Dog Proofing Your Home

What do you do if you see something interesting on the floor? If you’re a puppy, you sniff it, and then pick it up in your mouth. This tactic works pretty well if the item happens to be an inoffensive chew toy or a piece of kibble. But what if it’s a quarter, or foam – rubber sponge, or a battery?

You may think your house is perfectly safe, but to a dog it’s full of fascinating, yet potentially dangerous, attractions. This is particularly true when you get a new dog, since she’ll be eager to explore – and taste – her new surroundings.

The majority of vets would recommend that you take a tour through your house, garage and yard from a dog’s eye view. Get down on all fours and move around and you’ll be amazed at the number of chewable everyday items you come across; electrical cords, children’s toys, bars of soap, books, even jewelry.
“Use the same precautions for a dog that you would for children,” says Robert Linnabary, D.V.M., an instructor at the University Of Tennessee College Of Veterinary medicine in Knoxville. “But remember that dogs are better at breaking open bottles and boxes.”

Home Safety:
Whether you’re getting a puppy or an older dog, you can be sure her first order of business will be checking out her new digs. Here’s a room – by – room guide to the things to watch out for, so she doesn’t get into something she shouldn’t.

The Kitchen:
The families spend a lot of time in the kitchen and so will your new pet. While nosey dogs don’t have hands to wrest open cupboard doors, they do have surprisingly agile paws and most determined muzzles, so it’s important to lock cleaning supplies away where they can do no harm. You may even want to think about installing childproof locks on those cabinets where you store solvents and cleaning materials.

Since even the best behaved dogs enjoy making the occasional foray into the garbage, it’s a good idea to keep it safely stored away. Or pick up a can with a tight – fitting lid.

You can further reduce her natural inclination to explore by placing especially appetizing – and dangerous – items, such as chicken bones, in the freezer until you’re ready to take them out to the trash. Not only will this eliminate the danger of sharp, splintered bones, it will also protect your dog from illnesses caused by eating old, spoiled foods.

Another common canine hazard that often lurks around the kitchen is chocolate. This favorite people food contains a stimulant called theobromine, which can make dogs seriously ill.

Chocolate should be though of as a poison to dogs, says Dr. Linnabary.

“I’ve even seen a case of a dog getting very ill from a Snickers Bar, which seems mostly caramel and nuts and very little chocolate.”

The effect on the dogs is both does – and size – dependent, adds Jay Geasling, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Buffalo and president of the American animal Hospital Association. “The smaller the dog, the less chocolate it needs to eat in order to overdoes.”

Even such innocent items as towels, throw rugs and dishcloths can be dangerous, because dogs do love to chew them. If your dog swallows a big enough piece, it could cause an obstruction in the intestine, resulting in serious, even life – threatening problems. So if you’re pet seems to be a material girl, find an out – of – the – way spot all your kitchen linen.

The Bathroom:
Dogs don’t use the toilet or settle in for long steamy baths, but they’ll often explore the bathroom just to see what’s there. All too often, they discover enticing tastes that they can’t resist – but that can make them seriously ill.

Colorful, fun-smelling bottles and soaps sitting along the side of the tub are an open invitation to your dog to explore says Priscilla J. Whittington, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Yorktown heights, New York. An elevated shower caddy is a great way to keep shampoos, conditioners and soaps well out of harm’s way. And don’t forget to store cleaning powders and disinfectants out of dog reach in a cabinet – preferably one that has a tight fitting latch.

Don’t take any chances with your children’s tub toys, either. They look very much like your dog’s chew toys, but they aren’t designed with her strong jaws and teeth in mind.

Sanitary napkins and tampons are highly absorbent, and that means they’re a problem if your dog chews them and they get inside her intestinal tract. “Be on the safe side and make sure you don’t let your dog have access to any trash that might contain items such as these,” says Christine Wilford, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Seattle and regular columnist for American kennel club Gazette.

The Living Room and Den:
We think of family rooms as comfort rooms, but for dogs – unfriendly objects in living rooms and dens is a varied as each family. Do you pain? Sew? Knit? Listen to music? Play chess? The materials used for many hobbies can be extremely dangerous to your dog.

The easiest and most practical solution is to store these items in their own special carriers and put them away when you’re done. Keep a knitting bag instead of an open basket of needles and yarn.

Put your paints in an art bin. Find a high nook for that ongoing game of chess. While you’re at it, teach your kids to put away their toys when they’re finished playing. (Once they’ve lost a favorite toy or two to sharp doggy teeth, this will become easier.)

“Some dogs have perverse appetites,” says Dr. Linnabary. “They may eat something like cigarettes from boredom, and then get seriously ill.” If anyone in your family smokes, empty ashtrays regularly. Be careful with chewing tobacco, too, which generally comes in cardboard canisters or bags – no problem for prying pooch.

And don’t forget electrical cords. If possible, coil cords and tuck them out of sight. Or cover cords hanging against a wall with metal covers, which you can get from lighting supply stores. At the very least, says Dr. Wilford, you may want to move lamps and other appliances until your dog outgrows that particular interest.

