So the day is fast approaching when you bring a new Labrador puppy into your life and home! Have you properly prepared?
As a responsible and caring owner you must, before they arrive, transform your home into a safe environment with as many potentially dangerous hazards removed or made safe as possible.
The process of puppy proofing your home is very much like baby proofing before the arrival of a child. Except a puppy is far more curious, active and destructive and can get themselves into far more trouble.
You have to keep in mind that a puppy is a new-born. They’re completely naïve and clueless about the world around them, what’s safe and what isn’t and will explore and play with everything and anything until they’re taught to know better.
Keeping in mind that a puppy is much like a baby should also help you be more understanding and patient of their behavior too. All baby’s get into mischief until they understand the world around them. So until you’ve taught your puppy right and wrong, you have to expect mistakes.
Puppies are hyper-inquisitive, love to investigate everything and run and pounce and jump and chew on anything in their environment. It’s cute to see, but can also be dangerous.
So before you bring your puppy home you simply must make it safe for them. It’s your responsibility to make sure that your puppy, and your belongings, will be safe. This article, how to puppy proof your home and garden will take you through what needs to be done.
Contents & Quick Navigation
What Is Puppy Proofing? What Does It Actually Mean?
Mostly it’s just common sense but it’s very easy to forget one or two things for even the most experienced of owners. Generally speaking, these are the 3 things that puppy proofing means:
- It’s the process of putting yourself in your puppy’s shoes and viewing your home and garden from their point of view, to anticipate and prevent any possible dangerous situations from ever happening.
- It’s creating an environment in which your puppy can thrive. Avoiding situations where they need telling off or correcting means they experience far more time being loved and praised for doing things right. Puppy’s thrive on positivity and puppy-proofing helps promote this.
- It’s protecting your home and your possessions. Everything is a toy and is fair game to a puppy, but to you some things are precious. You need to safeguard your belongings from puppy’s paws and teeth.
Not only can your puppy potentially cause thousands of dollars of damage, they can also seriously damage their health in just a few short seconds. So puppy proofing is worth doing, and it’s worth doing well.
Some General Tips On Puppy Proofing Your House And Garden
The number one thing to keep in mind is your puppy has the right to play with and chew on absolutely anything they can get their little paws and teeth on.
With this in mind, here are a few rules to follow when puppy proofing your home and yard:
- If something would be dangerous or expensive if they toyed with it, then they simply cannot be allowed access to it. If a puppy can get at something it’s fair game to play with and destroy. So put all potentially dangerous objects and those you’d like to keep intact out of reach.
- Closely supervise your puppy when they’re free to roam the house. Confine them to a small secured room or consider crate training to temporarily hold them safely when you cannot supervise them. (Click here for an ultimate guide to crate training your puppy). They should never be left unsupervised with free rein in your home as disaster can strike in seconds.
- You can use bitter-tasting sprays that deter dogs from chewing on items that cannot possibly be moved. Things like table legs, skirting boards and corners of cabinets can be saved in this way.
- Make sure you have a good selection of chew toys left in every location that your puppy spends time. They keep your puppy occupied, help with the teething process, are stress relievers and help to promote chewing on the right things instead of your home and belongings.
- Invest in some baby gates or barriers to use for restricting access to certain areas of your home. It’s wise to only allow access to one or two rooms until your puppy is more responsible and can be trusted, and to open up the rest of your home over time as they mature.
- Perform an audit of the types of plants you have in your home as many are toxic or poisonous to dogs. Make a list of the plants you have and check them off against a list of known toxic plants, such as this one found on the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Section. Simply remove those that are unsafe. It’s not worth the risk of keeping them.
- Make sure anything potentially poisonous is securely locked away or stored high and out of reach, including but not limited to: Household cleaners, antifreeze, rat poisons, mothballs, insect repellents, bleaches, disinfectants, insecticides, pesticides, soaps, shampoos and laundry detergents.
I’ll end this section with an important point: If your puppy manages to get hold of something that’s dangerous or of value to you, then it’s entirely your fault.
Everything is a toy for them until they’ve been taught otherwise and have matured enough to know better.
Don’t get angry at them for being a puppy. Get angry at yourself for forgetting this fact and not removing the opportunity.
