Essential Guide to Puppy Proofing Your Apartment: Protect Your New Pup
How is puppy proofing your apartment different from puppy proofing a house?
Puppies arrive mobile and curious. And their first INSTINCT is to put things in their mouth. So it’s in your best interest to puppy-proof your home.
Apartment or condo living poses different challenges to puppy owners. While much of the puppy proofing advice given in our blog on “How to Puppy Proof Your House” will certainly apply here as well, you want to know the best tips for puppy proofing your apartment or condo.
Following those tips will ensure your new puppy has a safe place to call home.
7 Easy Steps to Puppy Proofing Your Apartment or Condo
1. Take A Good Look Around From A Puppy’s Perspective
The first step in puppy-proofing your apartment or condo is to get down on your hands and knees and explore every room of your home as if you were a curious puppy. Look at everything from floor level to ceiling that a puppy might find when exploring her new home.
Be sure to also check under and behind furniture, behind open doors, and in closets and cabinets within puppy’s reach that aren’t securely locked. Little puppies have a knack for getting into smaller spaces than their owners think they can!
As you do this, it is important to remember that your puppy’s first instinct is to sniff and then put unfamiliar things in her mouth.
It's a good idea to check your balcony, courtyard, and carport or garage as well.
Make note of everything that catches your eye that might be hazardous for an adventurous puppy. We’ll offer tips for how to address the most common issues below.
Some common potential hazards a puppy might encounter in an apartment or condo include:
- Electrical cords, cables, and wires
- Small items that can become choking hazards
- Trash bins without secure lids
- Plants, shrubs, and flowers
- Human food that is harmful to dogs like chocolate, coffee, onions, garlic, tea leaves, and more
- Medications and vitamin supplements
- Tobacco products and other recreational drugs
- Insecticides, pesticides, rodent bait, and flea and tick products
- Household cleaning products and disinfectants
- Laundry detergent, fabric softener, bleach
- Liquid potpourri, essential oils, and air fresheners
- Ice melt and other de-icing products that aren’t pet safe
- Stairs and balconies with rails that puppy’s head can fit through
2. Tidy Up
Keeping a tidy home in good repair helps ensure hazards are kept out of your puppy’s environment. Whereas anything that is within puppy’s reach becomes fair game for puppy’s exploration.
Trash bins, spills, laundry, nylons, shoes, toys and games, books, small electronics, mobile devices, belts, and keys can lure your puppy into a dangerous predicament. For renters, it’s especially important to watch out for moldings, flooring surfaces, even drywall that your pup may decide is a great toy.
Cleaning and tidying up your home on a regular basis gives you an opportunity to periodically check to ensure no new hazards have entered puppy’s environment. Explain to other family members, even small children, their role in keeping this furry friend safe while protecting their own belongings at the same time.
3. Keep Toxic and Potentially Harmful Items Out of Puppy’s Reach
As mentioned above, medications, vitamin supplements, certain foods, household items, and plants can be toxic to your furry friend. For maximum protection, we recommend moving these items to a high shelf or storing them in secure cabinets that have child-proof latches or locks.
Prevent electric shock or strangulation from electrical cords, cables, wires, and even cords from draperies and blinds by storing them in cord boxes, behind plastic safety channels, or under cord covers.
Batteries do terrible damage. Keep them all out of reach, including those in handheld games and electronic devices like remote controls and key fobs.
Replace open wastebaskets and trash cans with ones that have lids. Cotton balls, cosmetic pads, cotton swabs, bones, corn cobs, and other food waste are especially hazardous to your puppy.
We also recommend removing toxic plants and flowers from your puppy’s environment because you can’t rely on plant stands to keep these items out of a determined puppy’s reach. Plant stands are easily knocked over or scaled by an energetic pup. There are lots of safe alternatives you can decorate with and these will survive best when placed outside of puppy’s reach.
Keep toilet lids closed to prevent your pup from going in for a drink. Besides being full of bacteria and other pathogens, leftover chemicals also pose a threat to the health of your pup.
