A New Owner’s Guide to Puppy Proofing Your Home

puppy proofing

puppy proofingPerhaps it involved months of planning, research, and preparation, or maybe you just couldn’t resist those puppy-dog eyes at the local Adopt-A-Pet event. However it came about, he (or she) has arrived: your new puppy!

Puppy proofing your home is a constant work-in-progress. You think you have managed to secure, hide or move every source of potential puppy prankery; then you come home to find the butter has mysteriously gone missing or a two-hundred-yard trail of toilet paper leading from the upstairs bathroom.

We will cover that.

Unfortunately, the majority of puppy-proofing guides stop there. But providing a safe, secure home for your new addition goes well beyond their physical safety.

In this comprehensive guide to owning a new puppy, we also cover the emotion, mental and health aspects of your new puppy’s safety. A well-thought out, all-inclusive plan results in successful bonding for puppy and family.

This guide is a manual for new owners, plus a go-to reference after your puppy is all grown-up. Areas covered include:

  • A detailed room-by-room list of puppy proofing must-dos
  • Suggestions on ways to decrease the potential for destruction and catastrophic messes
  • Guidance for creating good habits, and why that is so important
  • A healthy take on the canine psyche

By following the tips, hints, and suggestions throughout this guide you can look forward to successfully providing a safe, nurturing, and fun environment for your new furry family member.

Puppy Proofing for Physical Safety

From Samoyeds to Saint Bernards; Bullmastiffs to Bernese Mountain Dogs; and Pinchers to Poodles, large breed puppies present additional challenges solely due to their size.

Your puppy is excited to be in his new home. And he wants to explore every nook and cranny. We mean every nook and cranny! This natural curiosity will mold a dog’s unique personality. It can also put them in harm’s way. Here we take you room by room, educating you on things that present potential dangers to your puppy’s physical well-being.

The Kitchen

The average household has over 50 toxic chemicals. The majority are found in cleaning products. Most can be deadly if consumed.

  • Install childproof latches, available at any local hardware store, to prevent nosy pups from investigating

Puppy proofing hack: if your cabinet doors have knobs, weave thick rubber bands in a figure-eight around neighboring knobs of adjoining doors

  • Store all household chemicals in the same place: inside latched cabinets or on high shelves in the garage are ideal locations
  • Consider putting your pet outside or in its crate while performing household cleaning; you may leave the room for one minute and the next thing you know puppy is bathing in pine-sol
  • Secure knives and other sharp utensils in a drawer or on a high counter away from the edge
  • Consider installing a safety gate to keep pets out of the kitchen while cooking
  • Store liquid soap and hand sanitizer out of reach

Living or Family Room

This is the space where you, your family, and pup will potentially spend the most time. When you are gone for an extended period of time your puppy will probably venture into the room that is most familiar. Be extra vigilant in your puppy proofing efforts here.

  • Know which houseplants are toxic (see the Humane Society article on Plants That May Poison Your Pets) and move them out of reach, or replace them with nontoxic varieties
  • Relocate storage baskets or totes containing items not intended for puppy: craft supplies, kid’s toys, shoes
  • Properly dispose of spent batteries

“Paws” for some advice: purchase a basket or tote specifically to hold all your meant-for-puppy toys; keep the basket in the area where your puppy tends to spend the most time.

Bedrooms

  • Your “big oaf” can easily get tangled in laptop, phone charger, and tablet cords; not only a strangling hazard, the item being charged can be yanked to the floor
  • Keep jewelry and stray coins picked up
  • Replace any missing window screens, especially in upstairs rooms

Bathrooms

  • Be wary of what gets thrown into bathroom trash cans; items like disposable razors, old toothbrushes, Q-tips, and empty make-up bottles are serious choking hazards for a large breed puppy
  • Child-proof does not mean puppy-proof; medication bottles can easily be chewed open
  • Store shampoos and soaps out of reach

Puppy Note: Because of their insatiable curiosity, we suggest completing the majority of your puppy proofing before your new companion arrives.

