Making Your Home Dachshund-Proof

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • Acknowledging how your Dachshund sees the world
  • Making your home safer for your Dachsie
  • Dealing with stairs, beds, couches, and other dangers

If you have small children or small siblings, you probably know all about childproofing the house. You cover electrical outlets, put childproof latches on the bottom cabinets, stow all the cleaners and household chemicals out of reach, and put those covers over the doorknobs so the little ones don’t open the door and go wandering away.

But how much consideration have you given to puppy-proofing? A new puppy can get into a lot of trouble if the house isn’t puppyproofed, and Dachshunds in particular — who joyfully gnaw through or swallow just about anything they can get their teeth around and who are too short to jump safely from great heights — are particularly in need of a safe, secure, Dachs-proofed household.

How do you Dachs-proof your home? First, you read this chapter. Then you get busy and make a few changes before you let that puppy loose in the house. It only takes a moment for a puppy to get in trouble when you aren’t watching, so just as with a baby, better safe than sorry. The extra effort you spend to prepare your home for your newest Dachsie resident is well worth it for everyone.

Considering a Dachs-Eye View of Home

The world looks a lot different to a Dachshund than it does to you. Can you imagine walking around with your eye level less than a foot above the ground? No? Try it. In fact, the best thing to do before you change one single thing about your household in preparation for your new puppy is to get down on your belly and look around each room in your house. (You may want to vacuum first. You’ll be sliding around on the floor!)
Find a piece of paper and a pen or pencil; then get on down there. That’s it, get right down to the floor. All the way down. You’re still too tall if you’re on your hands and knees. All the way down on your belly.
Now take a good look around: This is a Dachs-eye view of the world.
Try to think like a Dachshund puppy. Get excited, a little nervous, and very, very curious. From your Dachshund vantage point, what do you see that looks like fun? Ooh, a dangling miniblind cord! Could be perfect for a game of tug of war. Look at that bottle cap under the couch! Feeling the urge to ferret it out and give it a good crunch? What about that nice display of China figurines, almost within reach? Maybe if you jumped. . . .
Make a note of everything you see that could possibly cause trouble for a small dog. Stay down there until you’re sure that you’ve exhausted the possibilities. Read on for some things to look for while you’re surveying. Then, after you’re done, you may just feel the urge to curl up and take a nap. See any comfy pillows? A Dachshund-friendly house should have at least a few.

The danger of choke chains

I don’t generally recommend choke collars (one end slips through a loop on the other end so the collar tightens when pulled) because I don’t think they’re necessary when positive training methods are employed. Miniature Dachshunds in particular can be injured by a choke collar, but these collars can be dangerous for any Dachshund because of their small size and delicate spines. Plus, a choke collar could get caught on something with disastrous results. I wouldn’t risk it! A better option is the Gentle Leader, or Halti Collar. These effective training devices give you more control over the dog without having to jerk your little one around.

Preparing for Demolition Dog

So you think your sweet little dog couldn’t make too much of a mess? You’d be surprised. Do you really love your collection of antique teacups or crystal vases? Then either display them well above the level any Dachshund can reach or put them away for a while. Puppies are exuberant and curious, and they haven’t yet learned what areas are off limits to them (see Figure 6-1). It’s not the puppy’s fault if he jumps onto that end table to see just what’Technical Stuff up there and breaks something valuable. Imagine that you have a toddler in the house and pack away the fragile stuff accordingly.
Figure 6-1: Dachshunds love to get into things, and that includes making a bed out of your favorite blanket. (Photo courtesy of Melody Levine.)
Also, although a Dachshund is small, he has a pretty big mouth, and I don’t just mean he barks a lot. He can also chew to the point of major destruction. Really. No two ways about it, Dachshunds love to chew. In fact, they not only love it, but they also consider it their dog-given right. Your Dachshund will consider anything that looks chewable to be his own personal property. So you thought that slipper was yours? Think again. As far as your new puppy is concerned, if he sees it and decides he wants to chew it, it’s his.

The world is his chew toy

The best way to combat the loss of some of your more valuable pairs of shoes, not to mention your furniture, is to have a good supply of acceptable chew toys on hand. Stow them everywhere so one is always within reach. Look for sturdy chew toys without small parts that could break off. If you’re consistent about enforcing the house rules, your new puppy will soon learn what is okay to chew and what isn’t. Then, eventually, he’ll develop enough selfcontrol to stop himself from chewing that juicy-looking, brand-new sneaker.

