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 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.


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 can help.

    •    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 - will kill your puppy in less than a day.  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. NO cooked or smoked bones at all.  Check your lists of what not to feed but sharing bites is not going to kill them. Just don’t make it a major portion of their meals.  Any marrow bones will cause runny poop.  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.  

    •    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.  

    •    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, so the puppy can't escape.  Pet Gates should be used to close off rooms you don’t want them in as well as stair cases. They have nice, tall walk-through gates now even in decorator finishes.

    •    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. 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.  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!

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. 

Puppy-Proofing Tips For Outdoors


And then there's the great outdoors. The place where your dog can roam freely, completely at whim to his 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.

    •    It’s best to have a fenced-in backyard with a fence that is high enough to prevent the puppy from jumping over it and has a design that doesn't allow them to climb over it.  Make sure there are no holes in the fence that would enable the puppy to get out. Keep your gates locked.  If they can get their head through their body will 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.  

    •    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 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.

    •    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.

    •    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.  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.

    •    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.

    •    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.  Give lots of breaks while playing - don't over-tire them.

    •    Clean up after your puppy to be sure he won't try to eat his own feces.  

Puppies can burn their noses or paws by jumping up to check out the stove - they can pull pans/pots of hot stuff on top of themselves or by getting onto an open oven door that is hot.  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. Also if the pavement or sand is too hot for you to walk on barefoot - don't let your dog do it - get dog booties so they don't burn their pads. 

Puppies are much like children in that they are completely dependent on you for everything, and their safety should be your No. 1 priority. 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 5-8 thousand dollars.  Better to give up having that “decorated” home with all the chatchkas out than to have a dead puppy or a huge bill to pay.  Think of the 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.  

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 or be 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 or exposing the puppy to extreme heat here in Florida.  Even if it is only 70 degrees outside - inside a car the sun can heat the interior up to over 90 degrees within 20 minutes or less.  Always have them on a leash when you open the car door.

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 from burning.  

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 I leave the door open 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 always have water available in their crates.