Planning on getting a new puppy or other pet (hopefully, one that is a rescue)? If so, you may want to consider a bit of advance planning to ensure your little one–and everything else in your home– remains safe and in good shape. Below is a basic home pet-proofing checklist that can help you live up to the challenge:
The kitchen. As with many humans, dogs and cats are naturally drawn to where the action–er, food–is! In this area of the house, however, your little ones may be at risk from any number of potential hazards, including some that can be fatal to their health. Among those things you’ll want to focus on are:
Garbage cans. These should be secured with a lid and placed out of reach, perhaps in a cabinet or closet, before the newest member of the family arrives. While cats are less likely to get into the rubbish than dogs are, curious kittens can definitely make a mess of it. Dogs, meanwhile–especially older, bigger ones–are quite capable of knocking over large containers, exposing them to decomposing food and various toxins. If your new pet is rambunctious or especially curious, you may want to consider fixing your can to the wall or using baby locks to ensure it remains firmly behind closed doors.
Counter and table surfaces. If you have a large puppy or an adult rescue, you’ll want to keep your counter areas as clean as possible, especially during her first few weeks at home. Many dogs are capable of jumping up and potentially eating something that they shouldn’t. However, if those surfaces are bare, there will be nothing “interesting” for her to go after or potentially chew on. After a few weeks, she’ll likely lose interest and you can consider leaving things out in the open again.
Cabinets. Those that are generally within reach, including the ones found under the kitchen sink or in garage or utility rooms, are often easy targets for dogs, who might paw at or otherwise shove the little doors open to get at what’s inside. Among the more dangerous hazards are cleaning chemicals, dishwasher detergent pods, and windshield washer fluid, some of which are purposefully designed to have an enticing smell. If these products are readily accessible, you’ll need to take the same sorts of preventative measures that you would if she was a baby or toddler.
Foods and medications. Needless to say, it’s not just the typically inedible products you have to worry about. As we discussed in “Keeping Your Pet Safe in the Home,” there are plenty of things that are safe for humans (in limited quantities, of course) but that are an absolute no-no when it comes to our nonhuman friends. Even something as innocuous as toothpaste, which may contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, can be toxic to dogs. For your own peace of mind, you’ll want to be keep all such items in a place they can’t reach–better yet, behind a sturdy door.
Blankets, pillows and cushions. Some dogs love to chew–it is something that comes naturally, especially to young puppies. Fortunately, many often lose the urge to sink their teeth into anything and everything as time goes on, though you may be able to help them along the way. One suggestion, of course, is to keep anything that is special to you or potentially hazardous to them out of their line of sight.
To do this, observe how far her nose can reach up a wall while she is standing on her two hind legs, and then remove anything that seems fragile, breakable or chewable which is at or below this level. This doesn’t just mean the obvious threats. It can also include books, magazines, throw pillows, blankets, children’s items, etc. The fact is, if it is located at or below the level of your pet’s head, it’s a potential target. Indeed, we know of one puppy who decided the corner’s of high school yearbooks were a special kind of delicacy–little did her owner realize beforehand.
Yard and garden. Pets love the outdoors–but being outside also gives them a wonderful opportunity to cause destruction and mayhem. Admittely, this kind of behavior is a critical aspect of how they learn and grow into adults that tend to be easier to handle once they are older, but it in the meantime, their acts of youthful abandon can prove to be extremely hazardous to them.
If you’ve just brought home a new dog, for example, it is probably a good idea to keep her on a leash, under your positive control, for the first few weeks, when she is outdoors. You can walk around with her and see what piques her interest. Does she like to chew on sticks or eat mulch? Is she interested in the fence line? Does she seem antsy about remaining within the confines of your property? You can make matters easier, of course, by cleaning up branches and brush, picking up sticks and other debris around your yard, and ensuring that whatever barrier you have in place is safe and secure.
If you have a fence, ask yourself if is it too high to jump over? Are there any sharp edges or points on it that could cause harm? Regardless, once you decide to let your little one do some exploring, keep a watchful eye. If she enjoys digging, create a separate space for her to do that–and encourage her by burying treats and toys there. That way, your garden will stay preserved and she is still able to enjoy getting her paws muddy.
No home will ever be 100% pet-proofed, but thinking about the risks and taking appropriate measures beforehand is a good start. Once you’ve gone through and taken care of the things detailed above, you may find that you’re actually ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying anything that may be a concern and dealing with it before problems begin.