Think Like A Puppy!
Possibly the biggest tip you can get when puppy proofing your home is to walk your entire home and yard, looking at everything from your puppy’s point of view.
You need to look for anything and everything they can possibly get their paws on and can damage or possibly swallow causing harm to themselves.
You should start at the entrance to a room, and work your way around every single wall, examining every object and piece of furniture in that room.
Can they get into any drawers? Are there cords dangling? Material your puppy can chew? Items that could be pulled off from up high? Items left lying around? Try to see what your puppy sees from their height and what things they may get hold of and then remove or make them safe.
Some people even recommend getting down on all fours and crawling around your home to really put yourself in their shoes. Though taking it this far isn’t strictly necessary, it is a good exercise making for a very thorough check. Just make sure there’s nobody around to laugh at your little experiment ;-)
How To Puppy Proof The Inside Of Your Home
Inside of your home, you need to make sure your puppy can’t chew or swallow anything that can cause them harm, protect your belongings from possible destruction, make sure nothing can be dragged from up high that can fall on them and a few more things besides.
Here is a list of general tips for puppy proofing the indoor areas where your puppy spends time, but I also do a room by room checklist later in the article:
- First and foremost, you need to remove and store out of reach all small objects that puppy can swallow. Coins, paper clips, children’s toys, jewellery, small ornaments, wallets and purses, mobile phones, tissues…everything must be placed out of reach. Many items contain toxic metals but putting this aside, it’s very easy for puppy to swallow something that can cause a blockage needing medical intervention.
- Do not leave anything on the floor that you don’t want puppy to play with and chew on. They cannot distinguish between their chew toy and your expensive shoes.
- Make sure any rubbish bins are of a type your puppy cannot get into, or lock your bins away in cupboards they cannot access. Eating trash is a habit you really need to prevent from ever forming as swallowed packaging is a real health hazard and you’ll be forever cleaning up after them if they form this habit.
- Never leave any food out where your puppy can get it. Many human foods are toxic to dogs and others still are just plain unhealthy due to high fat and sugar content. There’s also the chance puppy could choke on packaging or string used to tie joints together. Some particularly hazardous foods are: Uncooked meat and poultry, chocolate, small bones, coffee grounds, tea, onions, grapes and raisins, but many more things besides. To be safe, try to put all food away immediately and hence remove all temptation and risk.
- Electrical wires are a huge hazard for chew-happy puppies for very obvious reasons! You should do your very best to run cables out of your puppy’s reach, run them through cable wraps or PVC tubing, spray them with bitter chew deterrents and unplug all electrical items when they aren’t being used.
- Make sure puppy cannot get access to any medication, supplements or household cleaners. They make short work of getting into bottles and plastic containers and the contents could potentially be fatal, especially in the doses contained in a full bottle.
- Put child-proof safety latches on all drawers, cabinet doors and your fridge-freezer that puppy can get access to. These places usually hold many toxic substances, or items small enough to swallow and be hazardous, and puppies can become quite skilled at opening these.
- If possible, keep puppy in areas with flooring they cannot chew and that’s easy to clean. Rugs and carpets are easily destroyed by a puppy so if you cannot supervise them, keep them on tiled, wooden or linoleum flooring until they’re house trained and are trusted not to chew.
- Check your house-plants against a list of plants that are known as toxic to dogs and remove these plants. It’s not worth the risk of just placing them out of reach as leaves may fall and be eaten.
- Make sure there aren’t any heavy things that puppy could pull off a high surface and fall on them. This means not using table cloths that can be pulled and checking anything on shelves and surfaces don’t have a protruding edge that can be pulled on.
- Any cords or string on blinds and curtains must be tied up out of reach. Puppies love to play with these but they’re a choke and strangulation risk.
- Treat all corners of furniture, skirting boards, lower half of walls and all doors with a bitter-tasting chew deterrent. A puppy can do a lot of damage in a short time when your back is turned.
- Make sure all laundry and clothing is well out of reach. Because worn clothes carry your smell, they’re particularly appealing to your puppy and swallowed socks or other items can easily cause intestinal blockages.