Warning!

Avoid giving your Dachshund cat toys, even if you have a Mini. Dachshunds are more enthusiastic chewers than cats and they have larger mouths and stronger jaws. Cat toys often have small pieces like bells, feathers, or felt that a Dachshund can easily swallow or choke on.

The best way to discourage this sort of destruction in the early stages is to offer a firm “No” when your Dachshund is in the process  of chewing or clawing; then immediately redirect him to an acceptablebut similar activity. For example, if your Dachsie is chewing your shoe, say “No!” and then take away the shoe, replacing it with a chew toy in his mouth. If he chews the chew toy, heap on the praise.

Tip

If you have a piece of furniture or other object that your Dachshund just won’t leave alone, buy a bottle of chew-deterrent spray, like Bitter Apple brand spray, and follow the directions. This spray makes the object taste horrible, and your Dachshund will probably learn quickly to leave it alone. If this doesn’t work, you may also try wrapping the area in aluminum foil or keeping a spray bottle filled with water on hand to deter the behavior. Or you can keep a can filled with pennies nearby to startle your Dachshund away from the forbidden area.

If you have a digger, you may want to consider purchasing a few carpet squares or remnants that are reserved for your Dachshund. He can dig and scratch on them to his heart’s content. If he scratches and digs on your carpet or wall, move him immediately to his carpet — even help move his paws in a digging motion over it. If he gets it, praise him for all you’re worth. He’ll get the idea . . . eventually.

Choking hazards

Take a good look around your home for small objects on the floor or within reach that would fit in your Dachshund’s mouth. Things like bottle caps, rubber bands, string or thread, loose screws, twist ties, small blocks or balls (such as cat toys), and even small wads of paper trash. All these things can be hazardous to your puppy. Small, hard objects can lodge in a dog’s throat and block the air passages. String-like objects can actually cause internal damage.
If your puppy does choke on something, let him try to dislodge it himself. If your dog isn’t breathing, whether unconscious or not, try to hook the object out with your finger, if he’ll let you. Just don’t force the object in farther. If that procedure doesn’t work, you can try a movement similar to the Heimlich maneuver:
1. Place your Dachshund up on all fours and then lift his front end slightly off the ground.
2. Put your fist (on a Standard) or thumb (on a Mini) on his upper abdomen just below his rib cage and then thrust upward.
Don’t be too rough. You don’t want to injure him. And keep doing this procedure a few times to try to get the object out.
3. Do one of the following:
  • If you can dislodge the object, take him straight to the vet after your dog can breathe. He may have internal injuries.
  • If you can’t dislodge the object, rush your pet to the nearest vet or emergency pet care facility. If you can, take someone with you who can keep trying the modified Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the object en route.
If all this choking talk sounds scary to you, you’re right to feel alarmed. The best thing to do is keep all choking hazards out of reach, especially if your puppy tends to try to chew on everything in sight. Some puppies are more inclined to chew than others, but chewing is definitely a Dachshund trait.

Warning!

When you’re looking for potential choking hazards, don’t forget to look for strangling hazards, too. More cats than dogs are probably strangled in blind cords, but it can happen. Keep blind cords out of reach — especially if you have children. Keep all the little ones safe: human, canine, and feline. Small dogs can also get caught up in drapery sashes or miniblinds. Also remove any hook-like objects that are within reach but off the floor because they may possibly catch on your puppy’s collar or leash.

Poisons

Want another thing to worry about with a chew-happy puppy? Poisons. Even if you keep the drain cleaner and the bleach out of reach, plenty of other household items and substances can poison your puppy, from ibuprofen (like Advil) or aspirin tablets to rotten food in your trashcan. Here are some common household poisons that you should keep well out of reach from your puppy:

Cleaners of all types. Some are more toxic than others, but who wants to wait and see which ones may be okay?

All human and pet medication. Even if you’re not sure that a specific medicine is toxic to pets, keep them all out of reach. Some medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil), are highly toxic to pets.

Pesticides of any type. Even your pet’s flea control product can be toxic if gobbled up. Don’t let your puppy play with or chew any insect traps or bait, like rat, mouse, or roach traps.

