Puppy-proofing: 10-point checklist for preparing your home & garden for a dog

To be healthy and happy, dogs need a safe, secure and familiar place to call home — just like us!

Naturally curious animals, they love exploring, biting, chewing, sniffing and licking almost any new, unfamiliar object — which, when they’re a pup, means pretty much everything. So, if you’re thinking of welcoming a new furry friend into your life, you need a house and garden that’s puppy-prepared.

With potentially hidden dangers throughout the home, this is for their safety — but it’s also for the good of your favourite pair of shoes! The introduction of an energetic young puppy is a learning curve for owners, so get ahead of the game by preparing your house and garden to make things as smooth as can be.

The home

  1. Create their designated doggy space

Dogs love having an area, however small, which they can retreat to, relax and call their own — a canine bedroom, if you will. Much like for a baby, you need to ready a space for the arrival of your new puppy! 

A dedicated area for your dog can be extremely beneficial for their house-bound ‘development’. It helps puppies get used to being alone, when that time eventually arrives. Deck this puppy-safe zone out with their brand new doggy bed, blanket, treat toys and other doggy gizmos — essentially, pack it full of familiarity and comfort.

Some owners make their designated doggy space a place that engages all the senses by playing some quiet music or nature sounds.

Any room in the house can be used for this — your spare room, the laundry room, a walk-in closet. It doesn’t have to be big; in fact, dogs often prefer a nice, cosy space. Word of warning, however: be braced for doggy ‘accidents’.

A mess-proof, wipeable or replaceable floor can be a good idea. If space allows, many puppy owners opt for their kitchen, perhaps fenced off with baby gates.

  1. Dog-proofing your home

It goes without saying, but make sure to pup-proof the immediate environment; the curiosity of a young pup knows no bounds. It might help to get down on your hands and knees and experience your home from their perspective!

  • Remove all choke hazards, and make sure to store any toxic cleaning products or medicines well out of reach. Don’t leave small objects like paper clips, coins or hair bobbles lying around.
  • Tape down all electrical cords; dangling wires should be out of reach to remove the risk of electrocution.
  • Remove hanging objects that could be chewed and gnawed on.
  • Consider investing in some dog-friendly bins — butterfly pedal bins usually do the trick.
  • Expect your houseplants to come under attack, so make sure they’re not poisonous — or of too much value!
  • Find a secure place to store your shoes or other enticing household objects, or they might be a new favourite chew toy in no time.
  • Try to make heights inaccessible; it can be easy to get up, but bones can be broken falling down.
  1. Stock up on supplies

Eliminate the risk of being caught short by ensuring all of the necessary supplies that owning a (sometimes messy) puppy might entail. 

  • Food represents the biggest ongoing supply expense. We’d recommend that new owners set up a dog food subscription service; as well as being one less thing to have to add to your supermarket trolley, you’ll never worry about running out. With a fully-customisable Harringtons dog food subscription, you’ll be able to make exclusive savings on every order, as well as benefit from free delivery.
  • Unfortunately, all puppies leak. Whether you’re using puppy training pads or not, having absorbent materials like newspaper on hand can save you some hassle.
  • For when those unavoidable messes do occur, invest in some household cleaning products. A good stain and odour removal and disinfectant are essential items in any puppy owner’s arsenal.
  • Clean dog, clean home — absorbent towels, wipes and dog shampoo are great investments to keep your dog as sparkling as can be. Don’t forget your dog toothpaste and the toothbrush, too. 
  • To keep your new pooch (as well as the home) neat and tidy, a bristled or rubber-toothed brush is an essential piece of grooming kit.
  • To prevent your sofa becoming the favourite thing to chew on, stock up on some interesting and playful chewy toys; they provide mental and physical stimulation. 
  • If you’re keen on protecting your upholstery, some slipcovers and a throw for your sofa are never a bad idea.
  • For when it’s time for walkies, don’t forget that you’re required by law to pick up after your pup — so a plentiful supply of poo bags is essential.

  1. Educating everyone & assigning responsibilities 

Needless to say, owning a dog is a huge commitment, so you need buy in and investment from everyone in your house. Establishing the responsibilities around the home are important; who’s in charge of feeding, or poop collecting?

Overexcited children and new puppies are a very common pairing, but they don’t often go well together! As fun as they can be, puppies aren’t toys, so it’s important to teach young ‘uns the basics of puppy care — how to feed it, to not disturb it when asleep, and so on. 

  1. Establish a routine

When everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it, you have a recipe for a well-oiled puppy-owning household. Like humans, dogs love and thrive on routines, so establishing regular feeding, walking and bed times helps to make the puppy-owning lifestyle a smooth, simple one. 

