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When you get a dog, you need to prepare your home much like you’re preparing for a natural disaster. Especially if your dog’s name has ‘hurricane’ in it. I’ve spent the first five weeks making my home safe for Hurricane Dixie Mafia. Much of what I’ve learned can be hazardous to a dog, I’ve found out over the last 20 years of having dogs. Fortunately with the internet it’s easier than ever to research what is and isn’t good for dogs. Here are six simple ways to make your home safe for your dog.

Even if you get an older dog, you may not know much of their past. You don’t know what things they like to destroy or ingest. You may not know what things or situations trigger obsessive chewing or tearing apart of couch cushions. You’ll want to think of all the things they could get into or be tempted by. You really have to think like a dog. Not just any dog, but a dog that likes to get into anything and everything. Even if your dog isn’t super curious or into stuff they may be suddenly tempted by something. Go through the house and pick out all the things that could harm them. Or search the internet for what things other peoples dogs have gotten into.

Hurricane Dixie Mafia chilling' on the deck.

Baby gates can be a life saver. They are good for keeping puppies and dogs in certain areas of the house as well as keeping them out of areas of the house. A good rule of thumb is to not leave your dog unattended. If you don’t have eyes on them, don’t leave the room.

Ten years ago when Caesar was just a pup, I left my cell phone on the couch while I ran downstairs to check on the laundry. When I came back, he had eaten my cell phone. Sure, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have left it unattended. Also, I had my ringtone set to a cat meowing. Of course he was going to be interested in it. On the new phone I set the ringtone to a dog barking. I figure the worst that’s going to happen is he’ll hump it to death. And yeah, I did get a joke out of that scenario. Also a new phone. The lesson here is don’t tempt your dog.

The morning after we brought Dixie home, I was in the backyard with her. Within a matter of seconds, she was able to crawl through the privacy fence. We’re used to 90 pound dogs and keeping them in our backyard with no problems. She’s 45 pounds and was able to make her way between the privacy fence slats. We had rescued her 20 hours earlier and now our neighbor had to rescue her again. Thank goodness the neighbor was outside working and was able to catch her.

This situation required js to check our fence perimeter and patch up any spots where a less than 90 dog could sneak through. I’m happy to say she hasn’t escaped again. But I also make sure I’m near the back door when I let her outside, if not sitting outside with her. Eyes on her all the time or at least close enough that I can hear her collar moving about the backyard.

If you can’t keep an eye on your dog, you can always crate them so you can get stuff done. I always hate the thought of doing this. But my dogs love their crate. It gives them a sense of security. Plus, since I work from home they get to run around a ton so putting them in their crate isn’t a huge deal. I think I feel worse about it than they do. It’s an option.

Caesar giving me 5 seconds of his dog park time to snap a pic.

A spray bottle filled with water can be a good deterrent to problem behavior. The first week we had Dixie, she became obsessed with the chipmunks in our yard that were also living under our deck. She would dig the dirt around the deck to try and get to them. I squirted her with the water bottle on one, maybe two occasions and she stopped her digging! I didn’t expect it to work that quickly. And I definitely thought I’d need to use other means to curb this habit.

I’m sure it helps that both Caesar and Dixie are super prissy when it comes to water. Most dogs at the dog park make a run for the open bodies of water. Mine want nothing to do with it. Which is great because I don’t have to clean them off every single time we go to the dog park. But it’s also hard to keep them cool in the heat when they want nothing to do with cooling off in water. You’d never know they both had webbed feet the way they react to water.

Don’t leave anything on the table or counters that you don’t want your dog getting into because some dogs love to counter surf. Sure they may be well behaved when you’re present, but if you turn your back for a minute it’s just enough time for them to get what they want and make off with it.

Our dog Rebel loved butter. You couldn’t leave it on the counter without him knowing and stealing it. Caesar once got a rotisserie chicken carcass off the counter and ate it. We had it for dinner and left it on the counter to take out to the garbage, thus removing the temptation for him to get it (even though our garbage is under the sink and he’s never gotten into it). But we forgot to take it out when we made a quick Target run. We felt horrible. But we’ve never made that mistake again. And he had no adverse effects from it which is the main thing.

Indoor garbage should be in a place where it’s not too tempting for the dog or easy for them to access it. Ours is under the sink so it’s hard for the dogs to get to. They’ve never once tried opening the cupboard door. But, if they do or you’re afraid they will, you can always put those cupboard locks on them to avoid them opening the door and dragging out the garbage. You could also buy cans that can’t be opened by your dog.

Covers for electrical outlets can be a good idea. We’ve never done this because most of our outlets seem to be blocked by furniture. The few that our exposed have never been tempting for our dogs. But it can be a good idea as who knows what dogs get into when you’re not around.

dogs as friends

Know which people foods unsafe for dogs. With our first dog, Rebel, I didn’t know that grapes were toxic for dogs. A good friend of mine was giving her dog grapes as a snack on a regular basis so I started doing the same thing. Not long after I learned that grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs. Here’s an article from ASPCA about which people foods not to feed your dog. Some of the food items may surprise you, as they did me.

It’s natural to give your dog some people food now and then. Or accidentally drop food on the floor and let the dog get it. But knowing which foods are problematic for dogs will ensure that you don’t need to make an expensive trip to the emergency vet.

We came home from work to find that Rebel had chewed through a plastic bottle of Captain Morgan Rum and was drunk off his butt! Our fault for buying a plastic bottle of alcohol. What are we, 14?! Also, for trusting a dog named Rebel to not get in trouble. That dog lived up to his name many times over.

Fortunately, there is an Poison Control you can call for dogs. The ASPCA article says the number is (888) 426-4435 but the number I call is (800) 548-2423. They talked me through the drunk dog scenario, telling me to keep an eye on him and make sure he drinks plenty of water. Much like what you’d do with a drunk friend. It’s definitely a good number to have on speed dial or in your Contacts. They have vets on staff to help with any situation.

I called them recently when I accidentally gave Caesar two heart worm pills instead of a heart worm and a flea & tick pill. My vet gave me a new brand of heart worm pills and I was just finishing up with the last of the old brand. I got the pills mixed up. I knew it as soon as I gave him the second dose. I felt awful. I immediately thought about inducing vomiting but I’ve never been successful with that in Rebel so I wasn’t looking forward to trying it with Caesar. I was pretty sure he’d be okay but it was nice to have a vet review my case and provide me with things to look for and when to call back, if needed.

I love when Caesar and Dixie snuggle up!

Keeping your dog safe can seem like a daunting task, especially when there are so many things they can get into. Add to that the fact that you may spend hours away from them while they freely roam the house, and it only increases the chances that they may get into something they shouldn’t. No home can be 100% dog safe because you never really can predict what your dog will get into. But hopefully these six tips will put you on the path to making your home safer for your dog.

How do you keep your home safe for your dog?

What’s the craziest thing that your dog has ever gotten into?

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