Puppy proofing your home is one of the most important things to do before you bring a puppy home. Chances are every single room in your house contains items that are both dangerous and very tempting to a puppy!
In this instructable I'll talk about puppy proofing every room in your house, and also what to worry about outside! I'll also show you a few examples of ways to keep your puppy contained or always within your view. :)
Oh, and lots of photos of our adorable new family member, baby Charlie! He's more photogenic than the clutter I had to clean up anyway.
Step 1: Why You Should Puppy Proof Your Home
Unlike a baby, puppies come ready to run around, jump, and chew all the things. (Look at those little baby teeth!) They move fast and they can be very quiet and sneaky. A puppy uses its mouth as its hands, so anything within reach will end up in your puppy's mouth as they explore. Trust me on this. :D
Anything they can get to will be touched, dragged, pulled, chewed, humped, spit on, and maybe even peed on if you aren't paying attention. And some of those things are sure to be dangerous to the puppy!
So instead of chasing your pup around all day or realizing there's a sudden silence and you don't see the puppy around and then panicking - puppy proof in advance! It's good for both for your sanity and the safety of the puppy.
Puppy proofing can also help with house training when combined with crating when you're not home and containing your puppy when you are home!
Step 2: Puppy Proofing General Living Areas
These areas will include the living room, dining room, and any hallways, as these areas are generally larger and hard to be blocked off completely with the use of baby gates and pens.
Here are some general hazards to look out for:
- CORDS: Hide cords behind furniture, or tack them to the wall with cable clips. Secure excess hanging cord with zip ties.
- CHARGERS: Chargers are especially dangerous because they can be broken into smaller pieces. Keep them on surfaces that are out of reach and zip tie the excess cable.
- HOUSEPLANTS: Many plants are toxic to plants and dogs. (Some may cause upset stomach, some cause severe swelling, and some can be fatal. Check here for more information.) Hang plants or put them on counters or the tops of shelves.
- ELECTRICAL OUTLETS: Invest in outlet covers if your puppy seems too interested! You can also buy outlet covers that cover the cords that are plugged in - just in case you puppy decides pulling cords out of the wall i is their new favorite game.
- RIPPED OR TORN FLOORING: Little pieces of string from rugs and carpets can become a fun game while you're not watching. (The corner of a crappy carpet in our hallway is one of our only puppy causalities.) Vinyl or wooden flooring with exposed damage can become a chew toy.
- SMALL OBJECTS: If you're a fan of knickknacks or have open storage on low shelves, move those items up and out of the puppy's reach. Anything tiny enough to go in the mouth will be in the mouth.
- TALL OBJECTS: Anything wobbly and tall should be secured to the walls. If an item can't be secured to the walls, try leaning it into a corner or weighting it so it can't be knocked over.
Step 3: Puppy Proofing Your Bathroom
A bathroom contains quite a bit for such a tiny room! Make sure to check on the things below:
- CLEANERS, BEAUTY PRODUCTS, TOILETRIES: All of these pose significant risks if ingested, so store them in cabinets or up and out of reach.
- TRASH CANS: I don't move these as the bathroom is almost always out of Charlie's reach, but I do watch him very carefully around them. Alternatively, set them on the toilet tank.
- RUGS AND TOWELS: These are quite easy to tear up, even for a young puppy. Keep an eye on your puppy anytime they're around them.
- LITTERBOXES: If you have cats, chances are you've got a litterbox in your bathroom somewhere. I recommend getting a top-entry litterbox if you don't have one already! Litter can cause significant and dangerous blockages in a puppy's intestinal tract, and eating cat feces can be dangerous as well.
Step 4: Puppy Proofing Bedrooms
You may choose to simply keep bedrooms closed during house training or until the puppy has learned not to chew on everything. But since Charlie's crate is in our bedroom and he spends time in there with us at night, we decided to puppy proof it.
Bedrooms aren't the most dangerous places, but it's important to be mindful about keeping cords and chargers away and organized. You'll also want to keep closets and drawers shut to keep the puppy from rooting around and finding trouble. I also keep my bedroom plants out of his reach.
