It is important to be as diligent when dog-proofing your home as you would be baby-proofing it, as the average household is full of potential pet hazards. It’s not just for the owners of new puppies either – if you are adopting an older dog, you still need to make sure that it is a safe environment for them.
Before you bring your new pet home, take time to check every room of your house (and garden) for possible hazards. Get down to a dog’s point of view and have a good look around at their line of sight. Are there cables in a tangle on the floor behind your television? Is there a floor level cupboard in your kitchen with a door that doesn’t close properly?
Here are some other things to consider when it comes to dog-proofing:
If your dog is lucky enough to have access to a private garden, ensure that it is fully enclosed with a high-enough fence. Depending on the breed of dog, your fence may need to be as high as six feet, as some larger breeds of dog can easily clear a five-foot fence! Also, check for any gaps or holes in the fence that a smaller dog could slip through or a digging dog could get under.
If you have chemicals in your garden, such as insecticides, fertiliser, slug pellets, paint or solvents, make sure they are locked away well out of reach of an inquisitive dog. These chemicals are highly poisonous to dogs and cats, and can be fatal if ingested. Anti-freeze is a particular issue for pets as it contains ethylene glycol, which smells and tastes sweet. Even a few drops ingested from a puddle would be enough to cause serious kidney damage or even death.
Beware of ponds and water features in your garden, and keep them covered if your dog will be outside unsupervised. A puppy or dog that falls into water is at risk of drowning but there is also a risk of becoming unwell from drinking stagnant pond water.
Think about what you’ve got growing in your garden as there are many plants that are toxic to pets. Some of the more common varieties include holly, mistletoe, hyacinth, azalea, rhododendron and sweet pea.
Stairs can prove hazardous for some dogs and you might prefer your pet to stay downstairs. Stair gates are a useful tool here but make sure everyone in the home remembers to close them. If you prevent your dog from going upstairs, you can have a system of keeping everything that you wouldn’t want chewed on the first floor. Children can be advised to keep their toys in their rooms if they don’t want them to be eaten!
Have a think about your windows and doors, and what you might need to do to stop a lively dog from escaping when your back is turned. Also, are there any gaps or nooks that a dog could get stuck in when exploring the house?
There is a whole host of potential hazards in the kitchen which will need to be addressed before you bring a new dog home. Some dogs can become quite canny at opening cupboards – especially if they know there is something delicious inside – so consider child-proof cupboard locks or keeping certain things higher up out of reach.
The kitchen is often home to all of the household chemicals and, just like the ones you keep in the garden, can prove fatal if ingested by a dog or cat. These include bleach, washing detergent, dishwasher tablets and oven cleaners. Keep them in locked cupboards or high up out of reach. Don’t rely on the child safety caps as they are no match for a jaw full of canine teeth!
Does your kitchen bin have a lid? Even if it does, there’s no guarantee that a greedy dog couldn’t work out how to get his nose in there for a bit of extra dinner. The dangers here include cooked bones, packaging, human food that is toxic to dogs and mouldy food. Even if your dog doesn’t eat anything particularly dangerous from the bin, they are likely to end up with an upset stomach from bin raiding. Look for a dog-proof bin or keep your dog out of the kitchen altogether.
Stairgates make great barriers for dogs who need to be kept out of the kitchen but who still want to feel part of the action – however, big dogs can easily jump them!
Puppies in particular love to chew and it is something that becomes more necessary to them when they are teething. Power cables and other wires are particularly inviting if they are hanging down above a dog’s head but could prove fatal if they chew through them while they are plugged in. Make use of cable ties and tidies to keep them up off of the floor and away from your pup’s jaws.
Everything in your home will be seen as fair game to your new dog so remember, if you don’t want it chewed, keep it up high! This includes your best shoes, children’s toys, books, TV remote controls and homework!
If you provide your dog with a selection of dog-safe chew toys, they will be less likely to chew your precious things.
There are many houseplants that are toxic to pets so make sure that your dog doesn’t get access to them. The most common ones include lilies, aloe vera, poinsettia, rubber tree plants and chives.
Symptoms of poisoning from ingesting toxic house plants range from sickness and diarrhoea to difficultly breathing and even death.
Puppies, like babies, explore the world with their mouths so anything small that they can pick up from the floor is likely to disappear. This could pose a choking hazard if swallowed or cause an obstruction later on. Vet surgeons are full of tales of the things they have had to remove from dogs’ stomachs, and common finds include stones, marbles, elastic bands, string, coins and socks. Be mindful of picking little things up if you spot them on the floor before your pet does. You should be especially vigilant around batteries, which can cause burns to a dog’s mouth, oesophagus or stomach if swallowed.
Welcoming a new dog to the family is an exciting time and, if you have taken care of the necessary dog-proofing beforehand, you can relax knowing you’ve done everything you can to make your house a safe home for them.
I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a staff writer on Dogs Today magazine, working my way up to become deputy editor in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue a freelance career, relocated to north Norfolk and started a family.
Over the years I’ve contributed thoughtful human-interest features, celebrity interviews and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I’ve also ghost-written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.