Whether you’re about to become a dog owner or you’ve been asked to look after someone’s pet, take time to dog-proof your home and garden – for the dog’s benefit and yours. Trips to the vet because your four-legged friend has injured itself or eaten something it shouldn’t have can be avoided. All you need is a little planning and some common sense.
Have a good tidy-up
Before a dog arrives, tidy up and lift everything off the floor. Don’t leave items lying around simply to be picked up by a puppy who can’t tell the difference between a rubber bone and your favourite sandals. If you have grandchildren, look out for any little plastic toys that could be easily swallowed.
Make safety checks
Tuck away power cords that could be tripped over or chewed through, and for extra piece of mind, use cable protectors. Fix broken floorboards, tiles and skirting too – it’s amazing what some dogs will chew.
Close cupboards and doors
A kitchen is full of interesting smells and things to eat. To stop inquisitive dogs stealing food or drinking dangerous cleaning products, close cupboard doors and attach child-proof latches. Do the same in your bathroom – keep shampoos and lotions out of reach, the toilet lid down or just shut the door (and tell others to do the same).
Protect belongings and furniture
Dogs love things that smell of you, so keep bedroom doors closed and don’t let it choose a cashmere jumper as a dog blanket. Make sure clean laundry doesn’t sit around in a basket either – it’s a perfect place to snuggle down. And be aware that if you allow your dog up on a sofa, it won’t understand why it can’t sleep on your bed.
Use a stair gate and indoor kennel
If you don’t want your dog to go upstairs, a stair gate may be a good idea. Many rescue shelters also recommend an indoor kennel or crate so your dog has its own safe den, and you know where it is. See www.bluecross.org.uk on how to use a kennel properly.
Shut garden gates
Dogs should be microchipped and wear an ID tag, but don’t make it easy for them to escape. Check gates shut properly, consider adding a lock and make sure there are no gaps underneath for a puppy to wriggle through. If the postman uses the gate, put up a letterbox outside.
Make a fence secure
Not only does your garden fence need to be tall enough so your dog doesn’t jump over it, the fence should go far enough down into the earth so your pooch doesn’t dig its way out. Fill in holes with soil or bricks, and patch up any gaps. Move away tables or chairs near walls so your dog doesn’t use them as climbing frames.
Look out for hazards
Paint, insecticides, slug pellets, fertilisers, antifreeze – they can all be dangerous to pets. And don’t let your dog snack on mouldy food on your compost heap. Cover garden ponds, at least for a while with a puppy. You can avoid accidents by keeping your dog out of the way when using the lawnmower, strimmer and hedge trimmers.
Choose non-toxic plants
Fortunately most dogs won’t eat plants, but it’s good to know which ones can be dangerous if swallowed. Rhododendron, bluebells, cyclamen, even some daffodil bulbs can make your dog sick if eaten, as well as onions and rhubarb leaves. For a comprehensive list, see www.dogstrust.org
Give your dog its own space
If you own an energetic digger who always seems to be destroying your garden, give it a specific area to play in. Hide toys there and leave treats and water, and your dog will soon mark this space as its own territory, hopefully leaving the rest of your garden alone.