Dog Proofing Your Home

Claire Dunling

New parents need to ‘childproof’ their home and anyone welcoming a new dog should ‘dog proof’ theirs. Four-legged family members, like little humans, are naturally curious about any new environment and will explore with paws, claws and jaws. Sadly they can’t tell the difference between new and dangerous. So the task of dog proofing your home is up to you to make their home a safe place in which to grow and prosper.

Are you getting a new puppy or dog for the first time or just have a new-to-you dog? We’ve put together a 21 point tip-list of some common, and often overlooked, dangers for dogs of all ages.

Dog proofing 101 – around the house

#1 Sharp stuff

You’re going to have to train yourself to spot small, sharp, easily swallowed objects lying around in – what before the dog arrived were harmless locations. If it’s small, solid and has sharp edges (everything from pen tops to Lego bricks), it is a threat.

#2 Look out for windows

For small dogs, window ledges are proportionally high, so move furniture away from them so they cannot climb up and obviously open windows present very real fall hazards.

#3 Stairs are a no-no

Young paws are not very well coordinated and stairs are difficult!  They are also commonly excluded from pet insurance policies, so you will have to deal with both the guilt and cost of a broken limb.

#4 High Risk

Don’t let young dogs run around on upper porches, balconies, or high decking. It really isn’t a good idea.

#5 House plants

Surprisingly many ‘regular’ house plants are poisonous if eaten by dogs. These include dieffenbachia (Araceae), elephant ear (Colocasia) and spider plants (Chlorophytum). Remove them. Hanging baskets may not be easily nibbled, but leaves can fall out. When dog proofing your home, have a good look around and err on the side of caution.

#6 Electric string

Puppies, especially ones that have started teething, love to chew. So unplug unused electrical cables, remove or cover other essential in-house wires.  And if your dog suddenly goes quiet behind the sofa, check what they’re doing.

#7 Bag it

Plastic bags may be fun to play with or may have contained great smelling food, but they present a very real suffocation hazard.

#8 Fear the fire

Dogs should be afraid of fire and avoid excess heat. Don’t rely on this instinct to kick in, and NEVER leave the dog in a room with a lit fire or with an unattended heater.

Dog proofing specific rooms

#9 Machine menace

Keep washing machine and tumble dryer doors shut. They might climb in and become trapped. And get used to making a very deliberate check before turning them on.

#10 Close the lid

Keep toilet lids down – dogs will want to drink the water but if they fall in, toilet bowls are very difficult to escape from, so present a real drowning risk.

#11 Hot stuff

Never leave hot ovens or irons on unattended. Ovens speak for themselves, but iron cords waggle like a tug toy as you use iron. If pulled by an excitable pup, irons can topple from the ironing board and are dangerous because they heavy, hot and have gravity on their side.

#12 Clean up

All those dangerous household chemicals commonly stored under the sink or utility room (such as bleach and ammonia) should be stored out of your dog’s reach. If the door is easily opened, fit a child ‘lock’.

#13 Keep medicines safe

Medicines, shampoo, suntan lotions and other personal care items found in the bathroom can poison your dog. Make sure they can’t get hold of them. If you’d move it for a child, move it for the dog or just get a bigger bathroom cabinet.

#14 Getting spiky

Spikes and protrusions. These may have become invisible to you, but any hooks, protruding bolts or similar objects at or below your dog’s head height must be covered or removed. Collars or harnesses can become tangled on these and choke the dog, while boisterous play can turn bad if they fall against or run into sharp points.

Dog proofing the outside

#15 Close up the wall

Walk the boundary of the garden and look for holes and gaps in the fence. If you think they may be able to squeeze through or under it, they probably can. Block it up.

#16 Shut the gate

Check the gate. Dogs can get through gaps you would not believe, so consider putting mesh or using a board to block up lower gate bars.

#17 Sap and berries

Check your garden for poisonous plants. Ivy and oleander, are common UK offenders. Anything with white sap will at best be an irritant, while any plant with berries should be checked out.

#18 If it says, killer…

If you use weed killer, tree stump killers or fertilizers keep the dog indoors until they are deemed safe (check the pack for guidance). The clue’s in the name really!

#19 Shed it

Store garden tools and chemicals in the shed. Then keep the shed locked.

#20 Water hazards

Cover pools and ponds – your dog can fall in and be unable to get out. Stagnant water in ‘forgotten’ ponds can also be toxic, so either maintain it or drain it.

#21 DIY and cars

Paint, fuel and other dangerous chemicals should be stored out of reach where they cannot be knocked off the shelf.

This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!