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Tips for Living Well with Your Dog: Lifestyle and Behavior

Don't let your home be a deathtrap for your pet

Fourth of a six-part series

nglish Setters are best known for their extraordinary ability to sniff out birds, but one of my pals had a special knack for nosing around in the kitchen trash barrel.

Periodically, a scent in the barrel would appeal to her. I would come home and find wrappers, banana peels and used coffee grounds strewn across the kitchen floor. Usually she targeted a harmless scrap of pizza crust or drippings from a yogurt container.

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Fortunately, the coffee grounds had no appeal to my loyal companion, because little did I realize at the time that coffee can cause excessive heart rate and seizures in dogs.

A home is rife with dangers for dogs. Some are obvious, but the hazards are hidden in many other cases. Here are some potential hazards in each area of a home and safety precautions a pet parent can take.


Get a trash barrel with a secure lid or put the barrel inside a cabinet. Curious dogs - especially puppies - love to poke through trash containers. And a kitchen barrel is loaded with potential hazards. It may contain scraps of dangerous food, cartoons or paper that pose a choking hazard and sharp objects that may cause a cut.

Beware of people foods because many are dangerous for dogs. Chocolate can cause excessive heart rate and seizures and bones can splinter and damage a dog's digestive tract. Store food in secure cabinets out of reach. Remember, dogs can be inventive when it comes to seeking out food. They have been known jump on counters or tables and reach those high places, so keep the cabinets shut.

Always keep a pet away from the stove or oven when cooking. Hot spills can cause severe burns to skin or even blindness if grease splatters into a dog's eyes. Your pal might also get tangled you under your feet while you are cooking, causing a fall which can be dangerous for you and your dog. The best way to avoid a problem is keep your pal out of the kitchen when you are cooking.Do not keep cleaning solutions in the cabinet under the sink. They are within easy reach of a pet if the cabinet is left open. A curious pooch may knock something over and cause a spill of a dangerous solution. Keep cleaning solutions in a high place out of reach in the basement.

Living Room

Take precautions when using the fireplace. Sitting by a fire can be fun for you, but it could be an accident waiting to happen for a curious, unsuspecting dog. Your pal may know enough to stay away from the fire, but a playful pooch could easily rub up against hot fireplace tools or a screen.

Choose house plants carefully. A picture or bay window is a favorite place for plants, but some vegetation is dangerous for dogs. Dieffenbachia and philodendron can cause extreme pain and inflammation if ingested. Oleander is so toxic that even a single leaf, berry or the water these cut flowers is sitting in can kill. Certain types of ivy, such as English ivy, can cause severe harm.

Get rid of window treatments with hanging cords. Many drapes have dangling cords that pose a strangulation hazard if a dog gets tangled. Replace them a cordless product or buy a window spike that screws into the wall and tie off the cord.


Keep personal care products in cabinets.
Many can cause upset stomach or be fatal if ingested. For example, many toothpastes contain Xylitol, a natural sweeter which is harmless to people but can send a dog's blood sugar plummeting to life-threatening lows in just minutes and cause liver failure within 12 to 24 hours. So even remnants of toothpaste on a sink that a dog licks can pose danger.

Secure the bath mat. Many bath rugs sit on tile floors and slide around when a dog moves across them. Your pal could slip and fall on the hard floor or hit his head on a bath fixture. Perhaps the best option is to make the bathroom off limits by keeping the door shut.


Tie off and tuck away cords. Bedrooms are also a place where we run lots of cords for items like alarm clocks, lamps, cordless phones and sometimes computers. Cords can be a tripping hazard if a dog gets tangled, and they make fun toys for a puppy to chew on, posing an electrocution danger. Tie them off and tuck them away safely in a corner or behind a bureau or bed where they are inaccessible. Also, spray cords with a bitter-tasting deterrent. Again, perhaps the best option is to make the bedroom off limits by keeping the door shut.

Be careful of personal care items like perfumes and colognes. Some people keep them on a bureau. These items contain alcohol, so a curious dog licking at a spill could get in trouble.

Lastly, remember the hazards in a garage - an absolute deathtrap. The threats are numerous: automobile antifreeze, which can cause organ damage or kill if only a tiny amount is ingested; garden products, which are poisonous in many cases; shape tools and nails, which can cause cuts and injury; the vehicle, which a dog can wander behind while it is backing out; and the automatic garage, which can result in serious injury or even kill if a dog gets caught under it.Do a careful Inspection of the garage. Lock away in cabinets all garden products, automobile items, and tools and nails. And make sure the automatic door opener is in good working order.

Always keep your pal leashed and supervised in the garage and consider banning him from it, because a garage has too many potential dangers. Never leave your pal alone in this deathtrap. Even when taking your dog from the house to the car - or vice-versa - keep him on a leash to avoid having him wander. Remember, a garage is a minefield of trouble for a dog and a curious, unrestrained pooch can get into trouble - or even killed - in seconds.

The best way to make a home safe for a dog is to use the same approach that you would take with a toddler. Nose around the home for potential dangers and make the necessary changes. Like children, our dogs have little understanding about the dangers that surround them, so the responsibility falls upon us to sniff out those hazards and keep our loyal companions safe.

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