Certain foods. Dogs can be poisoned by chocolate, onions, grapes or raisins, and even sugarless gum. Even small amounts can be fatal.

Some houseplants. They’re poisonous to varying degrees. Keep your plants above Dachshund level.

Some miscellaneous items. Many seemingly innocuous items can be extremely toxic to a dog, such as potpourri oil, coffee grounds, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent, batteries, cigarettes, and alcohol.

While doing poison control, don’t forget the yard. Keep your puppy off the lawn if you’ve recently sprayed it with insecticides or fertilizer. Keep all lawn and garden chemicals out of reach (not to mention sharp objects). Keep your puppy out of the garage, too. Gasoline, oil, and antifreeze can kill your puppy. Also, the following common outdoor plants are poisonous to dogs:
  • Azalea
  • Oleander
  • Castor bean
  • Sago palm
  • Yew plant

Warning!

One tablespoon of antifreeze can kill a 20-pound dog, so imagine how little it would take to harm your Mini Dachshund. Antifreeze smells and tastes yummy to dogs. So Dachs-proof your garage and driveway in the winter by keeping antifreeze out of reach. Even leaking or spilled puddles on the driveway can mean death to your dog. (Note that you can now buy antifreeze that’s advertised as safer for pets, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still do everything you can to keep your pet away from it.)

Remember

If you know or suspect that your dog has been poisoned, call the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC), a 24-hour emergency veterinary poison hotline. A $55 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card. Call 1-888-426-4435. Post this phone number on your refrigerator with your other emergency numbers. When you need the number, you’ll need it fast. You can get more information at the NAPCC Web site, at www.napcc.aspca.org.

Compensating for Stairs

A big thing to consider when Dachs-proofing your home is how to make your stairs Dachshund-friendly. Stairs are hard on Dachshund backs (see Chapter Handling Dachshund Health Problems), especially for the Minis because each step is a lot bigger to a 7-pound dog than to a 30-pound dog. If you have stairs in your home, that’s no reason to give up your Dachshund dreams. But you do need to take a few precautions.
If you have the space and the resources, a ramp is great for Dachshunds. A ramp is most practical outside, where you can offer your dog an alternate route off the deck. The problem is that some Dachshunds ignore that carefully constructed ramp and take the stairs anyway. (Some gladly use the ramp, though. You just never know.)

Tip

You can install a gate so the ramp is the only way down for your pet, but now you’re getting pretty fancy. Some gates, made for small children or pets, bolt onto walls or decks and have an easyopen swinging mechanism for the convenience of adults. This option is worth it if you can afford it, but it’s not for everyone.

Inside is a different story. Most people don’t have the space to build a ramp over half their staircase. The best solution is to install those pet gates (or baby gates) at the top and bottom of all staircases. The newer ones bolt to the wall and swing open so you don’t have to take the whole gate off to go up and down. Most can be operated easily with one hand. Then, when your Dachsie has to go upstairs, you can pick him up and carry him. And when he’s ready to go back down? Pick him up and carry him again.
Some people aren’t willing to do this task, of course, and others argue that Dachshunds are built to be natural athletes and should be able to climb stairs. I won’t argue. Some Dachsies race up and down the stairs all day long, every day, and never suffer from a back problem. Others may develop back problems, and you won’t know whether or not it had anything to do with daily jaunts up and down your staircase.

Remember

Deciding whether or not your Dachsie is allowed to climb the stairs comes down to risk assessment. Going up and down stairs can be hard on those Dachshunds who’ll probably have back problems anyway, and climbing the steps may trigger an incident. Other dogs, though, will be fine. You can play it safe but expend more effort, or you can expend a lot of effort to prevent something that may never happen. As long as you recognize that you’re taking responsibility for your pet, you can make the decision.

Ledges and Couches and Beds, Oh My!

Some Dachshunds are impossible to keep off beds and couches, and when they decide to get down, they get down before you can stop them. Some people build little Dachshund ramps from their beds and couches so their Dachshunds can scamper easily down from high places. Others recognize that their pets are going to jump, and these folks just hope for the best. It’s up to you to gauge your individual situation and determine what works for you and your pet, but it is possible to train a Dachshund to use a ramp.
by Eve Adamson

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