Here are some other things to look out for:
- LAUNDRY BASKETS: Eating laundry can lead to blockages and vet visits, so it's important to move the laundry somewhere safe or teach the puppy immediately that the laundry basket is a no-go.
- SHOES: Shoes are especially tempting for puppies - they're like big toys! Keep shoes on a shoe rack or in a closet to make them less accessible.
- CLOTHING: Make sure any clothing is either put away or in the laundry basket. A puppy is sure to love your smell and will seek out stray socks, underwear, and anything else left within reach.
Step 5: Puppy Proofing the Kitchen
The kitchen has so many tempting things. That's where the food is, after all!
The standard warnings about cords and easily tipped objects are important here, along with a few others:
- CLEANERS: Make sure these are kept in a cabinet away from your pup.
- FOOD: If your puppy is especially food crazy, you may need to buy child locks for cabinets or move food into upper cabinets.
- TRASH AND RECYCLING: Trash cans with lids are best - you may even want to invest in a lockable trashcan. As for recycling bins, I recommend keeping them up out of reach or even moving them outside of a back door. You never want to encourage digging in the trash or recycling.
- FLOORS: I try to keep the floors in the kitchen swept often, as you don't want to create a scavenger pup that roams the kitchen at every chance looking for scraps. You may be cooking with ingredients puppy can't digest, so it's important they aren't eating random things off the floor!
Step 6: Puppy Proofing Your Yard and Garage
Making Your Yard Safe
If you're lucky enough to have a fenced in yard, have a walk around and pick up anything you don't want in the puppy's mouth. Also be sure there are no holes in the fence the puppy can get through.
In my case, I have 11 acres of yard so I go outside with my dogs every time they're out. I never know what trash may blow into the yard from neighbors' trashcans or what previous tenants have left out there. I may live in the middle of nowhere, but I find so many strange things in my yard I don't want my dogs getting ahold of. (Though let's be honest, mostly beer cans and golf balls.)
Making Your Garage Safe
To be honest, we tend to keep Charlie out of the garage entirely. We have more of a warehouse than a garage and there are so many dangerous things in there: power tools, paint, glass, pvc, heavy hand tools, scrap wood, auto fluids, etc.
But if you know your pup has a chance of being in there, I recommend buying some cheap metal or plastic shelves to keep dangerous liquids out of reach. You'll also want to either secure tools and materials scraps to the walls using racks or keep an eye on the pup at all times.
Step 7: How to Keep Puppy Safe When You Are and Aren't at Home
It's my firm belief that a puppy should either be crated, contained, or within your eye line on a leash at all times! (With the minority of that time spent crated if possible - Charlie mostly sleeps in his at night or when we leave the house.)
It's not a puppy's fault for chewing and getting into things: they're just being curious! It's your job to keep them safe via crating or containing, or by being nearby while they're leashed to tell them no and teach them that's not ok.
As stated above, Charlie really only spends time in his crate while we sleep at night or if we're gone during the day. We crate him because it greatly speeds up house training and keeps him and our house safe when we're not able to watch him.
You can buy puppy "play pens" that will allow you to keep the puppy close and give them room to run around a bit. We got one for Charlie early on so I could work. I would put his bed, food, water and some toys inside and he'd keep himself busy for a bit. This was especially great because I could set it up on our tiled kitchen floor to avoid cleaning up accidents on carpet.
You can also buy a couple baby gates and install those. We use one to block off the kitchen and living room from the rest of the house.
Charlie is often on a leash, both inside and outside. When Charlie was very young and tended to pee every 15 minutes, I kept him on an eight foot leash attached to my belt loop via a carabiner. This allowed me to move around the house and do what I needed to do while watching him. It's easy to tell if he's squatting or getting into something this way!
Outside, we keep a 30 foot leash on Charlie in most cases. This gives him the freedom to run, but won't let him get too far away. This is especially important if you have an unfenced yard and when the puppy is very young and hasn't learned to come to you yet.
I also employed the 30 foot leash in teaching Charlie to recall (or come to me) consistently. When he didn't listen, I'd tug at the leach while saying "Charlie, come!" and reward him with an enthusiastic "Yes!" we he turned to come to me. And of course I gave him a treat every time. :D