Puppy-Proofing Tips For Your Home, Yard And Car

I’ve taken a really nice AKC arcticle and expanded on it to try to address some problems I have seen over many years of puppies in our lives!  

Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge and joined the exciting and sometimes chaotic world of dog ownership. By now, hopefully you’ve done the research and have somewhat of an understanding of how to care for your new puppy. Your house is going to be the place that your dog spends the majority of his life, so it’s vitally important that you take precautions to make sure that it is a safe environment for him.

Puppies are EXTREMELY energetic and curious, so when puppy-proofing your home, you must be thorough. Puppy-proofing is, in many ways, similar to baby-proofing, in that you’re trying to keep the puppy safe and out of things that he shouldn’t be into.

IF YOUR PUPPY IS QUIET,  OUT OF SIGHT and NOT CRATED - THEY ARE PROBABLY GETTING INTO TROUBLE!!!

Puppy-Proofing Tips For Indoors

    •    Electrical cords are a huge hazard for puppies because they’re likely to chew on them. This can cause burns in their mouth or even worse, electrical shock. It’s best to keep cords out of sight or string them through cord concealers to keep your puppy away from them. Bitter Apple or Cherry chew stop as a deterrent can help although a determined chewer will sneeze and keep chewing.

    •    As adorable as they look begging for food at the table, most human foods are not good for pups. There are different chemicals in human food than there are in puppy food and those chemicals can harm the puppy’s nervous system. The sugar free items - candies, drinks, chewing gum - anything with sugar alcohol/sorbitol - will kill your puppy in less than a day.  Check labels - usually if a name ends in "tol" or just "ol" it could be toxic.  Chocolates, grapes and raisins will cause kidney failure very quickly.  They can have appropriate bones that are raw - chicken or turkey necks with skin removed is good as are chicken wings and raw chicken feet with nails removed. You can find these at specialty markets or online.  NO cooked or smoked bones at all.  Any marrow rich bones will cause runny poop because the marrow is pure fat.  No rawhide bones/chews - they are not digestible and can cause a pancreatitis attack. Some of the dental chews can also cause stomach upset.  I don't give hooves or horns either - I've seen chipped teeth result from them.

    •    Cleaning supplies should be kept in high cabinets or secured with childproof latches if they’re stored close to the ground. When using them, make sure that the puppy is out of the area, so that he won’t be affected by the vapors given off by the chemicals. Puppies are closer to the floor so chemical smells affect them much more.  Keep all room doors closed and all closets closed.  Keep them from the garage where they could find something that would be toxic to them.  Invest in a steam mop - especially if you are feeding raw.  They can puncture aerosol cans and get the product down their throats - be wary.  Plastic bottles, metal cans, anything they can get their teeth around they can usually chew through.

    •    Avoid keeping medications on low tables where the puppy can easily get to them. Be sure they never get into an alcoholic drink. 

    •    Keep toilet lids closed, so the puppy won't drink out of the toilet or fall in.  Toilet paper is a lovely entertainer for puppies!

    •    Doors and windows should be kept securely closed at all times - don't trust a window or sliding door screen or screened pool enclosures to hold and excited pet in.  Pet Gates should be used to close off rooms/stairs you don’t want them in/on. They have nice, tall walk-through gates in plain or decorator finishes. If you have a pool - make sure you have a child safety fence in place when you are not outside with your puppy.

    •    Smaller hazards -- such as coins, paper clips, and rubber bands, make-up and hair pins, head bands, nail polish and remover should be put away, as should expensive items like jewelry, so the puppy won't chew on them. Especially bad are batteries or magnets. Never leave your wallet exposed! They love cash and credit cards and eating the leather of the wallet. This also goes for women's purses. They WILL get into them if they can reach them!!

    •    It’s best to keep your puppy in an area with flooring that is easy to clean, such as linoleum, tile, or wood. If you have drapes that touch or pool on the floor that will be a target of any puppy.

    •    Keep all sharp objects out of your dog's reach This includes pencils, pens, markers, paint brushes, letter openers, scissors, knives, forks even BBQ cleaning brushes.

