Learn how to puppy proof your home properly, and keep both your new pup and your belongings safe and sound.
Puppy proofing your home before your new pup arrives will make those early days, and weeks, a whole lot easier and less stressful for everyone.
Puppies are babies, but they're much more mobile than human babies and they're fully equipped with sharp teeth, sharp nails and a strong, desire to chew everything in sight!
Your new pup will be curious about his new environment and will want to explore everywhere. He's hard-wired to do most of this exploration with his mouth (after all, he doesn't have opposable thumbs!) and his motto will be 'everything is edible until proven otherwise'.
It doesn't take much imagination to figure out how that's going to play out in your average family home... so puppy proofing is highly recommended.
If you're a parent you've most likely had to child-proof your house/garage/yard before, so you will have an idea of what's involved.
But, it pays to remember that puppies have much sharper teeth than babies, can get into smaller spaces, and are more mobile.
Experience has taught me that it's not a good idea to allow a puppy free run of your home until he's mature enough to be well past the teething stage and is reliably house-trained.
Until that point (which could be anywhere between 6 and 18 months depending on the size/breed you choose) I'd recommend using baby gates, puppy playpens/exercise pens and a crate to contain him.
He should only be allowed to roam around and explore outside of those areas when accompanied and supervised closely.
I'd also strongly suggest supervising your puppy even if he's in a room that you think is 100% puppy proofed. He's probably going to be more creative than you think, and it only takes a minute for a pup to get into trouble!
So, decide which areas are going to be within your puppy's domain, and which are going to be off-limits right away. Then make sure you have the equipment you need to restrict his access and movements.
This is not unkind at all, in fact your little guy will feel happier and more secure in a smaller space to begin with, and it will really help with housebreaking too.
Deciding to puppy proof your home isn't just important in terms of keeping your belongings safe, it's crucial to your puppy's health too.
There are a whole lot of normal, every-day things that can hurt, or even kill, your puppy.
Your home is a minefield for your puppy, and it's up to you to protect him from himself, as well as protecting your stuff from him!
When you start to puppy proof your home, concentrate on the rooms that your puppy will have free access too first, as they're going to take the most work.
But once you've puppy proofed those areas, move onto the rest of the house.
Puppies move fast and in a busy home it's easy to lose track of your pet for a few minutes - and that's often all it takes for a pup to find something forbidden or dangerous (and often both).
1. Move everything that isn't nailed down!
Don't panic, I'm joking... but only just. I've found that it's best to move everything small, portable or breakable to a height that your pup won't be able to reach.
If it's stuff you don't use a lot, put it away in closets or drawers (closed firmly) for now. You can always get it back out later.
Here are a few examples of things you need to move/lock away when you puppy proof your home....
This isn't a comprehensive list because every home is different, but it gives you an idea of where to start.
But, what about the stuff you can't put out of sight/reach? That's a bit trickier and you can't really puppy proof your home by emptying every room of it's contents!
For table legs, sofa corners and so on you can use a spray such as Bitter Apple - puppies and dogs don't like it's taste (usually!) and it's a decent deterrent to some pups.
If your pup is one of the ones who doesn't seem to mind the flavor, you can try alternatives such as hot sauce or vinegar... but obviously these don't work well on soft furnishings/drapes etc.
The best thing you can do is to supervise your puppy very closely whenever he's out and about (even in a room that's been puppy-proofed).
And a firm 'No' and then redirecting his attention to something that's not off limits is the best correction. Chewing is a normal canine behavior and ALL puppies do it, but it is a habit that can be discouraged if you follow a few simple steps and are consistent.
Check out my How To Stop Puppy Chewing page to find all the tips, advice and information you need to deal with it.
2. Keep cords/wires out of reach
When you puppy proof your home, getting all the cords and wires out of reach is a challenge - and you'll probably be surprised just how many there are to deal with.
Television, DVD, X-box, table lamps, telephone, phone charger, PC, laptop charger, Scentsy air fresheners, washing machine, tumble dryer, the cords on curtains or blinds... the list of items that you need to tackle goes on and on.
There are a few ways to deal with this problem, and you may need to use several of them at once.
Keeping cables and wires as short as possible and 'bundling' them together with cable ties or clips makes them less obvious and enticing to your pup. Cord protectors can be used to cover wires that cross the floor and there are a whole range of products specifically designed for this purpose (check out this webpage to see some examples.... www.cableorganizer.com)
There's also a D-I-Y option. Go to your local hardware store and buy some plastic plumbing pipe and a sharp box knife. You can cut the pipe to whatever length you need, then slit it lengthwise and slide the cords through the opening so that they are protected inside the pipe.
For cords with small plug-ins, you don't have to split the pipe, just thread the cords through.
But even if you've bundled, wrapped and protected every cord you can find in your efforts to puppy proof your home, you still need to supervise your pup and be ready to correct him if he tries to pull on them or chew them.
The dangers of electrocution or injury still exist, and a puppy's sharp little teeth (coupled with endless enthusiasm for his task) can chew through just about any type of protective cover you can buy or make.
3. Closets, drawers and sockets
A simple way to puppy proof your home when it comes to small items/chemicals/clothing etc. is to put the stuff into drawers, cupboards, closets and so on.
But remember, puppies have a highly developed sense of smell, are very curious and are smarter than you might expect.
To keep your little guy's nose (plus jaws, paws and other assorted parts of his body) out of your hiding places, I'd recommend using child-proof products that are specifically designed to keep drawers and cupboard doors firmly closed!