Study/Office/Workstation

  • Electrical cords are like puppy licorice; make sure they are hidden or inaccessible
  • Leather bound books (yum! Kind of smells like rawhide) are best relocated to a top shelf
  • Move laptop, phone, and tablet chargers out of your puppy’s reach
  • Store small desk supplies (think paper clips and rubber bands) in drawers or sealed containers

Puppy Proofing Hack: run electrical cords through thin PVC pipe to secure ones you can’t avoid keeping in plain site

 Laundry Room

  • Store bleach and other laundry chemicals in secure cabinets
  • Close washer and dryer doors when not in use
  • Make sure the dog cannot get behind the washer or dryer

Basement

  • Tightly cover sump pump access holes
  • Remove or carefully store leftovers from home improvement projects
  • Cover exposed insulation materials
  • If your basement is primarily used for storage consider this puppy proofing tip: keep the door closed/locked and designate it a no-go zone
  • Storage items precariously stacked can be easily toppled by your behemoth

“Paws” for Effect: What currently reminds you of a cuddly teddy bear will reach full height and weight in ten to sixteen months. Your “puppy” — yes, they still have that mentality — will now weigh between 50-90 lbs.

Garage

  • Weed killers
  • Antifreeze
  • Paint
  • Paint thinner
  • Oil
  • Window washer fluid
  • Insecticides
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Small DIY devices such as nails, screws, and washers
  • Regularly check for puddles of leaked auto fluids, especially antifreeze, which has an attractive aroma

Yard

  • Go through this list of most commonly encountered plants and flowers that can be toxic to pets compiled by the ASPCA
  • If you do not have a decent sized yard with fenced-in boundaries it may be a good idea to reconsider a large breed dog
  • If you have window wells, get covers

Puppy Proofing for Emotional Safety

It Killed the Cat, Hopefully Not the Dog

Puppies are naturally curious. They love to explore. Exploration is how any puppy becomes accustomed to a new environment, learns new skills, and develops physical coordination.

This natural curiosity can result in some serious messes and borderline catastrophes. But when a puppy is disciplined for acting on a natural instinct this can create confusion and develop a pattern of negative emotions.

Neuroscientific studies conducted on canines offer strong evidence that dogs experience emotions — joy or happiness, sadness, and fear. Just like humans, these feelings grow stronger as the puppy develops solid bonds with a new family.

Reduce the need to discipline your puppy for acting on natural instincts by relocating or properly securing potential “troublemakers.”

  • Indoor trash receptacles — make sure the lids lock tightly
  • Toilet paper
  • Tissue boxes
  • Dirty laundry
  • Dirty diapers
  • “Confetti” found in a paper shredder
  • Keep toilet lids down
  • Remember: Containers of flour, sugar, rice on the kitchen counter become easier to reach as your puppy grows

Puppy Proofing Note: These large dogs will take several years to reach full maturity. Don’t be surprised to find that your big dog may be as tall as your hips but still act like a puppy. Until they are about 2 or 3 years old, they are going to be playful, clumsy, and energetic. (Excerpt is taken from Canine Weekly’s Everything You Want and Need to Know About Large Breed Dogs)

Not Too “Chew”sey

Puppies use chewing as a way to stay bonded when owners are away. Why do you think your old sneakers (or two-time worn pumps) become favorite “chew toys?” They are riddled with your scent. Puppies will continue to obsessively chew for about 10 months, or when their permanent teeth begin to develop.

Mentally preparing yourself and your family for potential chew-fests will decrease the necessity to discipline your puppy. Remind everyone in the house to store anything that might find its way into puppy’s mouth.

  • Shoes
  • TV and gaming remotes
  • Children’s toys, especially action figures, stuffed animals, and balls
  • Misplaced or “lost” cell phones

Puppy Proofing for Boredom

Puppies get bored. And they don’t have the luxury of turning on the TV or cracking open a good book.

Before and after your new puppy arrives purchase large breed appropriate chew toys to prevent your pet from relieving boredom by playing tug-of-war with the couch cushions.

Before the puppy arrives ask yourself: “If I were a puppy what would look like loads of fun (and trouble) to me?” Then take the appropriate action.

Cry Me a River: Dogs Have Feelings Too

Just like humans, dogs may suffer from mental disturbances such as stress, anxiety and even depression. A big stressor, especially for your new puppy, is being left alone.

