Installing a baby gate

There’s nothing like a puppy to make your household complete. But a puppy can wreak havoc on household furniture, carpeting, children’s toys and anything else that appeals to his curiosity and his itching gums. While it’s important to protect your home from your puppy, it is more important to protect your puppy from common household items that can put his health and safety in danger.

Know the Hazards

Puppies chew for a couple of reasons. Chewing is a way for your puppy to relieve the discomfort of teething. It is also an excellent outlet for excess energy, particularly for bored dogs. Puppies are not picky about what they gnaw on, but will chew based on the convenience of the item, the consistency, and how it feels and tastes in their mouth. This means that for your puppy, anything he can get his teeth on is fair game when he's looking for something to chew.

Because your puppy can't tell what is and isn't OK to chew on, it's crucial that you puppy-proof your house ahead of time. Certain items can be extremely hazardous for pets if ingested, including medications, vitamins, tobacco products, sugar-free foods and aromatherapy items. Your dog only needs to ingest a minimal amount of some items to cause serious harm — for example, even a little bit of sugar-free candy or gum is capable of causing liver failure in your dog. Be extra careful about how you store these items; just because it’s up on a counter doesn’t mean your puppy can’t get to it.

Electrical cords can be tempting to your pup, but chewing on a cord that is plugged in can result in a dangerous shock. Puppies will also gnaw on wood furniture or baseboards; this is dangerous because your dog can ingest harmful chemicals or large, sharp pieces of wood. Carpets and rugs pose a unique challenge during the puppy months too — not only do these soft areas make an excellent potty, they can also be a tempting chew toy.

Your puppy may be enticed to eat items that are totally unappealing to a human, such as pesticides, paint, gasoline, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, hair supplies, makeup, antifreeze, glue, cocoa mulch, batteries, rat poison, and indoor and outdoor plants. Even if you’re storing some of these items in the garage, keep in mind that your pet may still have access to them, and remember that it only takes a moment for a harmful substance to be eaten by a curious puppy. 

Your puppy can also be in danger if he ingests items that can cause choking or problems with his intestinal tract. Hunting and fishing gear, such as lures and hooks, can cause major intestinal damage if eaten. Children’s toys and holiday items, such as ornaments and lights, have small parts that can cause choking and blockage. Some puppies enjoy eating the stuffing out of toys, including dog plush toys, which can cause problems when swallowed. Dogs also enjoy chewing on items that smell like their people, such as shoes and clothing, and surprisingly, clothing can be dangerous for dogs — in fact, underwear are a top choking hazard for dogs. Even a harmless looking string or rubber band can put your pup at risk for emergency surgery if it is swallowed and twists up in the intestines.

Puppy-Proof Your Home

Use baby gates to section off rooms that are difficult to keep picked up, such as children’s rooms or bathrooms. Keep other areas of the house immaculately clean, paying careful attention to any items left on the floor, on the table or on low shelves. In addition, potentially hazardous items should be stored in locked, childproofed cabinets or on high shelving that your dog can’t reach when he stands on his hind legs or when he jumps. Keep in mind, too, that photo albums, journals, antiques, expensive furniture, cherished books and other valuable and sentimental items are all fair game to your puppy unless they are properly secured.

Dogs are scavengers who can problem-solve ways to get to food, which means that even if you throw it away, your dog can find a way to get to it. Unless the trash can is safely secured, the plastic wrap, tinfoil or other discarded items that were wrapped around your leftovers may be discovered — and eaten — by your puppy. Use garbage cans with locking lids or hide garbage under locked, childproof cabinets.

Block access to toxic plants inside or outside your house with fencing, or remove them altogether. Cords, such as those on window blinds, should be wrapped up and tied to prevent strangulation. Conceal electrical cords in PVC pipe, cord concealers or spiral cable wrap.

Even with all these precautions, when you are away from home or unable to supervise him, your puppy should be kept in a puppy-proofed area, such as a crate, a dog-proofed room or a fenced dog area, ideally on a hard floor away from carpeting and the edges of the wall or furniture, which can be chewed on. When he is out of the puppy-proofed area, he should be tethered on a short leash and actively supervised and redirected away from dangerous situations. To keep your puppy productively busy, provide ample food puzzles, chew items and toys.

Of course, if your puppy eats something he shouldn't, it’s essential to get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible to get immediate help. 

Change Your Perspective

Your puppy is new to the world and is just figuring out how stuff works. To keep him safe, it's important to look at the world from his perspective. Just like a human toddler, your puppy has limited experience with danger.

A puppy will not know to avoid something hot, such as the oven, the fireplace, a space heater, or the stove. Protect him by keeping areas with open heat sources off-limits. 

Puppies have limited experience with heights and may be oblivious to danger. A puppy can easily get excited and slip through the railing of a balcony if he sees an exciting distraction walk by. If your home has a balcony, you may need to temporarily use chicken wire or another type of fencing over the slats in the railing to protect your puppy from slipping through the open space. You can also opt to keep your pet on a harness and leash while you actively supervise him in this area.  

Drowning can happen in an instant, even at home. Keep hot tubs and pools covered or blocked off with fencing to prevent an accident.

Many dogs have difficulty navigating stairs and can be injured or severely frightened by them. Teach your puppy to walk up and down the stairs using treats to lure him up and down; until he masters stair climbing, block off access to these areas with baby gates. 

Certain breeds are more likely to roam or to exhibit escape behavior even at a young age, which can put them in danger of being lost or injured — or even killed.  Be sure your fence line is tall enough to keep your puppy in, and that there are no items along the fence that he can use as a step stool to scamper over the fence.  Puppies that dig can also escape under the fence line, which may mean extending the fence further underground to keep your puppy in. 

These puppy-proofing tips will protect your home — but, more important, they will protect your puppy, which ensures many years to come of bonding and friendship with your family.