Home, Safe Home
Puppies are cuddly and curious, and they love to chew; they can also be very destructive. A few minor adjustments will help keep your puppy -- and your belongings -- safe.
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Gate or Crate
Puppy gates are available at pet-supply stores; simply place them in a doorway as you would a baby gate (they work for puppies, too). Or buy a properly sized crate for your dog; especially if you plan to travel with your dog, a crate is an excellent idea. Think of it as your dog's home kennel, or an indoor doghouse; dogs generally see their crates as their personal space and, with training, will willingly go there on command.
To be on the safe side, until you know your puppy's jumping and wriggling abilities, remind everyone in the household to close doors to rooms with temptations like open wastebaskets and low toy bins. A New York couple came home one afternoon to find their Jack Russell puppy happily exploring an off-limits room; he'd learned to jump over the gate in the doorway.
Rooms to Avoid
It's not a good idea to confine your untrained puppy to the bathroom, garage, or yard. In the bathroom, she may be tempted to drink from the toilet. Beyond the fact that the water is unsanitary, there's the danger of her falling in and drowning, and the water can contain a harmful bowl-cleaner residue. Your garage is probably full of potentially lethal substances like antifreeze and insecticides. And the yard is dangerous to a curious puppy, not only because of swimming pools, fishponds, poisonous or spiky plants, and gardening implements, but also because of wild animals (large or small), birds of prey, and sharp twigs (remember, puppies love to chew!).
At Floor Level
To get a puppy's eye view of the areas of the home where your new pet will have free access, get down on your hands and knees. Whatever you see that's within reach, assume that your puppy will want to taste.
Some puppies will chew on anything and everything; others are more selective. One Brooklyn family thought their puppy hadn't chewed anything for weeks -- until the day they noticed that the lowest bookcase shelf had a row of tiny teeth marks in it!
Puppies are also great at wriggling into improbable spaces. So for at least the first few days, you may want to block off areas, like under a couch, where they could get stuck.
For the place where the dog spends time alone, these tips will help you create a "puppy-proof" area. If you're a parent, much of this advice will seem familiar from when your baby became mobile.
- Place electrical wires out of reach; if necessary, tape down wires to keep them out of the way. Unplug appliances when not in use, and do not let the cords dangle. You may even want to put plastic safety plugs in unused outlets to prevent adventurous sniffing or licking.
- Make sure lethal substances like household cleaners, bleach, insecticides, fertilizers, mothballs, and antifreeze are locked away or out of reach.
- Place all plants well out of your puppy's reach, for the plant's sake and for the health of your dog. Some plants are poisonous to pets, but "very few are very dangerous to dogs; most, like poinsettias and some of the ivies, can cause gastric or stomach upset if ingested," advises Duane Schnittker, DVM.
- Most homes have an accumulation of books, magazines, shoes, jackets, and shopping bags on or near the floor. As much as is practical, put everything you don't want chewed away in a cabinet or on a high shelf.
- Check the floor and low shelves for small objects like pins, needles, bottle caps, and little toys and knick-knacks, and move them.
- Cover your garbage container with a tight lid. Dogs generally see garbage as a canine smorgasbord. And things that seem harmless (not to mention unappetizing) to you can be tasty but toxic for your dog. This list includes things like the seed pits of apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums.
- Keep in mind that tablecloths and dangling runners can be pulled down. If you use these items, consider keeping your untrained puppy out of the eating area, particularly if fragile and/or heavy objects are on the table.
- Window-blind cords should be tied or taped up to prevent chewing or strangulation.
Keep play time safe with these tips:
- Buy several chew toys, so you can offer them as an alternative when you catch your puppy chewing on something forbidden. Select the appropriate size for your dog right now, not a large size he may need after he's grown. (Similarly, don't give your dog toys that are small enough for him to swallow.)
- Praise your dog when you find her chewing on something appropriate.
- Check that the eyes on stuffed pet toys are tightly attached and that squeakers are not easily removed.
- If you give your dog stuffed toys designed for children, be especially careful to check the label to make sure they're stuffed with nontoxic material, and supervise your dog when she's playing with them. Toys for humans are not designed to be attacked by sharp little teeth; they may easily disintegrate.
- Although it sounds like a cute idea, don't let puppies play with old shoes. The shoes may contain small parts that could be harmful if swallowed, and chewing on shoes can become a lifelong bad habit, since dogs don't differentiate between old and new shoes.