How to Dog-Proof Your Home And Keep Your Pet Safe

Simple tips for dog-proofing your home and garden.

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated:

New dogs can find trouble almost anywhere in the home – especially inquisitive puppies! Keep reading to learn how to dog-proof a home and keep your pet safe.

Bringing home a new puppy or adopted rescue dog can be an exciting time – but it can also be overwhelming. 

Puppies want to explore every corner of their new home, and they like to smell, taste, touch and chew on everything along the way. Many new owners are taken aback by the amount of supervision required just to keep them out of mischief.

It can also be easy to overlook a potential hazard to your new furry friend. This guide to dog proofing your home will hopefully take the stress out of this task and ensure you have all bases covered. 

Bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places for your new dog. Cleaning chemicals, toiletries and sharp objects can all put your pup in danger.

Getting into good habits is one of the easiest ways to keep rooms safe. In the bathroom, this includes:

  • Keep the toilet seat lid down. No one wants a kiss from a pup that has just drunk from the toilet bowl! Toilet drinking can also be dangerous if you’ve applied a cleaning product.
  • Make sure any cleaning products are kept in a secure box or high cupboard. The same goes for medication. In 2018, the ASPCA reported that over-the-counter and prescription drugs were the top two pet toxins.
  • Don’t leave unattended sinks or bathtubs filled with water. They can be a drowning hazard for small dogs or puppies, especially if they have smooth sides.
  • Be wary of bathroom trash cans. Aside from medication and other obvious dangers, trash cans may contain a variety of other hazardous items. These include dental floss and hair gels.

If you’re worried about toxic cleaning products, why not ditch harsh chemical cleaners? Not only are natural alternatives better for the environment, but substances like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are safer if your dog accidentally ingests them.

Kitchen

The kitchen has many potential hazards for dogs. Again, good habits are key to keeping your pet safe. 

  • Always close the dishwasher, as sharp knives and glass objects could be lethal. Dishwasher tablet granules can also cause stomach upsets.
  • Don’t leave food out on countertops to tempt your dog when they are unsupervised. Many human foods are potentially dangerous – plus “counter surfing” can quickly become a frustrating habit. You may want to use a baby gate to prevent them from entering the kitchen.
  • If your dog is an expert at opening cupboard doors, fit child locks or latches. This is especially important if your dog is left in the kitchen unattended.
  • Pick a dog proof trash can. Garbage may contain moldy food, dangerous substances, and sharp objects. It’s also unhygienic if your dog drags trash around the house.
  • Keep food waste containers in a locked cupboard. The food decomposition process results in the production of tremorgenic mycotoxins. Last year, in the UK alone, there were several high profile reported cases of dogs dying from eating mouldy food waste.
  • Always check washing machines and dryers. It’s more common for cats to climb inside kitchen appliances, but a puppy may try too. Check the appliance before using it just incase.

Teaching your dog to settle in a safe spot in the kitchen can be useful. This training keeps them away from the hot oven while cooking, and means they are less likely to get up to mischief when you are distracted. 

While taking steps to ensure your dog doesn’t snaffle any food they have not been offered is important, foods that are dangerous or toxic must always be kept out of their reach. Some of these include:

  • Grapes and raisins
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate – the darker chocolate poses a greater risk
  • Xylitol – an artificial sweetener commonly found in chewing gum, peanut butter, cakes and candy. 
  • Garlic and Onion – these are damaging when eaten in large quantities
  • Certain nuts including macadamia, and those with high-fat content, like pecans and walnuts
  • Cooked bones – they splinter easily and can cause blockages and internal damage.
  • Products containing caffeine

Bedroom

Not everyone wants their dog in the bedroom. But if you allow them in, make sure to puppy proof the cables. Trailing cables, in any room of the house, can be tempting for a dog that likes to chew.

You can purchase cable covers or attach them to the wall. If you’re tucking cables behind furniture, be sure your dog can’t sneak underneath to access them.

Don’t leave underwear or shoes lying around your room. Not only is it frustrating when your favorite pair of shoes or slippers end up chewed, but it can be a choking or blockage risk for your dog.

Set them up for success by keeping all chewable items out of reach and provide lots of appropriate chew toys instead. 

If you have a raised bed and are allowing your pup access, you may want to consider steps to help them get down. It’s not uncommon for small puppies or toy breeds to suffer an injury when leaping off a high bed.

Lounge/Living Room

Your living space should be clutter-free and, as with the bedroom, cables should be tidied away or covered to prevent chewing.

If you have low lying fragile items, find them a new home, especially if you have a bouncy puppy. China ornaments, video game consoles and TV remotes are good examples.

Also, if you have an expensive rug in the room, you may want to remove it while you work on toilet training. It could prove tempting to chew or may become a potty place.

Table and chair legs are popular chew targets for puppies. Bitter anti-chew sprays can sometimes help, but they need to be regularly reapplied and don’t work for every dog. In many cases, sprays just encourage your dog to move onto another inappropriate item. It’s better to make sure they have lots of other appropriate items to chew on instead.

If you use essential oil diffusers to give your room a fresh scent, we recommend removing these. Pine, peppermint, tea tree and cinnamon, for example, are harmful to dogs in their concentrated form.

Garage

It’s often best to keep a new dog out of the garage. Most of us have garages full of sharp tools, cleaning products and other unknown items buried away at the back, so making it safe can be difficult.