- Take extra care of things like folding sofas or doors that slam shut in the wind. Your puppy may crawl under sofa beds so check they’re clear before operating the mechanics. And for doors that slam in the wind, they can easily physically hurt your puppy if their leg or tail gets shut on. So install self-closing door hinges if possible.
How To Puppy Proof Outside In Your Yard Or Gardens
Similar to puppy-proofing indoors, you need to make sure your yard or gardens contain nothing puppy can chew on and swallow, or destroy anything you have of value.
You must also make sure they cannot harm themselves exploring or can escape from your yard and run away.
Here is a list of general tips for puppy-proofing your yard and outside areas to keep puppy and your belongings safe:
- First of all, if you really cannot make your entire yard safe for your puppy, then you either must never let them outside unless you can give them 100% supervision, or you need to buy or build a dog run; A small fenced off and self-contained area that you can make safe while restricting their access to the rest of your yard.
- Make sure your fences are high enough to prevent your dog from getting over them. 6 foot is the recommended height for a Labrador and should be high enough.
- Puppy proof your fence. Walk the entire fence-line to look for any holes or broken areas your puppy can squeeze through. They can get through smaller gaps than you may think, so be sure to make the perimeter secure, perhaps by using extra panels or chicken wire where needed, and concrete or paving stones for gaps under fences.
- As your puppy may try to escape your yard and bolt, install self-closing hinges on all gates or perhaps even proper locks. People often leave gates open, particularly children and forgetful delivery drivers, so self-closing or lockable gates that only family members can open are a real safety net.
- If you have fencing which doesn’t have a flat top they can be a hazard for dogs hanging themselves on their collars or impaling themselves if it’s metal spikes or pointed wood. So you may have to replace or make these safe somehow. Also check the fence-line for any protruding screws, nails or wire that puppy could cut or impale themselves on.
- If you use any poisons for pest control you must store these completely out of reach and when you use them, restrict your puppy from the area until the poison is removed or dissipates.
- If you have a lawn or planted areas and use fertilizers, insecticides or pesticides, then you absolutely must make sure the ones you use are labelled as ‘pet safe’ or switch to organic and chemical free gardening.
- Just like your house-plants, check your garden plants off against a list of known plants toxic to dogs and have these removed entirely.
- Make sure puppy cannot get into the crawl space under your home as this can often provide a means of escape from the backyard to the front and beyond.
- Garden heaters, fire pits and BBQs pose an obvious risk due to fire and heat so make sure to keep puppy well away from these when in use.
- Be sure to safely store away all your garden tools which are an obvious and very sharp hazard to a playful puppy.
- If you have a pond or swimming pool it’s a good idea to fence this off until your puppy is grown and a proven strong swimmer. Young puppies can and do get into trouble with water.
- If you have a raised deck or balcony with a guard fence, you have to make sure the gaps aren’t big enough to slip through. They can get through surprisingly small gaps so I would recommend installing chicken wire to completely block any way through until they have grown large enough when you can remove it.
- Make sure there are no electrical wires or water hoses that puppy can find and chew on. You will have to either block access to them, bury them, or otherwise run them out of reach.
- Make sure all trash and compost if you make it is securely stored in puppy-proof containers as both can contain dangerous and toxic materials if consumed.
A Room By Room Breakdown Of What You Should Be Looking For
So far I’ve covered the basics of puppy proofing both indoors and out and that should be all you need to know. But to really drive it home I will now go through each room in the typical home and highlight areas you need to consider when making these places safe for your puppy.
Your Main Living Areas
The main concern is to clear away any and all clutter:
- All magazines and newspapers, wallets, slippers, cushions, toys, mobile phones, remote controls, string, pictures and little nik-naks ordinarily left around that puppy can swallow.
- Make safe any wires and cords, of which there are usually many in living areas.
- Make sure you guard off radiators, heaters and fireplaces to avoid risk of burns.
- Cover any air conditioning vents that a curious puppy is able to get into.
- Remove any poisonous house-plants.
- Make sure any other small pets such as fish, hamsters etc. are well out of reach.
If a living area in your home is also used as an office space, be sure to store out of reach or lock away all stationery such as paper-clips, drawing pins, staples and the stapler, erasers, rubber bands and again basically anything your puppy can swallow.
Hazards In The Kitchen
The main concern in a kitchen is with foodstuffs, the contents of drawers and cabinets and of course sharp utensils and hot oils and sauces.
