Is there anything better than deciding to get a new puppy? Possibly, but it’s definitely up there in the Top Ten. You’re going to have a fuzzy little bundle of energy running around the house! It’s the chance to form a new bond with your favorite breed – or perhaps a mixed breed. And whether this is your first puppy or simply a new addition to the household, the excitement level doesn’t go down. Puppies are fun! But they’re also a lot of work. Before you bring that cuddle bug home, you need to make sure everything’s safe. Puppy-proofing the house – inside and out – is the first task you need to mark off on the checklist. And it’s a BIG one.
The Puppy Brain
Cats and kittens have a reputation for curiosity. And it’s certainly accurate, as any cat owner will tell you. But puppies share that same determination to explore the world around them. In a new home, there’s so much to see, smell, and chew. They’re not trying to get in trouble (or drive you crazy). It’s a natural drive to understand the environment around them.
In the wild, wolf cubs do the same thing. They climb over rocks to see what’s on the other side. Little twitching noses poke into holes after interesting smells. (And, sometimes, they get rewarded with porcupine quills) They pick up rocks, twigs, and other objects with their teeth. Everything builds a clear image of the world that will help them function as adults.
Unfortunately, in your house, the “world” isn’t always safe. You probably don’t have a porcupine nesting anywhere, but you DO have other dangers. And if you skip puppy-proofing, you’re little four-footed explorer can end up in a heap of trouble.
When to Start Puppy-Proofing
Realistically, you want to tackle puppy-proofing before your little cuddle bug comes home. It’s MUCH easier to sweep through the house and yard without a curious puppy underfoot. And trying to remove slippers from puppy teeth? That gets tricky.
If you delay puppy-proofing until after your pup has started destroying things, you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle. Not to mention you’ll frustrate yourself. You know you want to bring a new dog into the house. You may even have the adoption date set. So set aside a weekend to work with the family on puppy-proofing before then. You’ll appreciate it AND prevent aggravation down the line.
Be One with the Puppy
The easiest way to puppy-proof any room is to chuck your dignity out the window and get down on the floor. Even giant breed dogs start fairly low on the ground. Trying to think of everything a puppy can find and get into from a standing position can get tricky. But if you’re on your hands and knees, seeing things from a puppy’s point of view? It’s much easier.
Crawl through each room, looking for loose objects and hazards.
Does something look like a potential “chew toy?” Go ahead and remove it.
Can you squeeze into a narrow space leading to chemicals? Set up a barrier.
You may feel a little foolish, but it’s the best way to start the puppy-proofing process. And you may find things you were missing!
Puppy-Proofing the House: Inside
If you remind yourself that your cuddle bug is a mobile, teething toddler, puppy-proofing gets easier. They’re a lot FASTER than you’re average toddler, but the comparison still works. Both little ones get into the same amount of trouble when left unsupervised. And whether human or canine, babies manage to find dangers in every room of the house. Unless you plan to close doors, barring your puppy from entry, you’ll need to puppy-proof everywhere.
Puppy-Proofing the Living Spaces
Most of the time, your family will spend time with the new puppy in the living room, den, and family rooms. They’re the most open spaces in the house, allowing for plenty of playing room. And you likely spend the most time there already. Since they’re the favored spots for everyone, you want to spend extra time puppy-proofing and removing these potential problems:
- Bags: What’s in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or gym bag? Sugar-free gum, perhaps? Xylitol is extremely dangerous and toxic to dogs – even ONE piece! Move the bags into a closet.
- Batteries: Batteries can cause obstructions, and if they get punctured? Alkaline batteries burn. Move anything with a battery out of reach.
- Electrical Cords: When chewed, cords burn the mouth, lead to electric shock, and cause pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). Use cord concealers, unplug them, or move them out of reach.
- Fireplaces: If you don’t have a screen, you’ll want one. Move all fire-starter sticks to a closed cabinet. They have a sweet taste puppies love.
- Furniture: Everyone loves rocking chairs and recliners, but those furniture pieces CAN trap puppy tails and paws. Consider blocking access.
- Houseplants: Many plants are toxic to dogs. From GI upset to seizures (and worse), you want those plants out of reach (or out of the house).
- Small Items: All the little things that get tossed on tables (coins, jewelry/watches, toys) need to go out of reach.
- Window Cords: You got it – a chewing AND choking hazard. Loop them up out of the way or shorten them.
Puppy-Proofing the Kitchen
The kitchen’s a wonderland for puppies. That’s where the food is! It’s also a big concern when you’re puppy-proofing because of the other things you tend to keep around. Dog noses pick up all kinds of scents. As your cuddle bug starts exploring and poking their snout here and there, they can come across plenty of hazards:
- Cleaning Supplies: Child safety caps are no match for puppy teeth. You want the household cleaners and detergents in a high cabinet or behind a closed door.
- Food: Your puppy shouldn’t be helping themselves to their food. There’s no age limit on bloat. Keep the kibble in a sturdy container.
- Sharp Objects: Maybe your puppy can’t reach the knives or scissors on the counter, but are you sure? Better safe than sorry. Consider moving them into a drawer or as far back as possible.