If your dog does have access, make it a priority to check for some of the more common hazardous items

Do you store car-related chemicals like antifreeze? Antifreeze poisoning is more common than you might think and can be extremely dangerous.

Perhaps you have rodent repellents or poisons tucked away somewhere. Make sure these are removed, or at least put somewhere secure and out of reach.

Is the garage floor covered in grease and oil? Clean it with a doggy safe product before your pet is allowed in.

Other Safety Tips

The tips above cover many of the most common dangers for dogs, but here are a few more things to consider.

Toxic Houseplants for Dogs

You should always check that plants you have around the home are safe. Some common houseplants that are dangerous for dogs include:

  • Aloe Plants – although the gel from the leaf is sometimes used for its soothing properties, other parts of the plant are toxic for dogs
  • Azaleas
  • Begonias
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Hyacinth
  • Jade Plant
  • Peace Lilies and the Asian Lilies
  • Sago Palm

Go Over House Rules With the Kids

It’s important that everyone in the house understands how to keep your new dog safe – including children. Remember, safety rules you might think are obvious may be less clear to kids.

For example, make sure children know not to leave doors or windows open. Puppies are inquisitive, so often take any chance to explore the outside world.

Also encourage children to clear up toys after a play session, as these small items could present a choking hazard. They are also likely be upset if a toy gets chewed up by an over-eager puppy!

Where Do You Lay Your Bag/Purse/Wallet?

When we get home, it can be tempting just to dump the bag at the door. But handbags often contain hazardous items that can prove tempting for a curious puppy.

A packet of chewing gum containing Xylitol, for example, could have deadly consequences if eaten. The contents of an e-cigarette can be harmful too.

Always hang your bags out of reach of pets. Aside from keeping your pet safe, this will also reduce the risk of your credit cards being chewed up.

Protect Small Pets

If you have other small pets, such as guinea pigs, rats or rabbits, these need to be kept securely away from your new dog at all times.

Don’t rely on your small pet’s cage – keep them in a separate room for extra security.

Crate Training 

A crate or puppy pen can be a useful tool when a curious puppy is left unsupervised. No matter how much puppy proofing you’ve done, there’s always something they can cause mischief with.

Crate training needs to be built up slowly and positively though. It should never be used as a punishment, and is not a space to leave your dog for long periods. 

The Importance of Enrichment

We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your pup appropriately stimulated.

Alongside daily exercise, you should provide toys and games to keep them occupied at home. Mental enrichment reduces the chance of destructive chewing and other unwanted behaviours. Studies show that environmental enrichment also lowers stress levels, relieves boredom and is emotionally rewarding.

It’s best to have a selection of toys that can be circulated to keep them interesting. Dogs love novelty! Interactive treat toys like Classic Kongs or the West Paw Design Tux are great. Snuffle mats and brain training games can be good too.

Garden

Allowing your dog an opportunity to blow off steam and potty in the garden can be extremely beneficial. It’s important to ensure your garden is safe though. 

1. Remove Toxic Plants

Your garden should not contain any plants that pose a risk to your dog. Sometimes even the bulb can be dangerous, so if your dog is a digger, always check the soil in flower beds.

Some common garden plants that can be harmful to dogs include:

  • The Asparagus Fern
  • The Bulbs of daffodils, amaryllis and tulips
  • Crocus
  • Foxglove
  • Ivy
  • Rhododendrons
  • Sweet Pea

2. Make Sure the Garden is Secure

Dogs can escape through the smallest gap or weakness in a fence or gate – especially when they are small puppies.

Make sure your fence is a suitable height, in good condition, and that any gaps at the bottom are filled or covered. If your dog is a digger, think about blocking access to spots where they may be able to burrow under the fence, and, of course, work on training.

If you don’t have appropriate fencing, either invest in some or avoid unsupervised yard time. We also have an article about dog-proofing a fence.

We never recommend using a solution that involves pain and fear, such as an e-collar that shocks the dog if they stray too far. Aside from being cruel, these can lead to issues such as toileting indoors, fear of the outdoors, and a lack of trust. Electric collars also don’t stop other dogs entering your garden.

If your garden has a pond, make sure it is regularly cleaned to prevent the build-up of toxic green algae. Fencing is also a good idea, as young dogs often have little awareness of water danger.

The same is true for swimming pools. Keep the pool fenced off, never let your dog swim without supervision, and install a dog pool ramp so there’s less chance of him getting trapped. A canine life vest is also essential when your dog is near water.

3. Consider the Products You Use Around the Garden

Be careful about using weed killers, lawn growth products and other substances that could be harmful to your dog. Some products that can be problematic include:

  • Cocoa Bean Mulch – this common soil conditioner contains theobromine and caffeine, making it toxic for dogs. It also has a pleasant smell, and this could make it even more attractive for your dog. Seaweed or Fish Emulsion can make good natural fertilizers
  • Garden Pesticides and Weedkillers – These can often be highly toxic to your dog. It’s best to keep your dog away from any area where these products are used, and consider swapping for natural and safe alternatives. Always check that a product is safe before you use it on your garden.

Summary

Your home is an exciting place for a new puppy or new dog. There are endless interesting scents and sights to explore – but not all are safe.

Dog proofing doesn’t need to be difficult though. With a few simple changes, new habits, and supervision, you can keep your home and garden as safe as possible.

The dangers listed above aren’t exhaustive, but should give you an idea of the type of hazards to consider.