You should fix child-proof latches to your drawers, cabinets and fridge freezer, because a puppy will learn to get into them and there’s all sorts of chemicals, sharp objects and toxic food stuffs they can find.
Again, be mindful of running power cords out of reach.
Make sure they cannot get into the trash.
Put all foods away ASAP. If the food isn’t harmful, the packaging surely will be and regardless you don’t want to encourage the habit of counter-surfing so put everything away and they won’t be tempted.
Finally, be very careful with hot oils, boiling water and hot foods. Puppies have a habit of getting underfoot and both you and your puppy will be placed in danger of receiving burns. So restrict them to another room when you’re cooking.
If you’re going to allow access to the bedrooms in your home, there’s a lot you have to think about to make sure it’s safe.
Store out of reach everything such as make up, creams, lotions, perfumes and aftershave, coins, jewellery, hair accessories and any other small possibly swallowable items. This might seem like a lot of work but it simply must be done.
Make sure laundry and clothing isn’t left lying around where puppy can get at it, including any shoes or slippers.
Move any wiring out of reach of those curious and playful teeth.
Block access to any spaces behind furniture and under beds as puppies often like to set up a little den in these spaces.
Dangers In The Bathroom
The bathroom is a particularly hazardous place for a puppy with all the chemicals, lotions and medications found there, not to mention razors and easily destroyed and swallowed flannels and sponges.
So again, install child-proof latches on all cabinets within their reach.
Never leave any soaps, shampoos, tissues or anything outside of cabinets otherwise they’re fair game to be chewed.
Shorten any chain pulls or blind cords, or tie them out-of-the-way as they’re a choking and strangulation risk.
Always keep the toilet lid down. Not the seat, the lid, because puppies will drink the water and often try to climb in. Obviously toilet water is unhygienic but it can also be poisonous if you use bleaches, toilet blocks or other cleaners. It’s also a drowning risk.
On that note, make sure you always know exactly where puppy is and the bathroom door is closed when there is a bath or sink full of water as that’s an obvious drowning risk too.
Finally, make sure the bathroom rubbish bin is out puppies reach for the usual reasons.
The Garage Should Simply Be Out Of Bounds!
Due to the garage’s most common use for storage of chemicals, tools and all sorts of things that don’t neatly fit into other areas of the home, it’s a very hazardous place for a puppy.
There’s motor oil, anti-freeze (particularly dangerous!), rat poisons, insecticides, fertilizer, paint thinners and possibly many other chemicals stored in there.
There’s usually a selection of sharp and dangerous house and garden tools. Nails, bolts, screws and other hardware is usually present. All of which can cause massive harm if swallowed.
Stored seeds and plant bulbs can also be toxic or a choking hazard.
There’s just so much that can be poisonous, toxic, sharp or swallowed in a garage that my recommendation is to completely restrict their access to it, never letting them inside.
So make sure your garage is always locked up and puppy has no way to get in.
The goal of puppy-proofing is essentially protection of your puppy and your property. Because one thing’s for sure: If there’s trouble to be found, you can bet your bottom dollar that your puppy’s going to find it!
Puppy’s are notoriously mischievous and can get themselves into all sorts of trouble. It’s your responsibility to do the best you can to keep them safe inside and around your home.
By taking the time to puppy proof your home and make sure the whole family are meticulous with cleaning up after themselves, you’ll give your puppy the best and safest start in life.
It might seem like a lot of work at first, but once you’ve swept through your home and puppy-proofed it to a high level, it’s not at all hard to keep up.
And it isn’t forever! As your Labrador puppy matures and gets over the experimental and chew heavy adolescent stage, as they learn how to behave and prove they know what they can and cannot chew, you can start to relax the rules and what can be left in their company a little.
But until they’ve fully proven they can be trusted, you should follow the old maxim of ‘better safe than sorry’, and follow the guidelines in this article to make your home and garden a safe environment for your puppy.
But know that every home and garden is unique so it’s up to you to examine and secure your particular home. Anything you would store away from a baby or toddler, you should take away from a puppy because they are a baby and then a toddler. They’re just the same. Keep this in mind and I’m sure you will do a great job.