- Trash Cans: You don’t like the smell of garbage, but dogs? They’re not picky. And anything in the trash can cause problems when ingested. You want a tight lid.
You can pick up childproof latches to help you secure lower cabinets. They’ll keep your puppy out of the cleaning products and away from their stored food. Just make sure YOU can operate the latches – some are more difficult than others. And if you have a really clever puppy? They may figure out how to pop the latch. (I picked up childproof locks for a cabinet once. It took my cat a week to figure them out)
Puppy-Proofing the Bathroom
Everyone warns that the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. For those of us in the human race, it is. It’s not so great for the canine species, either. You’re probably tired of puppy-proofing at this point, but don’t pump the breaks just yet. You want to make sure you’ve swept the entire house, which means crawling over the tile. Because the bathroom IS dangerous:
- Medications: Human medicine ranks as the MOST common source of pet poisonings every year. And bottles and dispensers won’t stop a puppy. Use your cabinets or drawers to tuck things out of sight.
- Toilet Lids: Okay, yes, people allow dogs to drink from the toilet. But it’s not a good idea. Puppies can drown. And if there’s a cleaner used? That’s potential poisoning. Keep the lid down.
- Toiletries: Soaps, shampoos, and such often contain ingredients toxic to dogs. Remind everyone to put them out of reach or in a cabinet after use.
- Trash Cans: Yes, you checked the trash in the kitchen. But most people don’t put lids on their bathroom trash. And what goes in there? Razor blades, tampons, tissues – NOTHING you want your puppy ingesting. Get a nice lid.
If you have cats in the house, you’ll want to move the litter box out of the puppy’s reach. Baby gates can help there.
Have insect bait stations or rodent traps? Relocate them into closed closets. They usually contain toxins.
It’s important to remind everyone to put things away as soon as they use them. If there’s no clutter, you have less chance of your new puppy picking up loose clothing (socks are ALWAYS a favorite) or stray objects. You’ll get the bonus of a clean house out of the process. (That’s never a bad thing)
It sounds like SO MUCH. And it is. Puppy-proofing the home takes a lot of time, work, and coordination with the entire family. As you move from room to room, you find additional things you missed in a previous room. So you go back and start over again.
And then you turn your attention OUTSIDE.
Puppy-Proofing the House: Outside
You’ll start potty-training your puppy, but most little cuddle bugs get some time in the yard. (If you don’t have outdoor space, congratulations! You’re done!) You’ll want to supervise them outside, but don’t forget that super-puppy speed. By the time you see them snatch something up, it may be too late. It’s better to do your puppy-proofing first and then focus on playtime.
Puppy-Proofing the Lawn
Ideally, you’d like to have a fence to keep your puppy from taking off through the neighborhood. It’s a safety measure that follows your kiddo as they age. As such, you’ll want enough height to prevent jumping, with no holes they can squeeze through. Puppies are too young to understand invisible fences. So if you can’t have a fence, you’ll need to work with a harness and leash until they’re older. It’s still important to puppy-proof the lawn first, though. The grass and backyard can hold some problems for your new family addition:
- Chemicals: If anything – fertilizer, pesticide, insecticide – goes on your lawn, keep your puppy away for the proper time limit.
- Gardens: Compost and mulches are enticing to puppies. But they’re not great on the tummy. Consider putting up a barrier.
- Grass: When was the last time the lawn received a trim? Ticks LOVE high grass. And while flea and tick prevention is key, some puppies may be too young.
- Plants: You got it – those pesky green things again. Review what you’re growing in and around the lawn.
- Pools: Eventually, your dog may become a fantastic swimmer, but puppies lack coordination. You want to fence the pool and block access to above-ground pools.
Puppy-Proofing the Garage or Shed
The odds are you won’t let your puppy into the garage or shed without you. But if the door’s open? They could wander in on their own. And plenty of items kept in sheds pose problems for little dogs (well, any dog). You can double-check the latches and doors, reminding the family to secure the barriers every time they leave. Or you can add these buildings to your puppy-proofing checklist.
- Antifreeze: Antifreeze tends to stay close to the car (which makes sense). But it tastes sweet. And even a single lick spells disaster. Lock it up and clean spills ASAP.
- Chemicals: People usually store the worst chemicals in sheds. These can include oil, paint, and pesticides. You don’t want your new puppy getting into these. Consider getting a cabinet to lock the hazards away.
- Fishing Equipment: Dogs and fishing hooks ALWAYS find each other. You don’t need to give up your hobby, but make sure everything goes in the tackle box and gets put up out of reach.
- Other Dangers: Are there exposed nails? Pieces of broken glass? Dropped screws? Aside from being bad for the puppy, they’re not great for you or the family.
Puppy-proofing the house takes everyone working together. And it feels like it NEVER ends. Because as soon as you bring your cuddle bug home, they WILL find something you didn’t think of (it’s inevitable). But finding one thing is better than your precious puppy finding ALL of the things on the list. Hopefully, the worst they’ll find is a shoe someone forgot to put in the closet and not a loose electric cord. You’ll probably have to replace the shoe, but it’s better than a trip to the emergency vet.
So, roll up your sleeves, break out the knee pads, and let the puppy-proofing process begin!