Puppy Proofing Your Home

Valentino, from Sophie’s New Year’s Litter

Remember that as a puppy explores its environment, they often experiment with their mouth, much like a human baby. It is wise to take the time to “puppy-proof” your home and be sure that your puppy doesn’t have access to any dangerous chemicals, foods, or items laying around the house.  Many plants, human foods, and even some pet foods meant for other animals, can be dangerous for dogs as well.

Get down on the floor and look around each room from the low perspective of a puppy. Do you see anything that could present a problem? Cords, cables and wires should be out of reach from a puppy or wrapped in some sort of cord protector.  Many puppies will go through a phase where they want to chew electric cords!!  This can be very dangerous and even deadly for a puppy.  If you cannot deny access to the cords, you need to put some type of protection in place.  Here is a link to a cord protector you can buy on Amazon, but look around.  There are several options. https://www.amazon.com/PetCords-Protector-Protects-Insulated-Unscented/dp/B01I25HG9W/ref=sr_1_1?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1500653445&sr=1-1&keywords=cord+protector

If you have small waste paper baskets around in bedrooms, bathrooms, etc., you will want to move them to a more secure space, and/or purchase a can with a secure lid.  Your puppy may show an interest in knocking these over to explore what new and interesting things they might find.  If you are discarding things that could be harmful or make huge messes, please make sure you throw them away in garbage containers where your puppy cannot access them or containers with lids that stay closed.  A puppy getting into discarded medicines or cleaning chemicals could be deadly.

If you have children, keeping their toys in a puppy free zone or off the floor can be one of the most challenging parts of bringing home a new puppy.  If toys are left lying about on the floor, the puppy will almost certainly investigate and most likely chew the toys.  We have had a few tears here when a favorite toy became disfigured.  However, the kids also learned quickly to keep their things up off the floor during those puppy days.

Keeping toys in puppy free areas isn’t only for the safety of the toy your child cherishes… it is also very much for the safety of your puppy.  Small items like Legos, Shopkins, and Barbie accessories, pose a serious choking and health risk to your puppy.  Here at our house, we had a Persian cat a few years back named Oliver.  Oliver was into some strange things and had a condition called PICA, which is when cats eat non-food items.  Oliver decided to eat a large stainless steel ball from a magnetic erector set my kids had on the table.  The metal ball went all the way into his intestines and there it sat, making him very, very ill.  He ended up in emergency surgery to remove the ball and he never fully recovered.  He soon went on to eat stuffing from a stuffed animal, which his then tender intestines couldn’t take and he passed away shortly after.  We were left with heartbroken children and a very large veterinary bill.  Taking the time to make sure your home is safe for your puppy is worth the effort.  It is understandable that this may be overwhelming, especially in a house with young children.  I would advise that you create areas or rooms that are puppy safe and only have your puppy spend time in those rooms.  If you have a playroom, for example, you may want that to remain as a “puppy free zone” unless or until you feel your puppy has matured enough and will not seek out these dangerous items.  Purchase a gate and keep that room as an off limits area for puppy.

Batteries, refrigerator magnets, houseplants, cleaning chemicals, dishwasher and laundry tabs, and pesticides are all things to keep out of a puppy’s reach.  If you keep charging cables for smartphones and tablets around, please make sure they cannot be accessed by your puppy.  A dangling charging cord is very enticing for a puppy to nibble on.

It is very important that you provide your puppy with plenty of appropriate toys and chews.  This can go a long way in preventing destructive or unwanted chewing.  When they go for the unwanted items, quickly offer them the item you want them to chew.  Keep an eye on your puppy’s toys and chews and throw out damaged toys with stuffing coming out as well as the small, chewed-up treats and bully sticks that might be ingested whole and either choke your puppy or cause a bowel-obstruction.

Toxic and Poisonous Foods/Plants

Here is a list of common foods you will need to protect your pet from ingesting.  Some will cause diarrhea and upset stomach while others can cause serious damage and even death if ingested in certain quantities.

Alcohol, Avocado, Chocolate, Caffeine, Cooked Bones, Too Much Dairy (cottage cheese and whole fat plain yogurt can be great added treats when added in the right quantity), fruit with pits, seeds, grapes and raisins, onions, too much garlic, spoiled food, sweets and processed foods, xylitol, yeast dough, walnuts, macadamia nuts, fatty foods, salt, rhubarb, fat trimmings, nutmeg, and wild mushrooms.  You also want to make sure your dog never ingests human vitamins, medications, or pain killers.

There are also several plants that can be toxic to dogs such as: Autumn Crocus, Azalea, Rhododendron, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, Lilies, Oleander, Dieffenbachia, Daffodils, Lily of the Valley, Sago Palm, Tulips, and Hyacinths. Do not let your dog chew or swallow plant parts.   Some puppies and dogs also like to eat mulch, so watch for that if you have mulch in your yard.  Dogs also do sometimes tend to eat or chew grass, especially the long flat blades.  Be careful of allowing your dog to munch on grass that may be treated with toxic fertilizers or poisons. If you know you have chemically untreated grass, a little chewing won’t hurt.  The best bet is to just always keep a watchful eye on your dog when you are outdoors.  They can quickly ingest an unwanted item, and while some things may only end up causing them an upset stomach, some items can cause severe illness or even death, through both toxic means or through a dangerous blockage.

Do not allow your puppy to drink from stagnant water puddles outside.  A fresh rain puddle isn’t likely to do any harm but stagnant water can harbor all kinds of gross and harmful bacteria, not to mention dead or live bugs.

Keep your pup away from rodent poison in and around your home and find out if your neighbors are putting out poisons or traps.  Also, keep the droppings of wild animals out of reach of your dog whenever possible and don’t let your dog eat dead or live animals, mollusks, bugs, etc.  It is also important to remember that ice melt products used on sidewalks and driveways can be dangerous and harmful for dogs. They can burn their paws and some are harmful if ingested.  There are “pet safe” options out there.  Another harmful household item is anti-freeze.  Always keep anti-freeze sealed and high up where a dog has no chance of ingesting it.

Supervision is key until you know your dog and his/her habits and especially until he/she is past the teething and puppy chewing stage. This can all sound overwhelming but you will get to know your puppy and the issues you need to be most concerned with since it isn’t likely that these will all be issues you and your puppy will face.  Sophie was an unusually easy puppy with very little need for supervision.  Her daughter, Charley, has been more curious than her mother and we have had to watch to implement a few more puppy proofing techniques with her.  Usually once a puppy reaches a year old they are through all the mischievous puppy stuff and can be fairly reliable and predictable as to what they like to “get into” and they’ve learned what they’re supposed to stay out of.

Conclusion: While you can’t puppy proof the whole world (or even perfectly puppy proof the house and yard) you can follow the easiest rule around: supervise your puppy. If you are unable to supervise your puppy, then he/she should be in a safe puppy room, playpen type area, or in a crate.

Here is a good article about helping to prevent your dog from chewing on children’s toys and unwanted objects:


Here is a great article about puppies ingesting foreign objects: