We have a new addition to our family! Meet Koda and let’s talk about how to design a dog-friendly home. Because let’s face it, dogs may be lovable and amazing pets, but they can come with their own little army of toys, beds, leashes, bowls, and little messes that are spread throughout the house. But have faith. It is possible to integrate a new little pup without totally disrupting the feng shui of your nicely organized home.
First a little about Koda and then we’ll get to a few tips on how to integrate all the puppy things without totally disrupting your home. If you want to get straight to those tips, scroll down.
Koda is a black lab mix rescue dog and the sweetest little pup that gives the best snuggles. Originally from Alabama, it took Koda a while to get used to our cold New England weather, but that just makes him all the more willing to snuggle when he comes back inside. He loves to nap laying on top of one of us.
My daughter thought of the name from the Brother Bear movie. Koda means “little bear”. Funny enough, KODA also stands for Kid of Deaf Adult, which is very fitting for our family since my middle son is deaf.
I wish I had more pictures of him to show you, but he’s so black that every time we try to snap a photo, it’s just a dark shadow – especially if his eyes are closed. We plan to get him a bright-colored reflective color so we can at least see him at night.
We lost our sweet baby girl beagle, Piper, last August to lymphoma. Last May, we suddenly found out she was sick when she one day woke up with swollen lymph nodes in her neck. I knew right right away it wasn’t good. The vet suggested giving her a steroid which reduced the swelling for 3 months, brought back her energy, and allowed us to have a great summer with her.
We all very quickly missed having a dog around the house. Even though two of the three kids are living away at college, they still begged us for another pup.
While we absolutely loved Piper, this time my husband and I decided we wanted a labrador retriever. I had a black lab in my 20’s and he was an amazing dog. Friendly, but protective, loyal, energetic, happy, easy-going, and easy to train. But most important, he stayed right by my side when off-leash.
Beagles can be tough in that respect. When Piper got outside, her nose hit the ground and she was off to the races chasing scents. We could never let Piper outside off-leash and worried every day about her getting out the door and running into traffic.
Koda is a lab mix. His Dad was a 70 lb. black lab/blue tick hound mix and Mom was a black jack russell. So we think Koda going to be a medium sized dog.
We had an electric fence installed by the Canine Company two weeks ago and he’s already doing great adhering to the boundaries. I’m so happy we won’t have to keep this one on a leash line every day and he will be able to run the yard. He really enjoys his outdoor playtime – which also makes him a more snuggly pup when he comes inside for naps.
We’ve also started puppy training classes at our local PetSmart. These are a little tough for him because he’s such a social dog. He just wants to play with all the other pups! But I’m hopeful that the reinforced training we’re doing with him at home will help before he gets a little older and tries to test his independence.
I actually would love a little feedback on what others are feeding their dogs. My black lab, Colby, was fed Hills Science Diet with some occasional people food mixed in. He was perfectly happy with dry food (wasn’t a beggar) and lived until age 13.
Piper was a picky eater and refused to east just dry food. We tried a few different foods and eventually settled on Blue Buffalo grain free dry food mixed with Merrick wet canned food. I often made homemade dog food (hamburg or chicken and rice with vegetables). You can see that recipe HERE. A lot of the foods we tried with Piper made her sick. I even read that carrageenan, a binder in the food, can make dogs (and people) sick so we tried to stay away from it. The Blue Buffalo has it but the Merrick varieties we bought didn’t.
Knowing that Koda is likely to be a larger dog, we needed a food that wasn’t going to break the bank and didn’t require me to spend hours in the kitchen preparing it. The rescue league gave him Hill Science Diet, so we decided to stick with that knowing Colby did well on it.
For now the only people food Koda gets are fruits and vegetables in small bites. He loves peeled apples, bananas, cantaloupe, and carrots. Before you give your dog any fruits or veggies though, be sure to check online to see what’s safe. Some they cannot digest well.
