German Shepherd Proofing Your House

The German shepherd is a very curious dog that, if given the chance, will explore every area of your home and yard. For this reason, German shepherd proofing your home before you bring your puppy or dog home is very important.

As intelligent as your shepherd is, he doesn’t know which things are safe for him to ingest or touch and which are poisonous or unsafe. You will have to make sure that your German shepherd does not have access to anything you would not normally give to him yourself.

The strategies behind shepherd-proofing a house are to keep dangerous items out of sight and out of reach. When your dog is young, he will not be able to reach many items that are placed higher up; however, as your puppy matures, he will show extraordinary jumping abilities. As a general rule, you’ll want to keep your tabletops and counters clear of breakables and free of food items. Also, be aware that simply keeping items out of reach and out of sight may not be enough. German Shepherds are known for their ability to figure out complex problems, particularly if there is a reward involved, such as food or gaining access to a favorite toy.

Your Shepherd’s Own Space

Whether you are bringing home a puppy or a rescued adult, you will need to provide a place just for your German shepherd. The best way to do this is to set up a crate in a busy area of the home. Your shepherd will want to have a safe cubby to retreat to, but will not want to be left out of the action.

Usually this means creating an area that can be sectioned off from the rest of the house with doors or dog gates. You will want your shepherd to be able to spend time with you without having to keep an eye on him at all times, particularly during the housetraining phase.

The dog’s area should also be in a part of your house with very few valuables, breakables, or toxic substances. Additionally, the area should be easy to clean in case of any accidents. Rooms that have hard floors, such as tile, linoleum, vinyl, or high-grade laminate floors, are all excellent choices.

Kitchen and Dining Areas

Many of the food items that you eat regularly can be harmful to your dog. For example, onions are toxic to dogs, as are grapes, raisins, alcohol, tea, coffee, and chocolate. Dogs have different digestive systems than humans do and for reasons that are not always understood, cannot process certain foods. Chocolate is probably the best-known example, but grapes and raisins are potentially lethal, even in small amounts they have the power to cause renal (kidney) failure in a dog.

It takes only a few seconds for a shepherd to break into a sack of onions or a package of chocolate. Items as innocuous as green skinned or sprouting potatoes can also pose a threat. Make sure the pantry door is secured at all times, and keep toxic food items safely stowed in containers with lids on high shelves.

Many people store their cleaning items under the sink in the kitchen. These abrasive cleaners can be very dangerous to your dog. A curious puppy or adult shepherd might gain access to this storage area unless you keep it tightly secured with a safety lock or other device. Even if you don’t think your dog will try to get into this area, keep it locked as a precaution.

Another big problem for dog owners can be the garbage. Many people use a variety of methods to keep dogs from getting into the garbage can but the most effective solution is putting the garbage can behind a closed door where the dog will not be tempted.

Bathrooms and Laundry facilities

The bathroom is another area of the house in which cleaners are routinely stored behind cabinet doors. Other poisonous items commonly kept under the sink or in cabinets include medication, soap, cosmetics, perfume, deodorant, shampoo, hair dye, toothpaste, and other personal–care products. Unless you can guarantee that you and your family will always shut the bathroom door, you should put all these items behind cabinet doors and use safety locks to secure them.

Another danger in the bathroom are toilet-bowl cleaners that either fasten onto the inside of the bowl or releases cleaner with every flush. If you use this type of product in your bathrooms, make sure that your shepherd will not be able to get to the toilet water or be able to remove and ingest the dispenser unit.

The laundry room is another area where a shepherd can do a lot of damage. Soap, detergents, stain removers, ammonia, and other products are very toxic, even in small quantities. Additionally, even if your shepherd doesn’t eat the product, spilling some of these products on his coat or splashing them in his eyes can be tragic. Keep these items away from your shepherd. If he does splash a product on himself, flush the area with water and call your veterinarian for advice on your way to an emergency clinic.

It is also important to keep clothing out of your German shepherd’s reach. Any garments with loose straps, drawstrings, lace, buttons, or other details are likely to attract your dog's attention. Your shepherd, especially a puppy that likes to chew, will turn these garments into rags in no time. Garments that begin to unravel and expose loose strings and pieces of yarn can also pose a serious danger to canine chewers. Puppies and dogs can choke on long strands if they swallow them. Keeping your laundry out of sight will help protect your clothing and your dog.

