6 Ways How to Dog-Proof Your Home

Filed in Dog Health on January 22, 2022

6 Ways How to Dog-Proof Your Home

When we bring dogs into our homes, we’re often so obsessed with how cute they are that we forget that they’re animals. And animals respond differently to their environment than we do.

They are scavengers and survivalists. And while there are exceptions to the rule, most dogs will attempt to eat or chew anything that falls their way – especially when they’re young.

As a result, doggie moms and dads should always be aware of how to keep their little ones out of danger’s reach. These dangers, among others, are listed by the ASPCA each year in their top 10 list of pet poison culprits.

In this article, I’ll cover 6 ways to dog-proof your home by pulling some examples from the ASPCA’s list and adding some others. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to keeping your babies happy and healthy for a long, long time.

So, what are they? Let’s dive in…

1. Supervise or Confine Your Dog (Crates, Pens, and Gates)

Unless you know your dog really well or have had them for a long time, you should think about confining your pup in some way if you’re not directly with them to supervise their behavior.

And this is especially true for puppies. Don’t even think of turning your back on one of those little rascals!

Our homes and yards are full of potential dangers for dogs, but that doesn’t mean we have to remove everything that could harm them. But we do need to put them where the dogs can’t reach them or fence them off.

Inside, that means getting a crate or pen to pop your pup into when you leave the room. A baby gate can fence off a specific area, such as a bathroom or kitchen.

And don’t forget the simple act of closing a door. Parents with toddlers will already be experts at all this, but you need to train yourself if you haven’t had kids.

Confining your dog doesn’t mean you’re putting them in puppy prison, though. Don’t ever feel bad about it.

Dogs and puppies often feel safe and secure in a crate or pen, and if you give them some safe toys to play with and some chew treats that they can’t swallow, such as a stuffed Kong or lick mat, they’ll be happy as a clam.

It’s never worth the risk of leaving them unattended and returning to a dog that has eaten something it shouldn’t, and a vet visit is needed.

If the weather’s nice, you may wish to keep the door to the outside open, but if you don’t have a fenced-in yard, a baby gate is great for the doorway. They can see out and smell the fresh air but can’t get into trouble.

Don’t forget to dog-proof your outdoor space, too. And that brings us to…

2. Remove Dangers from Garages and Yards

dog playing with protective gloves

Four items out of the ASPCA’s top 10 list refer to items found in garages or yards. Access to a garage is best not given at all as they are usually chock-full of dangers for dogs.

If you live in cold climates, you’ll likely have anti-freeze and ice melt stashed in your garage. I think most of us know that anti-freeze is deadly to our pets as it contains ethylene glycol. But ice melts are also dangerous.

If pets walk on rock salt, their paw pads can get irritated, and they will want to lick them. This action can induce agitation and vomiting. Look for ice melts that are more pet-friendly, such as this one available from Chewy.

Dogs can swallow small tools and metal or plastic parts left lying on the floor. And who doesn’t have painting and decorating materials stashed in their garage? Do you have lawn and plant fertilizers and other chemicals in yours?

Garages are a no-no, but in case your fur baby sneaks in, keep all the bad guys on high benches or shelves. Keep the floors swept and clean chemical spills immediately.

Outside, if you use chemicals on your lawns, your dogs should not be on them unless the substances are safe for pets. There are several options available to you, including this pet-safe lawn fertilizer.

Your yard is no doubt full of beautiful plants, shrubs, and trees. But do you know which ones can poison your dog?

Make sure you do and avoid planting them. The same goes for indoor plants and flowers. The Pet Poison Helpline website has a list of them.

Do you have a swimming pool? Dogs fall or jump into pools and usually can’t get back out and drown. If you have a pool, fence it off and keep the gate closed or only let your dog out there when you’re supervising them.

Is your yard fenced? If not, your dog should never be left unattended outside and preferably kept on a leash. Few dogs can resist a squirrel chase, which might take them right into the road.

Make sure the fence is secure, too. Regularly check the gate to see that it’s safe and walk the border to ensure there are no holes that a small dog could wriggle through.

If your dog is a digger, you might need to reinforce the fence at the bottom all the way around or only let them outside if you’re with them.