    •    Make sure that any small objects are kept cleared from the floor, so that your puppy won't accidentally eat them.  Don’t let your pup take their chews onto a leather couch or chair. The couch could become their next chew toy (as I found out).  Never give them an old shoe to chew because they can't differentiate between the old shoes they were given and your new or good shoes in your closet or by the door!  If they have destroyed a "stuffy" toy then quickly pick up the offending stuffing and the toy.  Repair or replace the toy.  

The TV remotes - cell phones - ipads - eye glasses - napkins/tissue or paper towels - shoes - clothing (especially dirty clothes) - laundry - food on counters or in sinks - CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS/LIGHTS/GARLAND/RIBBON and PRESENTS can all cause a stomach or intestional blockage which is life threatening.  Newspapers, magazines, books, trash cans - all are highly enticing to chewing puppies.  They will “unstuff” their toys and take the squeaker out and chew it.  They will chew on  furniture legs - coffee table edges - sofa cushions and throw pillows.  They may chew wood blinds even baseboards.  If you have a dog bed with a zipper - it is likely they will focus on that zipper and chew it to bits.  There is no end to their creativity when they are bored.  If you can’t keep an eye on them - then crate them or tether them to you. They have belts with rings to attach a leash with a carabiner type attachment you can find at Lowes or Home Depot.

Puppy-Proofing Tips For Outdoors

And then there's the great outdoors. The place where your dog can roam freely, completely without furry inhibitions. Your backyard is going to be your puppy's playground (and bathroom), so it's important that it is also clear of all hazards and free of poop! Pick up poop right away.

    •    A fenced-in backyard or dog run with a fence that is high enough to prevent the puppy from jumping over it 5-6 feet - and has a design that doesn't allow them to climb over it is best.  Make sure there are no holes in the fence or ground depressions under the fence that would enable the puppy to get out. Keep your gates locked.  If they can get their head through a hole their body will usually follow. 

    •    Promptly remove any toxic plants in your yard to prevent your pup from mistaking them for a snack.  Keep a well stocked Pet First Aid Kit where you can find it quickly and the number of pet poison control as well as your vet's number and the closest emergency 24-hour vet handy.  On my additional information page I have the url for looking up poisonous plants as well a human foods that are toxic.

    •    Pools are a big hazard for puppies and are hard to puppy-proof because they typically take up a large portion of the yard. It’s recommended that you have a child safety fence surrounding the pool to prevent the puppy from accidentally falling in, but there are dog trainers who can teach pool safety to dogs, as well and special ramps you can use like side stairs to help a dog climb out.

    •    Set aside a portion of the yard for the puppy to use as his bathroom area. It will kill the grass - K-9 Grass is a great alternative. I suggest teaching your pet how to go potty on a leash so in inclement weather you can get them in and out more quickly. 

    •    Something that smells as strongly as a mothball is likely to attract a pup's attention, even if it is hidden. It's better not to put them in the yard at all if you have pets.  Hoses are a great source of happy chewing for puppies as well as outdoor furniture and their cushions. 

    •    Make sure that you take care of the lawn. Ticks and fleas are more likely to hide in tall grasses and latch onto your pup.  Mulch is a great hiding place for ticks. The shredded COCOA mulch is toxic to dogs.  Rocks in gardens, regular mulch, gravel and pea gravel - all is tempting to puppies who will swallow it.  If you have a putting surface and golf balls lying around - those also can be swallowed.  Frogs and lizards can be toxic to your pup. They can be bitten by ants/spiders; stung; meet a snake or if your are water-front, an alligator.  Take care and beware. Birds of prey (owls, eagles, ospreys, hawks) have been known to swoop down and grab a puppy, which is tragic.  

    •    Keep your dog away from the yard if it has recently been treated with fertilizers, pesticides, or insecticides. Try to avoid using insecticides because the chemicals can be very harmful to your puppy or make sure to use pet safe products. There is even a non-toxic anti-freeze you can use in our cars. Anti-freeze is attractive to pets who will lick it up and then die from kidney failure/crystals.  