Be aware of circumstances that may cause a puppy to feel separation anxiety. You can be proactive in preparing for the behaviors that follow. Reasons a puppy might feel anxious include:

  • Being left alone for the first time
  • Change of ownership
  • The transition from the dog shelter to a home
  • Change in family routine or schedule, such as a stay-at-home person getting a job
  • The sudden loss of a family member

It is a common practice of animal-care professionals and zoo keepers to provide nervous animals with a den-like space. A dog crate offers the perfect solution for your canine companion. Crates provide a secure and familiar space for retreat when your puppy is anxious.

Pawsitively Comfy: A dog crate should top your must-have list when preparing for your new puppy. Besides acting as your puppy’s “happy place” it is an indispensable tool during housebreaking. But it is important not to use the dog crate as a punishment. Your puppy will decide at an early age to avoid and even dislike the crate, defeating the purpose for which it should be used.

Your dog’s mental well-being affects the entire dog-owner experience. Failing to nurture a dog’s mental health is a common reason dog owners eventually throw in the towel in frustration, posting photos of Fido on a dog rescue site the next day.

Develop positive mental health at an early stage through training and dog obedience. Enforce boundaries immediately upon your new puppy’s arrival. Training offers structure, methods for simple behavior modification and opportunities for bonding.

Proper training decreases the potential for future headaches and guarantees your puppy proofing efforts were not in vain.

A Healthy Pup is a Safe and Happy Pup

Must. Have. Kibble.

That thought (along with the gotta-play-gotta-play-gotta-play mantra) dominates your young pup’s brain. They will try to eat anything.

The first step to puppy proofing for your puppy’s health involves removing potential health risks. Keep these items out of your puppy’s paws to ensure a safe environment:

  • Medications
  • Chocolate
  • Any small food that presents a choking hazard
  • Chicken and other small meat bones that get thrown in the trash
  • Chemicals. Again. Did you miss any cleaning supplies? Double check.
  • Many common people foods can be harmful to your pet. Memorize this list from the ASPCA.

“Paws” to Consider: You do not want to feed these dogs a high-calorie food! Somewhere between 350 and 380 calories is good. This moderate calorie count will keep them from developing too quickly, which can aggravate or cause their bone and joint problems, causing canine arthritis. (Excerpt is taken from Canine Weekly’s Everything You Want and Need to Know About Large Breed Dogs)

Get Up and Go

A more sedentary lifestyle, especially in large breed dogs, leads to obesity and a shorter life expectancy. A survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) revealed that in the United States 54% of dogs are overweight.

Obviously, exercise is going to be key to your puppy’s growth and development. Preparing your mind ahead of time is the best puppy proofing you can do in this area.

  • Plan your dog walk schedule. Will you walk in the mornings or after work? Take a few test runs before your puppy arrives to locate high traffic areas to avoid
  • Locate local off-leash dog parks or open spaces
  • Stock up on tennis balls, especially if your puppy is a retrieving breed
  • Just like in Texas, everything’s bigger (for a large breed dog). When purchasing items such as collars and leashes, keep the soon-to-be adult dog in mind.

“Paws” to Stretch: It’s recommended that at this point of your puppy’s life, protect their joints and ligaments by avoiding activities like: Running or jogging on pavement, concrete, or other hard surfaces; jumping down from high places like the bed, the back of a truck, etc.; playing on slippery surfaces like waxed floors, wet ground, ice, etc.; playing too rough.  (Excerpt is taken from Canine Weekly’s Everything You Want and Need to Know About Large Breed Dogs)

Establishing healthy habits early in your puppy’s development not only increases longevity but lowers the risk of potential ailments prevalent in large breed dogs.

Is That a Wrap?

Tackling your puppy proofing might seem like a daunting task. Whether you’ve had your puppy for a while or are planning to get him next week, it’s not too late to put this advice into action. Commit to one room a day and before you know it you’ll have the perfect puppy-proofed pad.

Although there is no way to anticipate every possible hazard that exists in your home, we hope you found this guide to be thorough. If we forgot something important, please share. Let us, and other puppy owners know in the comments below.

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