Block access to the cat litter box. For some reason, dogs love eating cat poop and will ingest cat litter in the process. Besides being gross and exposing your pup to pathogens, cat litter contains clay or other ingredients that can not only be toxic but also cause a blockage in the digestive tract that requires veterinary care.
4. Prevent Accidental Injuries
You’ll need to protect your puppy from accidental injuries such as taking a tumble down the stairs, getting wedged in stair or balcony rails or an elevator door, or falling into a pool.
If your home has interior stairs, be sure to use child safety gates to prevent your puppy from accidentally falling down the stairs.
Most balcony and stair railings have vertical posts that are safe for people, but too wide to keep a silly puppy from falling off! Put up a barrier of some kind, and check it daily if your pup spends any time out there.
If your home has direct access to an elevator door, use a child safety gate to keep your puppy a safe distance from the door.
The best way to prevent your pup from accidentally falling into a pool is to make sure your pup is always on leash any time she’s outdoors.
5. Create A Designated Puppy Place
Finding enough space for a small puppy until their potty training and chewing is managed can be a challenge in an apartment or condo. We typically recommend setting up a puppy pen with puppy’s crate, food, water, and toys, and enough room to roam a little.
If there is no room for this type of puppy pen set up in your home, you can use baby gates in one small room to keep your puppy safe.
Once your puppy has proven trustworthy with potty training and no chewing in one room, you can begin to introduce a new space, but go slowly. If accidents begin, step the training back into one room.
6. Manage Puppy’s Energy
Puppies with excess energy are unable to control themselves and engage in all kinds of soothing activities – – like chewing, scratching, and digging – – that can quickly put them at risk for harm.
An overly energetic, excited puppy is also more prone to barking which is annoying to neighbors living in close proximity and may lead to problems with your landlord. So an important part of puppy-proofing is providing safe, positive outlets for your puppy’s energy.
It’s super helpful if you start by choosing a breed that is best suited to life in a small space. It’s important to consider the breed’s size, temperament, and energy requirements.
Most larger dogs don’t do well in apartments or condos due to physical constraints. We want our pups to be able to stretch out and be comfortable as they grow.
Temperament traits like being highly social or overly protective may make apartment life difficult for a breed of any size.
And high-energy breeds, such as a Beagle, may not be as well suited to an apartment.
So it’s important to look at your pup’s breed traits, and plan accordingly. Be sure to provide chew toys and enrichment toys to prevent boredom and give your puppy an outlet for some of that energy.
If you work outside the home, you may also want to enlist the help of a professional dog walker or enroll your pup in doggy daycare.
All dogs need access to places for regular decompression walks, running, and doing lots of sniffing.
7. Prepare for Potty Training
An important part of puppy proofing your apartment or condo is preventing potty accidents and getting your puppy safely to the designated potty spot. Getting outside can be difficult if you live in a highrise, or if the outside potty area is a distance from your door.
You may need to use an interim potty spot in the beginning to help your tiny pup. But do NOT use pee pads! They teach your pup to potty inside the house and can become chew toys (yuck!).
Instead, we recommend using a grass patch on a tray that you can either place on your balcony or by the door so your puppy learns to go potty outside. Transitioning from grass patch to grass lawn is so much easier for pups as they get older.
Stairs and elevators are likely unfamiliar to your puppy. Going up and down a set of stairs isn’t a natural puppy behavior. So you will need to start slow and condition them to this scary activity. Really small pups can’t reach to climb up the stairs at first, and their center of gravity can make them tumble when going downstairs.
Elevators can also be terrifying. It’s important to go especially slow when introducing your puppy to using an elevator so that you build your puppy’s confidence. And always have your puppy on a leash when you go out the door.
Okay, have we presented a lot of situations that feel scary? There are things to look out for and tips on managing your space to keep both puppy and your belongings safe and sound. As we tell our students, “It’s fine, until it’s not fine.” Plan ahead to keep it fine!
With proper dog training, security, and regular puppy-proofing checks, your apartment or condo can be a happy and safe home for you and your new puppy!
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.