Closets and Kid’s Rooms

There are lots of things in your closets that your shepherd could find and chew on. Shoes, clothing, linens, and stored items like photos are prime candidates for your dog’s unwanted attention.To avoid problems, keep the closet door closed, as well as the door to the bathroom. Don’t store anything poisonous, such as mothballs, in the closet either, just in case your shepherd figures out a way to get in.

Children’s rooms also contain a variety of items that your shepherd would love to play with or chew. The only thing a German Shepherd may love more than the kids themselves are the toys that they play with and conveniently leave strewn around the room. A kid’s room is a chewing wonderland. Action figures and dolls with small parts can present choking hazards; children’s art supplies, like markers, crayons, and paints can make a dog sick and create quite a mess; and breakable items can leave shards of plastic or glass on the floor or in the carpet if tampered with. The good news is that children may be more motivated to pick up their toys if they know that the dog could get into them, but keep the bedroom doors closed as a precaution anyway.

Other Living Spaces

Almost every area of the house includes items that could be harmful to your dog. One of the most overlooked dangers that can be found in almost every room is electrical cords. Chewing through a lamp cord or computer cable can potentially give a puppy or adult dog a lethal shock. If the shepherd chews partially through the cord when the item is not turned on or plugged in, the situation can become a fire hazard when power is restored to the object. As a preventive measure, cover cords and cables with protective plastic designed for this purpose or make sure the cords are completely hidden behind furniture or under rugs.

Other dangerous items include plug-in air fresheners. Not only could your shepherd get a shock by licking or trying to pull this item out of the socket, but the chemicals in the plug-in are also toxic. Dogs are also attracted to scented potpourri and candles. Ingestion of these items could cause serious illness, not to mention danger to a home if a candle is lit.

Your home office can pose a variety of hazards. Dropped staples, push pins, and paper clips are items a shepherd might try to eat, thus cutting up his mouth, or to swallow, potentially causing extensive internal damage. Keep these items in drawers and make sure the floor is clear at all times. Also, make sure your office trashcan is not accessible to your shepherd.

If you have an insect or rodent problem in your home, be very careful about the chemicals you use to treat the situation. Ant killer, mouse poison, and roach motels are highly toxic. They also seem to be irresistible to dogs of all ages, perhaps because of their sweet odor or taste. Do not set out any bait in areas where your shepherd can get to them. Keep in mind that the shepherd is physically strong and even stronger willed and will move filing cabinets and furniture to get to something she finds interesting.

Batteries can also be tempting chew items and are poisonous. Dispose of all sizes of spent batteries appropriately. Keep fresh batteries in closed drawers and be sure to put away any items that contain batteries, such as remote controls and battery-powered portable radios and CD players.

Odds and Ends

Dogs of all breeds seem to be attracted to wooden items, such as windowsills, chair legs, table legs, and cabinet corners, to name a few. To prevent the first gnaw mark on your furniture, cabinetry, and windows, consider using Bitter Apple spray or gel, or another foul-tasting, nontoxic product specifically designed for this purpose. Hopefully, your shepherd will be repelled by the bitter taste and learn that these areas are off-limits. These sprays can also be effective on pillows, hand towels, and other items a dog might steal for chewing.

Don’t forget to check your home for plants that are toxic, too. Aloe Vera, amaryllis, azalea, chrysanthemum, cyclamen, Dieffenbachia, English ivy, hydrangea, Kaffir lily, philodendron, and poinsettia are just a few plants commonly found in homes that can cause anything from minor irritation to severe illness in dogs. Keep these plants and any nontoxic plants you don’t want your shepherd to “prune” out of reach or outside of the home.


The garage presents two different kinds of probable hazards to your shepherd; heavy and/or sharp objects and poisons. If your garage is like most, it is probably cluttered with items, from tools and automotive equipment to lawnmowers and painting supplies. The objects that are most dangerous to your puppy or adult shepherd are likely within easy sight or reach, making the hazards even more prominent.

If your shepherd is investigating your garage, she’s not going to realize that your ladder is leaning a bit precariously against the wall. She also won’t notice that the shelving, which she is thinking of climbing in her quest to get that paintbrush, is not sturdy and can’t support her weight. Nor does she realize that tugging on an oily cloth on the shelf is going to send several paint cans flying. Even just walking around the garage can send a row of bikes tumbling, which can cause harm to both the bikes and the dog.