3. Secure Your Kitchen (Food, Trash, and Chemicals)

trash in the kitchen

Let’s go back to the ASPCA’s list. For the past several years, the number three and four reported poisoning cases come from food sources – with chocolate being in a category all of its own at number four! Now that’s something to pay attention to.

What does this mean for you?

Don’t leave food and drink lying around and keep your dog out of the kitchen.

If they do have access, make sure all food is kept high enough so they can’t reach it (not easy if you have a Great Dane) and ensure cabinet doors are secured. Use child locks if necessary.

Dog-proof trash cans are a must. Buy those with tight-fitting lids or lock them away in a secure cupboard. If you only have a small dog, buying a heavier bin can prevent them from turning it over and getting inside.

Birthdays and holidays such as Christmas can provide extra chances for our pups to get our food. I once put a chocolate gift under the Christmas tree, and my Jack Russell Terrier Blazer got hold of it, ripped off the wrapping and packaging, and ate it.

I got super lucky as he had no side effects, but what he ate could have seriously injured or killed another dog. I secretly think he shared it with the other three dogs in my house, so no one dog got a lot of it. But lesson learned.

Sometimes we get so caught up with life that we overlook things like this or are so busy we don’t even think about it. A little bit of thought goes a long way to stop your pet from getting poisoned, or worse.

I’m not going to go in-depth here on toxic foods and plants for dogs, as that can be the subject of another article. But, because a few of the foods are particularly dangerous, I include them here because they can’t be repeated enough.

According to Live Science, an online research science magazine, the foods that cause the most pet deaths are:

1) Chocolate and chocolate-based products

2) Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives

3) Nuts, especially macadamias, almonds, and I would add walnuts

4) Alcohol and unbaked bread dough

5) Fruits including grapes, raisins, sultanas, and currants

6) Foods sweetened with xylitol – the Pet Poison Hotline tells us that if a 10-pound dog was to eat just one piece of sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol, that amount could kill it. Other foods that contain this sugar replacement include baked goods, toothpaste, and the most dangerous of all, peanut butter.

Dogs love this stuff, and lots of us give it to our pups. But some companies now sweeten their peanut butter with xylitol! Here they are: Krush Nutrition’s Nutty By Nature, Go Nuts, Co Peanut Butter, Nut’s N More, and P28 High Protein Peanut Spread.

Note: in addition to protecting your dog from dangerous foods in the kitchen, remember that cleaning materials live under the sink – dog-proof those cabinet doors too! Plastic bags are a choking and suffocating hazard.

4. Beware of the Bathroom

medicine

Human medications and veterinary products are number two and eight on the ASPCA’s list. That’s huge. Most medications are stored in our bathrooms, and by keeping the bathroom door closed at all times, we can prevent most accidents.

High shelves and locked or secured cabinets are a must if your dog has access to that room. But I think the main thing is to always put medications up after using them.

Even if you come home with a hangover and take some ibuprofen – don’t leave that bottle out with the top off!

Know what to do if your pup swallows a pill and keep emergency vet and poison control numbers where you can find them immediately if you had to.

Other offenders in bathrooms include cleaning materials, chemicals, plastic bags, and make-up.

Bathroom trash cans tend to be smaller than those we use in the kitchen and are therefore more accessible to nosy dogs. A tight-fitting lid is a good idea.

5. Modify Your Main Rooms

Dogs are family members, and they’ll be wherever you are. Most of us hang out in our living rooms when we’re home, so that’s where your pup will be, too. There are a few things to think about regarding our main living rooms. Here are some of them:

Wires and Cords

Dogs can be shocked or worse if they bite into soft and chewy electrical wires. Puppies are most at risk, but even older dogs that love to chew might chomp down on one to see what it’s all about.

Three of the biggest offenders are flat-screen TVs, lamps, and laptops that all have dangling wires going to electrical outlets. Unplug them, tie them up, hide them from view, or barricade them off.

Note: TV remotes look like toys to dogs. Put them away when not in use to avoid problems for the chewer and irritation for their humans!

If you have a puppy, never leave it alone at any time, but you can discourage it from biting things it shouldn’t by putting something bitter-tasting on it. While you’re with your puppy, let it lick the wire (or piece of furniture). They won’t try again!

It’s cold now, and I’m running a small electric space heater. If I had a chewer in my home, I’d be cautious with that! Always unplug heaters from the wall when you leave the room they’re in.