Don't think that putting clothes into a laundry basket, magazines into a basket, or candies into a bowl are going to prevent your pup from getting to them. He is perfectly capable of destroying the container to get to the items he's after - and won't hesitate to do so.
Puppies aren't likely to stick their paws into electrical sockets, or look for something sharp to poke in there either. But these can still prevent a risk and socket covers can make sure your pup doesn't have access to the electrical current.
If you have plug-in air fresheners, phone chargers or other items attached to wall sockets, don't forget to remove them. Your pup could poison, electrocute or otherwise hurt himself if he chews on them.
Now that you've dealt with the inside of your home, your efforts to puppy proof your home need to focus a bit further afield. Let's start with the garage.
Of course, chances are you don't intend on letting your pup spend time in your garage, but he may not have got that memo!
Two minutes in your average garage could be fatal to a puppy, there are SO many things to hurt him. For example
The best thing to do here is to make sure that your garage door is always closed very firmly, and that you supervise your pup closely whenever he's anywhere close to that door.
Many new puppy owners don't realize how dangerous anti-freeze is to dogs - even a few drops can kill. And it's by no means the only toxic item in your home.
In addition to the obviously dangerous cleaning stuff, paint and so on, everyday human items such as chocolate, alcohol, certain fruits and nuts, vitamins and more can be toxic to dogs - and a small puppy is at an even greater risk.
I firmly believe in being safe rather than sorry, so it's a good idea to have the telephone number of your local Poison Control Center next to the phone (if you have kids, this is probably already in place!).
The ASPCA also have a Poison Control Center Hotline that every pet owner should have too....
1-888-426-4435 or 1-800-548-2423
To see a more detailed list of foods and other common household items/products that are dangerous to dogs check out this webpage Poisonous Foods
There may be a $65 charge for this service but your pup's life is definitely worth that.
Last, but not least, when you want to puppy proof your home properly don't forget your yard/garden.
Your little guy will be spending time out there, and it's more likely that he'll have short periods of being unsupervised outdoors than anywhere else in your home.
So, puppy proofing your garden is very important.
To your puppy, your back yard looks like heaven... all that open space, tons of enticing smells, lots of different sounds and a whole bunch of interesting things to investigate.
If, like me, you live in the country he's also likely to come in contact with all sorts of bugs, snakes, toads and other wildlife plus see livestock, farm machinery and so on .
If you live in the city, then he'll see (and hear) people, sirens, traffic, bicycles and other assorted urban landscapes.
A lot of these things will be outside your yard and he'll want to see them all up close. Therefore strong fencing is a must! Privacy fence helps as your pup can't see through it, so he's less likely to want to chase that cat, bike... or cow.
Chain link is also good if properly installed because it's sturdy and long-lasting. Wooden rail fences, or strings of wire obviously won't keep a puppy in, and puppies or small dogs can find their way through livestock fences or fences with openings between the bars or a lattice work construction.
Make sure that your fence is solid with no broken areas or openings underneath, or on the corners, where a pup could slip through.
Now, for what's actually inside your fencing. There are a number of common plants and bushes that are poisonous, toxic or just irritants to dogs.
Some of the most common plants that cause problems include Daffodils, Lillis (of many varieties), Azaleas, Buttercups, Foxgloves, Hyacinth, Geraniums, Holly, Peonies,Tulips, Aloe Vera Plant, many varieties of Ivy..... the list goes on.
I can't possibly print the names of all the dangerous ones here, so to get a comprehensive list check out this page ASPCA Toxic Plants List
And it's not just the plants themselves that can be a problem, remember the insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers I mentioned in the section on puppy proofing your garage? Well, they're dangerous when in your yard too!
Apart from plants, there are other outdoor things that puppies like to play with, but which can potentially cause problems.. these include sticks, rocks, gravel, outdoor furniture, kids toys, jungle gyms, garden hoses, sprinkler systems and outdoor bodies of water including swimming pools, paddling pools, lakes, creeks and ornamental ponds.
Eating rocks, gravel, dirt or sticks can hurt your pups mouth and could cause intestinal blockages (which requires surgery), the same goes for ingesting bits of toys, furniture, hoses etc.
Swimming pools, paddling pools and ponds are even more dangerous, and you should never leave your pup unsupervised near a pool or pond. It only takes a minute for tragedy to strike.
My middle daughter knows the pain of this all too well as last summer she visited a friends house and her little Doxie rescue ran outside through the doggie door (my daughter didn't know there was one!) and in the few minutes it took to realize the pup was missing she had fallen into the swimming pool and drowned.
In spite of mouth-to-mouth and a 4 minute speed-drive to the veterinary office the pup couldn't be revived, and my poor daughter was heartbroken and devastated. A horrible, horrible lesson to learn but if it can save just one visitor to this page from going through the same thing then sharing it won't be in vain.
And lastly, while not exactly a puppy proofing method, this is related to your pup/dog being outdoors. Please, never chain or tie-out a dog.
The risks of strangulation are too great and there are a whole lot of other reasons why it's a really bad idea too.. including heatstroke, hypothermia, aggression towards other dogs, loneliness, anxiety, boredom and more.
Hopefully this page has given you the help you need to puppy proof your home effectively, and keep both your new pup and your worldly goods safe.
You'll enjoy your new family member all the more when you know you're prepared for his arrival, and taking the time to puppy proof your home is only part of that preparation.
To find out what a new puppy needs to be healthy, happy and safe visit my What Puppies Need page.
After all, forewarned is forearmed as they say :)