So you’ve made the leap—you’ve committed to bringing a new member of the family home. It can be a daunting process, whether this is your first time having a puppy or it’s just been a while. Puppies are a great source of excitement and happiness, but being responsible for a life is overwhelming at first. You might find yourself desperately scouring the internet and wondering how best to prepare.
But don’t worry; the joy that puppies bring will far outweigh the stress when your new friend comes home. However, to help yourself further, you’ll want to get started on some puppy proofing. This means creating a safe and enriching environment for your dog to ensure they’re fulfilled and won’t get into things they shouldn’t.
We’ll walk you through how to puppy proof your house and what to consider when bringing your pup home.
Key Considerations Before Puppy Proofing
Before you get started, you’ll want to consider your situation and the dog you’re bringing home. Although you likely haven’t gotten a chance to know them yet, having some basic information about their age and background will help. If they’re approaching a year old and have already lived with a family, your dog proofing may not need to be as excessive.
Important: While an older dog may mean less care is required, this isn’t always the case. Regardless of your dog’s age, start slow before you trust them entirely and give them the run of the house.
But if you’re bringing home an eight-week-old puppy who doesn’t yet understand right from wrong and might think those cables by the TV look like tasty chew toys, you will have to make sure there’s no way they can hurt themselves.
It will also help to consider exactly how you want to train your dog. If you’re going to crate train them, make sure you have their crate set up for them when they arrive. It should be big enough for them to turn around and stretch out in but not so big that they can designate a corner as the ‘potty’ corner. At least, not until you’re confident they know potty time is for outside.
If you don’t want to crate train your dog, consider setting up a playpen. It’s up to you how you want to raise them, but having an enclosed space can help keep them safe—regardless of what the enclosed space actually is. You can even attach a crate to a playpen to give your dog more space.
To review, keep in mind:
- Their age
- Their size
- What they already know
- If you want to crate train them
Where to Start: Preparing to Puppy Proof
The first thing you’ll want to do is designate an area of the house for your new puppy to stay. No new dog should get free roam of the house immediately. (They might get into trouble and decide that your bed is the perfect place to do their business.)
Start small, giving them one room that’s theirs. You can expand that quickly if they’re an older puppy who already knows how to behave in a house, but you’ll otherwise want to move very slowly, gradually giving them more trust.
Once you’ve designated an area of the house, consider their setup. At the very least, puppies should have a space they can stay in (like the afore-mentioned playpen or crate) when you need to leave the room. They should also have water freely available and some toys and enrichment. Interactive toys and puzzles are great for keeping them busy!
You may also want to designate an area for them to go potty if you’re using puppy pads. Puppy pads are controversial as some experts believe it delays the dog’s realization that they should go outside. If you have easy, quick access to a yard, they aren’t necessary as long as you take the dog out frequently. But if you don’t work remotely, they may be a lifesaver.
In sum, start by identifying:
- What parts of the house they can have access to initially
- Toys and enrichment features you want to add
- Your potty training preferences
Puppy Proofing Time: Potential Dangers to Take Care Of
Once you’ve made these key decisions on your puppy’s space, it’s time to take care of the potential safety hazards in the room.
Puppies are naturally curious, and you shouldn’t scold them for wanting to explore. Instead, take away anything they might get into during that exploration that could cause an expensive trip to the vet.
Pick up all cables and tie them out of reach if possible. It’s important to protect cables from dogs because they can chew through them and break your electronics, hurt themselves in the process, and even create a fire hazard. Teething puppies will put their mouths on anything—there’s a reason people call them little land sharks.
Consider Using a Baby Gate
Instead of closing the door when you leave the room, you can use a baby gate. Doing so allows you to still hear the puppy when you need to be elsewhere in the house and can make them feel more secure, too.
People often mistakenly diagnose their pups with separation anxiety because they cry when left alone. The truth is, all young puppies do! Having a baby gate at the door means you can easily pop your face in and out to reassure them that you’re still around and is a great comfort for them.
Remove Human Food From the Area
Not all human food is bad for dogs. Some fruits and vegetables are very good for them, and you can even include them in their diet. However, some food is highly toxic, and if your puppy manages to get its paws on it, it could be disastrous.
Make sure there are no snacks left in the area you’ve puppy-proofed, with the worst offenders being:
- An artificial sweetener called Xylitol, often found in ice cream and peanut butter
- Grapes and anything related (wine, raisins, grape-flavored foods)
- Chocolate (especially dark chocolate)
In general, it’s best to always research something before giving it to your dog or allowing it near them.
Pro Tip: If you have kids, make sure they don’t bring snacks into the puppy’s room. Dogs aren’t exactly known for their table manners, and they may snatch it! Dog proofing the house means laying down some rules for your kids, too, as sometimes they’re too young to know what’s appropriate.
You should also make sure you remove or secure trash cans for the same reason. That smell may be pungent to us, but puppies love it and will do their best to break into the trash.
Secure Blind Cords
Even if you plan on supervising your puppy at all times, make sure you raise blind cords out of reach. You can tie them so that they are high up or set them on a nearby shelf or ledge. If the puppy reaches up to try and play with them, the cords could get caught around their neck. Best case scenario, they chew up the blind cords, and you’re left with no way to let in or block out the sunlight.
Remove Toxic Houseplants
Some houseplants are toxic to animals, so you should make sure any plants in the room with your puppy are known to be pet-friendly.
It’s also best to keep them high out of reach. Even if a plant isn’t toxic, consuming too much can cause an upset stomach.
Remove Litter Boxes
If you have cats and plan on keeping all of your pet-related belongings in the same room for convenience, you might want to rethink this plan. For years, cat droppings have been like forbidden tootsie rolls to dogs that are inexplicably attracted to eating them—much to the exasperation of their owners.
While eating cat feces may not do much harm to your pup—as long as they’re parasite-free—it’s the litter that could get to them. Clumping litter forms hard balls when wet, and these clumps could get stuck in your dog’s digestive system.
Clean Up After Your Puppy
It’s natural for puppies to have accidents for the first few weeks or even months of being home, but it’s important to clean them up as soon as possible. Some puppies will try to eat their feces, which can make them sick, and while not all dogs do this, you can never predict when one will.
Examine Their Toys
Lastly, it’s best to examine all of the toys you bought for your fur baby. Make sure there are no small or sharp pieces that could break off and get lodged in your puppy’s throat.
Although you’d expect pet toy manufacturers to be on top of things and ensure their toys are dog-safe, this isn’t always the case, and it’s up to you to do your due diligence and protect your new family member.
Take the Time to Puppy Proof Your House
Puppy proofing your house can seem like a long and intimidating task. After all, there’s an endless number of things puppies can get into, and the thought of something happening to your puppy is surely scary.
Fortunately, puppies are built to withstand accidents and survive new owners, and you’ll do just fine as long as you implement the above tips to create a safe, puppy-proof house. Many things are personal preference—such as puppy pads and crate training—but the main thing is to ensure your puppy has a safe space and lots to keep them occupied.