It is a well-known fact that pets can make a mess of your home. But dog proofing your home is important for two reasons: to keep your new furry friend safe but also to safeguard your precious belongings. Even the calmest puppies can create havoc when they are left alone. In order to cope with the stress, they bark, chew on furniture or your favourite shoes – without any intention of destruction but all they smell is YOU – it’s you who they miss so chewing your stuff is in fact, a sign your dog loves you! It’s their way of dealing with separation anxiety. They can even scratch on doors in an effort to find you. But, this damage is by no means unavoidable so let’s see how you can dog proof your home to keep your dog and household safe.
Dog Proofing Your Household – Preventing Damage
Assume that your dog can stay alone for about 4 hours. But when in an unfamiliar household, i.e. dog sitter’s place, this can even be a matter of 5 minutes. A possible option is crate-training. Some dogs just feel safer this way and the owners are at ease. But crate-training takes time and patience. The rule is that your dog needs to feel COMFORTABLE – if this is not the case, locking your dog in a crate will only make matters worse. So, you first need to establish basic house rules as part of your dog’s training.
House Rule #1- Which areas are accessible to your dog?
Do you allow your dog to enter the kitchen? How about your bedroom? Is he or she allowed to climb on the sofa? Does your dog sleep in the same bed with you? If yes, is your dog allowed to climb on the bed only when you give out the command? You need to have these questions answered so you can set the basis for your dog’s training. Don’t worry about being too strict – dogs actually respond very well to discipline. In fact, your dog will only be miserable if you lose your temper due to his ‘disobedience’ because he will have a hard time figuring out what is troubling you. Sleeping in your bed is fine, but don’t overdo it by e.g. letting your dog climb on the table, etc… A happy dog needs healthy limits. Learn to say NO to undesirable behaviour.
House Rule #2 – How is your dog allowed to behave with guests?
Does your dog bark when the doorbell buzzes? What about when your guests enter: is your dog jumping around like crazy? Well, this not an unavoidable behaviour, and there’s a lot you can do so your dog is well-behaved. In fact, Cesar Milan advises to actually not respond to such joyful behaviour immediately once you enter the door. While many dog owners make the mistake of attending to their dogs first, the training expert advises that you leave your belongings first and then greet your dog, also giving him time to settle down. We completely understand how hard it is to ignore such a warm welcome, but by encouraging this ecstatic energy, you can evoke further erratic behaviour. What your dog needs is calm and assertive energy. You are the pack leader and you are the boss. Exercise this power by saying NO when your dog starts behaving in an undesirable way that is just ‘too much’.
House Rule #3 – Mealtime behaviour
One of perhaps the greatest mistakes that dog owners make is not resisting those unbelievably cute puppy-eyes and even more painful begging when it comes to food. It cannot be emphasised enough how important it is to not give your dog any table scraps – first of all, it is not healthy and it can lead to obesity. Some foods that are good for us can be even toxic to dogs. Second, it is like opening a Pandora’s box – it can only lead to even worse behaviour as you are giving the power to your dog. So please, stay strong and do not succumb! Say NO and make your dog sit and stay when he or she starts begging for food.
Rule #4 – Reward desired behaviour
Positive reinforcement is key to successful dog training. So it is of utmost importance to reward your dog immediately once she responds well to your command.
Rule #5 – Be consistent
No exceptions! The rules are the same even if you are outside, someone else’s home, on a holiday… If you want to travel with your dog, she must be well-behaved at all times. Also, by not being consistent, you will only confuse your dog and make the learning process unnecessarily more painful and longer.
Rule #6 – Be patient
Always keep in mind that rules are meant to help your dog feel comfortable living with you – not to traumatise the animal. So please remember this before losing your patience and starting to yell at your dog. In majority of the cases, your dog does not understand what she did wrong and is just about to learn. Your dog is always trying to be friends with you. So keep in mind that she might not understand you instantly, be kind and forgiving when it comes to these cases of ‘perceived’ disobedience :)
Dog proofing for your dog’s safety
We realise the importance of your furniture, and the safety of your pet always needs to be a priority of your dog proofing strategy. Here are the main rules that make an effective dog proofing strategy.
Keep treasured items out of reach
Perhaps it wouldn’t be a good idea to keep your antique table in a room where your teething puppy will reside while you’re at work. The poor thing needs something to chew on (even if you bought a specific toy for that purpose!) But this also means that you should keep anything risky in drawers, locked closets, etc. Keep all of your tasty shoes in your closet with the door closed. Also, keeping a chocolate bar out on the night stand is just asking for trouble.
Invest in a good vacuum cleaner
Not having crumbs out is always a good idea for many reasons! You don’t want your dog eating them and you surely don’t want any bugs. Especially if you have one of those ‘shedding’ dog breeds (and only a majority of them are!), a good vacuum cleaner is perhaps the best investment for your home and your own health. If you can afford one of those Roomba ones that can just do the job for you on a daily basis while you’re at work – your carpets will surely last longer and look prettier! Some dogs and cats are even entertained by them! But you will need to hire a professional cleaning service to do your couch and other ‘upper’ parts of the furniture from time to time as pet hair indeed goes everywhere. Although dogs do not cough out hair balls like cats that groom themselves, their digestive systems are not built to handle hair. So not cleaning regularly is dangerous both for your own and your dog’s health.
Sticky rollers – at-home and on-the-go
In cases where your vacuum cleaner is helpless and when you have to rush off to work, sticky rollers are your best friend. They will have you spotless in no time. As charming as the above fashion philosophy of being covered with dog hair sounds, you surely don’t want to be one of those people. Not at work nor when meeting someone for the first time. First impression is often everything, so make sure you use this dog proofing tool to your advantage.
Remove household toxins (including plants)
Some plants are poisonous for dogs and cats so always ask before getting any household plants. The same goes for house-cleaning products. Believe it or not, there are some which could even cause allergies to your dog. As part of your dog proofing strategy, always opt for chlorine-free and organic products, as much as possible.
Hide cables – especially electric ones!
No explanations needed. There were even cases where dogs swallowed the rolling tape from an old cassette (if you still remember those!). Hiding cables should perhaps be #1 on your dog proofing list!
Put away edible decorations.
The scent of a dog can reach unforeseeable places. Unfortunately, majority of the dogs are not that picky when it comes to food. Even if you don’t own a dog yet, you’ve surely heard dog owners screaming “No” to their dog, when passing by a dumpster or just left-over food in the park that they can smell from miles away! If you’ve seen “Marley and Me”, you know that dogs turn into Speedy Gonzales with just a hint of any kind of food on the horizon!
Keep garbage cans empty or remove them from the room entirely.
For that same reason, definitely make sure that your dog cannot access the garbage can. There was even a case of a dog swallowing a used tampon – so you definitely do not want to risk seeing what your dog would think of eating! Better safe than sorry, and that is the whole point of dog proofing.
To conclude, yes, pets can be a bit messy. A little bit of damage is perhaps unavoidable. But, the amount of love and joy they will bring to your household outweighs any piece of furniture that is after all, just a material possession. But with the above advice in mind you can efficiently dog proof your home. And there’s a lot you can do to minimise the risk of the damage occurring in the first place and keep your best furry friend safe!