Updated: Sep 25, 2020
An important part of preparing for your puppy’s arrival is ensuring you have made the environment safe and ready for your pup to explore in. This tends to be something best done before the puppy arrives, so taking some time in advance to go through each room and check for puppy hazards will give you peace of mind when your little one is exploring their new surroundings.
The first place to start is by looking down! The floor is the most at risk area, and where things can be easily left unattended. Puppies explore with their mouths, so remember an essential principle: if it’s dangerous, get it off the floor! Teething puppies also need to chew things, so anything on floor level becomes fair game in those first few weeks. It is a good idea to store all shoes away in cupboards rather than out on open shoe racks.
Larger puppies will quickly grow to perfect side-table height, so make sure you watch out for lamps and vases being knocked over by enthusiastic tails!
Important puppy-proofing to watch out for inside the house:
Wires and cables – it is safest to completely block off access to the back of the TV.
Power outlets – safety plugs are recommended.
Stairs - these may need to be sectioned off if too steep or dangerous, until the dog is old enough. You should add a non-slip floor covering if needed.
Windows - any windows or glass doors at ground level should be shatter proof (dogs may not notice until they go crashing through!). Windows at high levels should be screened to avoid the dogs falling out.
Human food – some human foods are toxic to dogs so it’s best to keep it out of reach.
Medicines and cleaning products – always keep these locked away.
Rat bait, weed killer, insecticides, antifreeze – some of these products smell surprisingly good to dogs – so never store them within reach.
Rugs - not unsafe for puppy, but beware in the early days carpet and rugs can feel like a comfortable absorbent surface perfect for toileting! It might be handy to keep rugs rolled up and out of the way until you are confident your pup is well toilet trained.
And puppy-proofing to watch out for outside the house:
Toxic plants and compost – these can be dangerous if consumed.
Fencing - the garden should ideally be fully fenced with 6ft tall fences, as some dogs can jump much higher than you would think (especially when startled, or if there are platforms for them to leap off). It's also important to ensure there are no gaps under the fence, or sharp edges. If your yard does not have this kind of fencing, you must supervise incredibly carefully to make sure your dog does not escape. We would always recommend putting this secure fencing in place.
Gates - these should be secure and unable to be opened by the dog.
Pools – these are just as much of a hazard for puppies as they are for toddlers. Never allow your puppy near the pool unsupervised, and always install child-proof fencing around a backyard pool and install a rescue ramp.
Ticks – if you live in a tick area, these are a hazard from the day you bring your puppy home! If they are not on tick prevention yet, then always check them for ticks every time you bring them in from the garden. Ring your local vet straight away if you find one.
Neighbours are also going to be new stimulus for your puppy, especially if you have adjoining gates with sight holes, or fences which have room for fingers to poke through. It's really important to let your neighbours know your dog is in training, particularly if they have young kids, as creating positive socialisation experiences early will make a big difference to your puppy's development.
Puppies should always be supervised in new environments, especially the garden for the first few weeks. For the dog to acclimatise - and for your own sanity! - decide where your ‘safe haven’ will be: an indoor space you can leave your puppy in when you can’t be there to watch them. This will usually be a room that has been thoroughly puppy- proofed and has a bed or crate for your puppy to relax in. Baby gates work really well to block off certain areas of the house so you can control where your puppy is at all times.
While there are a lot of things to be careful of, there is also a world of fun ahead for your family. Think about fun activities you can provide for your dog to keep them entertained during the day, or when you're at work, such as food toys and puzzles. You could set up a sand pit or play-pool in the back garden. These safety and enrichment changes can turn any house into a dog-loving home, and you'll be rewarded with a safe and well-socialised pup.