By Janice A Jones | Last Updated January 16, 2019
When is it important to puppy proof your home? The answer is easy: Long before your puppy comes home for the first time.
A small breed puppy is not like a large breed puppy that can do substantial damage in a short period of time. They are also not like a human toddler or preschooler who have their own ways to stir up trouble.
But as a pet parent you will want to keep them safe and out of harm’s way while protecting your possessions from the puppy. That is why you will want to puppy proof your home.
By now, you're probably asking yourself, what's the big deal? How much trouble could a small puppy get into anyway? After all, they can’t knock over a lamp with
the swish of a tail or reach the counter and eat your birthday cake.
The answer is that they can do a tremendous and often costly damage in a short period of time, even when you are in the same room.
I know because I learned the hard way. Eyeglasses, laptop power cords, small trash cans knocked over, woodwork chewed, well... those are only a few of the more expensive items I've had to repair or replace. Other annoyances such as chewed pencils, unwound balls of yarn, rolls of toilet paper spread over the entire house...
So, I can hear you saying, one of two things:
My puppy would never do those things, or
Maybe I really don't want a puppy after all.
Puppies as well as older dogs are opportunists. They see something they want and if there is not a person to tell them otherwise, they will seize the moment.
(Oh, you really do want a puppy.)
The good news is that much of this can be eliminated by a few simple changes to your environment.
Puppy proofing is neither difficult or time consuming. It just requires a little thought.
To Puppy proof your home you must get down to the level of a small puppy and think about all the neat things they might want to explore, chew, eat, shred or otherwise destroy.
Anything that is on the floor in the room or area you have set aside for your puppy is fair game including the floor itself.
Some small breed puppies can be so calm and dependent that you are lured into a false sense of security. But don’t let them fool you—they are a very curious and curious little dogs can get into big trouble real fast.
It is much easier if you plan to keep your new puppy in an exercise pen which is tastefully decorated with two dog bowls, a crate and/or bed, some toys and some wee-wee pads.
In the sanctuary of an x-pen, your puppy and your belongings are safe.
What if you don’t have an x-pen?
I can remember the very first puppy we ever had in a small apartment where there was no room for an x-pen.
The logical place for the puppy while we were at work was the bathroom. It was tiled, no rugs and a convenient place to put down food and water bowls, a bed and the various sundry toys that we had purchased, plus plenty of pee pads.
Were we ever surprised when we came home from work to find the puppy comfortably resting on three rolls of shredded toilet paper which flooded the entire bathroom about 4 inches deep! On to plan B, we decided.
Here are a couple of examples of exercise pens and play pens to help you puppy proof your home.
So what are some of the things that puppies find irresistible? Puppies love to put things in their mouth, chew and often swallow items small enough.
Chewing will be your biggest challenge initially while your puppy is teething. Finding something to chew on helps ease the pain of teething. Having lots of interesting chew toys will definitely help.
Don't expect your puppy to limit himself to store-bought chew toys. Anything that looks interesting to a puppy is a potential chew toy.
Puppies are strangely attracted to anything made of wood. This includes your great aunt's antique chair. To protect your wood, whether it be furniture, baseboard or molding, you will need a product that makes the wood taste terrible.
This product claims to be twice as bitter as other products, alcohol-free and contains tea tree oil; it's safe on furniture but spot check it first before using.
You can also use it on your dog's skin to prevent hotspots or on a bandage to keep a dog from licking and biting at it.
As with any product, not all dogs respond the same way. What works great for some may have little effect on others.
Most puppies grow out of this excessive chewing stage by the time they become adults. But even adult dogs love to chew, so you will want to satisfy their chewing needs with something other than your possessions.
While most of the items are relatively harmless to your puppy, some can be deadly.
Even some of the less dangerous items can be used by your clever puppy to create the mess of a lifetime. Now, after an exhausting day at work, do you really want to come home to a huge mess? If you puppy proof your home, you can spend an enjoyable evening with your puppy sans the mess.
Some things however can be dangerous such as electrical cords, poisonous plants and chemicals. Need I mention the cost to repair, so the more items you can segregate from your puppy, the more puppy proof your home will be.
If you have an outside garden where your puppy will spend some time, consider puppy proofing that area also. Outside, a large yard with lots of flower beds make a digging puppy very happy.
Again you don't want to remove the flowers just to puppy proof the property.
If your property is fenced, walk the perimeter to assure that there are no openings in the fence that a small puppy might squeeze through.
Pick up any loose garden tools, tree branches that have fallen or anything that a small puppy might find irresistible.
Puppies love to find things like small stones, leaves, small sticks, pinecones, basically anything that is new to them. They will try to chew or eat them.
At this point, you may be thinking, what about plants? Are any of them poisonous? Yes, you will want to make plans to replace dangerous plants with dog-friendly ones. A small puppy should never be left alone outside. Constant supervision is a must.
If you have small children, you are bound to have a (very) large assortment of human toys that puppies cannot have. Just as with children three and under, puppies tend to put everything in their mouth.
Small toy pieces are a definite NO. Small breed dogs are also notorious for finding board game pieces and either swallow them or render them unusable. At this point, you might be saying to yourself, "It's me or the dog!" But alas, there is hope and an easy solution to this dilemma.
As I mentioned earlier, if you are planning to keep your puppy in a small room, getting a gate is an excellent idea.
Closing the door to a small room with the puppy on one side and you on the other will create anxiety and even panic in your dog. Most dogs react to closed doors by scratching on them, barking, howling, whining and crying. It's best to use a gate where your puppy can see what is going on in his environment.
Baby gates are great for keeping your puppy confined to one
room or out of another room such as a craft room. Gates keep puppies safe at the top of the stairs
or secure at the bottom. But, be sure
any gate you get has adequate protection.
Small breed puppies can be very tiny and tend to get through the gate easily. Choose one where the bars are placed close enough to where a puppy can't squeeze through.
Gates come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Materials used in these gates varies from wood, plastic, steel, or a combination. Some are decorative and fit in nicely with your home's decor.
Some can be mounted to the wall permanently while others are pressure mounted and can be removed instantly.
They vary in height, some being designed for larger dogs.
A small caveat concerning gates
Keep these thoughts in mind when choosing a decent dog gate.
Dogs and puppies can be very quick. If they see you eating a snack, may puppies will want to investigate. Put a snack down where a puppy could reach it and it might spell disaster if that food happens to be toxic to dogs.
A guide on how to puppy proof your home would not be complete without a mention of all the foods dogs should not eat.
So, going back to the analogy of a human toddler, what do you do when you must take away all these wonderfully enticing yet forbidden objects---Substitute!
To puppy proof your home also means providing acceptable things that puppy can chew, such as bones and toys. Get a good assortment and when the puppy wants to chew on an unacceptable object, take it away and hand him his bone.