Naughty pets? How to protect your home

Published On: Nov 15 2011 09:50:51 AM EST   Updated On: Nov 15 2011 09:56:29 AM EST
MIAMI -

When first-time dog owner Laura Taylor brought home her Chihuahua, she thought the tiny bundle of joy with adorable pointed ears would bring her hours of companionship and fun."

Tequila was so cute. The way she looked up at me whenever I was on the couch and she couldn't jump up to be with me was just precious," she said.

Precious, that is, until Laura got home one day to find her tiny bundle of joy perched on the leather couch surrounded by the remains of what had been a phone bill, the latest issue of "Martha Stewart Living" and the tattered graduation picture she'd received from her niece.

Tequila had clearly mastered the Olympic sport of doggie couch jumping. If she didn't know any better, Laura would have sworn the dog had gotten into a bottle of her namesake.

Tips To Protect Your Pet And Home

"It's a story we've all heard at one time or another," said Dr. Amy Balko of Faithful Companions Animal Clinic in South Florida. "Your pet is as curious as a baby who has just learned to walk. And she'll exercise that curiosity to the max."

Pet-proofing your home begins when you decide which parts of the house you want to share with your four-legged friends, said Dawn Hanna of Oh Behave, Professional Dog Training.

"Unsupervised freedom is not a given," she said. "It should be earned. Use a crate or a child gate to confine your pets to certain areas. Keep doors closed to keep Fido or Fluffy out of rooms that are off limits. But be careful of doors that close themselves."

"I once went outside in a blinding rain storm to look for Tequila when I thought she had run out of the house," Laura said. "After frantically looking around for almost an hour, her bark led me to the garage utility room with the self-closing door."

Look At Life From Their Point Of View

"It may sound crazy," Hannah said, "but get down on the floor and look at your house from a pet's eye view.

Pets love to steal things that don't belong to them. So, clean up after yourself and remove the temptation. Pick things up off the floor and tables. Do not leave food, cans, candy, empty containers or plastic bags unattended. Even something as benign as a sock can be hazardous if your pet were to swallow it.

Cleaners, bleaches, fertilizers and antifreeze should be kept out of reach and behind closed doors. And since most of these items are found in your garage, that should be one room that's completely off limits to your pets.

Off-Limits

Trash containers are irresistible to pets, and they often contain dangerous goodies like rubber bands, Q-tips, needles, thread and staples -- goodies that may require surgery to remove.

Bathrooms offer an often overlooked hazard. "I used to think those greeting cards and photos showing a dog drinking from the toilet bowl were hilarious," Laura said. But she wasn't laughing the day she had to rescue Tequila from the upstairs bathroom.

Also remember that whatever you use to clean your toilet could poison your pets. So, keep the toilet lid down and look for other photo opportunities.

"Keep medicines and vitamins out of reach," said Dr. Balko. "Hide electrical cords or anything that could strangle your pet. And never leave a candle unattended."

If you love plants, remember that some are poisonous to pets. To learn more about poisonous plants and the symptoms to look for, visit The Animal Poison Control Center. If you have vines or hanging plants, keep them out of your pet's reach. A curious animal can jump up and bring down whatever it grabs.

Remember to close off any balconies or windows from which your pet could jump.

Toss Those Old Toys

Pets love their toys, but you'd never know it the way they bite, cut and mangle them. "Tequila will work for hours to get the squeaker out of her squeaky toys," Laura said. Inspect your pet's toys and throw out anything that's old, tattered or that can hurt your pet if swallowed.

You should also teach your children to keep their toys away from pets and put toys away so pets can't get to them.

"Good luck with that one!" Laura said.

"Pet-proofing your home sounds a lot like the advice you'd get if you had a small child," Dr. Balko said. But you have to be even more vigilant.

"A toddler may not be able to jump on your kitchen counter and grab those cookies you left out," she said. "But it's a skill any cat can master. The phrase "curiosity killed the cat" is not just a cliché."