing your home — getting everyone on board.
It’s important to make sure the whole family understands each person’s responsibility to keep your puppy safe and thriving.
They need to know when and why the puppy gets crated, where the safety information is, what areas are off limits, and about how to deal with a surprise.
The puppy that’s coming is everyone’s, and puppy proofing isn’t really a “one and done” prospect. It’s a family-wide practice.
Make sure everyone understands that and is signed on for the ride.
Having a new puppy affects a whole household. It changes the rhythm and introduces new rituals. For a while — I’m not going to lie to you — it turns things upside down.
If your family is ready, it’s amazing.
Yeah, it’s an investment of patience, care, and there’s some annoying clean up. But the return on this investment is huge. It’s the warm, snuggly, limitless love of a dog. Who isn’t on board for that?