I would love to hear what you feed your lab if you have one. Is it ok to just feed them dry food? I feel guilty withholding people food, but figured once he gets older and understands not to beg at the table, then we may give him some, but we’re still in the training stage.
Ok, now let’s get into the tips for integrating your dog’s things into your home, because, let’s face it, like babies, puppies comes with THINGS!
Choose a Dog Bed You Don’t Mind Looking At
Invest in a few dog beds that you don’t mind looking at every day. I say a few, because we chose to give him 3 beds. One is in the main part of house (the living room/kitchen area). The second is upstairs in our bedroom. And the third is in my office.
Choosing a style of bed for me meant no sherpa! For some reason I cannot stand the look or feel of sherpa. Instead, we chose soft micro-fiber, velvety pillow-type beds with zippered covers that can be removed and washed when needed.
The bed styles are pretty unassuming – meaning they just look like a large pillow on the floor rather than a dog bed that no human would every sit on. And the colors were chosen to coordinate with the colors in the rooms so we chose two gray beds and one blue.
Find Their Spot
It took a little experimenting, but we (and I mean me and Koda), after much trial and error finally settled on a spot that both he felt comfortable and where I didn’t mind looking at his bed every day.
When Koda first came home, we tried placing his bed in a corner of the living room. He never took to it. So we moved it a few times until we both finally settled on a spot between the living room and kitchen. What I realized was that it was the perfect vantage point where he could see the living room, the kitchen, and the front door and (just like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory) he now has and loves HIS spot!
Do the same thing with their food and water bowls. Place the bowls on a small 2’x3′ area rug and find a spot in the kitchen or dining room where they can eat comfortably. THESE blue and white bowls are adorable.
Corral the Toys in a Basket
There are days when I find Koda’s stuffed animals and chew toys scattered around the house. But just like kids’ shoes, you have to contain the mess. We very quickly grabbed a wicker basket, placed it in the corner and filled it with his toys. Koda knows the basket of goodies is his and can pull them out as he wants them.
Choose Your Sofa Wisely
If you can, choose a sofa color the same color as your pet. Or, choose a dog the same color as your sofa. We have a very dark greenish gray sofa. Koda is black so we don’t see the pet hair on it. But our other dog, Piper, shed white fur on the dark sofa and we (really I) cleaned the sofa every day!
When it comes to fabric, there’s some debate. But speaking from experience, my two biggest tips are: 1. Choose a micro-fiber fabric and 2. Do NOT choose imitation leather or vinyl.
We have the Axis sofa with a micro-fiber fabric from Crate & Barrel. The fabric borders on a very low pile velvet. It’s nice and soft and not like some micro-fibers that have a weird (uncomfortable) feeling when you rub your hand across it. I absolutely LOVE this fabric and plan to buy the same one when we’re ready for a new sofa. It’s durable, easy to clean and easy to vacuum up pet hair.
I would imagine a synthetic velvet would perform similarly. I know there may be some debate about velvet with pets, but I would be willing to go for it.
My brother has 3 dogs and real leather furniture and it’s held up really well. It’s definitely easy to wipe clean. So if you love leather, I’d say go for it, but be sure it’s real leather. Do NOT waste your money on imitation leathers or vinyl. They WILL peel and you’ll be throwing them away after year or two.
Have the Right Cleaning Products on Hand
Puppies will have accidents in the house. It’s a fact. Patience and persistence will make their little surprises fewer and farther between, but in the meantime you have to have the right products on-hand to clean up after them.
First, what not to use… Never use a product with an acidic or ammonia base. Vinegar, lemon-scented cleaners, and ammonia will only enhance the urine smell. Trust me, I made this mistake many years ago. One of my dogs had accidents on a green rug by our back door. I blotted them with paper towels then sprayed the spot with vinegar to disinfect it. Not only did the vinegar enhance the oder, it resulted in brown stains all over the rug; so into the trash it went.