    •    Make sure that there is shade/water for your dog in your yard and be wary of heat. Avoid keeping your dog outside when it is very hot or very cold. Having fur doesn't insure that they won't get hypothermia or heat stroke.  Give lots of breaks while playing - don't over-tire them.  Be aware of the fact that hot asphalt/cement/sand/rocks CAN and WILL burn the pads of your dogs' feet. Use boots or stay on grass in the high heat. If it isn't comfortable for you to walk on barefoot - it is hard on your puppy/dog too.  Locked CARS/TRUCKS kill hundreds of dogs every year.  Don't be tempted to stop at the store and leave your dog in the car! Take you dog inside FIRST before the groceries - we can get distracted and FORGET THEM!!!  Remember - load them last - remove them first.  ALWAYS.

    •    Clean up after your puppy to be sure he won't try to eat his own feces.  They will do that ... they will also throw up and re-eat what they threw up or another dog/cat throws up.  It is a gross but natural dog behavior.  

Puppies can burn their noses or paws by jumping up to check out the stove or an open oven door.  They can pull pans/pots of hot stuff on top of themselves or step on broken plates, utensils, glasses that they knock off onto the floor.  I’ve found that the microwave oven or a cool oven is a great hiding place for items you don’t want them to steal in the kitchen.  Remember the dishwasher. They will try to lick the dishes and cutlery and can slice their tongues on a knife. I always fear dropping a sharp knife on one so keep them out of the kitchen when you are cooking.

Puppies are much like children in that they are completely dependent on you for everything. Their safety should be your No. 1 priority as with a child. It’s a hefty responsibility, but most definitely worth it.  Also - like a toddler - everything they see or touch goes into their mouth.  Unlike toddlers a dog will continue to swallow an item when it should spit something out.  That is how they find hand towels - tube socks - wash cloths and other oversize items in puppies’ stomachs.  A blockage surgery will run you 5000-8000 thousand dollars and they may still die.  Better to give up having that “decorated” home with all the chatchkas set out than to have a dead puppy or a huge bill to pay.  Think of the ONE thing you absolutely don’t want touched or destroyed and that is what they will be completely drawn to.  

Each home is different - so get low and look at your house through a puppy’s view point.  As they grow - they reach higher and further to grab something and run with it so do it at least once a week to see what was safe and now maybe isn't.  

Your Car or Boat .... 

Please get them a harness and seatbelt attachment or have them secured in a crate when driving.  They will bounce around, try to get in your lap and distract you while driving.  If there is an accident - their bodies become projectiles in the car or they can escape and become  lost, hit by a car or stolen.  Don’t have things in the center console they can reach.  Never leave them in the car alone for any reason.  You are inviting trouble by exposing the puppy to extreme heat, especially here in Florida.  Any car can heat quickly if in direct sunlight and closed up.  Even if it is only 70 degrees outside - inside a car the sun can heat the interior up to over 90 degrees within 10 minutes or less.  Always have them on a leash when you open the car door.  I always have them exit the car on the curb side - not the street side.  

Have a Pet Safe Life Jacket that won't allow their head to go under water.  If you are going to be out on a boat - remember dogs can get eye damage from sun bouncing off the water (or snow) just like people.  Invest in a pair of "Doggles"  for you pup.  They are doggie sun glasses. There is also pet sunscreen to keep their noses and white/pink areas from burning.  Don't let them drink salt water and watch out when fishing that they don't grab a fish on the line and accidentally get the hook.  Secure all poles and hooks/line when not in use.

Tethering:  This is done by attaching your puppy’s leash to your belt.  The puppy is kept at your side when you are at the computer or watching TV.  You’ll know where the puppy is without having to crate them and the puppy will learn to stay where you are. 

Make their crate a fun place to go - I give treats in the crate, often feed in the crate and leave the crate door open with fresh water inside so they can come and go.  Often I find then in their crates napping.  Make sure it is big enough for them to stand and turn around.  Don’t use the crate as a punishment and put them there in anger. They can begin to exhibit strange actions as well as barking and howling when crated for longer periods or when you leave the home.  Build up their crate confidence by leaving their sight for a period of time and coming back - building the time up until you could conceivably be away for 4 hours and they won't stress out.