Puppy-Proofing Your Home

Puppy Safety First!

Bringing home a new puppy is so exciting, but you must remember that your number one job is to keep your new puppy safe. Puppies are just like toddlers; they spend much of their time exploring their surroundings and seeing what they can get into.

Crate-Train from the Beginning

Although your new puppy will make you feel like the worst person in the world if you crate him, it is essential that you provide him with a safe place to stay when you are unable to keep your eyes and attention on him 100% of the time. To get him used to the crate, place the puppy in the crate and put the crate near to where you are so the puppy can hear and smell you. Leave him in the crate for only a short time at first, then take him out and play with him. Put him back in the crate for a slightly longer time, and continue to build up his time in the crate.

Under no circumstances should the puppy be out of the crate when no one is watching him. Don’t think of it as a punishment, and never use it as a punishment. Just as you would put your human baby in a playpen or crib if you weren’t right beside her, you must protect your puppy in the same way by crating him when you cannot watch him.

Common Household Dangers

Although it is not likely that your dog will stick something in an outlet, there are plenty of other common household items that can cause him harm. Like babies, puppies like to chew whatever they find. For this reason, you need to provide a cover over any loose electrical cords or restrict access to them.

Household chemicals are another source of problems for many new puppies. If you are not used to having little ones in the house, you may regularly leave cleaning products lying around on the floor in the garage or basement. Even if you put them in a cupboard, you may have never checked the latch to see how easy it is to paw open. It is best to put these chemicals on a high shelf, but if you must store them on the floor of a cupboard, check to see if you need a baby lock on the door. To do this, place a cookie or something else your dog loves behind the cupboard door and close the door. If the dog can paw the door open to get to the treat, the cupboard is not secure enough to hold your chemicals.

Check your household plants against the list on the ASPCA’s poison control center web site. Any plants that are poisonous should be removed from your home or placed on high shelves before your puppy comes home. Remember that your puppy will grow very quickly. Just because he can’t reach the middle shelf today doesn’t mean that he won’t soon be able to. It’s tough to remember that your little ball of fluff may grow very tall very quickly. If you puppy-proof the house one time for his whole puppy-hood, you won’t have to remember to go back and put stuff up still higher as he grows.

Keep the toilet lid shut. As your puppy grows, he may be tempted to jump up and get a drink. One slip, and he will end up in the water, where drowning is a distinct possibility, and humiliation is certain.

A Puppy’s Eye View

Do a crawl-through of your house on your hands and knees. This puts your eyes at approximately the same height as your puppy’s eyes, and allows you to see what he might find interesting. Anything small enough to fit into his mouth should be put up high enough that he can’t get to it. Only dog toys which are large enough that the entire toy cannot fit into his mouth should be left out for the dog to chew.

Check not only the inside of your home, but also your garage and your yard – anywhere the puppy may be. Things like lawn chemicals, antifreeze, and mulch can cause your dog problems and should be kept in an area away from where the puppy will be allowed to roam.

Kids and Puppies

Think about the people who live in and visit your home. If young children are often present, decide now on rules and make them clear to the tot. If the children should not touch the dog or should not disturb him while he is eating, make that clear from the outset, rather than waiting until there is a problem. Make sure the child knows that human food is not good for puppies and can, in fact, be poisonous. Explain that your puppy can only eat his special food, but that you’d love to have help filling his dish at the appropriate time. Set aside some special time for the child to meet the dog and for the dog to become socialized to the child.

Protecting Your House from your Puppy

When you bring your puppy home, it is quite likely that your puppy will have an accident on your carpet as soon as he comes inside. This is an exciting and terrifying time for a new puppy, so he will be prone to accidents. For this reason, it is often helpful to confine him to a small, uncarpeted area such as a kitchen or laundry room until potty training is completed. Confining him also makes puppy-proofing much easier, as only the small containment room must be arranged to protect the puppy. Once potty training is completed, the rest of the house can be puppy proofed to allow the dog to expand his boundaries.

As far as the puppy is concerned, anything he can fit his mouth around is fair game for chewing. Provide lots of appropriate toys for him, and spray bitter apple repellant on things you want him to stay away from. Never, ever hit your dog as punishment for chewing, but teach him from day one that “no” means “no”! Tell him “no” sharply, and give him one of his toys to chew, each and every time you catch him chewing on something of yours. When you catch him going to his own toys first, make sure to praise him lavishly.

Above all, make a commitment to the lifelong health and well-being of your new family member, and enjoy his puppy-hood, which will go by way too fast!

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