Tip: For urine accidents on carpet, place a folded, absorbent towel on the stain and (with shoes on) stand on the towel for a few seconds. Lift the towel and repeat with a dry portion of the towel. Once it looks like the liquid has been absorbed, then spray with a cleaner.
Here are a few other pet cleaning tools that work really well:
Shark Stick Vacuum: This vac has incredible suction and comes with all the right attachments to remove pet hair from upholstery and carpet. Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago about How to Prevent Your Shark Stick Vacuum from Losing Suction.
ChomChom Roller: This roller removes pet hair from fabric surfaces. Great for quick daily clean-ups so you can enjoy your sofa pet hair-free.
Invest in Wool & Jute Area Rugs
About two years ago, we replaced the standard nylon and polyester rugs in our living room with an area rug that contains wool and it’s made a world of difference. Before, even with the carpet cleaners, we were sometimes left with brown or yellow stains on the off-white carpet and had to throw them away.
Rugs containing wool may be more expensive, but I find that the pet stains clean up so much easier and so far I’m not seeing any remaining signs of the pet accidents.
I tried to find the area rug we have in our living room for you. THIS wool and jute area rug in the natural color looks like a close match and comes in a large 10’x14′ for a living room.
We also have a few pure jute boucle runners in our kitchen. Jute is pretty easy to clean. I take the runners outside and pour hot water mixed with Dawn liquid dish detergent on the stain, then hang them over the outside railing to dry. They do take much longer to dry than the wool rugs but I haven’t noticed any stains on them. Mine are from West Elm. THIS jute runner on Amazon is a close match.
Cover Bathroom Trash
I really like to use small round baskets in place of metal or plastic bins in the bathrooms. They look much prettier. But, dogs love to stick their noses in the bathroom trash. Ladies, it’s time for a rattan trash basket with a lid like THIS one.
Play Music When Your Dog is Home Alone
Koda is a chewer. You know all of that furniture I worked so hard to refinish over the past few years? Well, he liked to chew on it when we first brought him home. We don’t leave him home alone often or for any length of time, but there are occasions when we have to.
We chose not to crate him. Tried that with a dog before and didn’t prefer it for a few different reasons.
We tried leaving Koda in one room with a baby gate in the doorway, but he jumped right over it. And because he’s so anxious about being home alone, he peed, pooped, and threw up.
Then we tried Alexa. We tell Alexa to play “Miranda Lambert” and what do you know… our little Alabama pup likes country music! He goes right to his bed where he can see all access points of the house and stays there until we get home. It’s a life (and furniture) saver!
We purchased the Alexa Echo Dot last Christmas. No Amazon prime membership required. Just take it out of the box and plug it in. It does ask you to download the Alexa app to your smart phone (but I don’t know if that’s required). I love this little Echo Dot! Great sound. And I just say “Alexa play Miranda Lambert” or “Alexa play country music” and I have a very content pup.
Use Thin Comforters & a Bed Runner
So, I admit that we let our dog sleep on our bed. I know a lot of you do too. And if you do, I’m really happy you stuck with me until the end of this long post because these could be my most valuable tips yet for those who let their dogs on their bed. Two things…
First, layer your bed with thin comforters. I love a nice plush bed that looks like a thick white cloud of a comforter. Well, here’s a secret…
You can get that same cloud-like comforter by layering several thin comforters together. THESE down-alternative comforters are nice and soft and are the ones we have. In the summer we use just one on the bed and in the winter we layer on two and three. The king size is thin enough to fit in the washing machine so we can wash the top one that the dog lays on once a week and always have a clean bed.
Second, make a bed runner. We used to have a thick blue, printed Ralph Lauren comforter on our king-sized bed. The large size made it really hard to wash in the washing machine. So I cut our thick blue comforter in half and sewed it along the edge. Now we have a smaller, folded bed runner that goes along the bottom third of the bed. The bed runner also adds color to our otherwise white bedding.
Those are my tips for designing a dog-friendly home. Do you have more? Share them in the comments. I want to hear them all!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products I use myself and plan to use with our new puppy.