My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Puppyproofing 101


You have a puppy or one is coming soon. Congratulations! Now you want to make your home safe for your pup (and safe from your pup). Good thinking. Getting a puppy is very exciting however many people get worried about what happens when you leave your dog alone, particularly in the daytime. Puppies can be very mischievous so owners often get worried about what they do when they’re left alone. This is why it’s probably worth buying a wireless camera to check up on them.

Now, eliminate any notions of what you think a puppy will get into, and think about what can he get into. Pups do the most extraordinary things, most of which need to be prevented. Here are a few things that we’ve learned either from our clients, friends or the hard way through the years:

Begin by picking the room(s) your puppy will have access to. These rooms need to be easy to clean and in the thick of things. The kitchen and family room are the usual choices. Roaming unattended leads to problems. Always.

  • Start by removing all magazines, wicker objects, knick-knacks and containers of dangerous items from puppy level. Dangerous include plastic containers of thumbtacks, plastic toothpicks, steel wool pads, nails, knives, household chemicals, window shade cords and more. “Puppy level” is about six inches higher then his front paw can stretch up when he is standing on his hind legs. This varies widely but about a foot for a toy breed puppy to about five feet (or more) for some giant breeds. If he can get his mouth around it, he probably will.
  • Box up all breakables. The more you love it, the more you need to box it.
  • Install child-proof cabinet locks on the lower cabinets to prevent raiding chemical stores under the sink, or, as a friend’s Australian Shepherd puppy Boomer loved to do, empty the tupperware cabinet several times a day. (Boomer also enjoyed getting ice for himself from the automatic icemaker in the fridge door. The mysterious puddles of water on the kitchen floor lead to a couple of unproductive visits from the repairman before this clever pup was caught in the act – so expect the unexpected.)
  • Put the household treasure troves – oh sorry, we mean kitchen and bathroom trash – out of reach.
  • Keep pups away from the laundry room as well, since stinky laundry piles are apparently a fabulous place to pee if you’re a puppy, have delights that can be chewed (socks, undies and bras) and laundry detergent/bleach can burn/poison puppies.
  • Get in the habit now of pushing in the chairs around that modern dining table set you might have and not leaving any plates or food within reach. Once a puppy learns to counter surf or reach the table by hopping up on a chair, they never unlearn it. So, no food left out, not for the ten seconds it takes you to run to grab your phone. Take the food (or the puppy) with you if you have to go.
  • Minimize access to electronics. Wires need to be bundled and kept out of reach as much as possible (zip ties help as does running them through a protective piece of PVC). When they cannot be removed, coat them with foul tasting stuff such a Bitter Apple Furniture Cream or hot sauce. There are pups who love every type of deterrent so you may have to try a few until you find the one that works. Supervise your puppy wherever he could have access to wires, which is basically in any room in any American home.
  • Close doors, install gates and use expens to keep the pup where you want him. You need physical barriers or you need to keep your puppy on leash with you. No one can supervise a puppy enough without barriers/gates/doors and you’ll be stunned to discover how much can happen in a matter of a minute or two.
  • Use cardboard boxes and luggage to block under beds and behind furniture – especially big, hard-to-move stuff, because that is where your puppy will inevitably get harmlessly but utterly stuck.
  • Apply anti-chew spray or cream (as recommended by manufacturer) to all electrical cords, chair rungs, wicker and little, curling edges of wallpaper. (Better yet, glue those back down.) If your wallpaper has been destroyed beyond repair by your pup, you may just want to replace it entirely by selecting a peel and stick wallpaper to your liking from the wide selection available online.
  • Run wires through conduits, zip tie them together and put them out of reach, remove unnecessary electrical items from the pup’s main play area.
  • Tuck all fringe under rugs or roll up the carpet. Fringe is irresistible to many pups.
  • Puppyproof the bathroom: Toss the shower curtain up over the rod, put razors, various bottles that litter all our shower stalls and bars of soap out of reach. Put the toilet paper on the back of the tank or it will be unrolled/shredded. The bolt covers on your toilet will be taken off so remove for now. Put the bathroom trash up and out of reach because used dental floss and old razor blades can be both deliciously attractive and totally deadly. And ladies, there are other bathroom trash items that your puppy will find fascinating that you do not want to see shredded in the middle of your kitchen floor. And gentlemen, I am sure you second that.
  • Put shoes and socks, underwear and bras out of reach. Keep the remote, your glasses, hearing aids, bite guards, your wallet etc. out of reach. Everything (and anything) that smells like you will be targeted for special chewing attention.
  • Put house plants up and out of the reach or in another room. Many favorites are mildly toxic so removal isn’t just to protect the plant. On big plants, spread black pepper over the soil to deter exploration and excavation or use an ex-pen to block access entirely.
  • Throw out or store out of reach piles of newspapers and magazines as puppies love to shred things.
  • Careful with recliners and rockers, being sure to look where your puppy is before using either.

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By Sarah Wilson, author of the two handbooks of My Smart Puppy (Kindle Version here) and Childproofing Your Dog (Kindle Version here)

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