Puppy Proofing Your Home

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 05-05-2021

When is it time for puppy proofing your home?  The answer is easy--before your puppy comes home.  A small breed puppy like a Shih Tzu needs your help  to stay safe and out of harm’s way. You need the peace of mind that your things will be safe from puppy's teeth.

I remember once being told, what’s the big idea?  They can’t knock over a lamp with the swish of a tail or reach the counter and eat your birthday cake.

So why bother, you might ask.  Small dogs have their very unique ways to entertain themselves, especially if they have lots of interesting things convenient to them and I’m not talking about adorable stuffed puppy toys or enticing dog chews. 

Puppy proof your home for no other reason than to keep your puppy safe.    

Puppy Proof Your HomePuppies love to find cords to chew.

Where to Start Puppy Proofing

To Puppy proof your home you must get down to the level of a small puppy and think about all the neat things they might want to explore, chew, eat, shred or otherwise destroy. 

Anything that is on the floor in the room or area you have set aside for your puppy is fair game including the floor itself.  It is much easier if you plan to keep your new puppy in an exercise pen which is tastefully decorated with two dog bowls, a crate and/or bed, some toys and some wee-wee pads. Some prefer to use a water bottle instead of a water bowl.

In the sanctuary of an x-pen, your puppy and your belongings are safe.  What if you don’t have an x-pen?  What about those times when you bring your puppy out to play?  Unless you watch every move, your puppy can get into trouble very quickly and in the puppy’s quest to explore destroy or get hurt, neither of which can have a good outcome. 

Puppy Proofing Protects the PuppyGarbage is so much fun to explore.

X-Pen Designs

These are a couple of designs that are available on Amazon and if you plan to purchase one, I recommend purchasing through Amazon as the prices are usually higher at neighborhood pet stores.

The IRIS 34'' Exercise 8-Panel Pet Playpen with Door can be utilized indoors or outdoors; the pet playpen is portable and provides 21 square feet of exercise space for pets! AND, it comes in colors!

MidWest Brand:  Each panel measures 24"W x 30"H, Exercise Pen / Pet Playpen folds flat for convenient storage.  It provides about 16 square feet of usable space and It is also one of the more economical ones.

This one is very similar to the other IRIS exercise pen, just smaller.  If space is a premium, this is the way to go.  These enclosures are meant to be used alone or added to by buying additional panels.

I've used all of these systems that I have purchased through Amazon and like them very much.  They work great for puppies, however the 24 inch MidWest enclosures are easy for Shih Tzu dogs to climb over.  You can sometimes get around this by purchasing the 36 inch variety.  If you have a climber, though, they will find a way to get out.

On a Personal Note...

I can remember the very first Shih Tzu puppy we ever had in a small apartment where there was no room for an x-pen.  The logical place for the puppy while we were at work was the bathroom. 

It was tiled, no rugs and a convenient place to put down food and water bowls, a bed and the various sundry toys that we had purchased.

Boy were we surprised when we came home to find the puppy comfortably resting on three rolls of shredded toilet paper which flooded the entire bathroom about 4 inches deep!  Onto plan B, we decided. 

So what are some of the things that puppies find irresistible?

Puppies Love...

  • Houseplants
  • Wires from electronics
  • Books, newspaper, and magazines
  • Shoes, slippers, socks, and underwear
  • Wooden objects such as table legs, window sills, wooden gates
  • Chemicals that has been  left out
  • Human snacks you've been munching on
  • Children’s toys
  • Trash can contents
  • Toilet paper or paper towels, Kleenex boxes, baby wipes or anything similar within reach

Chewing Hazards 

Puppies love to tear up paper if given the opportunity.Puppies love to tear up paper if given the opportunity.

While most of the items are relatively harmless to your puppy, the mess that ensues may be the last thing you want to clean up after an exhausting day. 

Some things however can be dangerous such as electrical cords, poisonous plants, and chemicals.  Need I mention the cost to repair?  So the more items you can segregate from your puppy, the easier your job will be.

Inside your home, your wooden furniture is a great toy as small breed puppies love to chew but removing your furniture may not be a good puppy proof option.  

Outside, a large yard with lots of flower beds make a digging puppy very happy. Again you don't want to remove the flowers just to puppy proof the property. 

