Congratulations! You’ve decided to add a dog to your family. You’ve done your research, purchased all the necessities ahead of time, and are ready for this new challenge. Or are you?
Having a dog in your house – no matter how young or how old – poses plenty of new challenges. And your home itself can present dangers for your new dog. Here are five ways you can dog-proof your home and prepare yourself for the new arrival.
- Perform the “All-Fours Inspection”
From a human’s two-legged, upright view of the world, things can look pretty different than what they look like to a dog. The best way to know what might be appealing – or dangerous! – to your dog is to look at your home from a dog’s perspective. That’s right! It may seem a little silly, but walking around on all-fours throughout your entire home will let you know what changes need to be made.
Notice what kinds of things are left on the floor at dog-eye level. Does it look like something a dog might want to chew on? Find a way to either cover it or store it at human-level. Look out for plastics that a dog could choke on, medications and chemicals that a dog could accidentally eat, and personal items that are expensive or irreplaceable if chewed on or broken.
Keep an eye out for anything that could pose a danger to your dog, particularly electrical cords. If possible, keep electrical cords unplugged, so the danger of electrocution is minimized. If an appliance must remain plugged in, cover the wires so a dog cannot chew them or become tangled in them.
Also take notice of all doors and cabinets. If a dog is curious, they can very easily nose their way through a door to an area they shouldn’t be exploring. The American Humane Association recommends investing in childproof latches on all cabinets. They also recommend blocking up any holes such as floor vents that a curious dog may stick their nose into. This can easily be resolved with a secure grate covering the vent.
- Cleaning is Your Friend
Once you’ve done the all-fours inspection, it’s time to start cleaning – and keep it clean! Adding a dog into the mix is a whole lifestyle change, and a new owner should be prepared to maintain a dog-safe home.
Start by taking all loose items that are on the floor and low to the ground and moving them to secured cabinets and high shelves. Anything you don’t want broken or chewed on should be put away or placed high above a dog’s reach. This includes toys, shoes, clothing, artwork, and anything else a dog may think is an appealing chew toy.
One of the most tempting items a dog can get themselves into is food. Always clean up any dirty dishes immediately. Never leave food out where a dog can reach it, even if it’s in a wrapper. The wrapper could be a choking hazard to the dog, even if the food itself is safe to eat. It’s also important to remember that the garbage can smell like a feast to your dog. This Old House recommends taking food waste out of the home as quickly as possible. Covering your trash with a layer of baking soda can also diminish the smell, thus diminishing the temptation. And don’t forget to put a secure lid on the trash can!
It’s also important to get in the habit of closing doors. The bathroom door should be kept closed at all times so your new dog cannot get into any bath products that could be toxic. Keep cabinet doors in both the kitchen and the bathroom latched – especially cabinets that contain medicine or cleaning supplies that could potentially cause harm. The American Humane Association cautions that no bath, kitchen or medicinal products should even be left out where a dog can reach them.
- Should You Re-upholster?
There are no two-ways about it. No matter what preparations you make, dogs will be dogs – and when they are being dogs, they are being messy. To maintain a clean home – and your own sanity – it might be worth considering getting new fabric for your furniture.
Because of the messes dogs make, one of the biggest considerations for new upholstery is ease of clean up. Designer Annie Selke told This Old House that using indoor/outdoor fabric on indoor furniture can be a big help with this. Fabrics designed for the outdoors repel moisture and dirt, making cleanup very easy. Many of these fabrics are also stain resistant, leaving no trace of the mess your dog just made. And as more and more homeowners seek both form and function in the furniture, many of the outdoor fabrics have a high-end look that is appealing inside the home as well as out.
Sometimes cleaning is hard to keep up with, so camouflaging the mess may be more your style. Consider investing in leather furniture with a distressed look. Not only is leather easy to clean, but any scratches from dog nails or teeth will only enhance the distressed finish. Or perhaps excessive fur is more your concern. Some dogs shed so much there is simply no way to keep it all vacuumed up. Fabric with an appealing pattern can do wonders hiding all the fur your dog leaves behind.
- Don’t Forget the Garage
Maybe you aren’t in the garage much, but your dog may find all the things stored in there a little too interesting. Remember to check this area of the house for safety, just like you would any other area of the house.
First, check that all chemicals and tools are safe and securely out of reach. The American Humane Association reminds us to clean all anti-freeze off of the garage floor, in addition to storing bottles in a safe place. Anti-freeze is very toxic, and one curious lick of the floor could prove deadly. It’s also important to store sharp tools away from where a dog might try to play with them.
Cesar Millan also tells dog owners to move any rat poisons or other toxins that are meant to kill vermin. These poisons are often flavored and made to entice animals into eating them. Even if your dog never goes into the garage, always keep the garage doors shut so a neighbor’s dog can’t wander in and eat the rat poison.
- Consider Yard Safety Too
It’s tempting to think the outdoors are a safe and natural place for a dog to roam free, but this isn’t always the case. Do an outdoor check to ensure your yard is dog-friendly and safe.
A common but silent threat could very well be the plants growing in your garden or yard. Not all plants are safe for dogs to eat, and any dog owner who has watched a dog eat grass knows that plants can be hard to resist for a dog. Check out the ASPCA’s list of both toxic and non-toxic plants. It’s important to check all indoor plants as well and be sure they are safe for your dog and other pets to be around.
The RSPCA of New South Wales recommends setting up both a fence and a shelter for your dog in the yard. Even the most well-behaved dog can get themselves into trouble from time to time, exploring a little too far beyond their home. A sturdy fence prevents your dog from getting lost before the problem can occur. It’s also a good idea to have a shelter for your dog. If your pup gets caught in the rain, snow, or even severe heat, it’s helpful for them to have a place they can go to be safe from the elements.
What have you done to dog-proof your home? Do you have any horror stories from a time when you didn’t do any dog-proofing? Share them with us!