Window blinds with dangling cords can be a strangling or choking hazard. Tie them up high enough so your dog can’t reach them to investigate.

String Lights and Candles

Dogs can get tangled (and possibly strangled) in string lights that aren’t just seasonal anymore. They can also be burned by candles or knock them over, causing a fire.

If you’re decorating with fancy lights, think about where you’ll hang them. If your dog can reach them, it’s time to rethink. Never leave a room with a candle burning – with or without a pet in it!

Fireplaces

If it’s winter and you have a fireplace going, place a guard up to it. Just like a child might go barreling into your fire during a crazy play session, your dog could, too.

Note: extra hazards appear around holidays such as Christmas. Make sure your dog can’t get into decorations such as tree ornaments, tinsel, and ribbons, as they can cause cuts and obstructions. Snow globes contain dangerous chemicals.

6. Take Caution with Children

little boy and his pup

Whoa! This might seem like a strange category, but misunderstandings between children and dogs cause many poor pups to end up in shelters and children to get bitten.

A little knowledge goes a long way. If you teach your children how to interact with your dog safely, you can avoid many accidents.

Misunderstandings Happen

In one of my classes, when I was a dog trainer, a family came to me with their new rescue poodle distraught because although the kids loved the dog, the dog didn’t seem to love them.

The mom thought the dog could possibly bite her kids, and she told me that if they couldn’t sort it out, they were going to return her to the shelter.

It turns out it was just simple miscommunication between two species. The sweet children were doing nothing wrong. They were trying to show their new pet that they loved her by hugging her and getting right in her face to kiss her.

Most dogs don’t like being hugged tightly and kissed, even by their guardians. And this new rescue was still trying to settle into her new home and was under stress.

I asked the kids to interact with her as they were doing at home and quickly observed that the dog was trying to communicate that she wasn’t comfortable with their behavior.

The children just didn’t understand what she was saying. It was as simple as that.

I explained to the family that a new rescue needs time to settle down into a family and get comfortable with them. And that although hugging and kissing helps humans feel loved, dogs can often be afraid of that.

The children got it immediately. They went home to try out the new approach. Next week when they came back to class, the family couldn’t wait to tell me that I had saved the dog from being returned to the shelter.

When the kids backed off from the sweet loving, the dog felt much more at ease, and any signs of aggression toward the children ceased.

Children also need to be taught to pick up after themselves and keep doors closed. They aren’t mature enough to understand how their actions can lead to trouble for their dogs.

Toys

Kiddos leave their toys lying around to become potential hazards:

  • Games and toys with small pieces such as Lego and Monopoly can easily be chewed on and swallowed.
  • Xbox and Playstation controllers look like cool chew toys.
  • Dogs love to take the stuffing out of soft toys and can choke on what they swallow.
  • Many toys need batteries these days, and you don’t want your dog eating those.

Food

Children drop food or leave it lying around all the time.

They might love grapes and want to share them, or they know that dogs love peanut butter, so they slip them some or leave a plate to lick. As we’ve already seen, the wrong kind of peanut butter can kill a dog.

They don’t even think about leaving the bathroom door open or the entrance to the outside. But as I found out in my dog-training classes, they love to learn how to care for their pets, so go ahead and teach them.

Conclusion on Dog-Proofing Your Home

Prevention is better than cure.

When you decide to get a dog you commit to their care and well-being, too. You shouldn’t live in fear that your dog could get poisoned or injured in your home or yard at any moment.

But you can learn about potential doggie dangers and some simple ways to avoid them. You can look at the statistics from the ASPCA and place close attention to those areas in particular.

Good luck with dog-proofing your home, and I hope this checklist goes a long way to helping you protect your pup.

The following phone numbers are worth writing down in case a poisoning accident happens. I have them on my fridge door. Speed is of the essence, and having these numbers at hand can save your furry friend’s life.

  • Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435

 

About the Author

Wendy Hollandsworth is a contributing writer to Dog Endorsed. She is a freelance canine copywriter who specializes in blog posts, content articles, product descriptions, and sales emails. An experienced editor and writer, she’s worked in four countries, has had hands-on experience with dogs in boarding, grooming, training, and pet-sitting, and loves what she does. When she’s not creating content she’s usually taking her three dogs Finn, Meg, and Ziggy Stardust to the dog park or making them a home-cooked meal! Sometimes her husband gets one, too.

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