I've even had my eyeglasses snatched from my nightstand and chewed into a most unusual shape minus the glass part, of course. My daughter has lost several contact lens cases to the puppies--they must be just the right size! 

That hackneyed grade school excuse that my dog ate my homework seems less lame when a new puppy enters your life.  While puppies might find your stuff great fun, you are may not find your canine companions’ antics quite so amusing.   I can personally attest to that!

If you have small children, you are bound to have a (very) large assortment of human toys that puppies cannot have.  Just as with children three and under, puppies tend to put everything in their mouth. 

Small toy pieces are a definite NO.  Small breed dogs are also notorious for finding board game pieces and either swallow them or render them unusable. At this point, you might be saying to yourself, "It's me or the dog!" But alas, there is hope and an easy solution to this dilemma.

Some small breed puppies can be so calm and dependent that you are lured into a false sense of security.  But don’t let them fool you—they are a very curious and curious little dogs can get into big trouble real fast. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your home safe and puppy proof for your young small breed puppy.

Puppy Proof Your Home

Baby gates are great for keeping your puppy confined to one room or out of another room such as a craft room.  They keep them safe at the top of the stairs or secure at the bottom.  But, be sure any gate you get has adequate protection.  Small breed puppies can be very tiny and tend to get through the gate easily. 

Don’t make the mistake of buying a wooden gate, even though it matches your home décor perfectly.  Dogs love to chew on wood.

Consider a quality gate that was meant to last when you puppy proof your home.  Infant gates are great but most people keep infant gates only until their child gets to the point of where they are no longer needed.  You may decide that a gate is needed throughout your dog's 15 year life span.

When puppy proofing,  remove all house plants or put them where they can’t be reached.  So many house plants are poisonous that the list is too long to list here.  Secure all wires and cords including computer wires, lamps, and even ear phones and cell phone chargers. 

Most puppies love to chew and any kind of cord becomes a favorite toy. Chewing behavior is worst when puppies are teething and improves once they get their adult teeth.

However not all small dogs follow this schedule and will continue to chew if given the opportunity and nothing else to sink their teeth into.  

If chewing is a problem, a product such as Bitter Apple® can be used to deter chewing.  

It is worth the money as furniture, window ledges, floor molding can be very tasty to little puppies.  

(Don't believe me, just ask one of my puppy buyers to describe the floor molding in my house.

Click on the image to purchase from Amazon

When puppy proofing your home, don't forget about window blind cords.  They can be extremely dangerous to puppies (and human babies as well).   Secure cords well about the level where puppies can reach when standing up on their two hind legs.

Any kind of paper is a great fun toy—your unread newspaper, favorite book or magazine or your family’s heirloom Bible are all fair game for your puppy if they are left within reach. If left in a bathroom, your sweet little puppy can unroll and entire role of toilet paper in less than 15 minutes then shred the empty roll. 

They’ve even been known to pull out every tissue in a tissue box.  SO MUCH FUN--for them, not for you. If you want to puppy proof your home and still give your puppy his favorite paper to chew, make sure that the paper does not have ink or dyes and that the puppy does not accidentally swallow any pieces.  This should be a supervised activity.

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They also seem to love plastic, so watch out for your medicine bottles and even your eyeglasses!   They are not trying to make your life miserable, they just see something, want to explore it and decide it is theirs. Speaking about plastic, there are plenty of puppy toys out there made with plastic materials that can substitute for your things, so consider them when you puppy proof your home.

Puppies are also notorious for finding food scraps on the floor, love to steal food out of a young child’s hand or work hard to get a forbidden item.  Most human snacks may be tasty, but are not harmful.

The problem with snacks and a tiny 3 pound puppy is that they fill up on snacks and cannot eat the nutritious food needed for their growing body. 

AND, there are some foods that dogs should never eat such as chocolate, raisins, or macadamia nuts.  So, when you're puppy proofing your home, consider the foods that your puppy dog should never eat.

Foods Your Small Dog Should Never Eat:

  • Grapes or raisins
  • Chocolate especially dark chocolate
  • Coffee or other caffeine drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Tea
  • Fatty food such as fat from a steak
  • Avocados
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Chewing gum, candy and breath fresheners containing xylitol
  • Yeast dough
  • Hard candies can be a choking hazard

After reading about Puppy Proofing, you might want to check out an article about Foods Toxic to Dogs. 

About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.