Most breeders will ask that you wait until your new puppy is eight weeks old before they’ll let you pick them up – which might feel like an eternity! This is a great opportunity to start dog-proofing your home and preparing for your new arrival, so that when you bring your puppy or new dog home, your house will be a safe and welcoming environment.
Luckily, there’s lots to do in preparing for a new puppy and you’ll need lots of time in advance to get your home and garden ready for your new arrival. Even if you're bringing home an adult dog, you’ll still need to check for hazards in the home and make sure you have a dog-proof house and a dog-proof garden.
Puppy-proofing your home
- Fit child locks on floor-level kitchen cupboards, especially if there are cleaning materials inside.
- While you’ve got your drill handy, fix baby gates to the top and bottom of your stairwells to prevent puppies or elderly dogs from falling accidentally, or gaining access to parts of the house where they shouldn’t be.
- An appropriately-sized dog cage is not only a good way of making your new dog feel secure in their own “den”, but it can keep them safe from potential hazards when they can’t be supervised.
- Remove or avoid household toxins including toxic plants (Philodendron, Mistletoe, Poinsettia), strong chemical cleaners and environmental insecticides.
- Keep doors to the oven, fridge, microwave, dishwasher, tumble-dryer and washing machine closed. Small puppies can crawl into the strangest places and often find a warm dryer irresistible, so put notes on the doors to remind people to check inside before using them.
- Dogs don’t have the same sense of height and depth as humans, so when dog-proofing your house, make sure that they can’t jump out of or accidentally fall from higher-storey windows.
- As your energetic puppy tears around the house, it’s all too easy for them to slip and fall, causing injuries. Identify places where they might be able to move quickly and put down some non-skid matting or carpet on any slippery or hardwood floors.
- Lit candles, burning incense or oil burners are asking for trouble when around an inquisitive puppy - extinguish all naked flames and put a guard around any fires.
- Hide all trailing electrical cables behind furniture, as these can be very tempting for your puppy to chew on. If that’s not possible, you can buy a thick cable protector to go over the cables from most hardware shops.
- Stock up on chew toys to divert your teething puppy away from chair legs, mobile phones or electrical items.
- Once your dog’s home, keep the toilet lid closed - some dogs just can’t resist drinking from the bowl!
Puppy-proofing your garden
Your garden needs to be a safe place where your dog can run around freely with no means of escape. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you create a dog-proof garden prior to bringing your new dog or puppy home. A few things to think about include:
- Make sure your fence is tall enough to contain an energetic dog (most medium-sized breeds need a six-foot fence)! Look for gaps where your puppy could squeeze through or under, and check that fence panels are sunk well into the ground so that they can’t dig underneath it, and are sturdy enough to resist against a jumping pup.
- Terriers, in particular, are notorious diggers so do regular checks around the perimeter of your gardens and make any repairs straight away. You can redirect unwanted digging by giving them puppy sand or mud pit where they can dig to their heart's content.
- Some dogs can’t resist pulling up plants and flowers so, if you’re a keen gardener, you may need to fence off your prize petunias!
- Remove ladders, or anything your dog may feel the urge to step onto, and fence off or firmly cover swimming pools, hot tubs and ponds when not in use.
- If your dog is going to spend part of their day or night in the garden, provide them with a wind-and waterproof shelter. This can also double-up as a sun protector on hotter days. If the temperature reaches unusually high or low levels, bring your dog indoors, even if they’re usually an outdoor dog.
- Avoid using cocoa chips in the garden as an alternative to bark, as these are poisonous to dogs.
- Your dog-proof garden should include dog-friendly plants, and avoid some others to reduce the risk of poisoning and skin irritation. The more common plants to avoid or remove from your garden that could cause irritation or poisoning are Lily, Azalea, Daffodil, Tomato, Foxglove, Yew and Hydrangea. If your dog does eat part of a poisonous plant, go straight to the vet, taking the plant with you if possible.
- You should always discourage your puppy from chewing anything that it finds in the garden. Contact your vet if you’re concerned they’ve eaten anything they shouldn’t have.
- Never use slug pellets, weed killer or rat poison (unless pet-friendly), as they’re extremely toxic.
- Make sure your dog can’t get into the garage, as many car products such as anti-freeze can be very harmful to them.
- If you have gates in your garden, remind everyone about the importance of closing them. You can attach self-closing devices but set them to a gentle close so there’s no danger of them snapping shut on your dog.
Protecting your dog when you're out and about
- Even pulling out of your driveway can be a hazard as dogs have a great knack of hiding out of view of your mirrors. Keep them away from moving vehicles – even your own.
- Make sure you have attached your dog’s lead before opening any door so that they can’t make a mad dash.
- Keeping your dog cool in the summer is very important. Never leave them in a hot car.
- Carry plenty of fresh, clean water. They’ll need this when going for walks.
- Special care needs to be taken in the winter as many gritters not only dispense salt but also anti-freeze, which will be toxic if ingested by your dog.
- Some road and pavement surfaces can cause irritation to your dog’s paws, as can grass seeds, so giving them a wipe down after each walk will help.
- Don’t leave food unattended on your kitchen work surface. Not only is it far too tempting for a dog to resist, but also many of our foods can be toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, onions and garlic.
This may sound like a daunting list, but most of it is common sense and should soon become second nature with a bit of practice. Like bringing home a new baby, prevention will always be better than cure.
Next, discover useful advice to help you introduce puppies and children and get their relationship off to a great start.