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Dog-Proofing Your Home and Yard

Written by Anna Hollisey


White dog lying on living room floor being a good boy

Ready to welcome a dog, and want to make your home puppy-proof? Those tiny teeth can destroy things that you never even knew were at risk. So be prepared. Start here – in our comprehensive guide to puppy proofing your apartment or house!

Take a Dog’s Eye View…

First, it’s helpful to decide which areas of your home or apartment will be ‘dog zones’. Will you allow your dog to go upstairs, or in your bedroom? Will they be permitted on the couch? Will they spend most of their time in one room? 

Puppy-proof Gates.

Child safety gates double up as puppy-proofing gates. If you don’t have any, it’s worth asking friends and family. They are ideal for putting in doorways and across the bottom or top of stairs. Eventually, your puppy might learn they’re not allowed upstairs – or they might become determined to pull off the Great Escape!

Risk-assess Your Living Space.

Some things pose a risk to your dog – and some are at risk of destruction by your dog. Do you have any precious vases or plants? Put them on a high shelf. Ensure that toys are shut away in a box. Even books might be relished by your mischievous puppy (take it from someone with experience/learn/dog-diaries/the-puppy-diaries-4-the-1000-pack-of-chewing-gum). 

Puppy-proof Cables.

Pups love to chew through the plastic coating on cables and, when the wires become exposed, they pose a fire hazard. Think smart and swap these for puppy-proof cabling. Most cables are easy to switch out. Take an inventory of the cables that are at ground level and either box them away (some can be run underneath floorboards) or order replacements. 

Prepare Your Furniture.

Not all puppies chew on furniture. But now isn’t the time to order a fancy new couch or a doggy chaise-longue. If your puppy starts chewing on table legs, try a deterrent spray – it tastes unpleasant, and they’ll look for something else to chew. (Make sure there are other options around!)

Create a Chill-out Zone for Your Puppy.

This is a place where they will sleep; it’s also where they’ll go when you have visitors, for example, or when you go out. Some pups can experience anxiety. Giving them a peaceful, relaxed place for their bed and water bowl – away from other pets and hazards – can help to support their mental health.

A Puppy-proof Bed?

Sure, you can splash out on a luxury puppy bed – embroidered with their name and lined with the finest feather and down. But if your pup’s a chewer or a bed-wetter, you’re going to regret it! Our advice? Save the fancy bed for next year. At first, choose an inexpensive bed which can be regularly replaced (and be ready to pick up the stuffing from the floor every morning). You could even start out with a cozy pile of old blankets while you get to know your pup’s habits.

Household Toxins to Know About

Okay, so you probably know about the main toxins – bleach and spray cleaners are always covered in warning logos. And you’d guess that your dog should never be allowed to ingest alcohol or medicine. But there might be some surprises around your home/learn/dog-health/poison-to-keep-dogs-away – for example:

  • Chewing gum contains Xylitol, which can be poisonous for dogs if they eat it in large amounts. Many sweets (especially if they’re sugar-free) contain this sweetener, as does some toothpaste and peanut butter.
  • Some essential oils – including citrus, peppermint, cinnamon, tea tree and ylang ylang – are poisonous for dogs, and can cause irritation on the skin. Even a diffuser can cause ingestion or absorption.
  • Chocolate is poisonous for dogs, so it’s time to lock away your stash!
  • Stone fruit – including cherries, plums and peaches – contains cyanide in the pits, which are poisonous if eaten in volume – and can cause a blockage in the gut if eaten at all.
  • Don’t forget outdoor chemicals, especially if you have storage in the yard. Antifreeze, lawn fertilizer, rodent bait, swimming pool chemicals and weedkiller are all dangerous for dogs. 

Dog Proofing Your Yard

Take a walk around your yard and pay special attention to your perimeter. Are there any holes in the fences? Is it high enough? (Depending on breed, a higher fence may be recommended; if you’re adopting a rescue or fostering, 2m is a good standard.) Replace tired fencing with solid panels of puppy-proof fencing – or, if you’re on a budget, think about zip-tying bamboo screens to cover gaps. Your neighbors don’t want to find an adventurous puppy digging up their lawns. 

Puppy-proof your Garden Pond

If you have a small breed or a non-swimmer, it’s worth thinking about puppy-proofing your water features and ponds. While they’re young they won’t have depth perception/ common sense and can plunge straight into it. You might also have fish or other pets in the water that you want to protect!

Are Your Flowers Puppy-Proof?

Common plants like Chrysanthemum, Foxglove, Hydrangea, Lily, Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel and Yew are all toxic for dogs/learn/dog-health/most-common-household-plants-that-are-poisonous-to-dogs. Not sure whether to pull up your favorite shrub? The ASPCA has a handy guide, including pictures, to help you identify toxic plants – and gauge how dangerous they are.

Don’t Forget to Puppy-proof your Car!

Consider a crate for the car – it prevents puppy from jumping around and causing danger to itself and passengers. Use it from the very first day so that your puppy gets used to the idea. If the trunk is accessible from the passenger side, you might want to add a wire divider to stop the puppy from scrambling into the back seat. Finally, if you’ll be taking your dog out in the car, you might want to add a blanket (ideally waterproof on one side) to save your interior from being spoiled. And remember to empty your trunk of dangerous stuff like spare tools and jump-start cables.

Further Reading

If you’re looking for equipment for your new pup, check out our articles about preparing for a new puppy/learn/dog-training/10-questions-to-ask-when-buying-a-puppy and choosing and fitting a dog collar./learn/dog-lifestyle/guide-to-dog-collars Think you’re totally ready for the new arrival? Read 9 Things Nobody Tells You About Getting a Puppy!/learn/dog-lifestyle/9-things-nobody-tells-you-about-getting-a-puppy