5 Steps to a Dog-Friendly Home
Dog-proofing your house can reduce your likelihood of having to make an emergency trip to the veterinarian—here are some simple steps that you can take to keep your house safe and dog-friendly for your furry family member:
1. Build a Great First-Aid Kit
Having a first-aid kit on hand will give you the provisions you will need if your dog has a minor medical situation. In the event of a serious or life-threatening incident, the supplies in the kit may help you keep your pet stable until you get to the veterinarian's office.
Ask your veterinarian about preferred and safe brand names as well as dosages that are safe for your dog's size.
2. Keep Poisonous Substances Sealed and Out of Reach
Dogs love to taste almost everything around them. Unfortunately, they seem to like the taste of many foods, plants, and chemicals that are poisonous to them, and they can ingest a dangerous or lethal amount in a short time.
Chemicals of all kinds present a danger to pets. Cleaning supplies may look like enticing dog toys to be opened or chewed on, and many people keep them in the cabinet under the kitchen or bathroom sink. If you have a dog who is able to get into cabinets, invest in a lock or move the chemicals to a safer location.
Other chemical dangers include paint cans, lawn care materials, and winterizing products. Always make sure that these products are properly sealed and safely stored away. Antifreeze tops the list of chemicals that poison pets because of its sweet taste. Puddles of antifreeze lurk in garages, in driveways, and on roads. Never let your pet lick or drink from a puddle; it could contain antifreeze or other toxic substances.
Foods that are safe for humans can be toxic to dogs. Store any toxic foods in your upper cabinets or on your highest shelves. If your dog is clever enough to open doors, use childproof locks on your cabinet and refrigerator doors.
Can your dog reach the preparation counter or kitchen table to steal food? If your dog is an accomplished jumper, a devious climber, or tall enough to reach, never leave food unattended. Even small dogs can leap up onto an empty kitchen chair to reach the table.
The following are some foods that are toxic to dogs:
As with food, many plants have an intoxicating aroma. Toxic plants should never be within reach of your dog. Use only nontoxic plants on low-lying surfaces, such as coffee tables. Also, if you have a garden in your yard, make sure that your dog cannot access any of the toxic plants.
The following are some plants that are toxic to dogs:
Also be aware that the garbage can is a temptation for dogs and may contain tossed-out toxic foods and plants, splintered bones, and other dangers to your pet. Keep it stored in a safe area.
3. Keep Your Home and Yard Escape-Proof
A dog who can bolt off into the unknown is at risk. Until your dog can reliably obey the stay command by an open door, you will need to take extra measures to keep him safely inside.
Indoor dog gates or baby gates are an easy way to keep your dog away from open doors. Make sure that the gate is tall enough to prevent jumpers from escaping and built to prevent small dogs from slipping through.
Be extra cautious if visitors or maintenance workers are going in and out. Asking them "not to let the dog out" is not a realistic safety precaution. If the danger of your dog escaping will only last for a short time, you can put him in his crate with a treat.
If your yard has a fenced-in area, make sure that the fence is high enough to contain your dog. Some dogs can leap surprisingly high, so research your breed's capabilities. Also make sure that the fence is flush enough to the ground to prevent diggers from escaping (you may need to lay cement for more persistent dogs) and that your pet can't manipulate the gate and open it.
Be aware of the snow level in your yard during the winter months. Is the snow piling up high enough against the fence to make an escape route for your dog?
4. Accommodate Your Senior Dog
There are numerous ways to keep senior dogs and dogs with arthritis happy and comfortable, including raised food and water bowls, orthopedic dog beds, and even heated bed warmers.
If your dog is having trouble getting up onto the couch or into your bed, there are dog stairs in various heights. If stairs are daunting, ramps are another option. There are also ramps made to help your aging buddy get in and out of the car.
Lift harnesses are made for dogs who need assistance lifting up their front or back ends. Pet strollers offer another means of getting out and about.
5. Reduce Clutter Around the House
"The dog ate my homework." What is funny as a joke can be a disaster in real life. Reducing clutter around your home will lessen the chance that your dog will chew on items that can be hazardous to his health. And giving your dog a more enjoyable alternative to destructive chewing will help minimize the random chewing of items around the house—or the house itself, including baseboard and drywall—by shifting his or her chewing desires to a durable chew toy.
But back to the clutter: Does your dog like to chew paper? Get rid of those piles of newspapers and magazines.
Is your dog a "clothes hound?" Do you have a family member who tosses clothes on the couch instead of the hamper? Keep your dog and your clothing—especially shoes, which seem to be irresistible to some dogs—safe by keeping them out of your dogs reach altogether.
Prevent Destructive Chewing
Our homes are filled with electronic gadgets, such as smartphones, tablets, and remotes. Dogs have been known to chew on or even ingest these items; in fact, it is estimated that pets damage some $3 billion worth of electronic devices in the U.S. every year! In addition to having sharp metal or plastic pieces, these devices often contain highly dangerous materials. Don't leave your gadgets strewn around the house in places where your dog can find them.
Dogs simply have a natural instinct to chew, and instinct is a very powerful force to overcome. So trying to get your dog to stop chewing can be a frustrating and ultimately fruitless exercise. Instead, redirect your dog's chewing instincts with durable, flavored dog chews from Nylabone, designed with flavor all the way through so the last chew is as good as the first. And Nylabone chew toys come in a variety of shapes, flavors, and sizes to suit the chewing needs of any dog. Literally, "Nylabone Chews Best"—they certainly taste and chew better than your shoes, cell phone and remote control, and are a much safer alternative to those dangerous and often toxic items.
Dianne Bourgeois is a contributing writer for Pug Talk magazine; editor of Pug Phoenix, the newsletter for the Pug Rescue of New England; and is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America, the Patriot Pug Club, and the Red Hat Society. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and beloved Pug.