Puppies are most susceptible to injury from falling objects, but adult shepherds are not completely safe either. The best way to avoid trouble in the garage is to keep the area tightly secured and to make sure the dog has no reason to enter. If she should get in, at least be sure all items in your garage are safely stowed out of reach.

Most people are aware that antifreeze is a very toxic substance. Even a few drops lapped up by a wandering dog can be lethal. There are many other dangerous items in the garage as well. Leftover paint, fertilizer, insecticide, weed killer, rat poison, oil, transmission fluid, wax and polish, nails, screws, and other sharp objects are just a few that come to mind.The best way to avoid disaster is to keep the dog out of the garage at all times. However, if she should wander into the garage, you may want to be sure that all dangerous items are tightly secured in boxes, crates, cans, of jugs with lids. As an added bonus, your clean, organized garage will be much more user-friendly.

Outside Areas

Once you’ve shepherd-proofed your home, you’ll also need to check the surrounding outdoor property for hazardous material. Just as you did inside, you should be sure there are no exposed electrical wires, cords, or cables on the exterior of your home. It is also a good to know what kinds of paints have been used on the exterior of your home. Lead-based paints can cause a lot of damage to dogs with chewing habits.

Other dangers include stairs or walkways in disrepair, benches or statues that could be knocked over by an enthusiastic shepherd, and large equipment, such as lawnmowers, that a dog could collide with. If a shepherd mistakes a glass door for negative space, he might run right through it. Likewise, mesh screens used to keep flying insects out of a porch or patio will not deter a shepherd running at full speed. The best thing to do in these cases is acquaint your shepherd with glass doors and screens so that he knows they are solid dividers. Once he learns that the door must be opened to allow passage, he will remember not to run straight through.


A fenced backyard is an absolute must if you have a German Shepherd. This breed should never be chained up outside; the shepherd has far too much energy to be trapped in one spot. The dog must be free to run and play within a defined area so that you can keep track of the dog while he expends his energy. Statistically, a chained dog is one of the most frequent causes of serious bites, attacks, and fatalities. If you don’t already have a fence for your yard, put one up before you get the dog. Be sure the fence is sturdy and tall enough so that the shepherd cannot jump over it.

If you already have a fence, survey it for hazards. With a wooden fence, make sure each section is securely nailed or screwed to the posts. The sections should not be wobbly and they should be nailed on the inside of the posts. If the fencing is on the outside of the posts, your shepherd might be able to push the fence section outward and get loose. Also, be sure that no nails, screws, or splinters are protruding from the fence. Areas with rotted wood should be replaced. Sand any rough areas or peeling paint so that the dog isn’t tempted to chew or scratch. Finally, be sure that the fence is low enough to the ground that the dog can’t crawl beneath it.

Chain-link fences should also be inspected for any signs of metal failure. The fence should be tight between its metal posts and sunk into the ground. Shepherds can climb chain-linked fences but usually won’t do this if they are receiving enough exercise, mental stimulation, and interaction with their owners; however, there are always exceptions. You might also consider adding a below-ground invisible electric fence that works with a companion collar to alert the dog when he is approaching the fence and physically discourage him from violating the barrier.

Lawn and Garden

Many ornamental plants and virtually all spring and summer bulbs are toxic. Be aware of which plants in your yard are hazardous, and either pull them up and replant them elsewhere or make it so that your shepherd can’t gnaw or eat them. If you’re hesitant about taking any such drastic measures, make sure you’re always outside with your shepherd. Keep an eye on him, and note whether he shows any interest in these plants. If he does, either supervise him heavily or move the plants. Some poisonous plants that are commonly found in yards include azaleas, baneberry, lantana, chokecherry, daffodil, hyacinth, tulip bulbs, foxglove, hydrangea, oleander, wisteria and yew. Of course, the plants you grow aren’t the only dangers to your shepherd in your yard. The fertilizers, insecticides, and weed killers you use are also hazardous. Before using any chemicals in your yard or on your lawn, read the labels very carefully. Some products are no longer toxic after they dry, while others remain toxic in any form.

If in doubt, don’t use the product. Investigate other methods of eradicating pests, such as using an insecticidal soap that is harmless to animals and to you. Your German shepherd is certainly more important than a pristine garden and perfect lawn. Don’t forget that you can always fence off areas of your yard that you don’t want your shepherd to enter. If you’re creative, you can make this part of your landscape design and have the best of both worlds.

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