How to Dog-Proof Your Living Room

Whether your dog spends his afternoons lounging on the couch or sneaks the occasional gnaw on your coffee table leg, he probably spends more time in your living room than any other room in the house, so the furniture and décor there will take the biggest beating over the years.

To make sure both your pup and your living room survive without injury, here are six ways to dog proof your family’s favorite space.  

6. Hide All Cables

Cables and cords are often irresistible to pets, especially young ones that might see them as fun toys, and the living room is often a haven of cables between the TV, computer and lamps.

Ideally, if you catch your pet chewing a cord, provide them with a safe, dog-friendly alternative, says Julie Bank, CEO and president of the Pasadena Humane Society. In addition, it’s important to tuck cords behind furniture or mount them on the wall out of your pet’s reach, she says.

“Some pet owners use cord clips with adhesive backing to put the cords up and out of the pet’s reach,” says Dr. Kelly Ryan, director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center. “Or you can purchase a cord cover that is made from a hard material.”

Ryan also suggests using a deterrent spray to keep the pet away from the area.

“These sprays, which are used lightly on and around the cords, can be found at pet supply stores or you can make your own spray with lemon juice and water,” Ryan says.

5. Don’t Forget the Remote 

Remote controls can be very dangerous if a pet ingests them.

“Not only could chewing the remote cause pieces to break off and become lodged in your pet’s throat, they may not be able to pass the plastic,” says Ryan. “Eating the batteries could also be fatal—they contain toxic materials that could leak when punctured either by a pet’s teeth or by the acids in the stomach used in digestion.”

The best solution? Put your TV remote on a high shelf when you’re not using it, Bank says. And if you suspect your pet may have eaten batteries, it should be considered a medical emergency and you should seek veterinary care immediately, Ryan says.

4. Get on Their Eye Level 

The best way to look for items that may be dangerous to your pet is to get down to your pet’s eye level and crawl around the room.

“Look for small items like children’s toys, holiday decorations and bottle caps that your pet might mistake for a toy and accidentally ingest,” says Bank.

Ryan also recommends being especially careful when candles are lit.

“Even if they are on a table, your pet could knock them over,” says Ryan. “And look for hanging blind cords, toxic houseplants and anything that could be chewed.”

Another often-ignored risk in the living room? Fireplaces and other heating devices.

“Be sure to watch your pet near a heat source and don’t let them get too close,” says Bank. “Put up a gate around the fireplace and never encourage your pet to play or sleep near it.”

3. Protect Your Floors 

When it comes to keeping your living room clean, start from the outside of the house and work your way in, says certified professional organizer Helene Segura.

“An Astroturf doormat helps remove dirt from dogs’ paws as they walk across it,” she says. “The blades are firm enough to wipe off some of the debris [your dog]may pick up while outside, but they’re soft enough to not hurt the paw pads.”

It also doesn’t hurt to keep a towel near the door to finish wiping off whatever the mat doesn’t catch, she says.

Tile or wood floors are always the best option for pet owners, as they’re easier to clean and slower to stain, Segura says. If you go for hardwood or wood-like flooring, make sure to check on how they’ll hold up against your dog’s nails, she says.  

If you want carpet or rugs, consider investing in stain-proof, padded carpets that will have the most durability, and consider choosing a spot in the living room for a comfy dog bed.

“This might encourage your dog to spend most of his time in that one particular area,” says Segura. “It’s easier to do a deep clean in one small area than an entire room.”

2. Give Your Couch a Hand 

The easiest way to extend the life of your couch is to train your dogs to stay off the furniture, “but if you have 60-pound-dogs that like to cuddle like ours do, it can be hard to say no to that cute face and that large body leaning against you until you relent,” Segura says.

If your pet is a couch snuggler, Segura suggests using a nice-fitting slip cover to protect it.

“You can also use a decorative blanket and have your pup curl up on that or use a dog cushion on the couch so that your dog know exactly which spot is his,” Segura adds.

When it comes to materials, avoid leather if possible, as moisture stains it and claws can damage it, says designer Mary Schulte.

“Textured sofas are better for dogs—they hide dirt and hair better and can stand up to years of up and down,” she says.

1. Organize the Toys 

If you have kids, chances are good that your living room turns into a playground at least part of the time – which means lots of temptations for your dog.

“The biggest danger when it comes to children’s toys is if a dog ingests the toy,” says Ryan. “Whether it is stuffed, plastic or any other material, it can become lodged in the dog’s throat or obstructed in his intestines.”

Small toys (think Legos or puzzle pieces) are always dangerous, but Ryan says it is especially serious when a dog has chewed a toy with a battery.

To prevent your dog from chewing or swallowing dangerous toys, Bank recommends keeping children’s toys and pets apart.

“Keep toys in a child’s bedroom or playroom,” she says. “If your child is playing with their toys in the family room, be sure to collect all parts and pieces after playtime is over.”

Finally, make sure your dog has plenty of appropriate and durable chew toys made for his age, size and activity level to try to prevent him from chewing your kids’ toys, Ryan says.