We bought food bowls, borrowed a crate and dusted off baby gates. But soon after we adopted our 13-week-old puppy, we discovered the house wasn't ready.
Clove, a Labrador retriever mix, chewed wires we thought were hidden and investigated stairs we thought she'd ignore. She rummaged through deep plastic bins holding smelly shin guards and plucked snow-soaked mittens from our warm radiators. Within a week of her arrival, we had to block off power strips, reorganize our mudroom, devise a new plan for drying winter gear and gate the staircase.
"It's a lot like having an infant in the household," said Pamela Barlow, animal behavior counselor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' adoption center in New York City.
Barlow says puppies need constant supervision and a safe environment to explore.
Puppies are drawn to things they can chew on and are stimulated by things that move, said Dr. Carlo Siracusa, director of the Penn Vet Behavior Service at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Many times we think that we should protect our home from a new puppy," Siracusa said, because the puppy potentially could cause damage. More important is the opposite: making sure that puppies are safe in their new home.
Puppy-behavior experts recommend these steps to protect your puppy at home:
- Gate off rooms where you don't want your puppy to roam.
- Let puppies earn their freedom. Give them one space or room at a time.
- Create a safe confinement area - a crate or exercise pen, for instance - where the puppy can stay when you are not home. There should be enough space for a sleeping area and a potty area when puppies are very young. Also essential are a nonspill water bowl and safe, enriching toys.
- Tape loose electrical cords. Use outlet covers.
- Store cleaning chemicals out of reach. Use baby latches on cabinet doors if needed.
- Move breakables and valuables out of the puppy's reach.
In your yard:
- Do not leave a puppy unsupervised, and be sure to fence in your yard before letting the puppy off leash.
- Fence off the garden.
- Use pet-safe gardening products.
- Store grill utensils out of the puppy's reach.
- Make sure a swimming pool is fenced.
- Check the ASPCA's list of poisonous plants.
- As soon as puppies are old enough, start training them, especially the "drop it" and "leave it" commands.