The garden

Gardens are a place of relaxation; your own personal Eden. But is yours optimised for your four-legged friend? There could be a few unexpected hazards lurking in your backyard — so make sure to check out the next five pointers!

  1. Watch out for no-good shrubs

You probably wouldn’t tuck into a plant harvested from your garden and not expect an upset tummy, and the same principle applies to dogs.

Some plants can be potentially poisonous to canines, and while they won’t be deadly unless eaten in huge quantities, keep your eyes peeled for the following.

  • Wisterias — the seeds and pods of this vine can be very toxic.
  • Wild mushrooms and toadstools — some are edible, but some others are highly poisonous. Best to not take any chances here.
  • Tulips, daffodils and crocus — these spring bulbs can cause vomiting and irritation, so are best avoided in the garden.
  • Acorns — eating acorns is known to cause diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Holly — although rarely toxic unless eaten in huge quantities, it’s fairly prickly and can cause discomfort to your pup.
  • Ivy — known to cause skin irritation and an upset tummy, if eaten.
  • Christmas trees — as well as being sharp, the needles can cause irritation.
  • Conkers — unfortunately, those attractive, glossy brown seeds can be bad news for dogs, leading to an upset stomach as well as being a choking risk.
  • Plants from the Prunus family — here, we’re talking apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums. Their seeds, when swallowed, can be pretty toxic.
  • Daphnes — daphne poisoning can cause abdominal and bodily pain to our four-legged friends.
  • Buttercups — this plant, the flower part, in particular, contains ranunculin, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Others to watch out for include delphiniums, tomato plants, chrysanthemums, foxgloves and hydrangeas — all known to be bad news for your mutt if consumed in a considerable quantity.

Although that might seem a fairly comprehensive list, there are a number of beautiful plants that are in no way toxic to our furry friends. Consider incorporating some of these doggy-friendly faunas into your garden, resting assured that they pose no risk whatsoever… 

  • Camellias
  • Daisies
  • Roses
  • Sunflowers
  • Lavender

Diluted lavender is even sometimes used as an anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory oil in dogs.

  1. Garden chemicals: carefully does it

When you’re out and about shopping for some weed killer, pesticides or lawn treatment, keep your eyes peeled on the ingredients list. A few common garden chemicals, when ingested by our canine companions, are known to cause trouble breathing, irritation, vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures.

  • Disulfoton — these pesticide products have more or less been withdrawn from the market, but be very careful. They’re often treated with blood and bone meal, which makes them extremely tasty to dogs, but they’re highly toxic.
  • Metaldehyde — this is a common slug or snail bait, but can cause seizures and even be fatal. The fact it’s treated to taste amazing to dogs certainly makes it one to avoid.
  • Some other artificial nasties to watch out for include glyphosate, sodium arsenite, ammonium sulfamate and borax.

  1. Be sharp-eyed for slugs and snails!

On those wet spring mornings, it’s impossible to avoid seeing those glistening trails that slugs and snails leave behind. To our canine friends, these slimy gastropods are quite the interesting phenomenon — but it’s important for owners to be very vigilant.

Slugs and snails are known to carry lungworm, which although uncommon, can spread to your dog through the ingestion of one of these molluscs. Lungworm symptoms in dogs include coughing, breathing issues, loss of weight, an upset tummy and going off their food.

Fortunately, slugs and snails give off a naturally foul taste which means that they aren’t frequently ingested. However, younger, more curious pups can sometimes eat them — or a mollusc might be stuck to a toy.

Keep an eye out in your garden and when you’re on a stroll through the park. If you’re concerned about something your dog may have eaten, immediately consult your vet.

  1. Secure your borders

Perhaps that side gate could do with a fixed latch, or there’s a pooch-sized hole in one of your garden fences? Time for some DIY! Yes, it’s obvious — but it’s necessary to avoid that sinking feeling if your curious young pup accidentally escapes! Have a check around every single possible escape route in your garden. 

  1. Deter the digging

If you’ve been wondering what to do with your coffee grounds (which are also a fantastic fertiliser), we’ve got just the trick. This is a puppy-proofing trick that many owners only discover when it’s too late: preventing the incessant digging!

Yes, this piece of advice is more concerned with the health of your garden than for the health of your dog, but dogs young and old love to explore and dig — it’s just in their nature. Before long, your backyard could resemble more of a bombsite than an immaculate, green-fingered paradise.

As well as coffee grounds, dried pepper, dried mustard and bitter orange do the trick for deterring a pup that is determined to dig.

Making your home puppy-prepared — easy as that!

If you’ve got these ten pointers nailed down, we’re sure that you’re more than ready to welcome a delightful four-legged friend into your home. Have peace of mind that they’ll be entering a safe, calming and puppy-proofed home and garden — one where they can explore safely to their heart’s content!