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Puppy Proofing 101

If you want to keep both your new pup and your belongings safe and sound, then you're going to need to invest a little time & effort in puppy proofing.

To make those early days, and weeks, a whole lot easier and less stressful for everyone... prepare your home and yard before little Fido's arrival!

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 and 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, which is why puppy proofing is highly recommended.

Staffordshire Terrier puppy chewing on roll of toilet paper

Where To Start?

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, don't forget to move onto the rest of the house.

Puppy chewing on shoe

Puppies move fast and in a busy home it's easy to lose track of your furball for a few minutes - and that's often all it takes for a pup to find something forbidden or dangerous (and often both).

In fact, 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!

Remove 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....

  • Books and magazines
  • Kids toys
  • Shoes/socks/clothing
  • Laundry baskets
  • Cleaning products
  • Cosmetics
  • Paper towels/napkins and toilet paper
  • Trash cans
  • Medications, vitamins, supplements
  • Decorative ornaments/collectibles & photo frames
  • Air fresheners (toxic)
  • Candies/nuts or edible snacks
  • Houseplants (real and imitation)
  • Table lamps
  • Remote controls
  • Table runners or table cloths
  • Blankets/throws
  • Scatter rugs or mats
  • Don't forget seasonal decorations either
  • Candles

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). Use a firm 'No' and then redirect is attention to something that's not off limits is the best way to correct him.

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 effectively.

Keep Cords & Wires Out Of Reach

Getting all the cords and wires out of your pup's reach can 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...

  • Keep cables and wires as short as possible and 'bundle' them together with cable ties or clips. This 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....

  • 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, 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.

Closets, Drawers & Sockets

When it comes to small items/chemicals/clothing etc. it makes sense to put them 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. Fido 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 (you may have to replace these if they get chewed on, so watch for signs of wear and tear).

If you have plug-in air fresheners, phone chargers or other items attached to wall sockets - remove them!

Apart from the fact that your pup could poison, electrocute or otherwise hurt himself if he chews on them, the chemical scents from these can be toxic, even deadly to pets.

Poisonous Or Toxic Items

There are tons of everyday human food items that are dangerous to your pup.


ASPCA Poison Control Hotline is 1-888-426-4435 or 1-800-548-2423

*There may be a $65 charge for this service, but your pup's life is definitely worth that!

These include chocolate, alcohol, certain fruits and nuts, vitamins etc. that can be toxic to dogs - and a small puppy is at an even greater risk because of his size (and propensity to eat stuff he shouldn't!)

Plus there are also several flowers, plants and shrubs that are poisonous - both indoors and out, so you need to be on your guard and supervise constantly. Of course accidents can happen, even when you're careful and it's always better to be safe rather than sorry.

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!).

I'd recommend checking out this quick guide to dog poisoning BEFORE something happens, it will give you an idea of what to do in an emergency... but it's NOT a replacement for calling the Poison Control Hotline!

Puppy Proofing Your Garage

Now that you've dealt with the inside of your home, your efforts 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!

Five minutes in your average garage could be fatal to a puppy, there are SO many things to hurt him.......

  • Anti-freeze
  • Car maintenance or cleaning products
  • Insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides
  • Tools and hardware such as nails, screws etc.
  • Paint, varnish, stain
  • Sports, hunting, fishing equipment

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. 

Check out this detailed list of foods and household products that are poisonous to dogs.

Make Your Yard Puppy-Safe Too

Last, but not least, when you're puppy proofing your home please don't forget your yard/garden.

Yorkie puppy behind a tree

Fido 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 it's very important that this area is as safe as possible too.

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 'stuff'.

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.

Of course, most of these things will be outside your yard but that doesn't mean your pup won't want to see them all up close and personal!

Here are some things to think about when you're trying to make sure your yard is safe for your pup/dog....

Good 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.

Many plants are poisonous to dogs.. others can cause stomach upset, irritated skin or other issues. 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

Garden chemicals can kill. It's not just the plants in your yard 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!

Eating rocks, gravel, dirt or sticks are dangerous, they can hurt your pups mouth and could cause intestinal blockages (which requires surgery), the same goes for ingesting bits of toys, furniture, hoses etc.

Water can be hazardous... swimming pools, paddling pools, lakes, creeks and ornamental ponds are all a drowning risk. Depending on how small/young your pup is it might only take a few inches to be deadly.

You should never leave your pup unsupervised near a pool or pond. It only takes a minute for tragedy to strike.

NO Tie-Outs or Chains, Please! 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.

Puppy Drowning. Don't make this mistake.....

My middle daughter knows the pain of losing a pup in a tragedy that takes only minutes (or less) to unfold.  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!)

That pup was always at her heels, so it only took a minute for her to realize Scarlett was missing, but that was all it took..... 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 Scarlett didn't make it, 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.

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