While chewing cords is mainly a problem with puppies, certain “mouthy” breeds, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, will be tempted by them all their lives. In this case, you may want to permanently rearrange your furniture to get all cords out of sight, says Dr. Wilford.

“Repellents like bitter apple are short – lived and often ineffective,” she adds. “Taping the cord to the floor doesn’t solve any problems, either. A dog will simply chew through the tape – and it takes only a second for her to be electrocuted.”

The Bedrooms:
Just because you sleep through the night doesn’t mean your dog is similarly disposed. New dogs are particularly prone to being wakeful, and what better place to idle away the midnight hour than the family bedrooms.

Children’s bedrooms are especially tempting to dogs because of all the toothsome toys lying about. Small rubber balls or even uninflated balloons are easy to swallow – and choke on. Every night before bed, take a few minutes to make sure toys are off the floor and out of the way.

Adult bedrooms harbor two top doggy dangers: nylon stockings and medications. Stockings are easily swallowed and can obstruct the intestine. And medications are as dangerous to dogs as they are to children. What’s more, a small dose for a human may be an overdose for a dog. So keep all medications out of reach. And don’t think that bottles with childproof caps will stop her.

It’s also best no to leave your change and jewelry on the dresser. Your four – legged forage might give them a taste test the minute your back is turned. Instead, place your change in a narrow – necked bottle and put rings, cuff links and earrings in a safely stowed jewelry box.

The Garage:
Even the best – kept garage can be a hazardous place for a dog. There are all those screws and nails that invariably wind up on the floor. Then there’s the paint thinner, insecticide, fertilizer and other poisons lurking about.

“Antifreeze is perhaps the biggest danger to your dog,” says Dr. Whittington. “First, because it’s so sweet smelling and attractive to her, and second, because it’s so deadly. If the antidote isn’t given within 24 hours, the dog is likely to die.”

When strong antifreeze, put it well out of reach. Also periodically check beneath the car: antifreeze leaking from a hose is just as dangerous as when it pours from a bottle. You may want to use new, less toxic antifreeze. It’s still poisonous, but not as much as the traditional kind.

When dog – proofing the garage, pay special attention to any poisonous substances lying about. Slug bait in particular can be big trouble.

“It doesn’t take much to harm even a large dog,” says Dr. Linnabary. In fact, when it comes to dog – proofing your garage, the safest bet would be to make the whole area off of limits.

The Garden and Yard:
For dogs, gardens and lawns offer a veritable smorgasbord of smells – and, all too often, tastes. More than a few plants, given a nibble or two, can turn your dog a little green.

Various common outdoor plants can harm your dog, as can some fruits and vegetables. Dogs dig so they may eat the poisonous underground parts of spring bulbs.

And don’t overlook your indoor garden. Your dog won’t, so it’s a good idea to move all houseplants out of her reach. Hanging plants and those on windows sills are probably safe, but it’s best to move any plants off the floor or tables to higher shelves. Incidentally, you need to be particularly careful around the holidays, since traditional plants, such as poinsettia and mistletoe, can be extremely poisonous. To be safe, you may want to use the artificial varieties instead.

For a complete list of the poisonous plants found in your neighborhood, Dr. Linnabary suggests contacting your county agent.

If you keep a compost pile or barrel, make sure your dog isn’t able to get to the partially decomposed food inside. “We had to treat a West Highland white terrier once who had eaten part of a corn cob, which then obstructed his digestive tract,” says Dr. Whittington.

Then there are sticks, everyone knows that dogs and sticks go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or do they? “Sticks can perforate the roof of a dog’s mouth, its throat or intestine,” says Dr. Wilford. “I had someone bring in a Doberman who hadn’t eaten in days I looked inside her mouth and found a small stick wedged between her back teeth.”

A better alternative is to provide your dog with hard, splinter – free chews, such as Kongs or Nylabones. And while it may be difficult to remove every stick from your yard, it’s a good idea to make a careful sweep of the area following a storm, and get rid of any new branches that may have blown down.

Home Security:
Nothing could be more heartbreaking than to welcome your new dog into your family, only to lose her through a hole in (or under) your back fence. It’s not that your dog necessarily wants to make a break. It’s just that the outside world with all its smells and sounds is so enticing.

Before letting your new dog run, take a stroll around the yard. Are there any loose boards in the fence? Gaps that she could squeeze through? A soft place where she can dig?

Your dog will spot potential escape routes more quickly than you will. Dr. Greasling suggests putting her on a leash and strolling around the perimeter of the yard. “Let her explore with you. And chances are she might find something you missed – a loose broad or small hole, for instance.”

Stay with your dog while she makes herself familiar with her new yard, and praise her when she stays and plays where you want her to. If she becomes bored, she’s more likely to go looking for excitement on the other side. When you’re there to play with her, however, the temptation to find fun outside will diminish.