Help my brother create a dog friendly home
January 21, 2014 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Dog owners - what tips or hacks do you have for making your home more dog-friendly? What did you consider when you bought your home in regard to your dog?

My brother is buying a house. What kinds of things (other than the obvious large fenced in yard) should he be considering to keep it dog-friendly for his yellow lab? (sorry, no pic to post).

What kinds of hacks/tips did you do to your home to make it more dog-friendly or made it easier to have a dog?

For example, we were talking about counter tops in the kitchen. While laminate is less expensive, I told him that a real granite counter top would wear better with his dog. I even joked with him that if he re-did the kitchen on a house, he could add a dog-level fountain/sink. He will own the home and his dog is like his child, so nothing will be too crazy or outrageous.

So MeFi, what can you suggest?

Thanks in advance.
posted by NoraCharles to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Like people, dogs get old and have trouble with stairs. Easy, gentle access to that fenced yard and other doggy areas could be helpful.
posted by ghharr at 8:29 AM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Locking kitchen garbage cans
posted by griphus at 8:30 AM on January 21, 2014

A step or platform where doggy can look out a the window at birds, cars, people, squirrels and nap in the sun. My stairs have a window, and my pup spends hours on the landing in the sunshine.
posted by mochapickle at 8:30 AM on January 21, 2014

A family friend of mine is a really intense dog person. She had huskies when remodeling her new home, so she designed a "dog bathroom" ensuite to her office. It's a fully stone tiled room (no grout to clean) with a toilet and sink for the humans, and a shower separated by a partial wall with no lip or door or anything, with a handheld shower head and some above-dog-height shelves. Perfect for washing the dogs, no need to coax them into a tub or close them in with a glass door, and then you can literally hose down any big messes.
posted by Mizu at 8:52 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. Good local routes from the house to walk the dog (sidewalks, non-busy streets, park areas)
2. A convenient off leash park if they have them where he's looking
3. Although we do fine without a dog door, an option to put one in would have been nice.
4. I have hard surface floors with area rugs which makes it a little easier to clean, I think (though if the dog is going to be sick he will ALWAYS seek out one of the rugs. Ugh). But do see if any existing wood floors look scratched. A big dog will make that so much worse.
5. Some sort of water in the yard. Retrievers love it! I have a fountain my dog sits in. My dad has a pool and the dogs are always swimming.
posted by cecic at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2014

Looking back at, I would have definitely picked a different house had I known I would have aging dogs. The entrance to my backyard from my house is through my basement and up stairs - hence my aging dogs have to go down my basement stairs, through the basement, and up the outdoor stairs to get outside. They have no problems now, but as they get older the stairs will be a problem - if possible I would say to pick a house that has a level front door and back door entrance for his dogs as they get older.

I love my dog door, and my dogs took to it right away. I definitely recommend them if you work long hours.

High fence. His dog may not be a jumper, but when they see squirrels or bunnies . . .

Access to heat registers :-) My one dog would lay by the heat register all day and night if I let him.

I'm assuming you were joking about the counter tops? Because he does not want his dog to learn how to be a counter surfer! Trust me, my one dog is horrible at this and I've had a really hard time reversing this. He's very stealth. So having a kitchen that you can block off (with a baby gate?) has been helpful for me.
posted by canda at 9:09 AM on January 21, 2014

Like people, dogs get old and have trouble with stairs. Easy, gentle access to that fenced yard and other doggy areas could be helpful.

Especially true for lab-owners - labs are very prone to hip dysplasia which can make the stairs particularly unpleasant.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2014

Access to heat registers :-) My one dog would lay by the heat register all day and night if I let him.

Came to say this. I live in an apartment so I got to design precisely diddly about it, but the heater system is based on a centrally located box of fire in the living room. This thing belts out a TON of hot hot heat, but my dog's very favorite place to hang out is while plopped directly in front of it. I even got him a little rug to put right in front of there so he'd have his own little spot.

I only have window unit AC but he tries to do the same thing in the summer. He flops out on the back ledge of the couch as close to the AC unit as he can and just sits there in the gentle, cooling breeze.

So yes, I would say that comfortable access to a vent would be very much appreciated by the doggie.
posted by phunniemee at 9:19 AM on January 21, 2014

Seconding a bathroom where it is easy to wash the dog. For a lab-sized dog, bathtubs with the two sliding glass panel enclosures are really difficult to deal with because the opening to the tub is often too narrow to make it comfortable to lean in far enough to reach the dog.

I cut little windows at various locations in the fence and filled them with clear plexiglass for our dog to peek through.

A backyard that has both sun and shade throughout the day, if his dog prefers to nap outdoors.
posted by jamaro at 9:21 AM on January 21, 2014

I made the same mistake with the route to the backyard - it's going to be very expensive to make a route for the dogs to get out that isn't through the basement, but I'm going to have to do it in the next year or so.
Secure neighborhood - if he's going to leave the dog alone out in the fenced backyard, it should be a safe neighborhood.
Secure fence and lockable gate.
Good sun lounging/window looking out spots.
Neighbor dog friends would be a nice bonus - my dog really misses that.
Now I want a dog fountain in the kitchen and windows in the fence :/
posted by mrs. taters at 9:23 AM on January 21, 2014

He should be keeping his dog off the countertop. Picking a "dog friendly" countertop is crazy, sorry.

I also have a lab (ish) dog, and here are home-ish things I think about in various ways:

I'm really glad I have wood and tile floors rather than carpet, because my dog sheds like a mofo. Labs are known for being shedders. It's much easier to just sweep or swiff up the hair rather than having to vacuum constantly.

I also have rugs, which I put away for the first few months that I had this dog because I wasn't 100% sure he was house trained when I adopted him. Being able to do that was nice, even though he's actually never had an accident in the house.

Re the rugs and back to shedding, on the other hand, my beautiful rugs are now dog hair magnets and need much more serious cleaning attention than they used to. My dog treats the living room rug as his personal hangout zone, so it especially tends to attract crumbs, hair, and general dog schmutz.

Re fences, my lab isn't a jumper, and I don't think he could clear a normal-sized fence. I don't think you'll need an especially high one. But bored dogs dig, so you may want to look for a fence that is sunk into concrete rather than one that is directly against the dirt. Unless your dog becomes a serious digger, having him neutered is probably the number one way to prevent him running away. Also, even though my neutered lab isn't particularly inclined to run off, he will use whatever access he can to go exploring. There's a gap in our fence which leads to a neighbor's yard, and my dog will make an immediate beeline for there as soon as I let him out. He always comes back, but I don't know, I guess it's like Mount Everest -- he needs to do it just because it's there.

There are stairs at my place and that's just the way it is (and I wouldn't rule out any stairs at all if there are other more important constraints), but I agree with folks talking about stairs. The stairs have been a roadblock for us in one way or another, and while I doubt my dog is going to have hip dysplasia issues while we're living here, I would probably avoid mandatory stairs if I were buying a place. The main issues we've had with the stairs so far are the dog being afraid of stairs when I first adopted him, and then later they've been a hotspot for leash pulling, dominance behaviors, and all sorts of irritating and unsafe things I've had to constantly train him on. I'm sure if it wasn't stairs it would be something else, but oy.

I don't know if I would build a custom bathroom for my dog, but somewhere indoors that is appropriate for dog bathing would be a huge help. Standing in the yard running a hose over your dog at 9pm after a long day at work when it turned out your dog spent all day rolling around in mud is no fun at all.

Like the counter surfing issue, I was able to train my dog to stay out of the garbage. That said, I'm mostly a vegetarian at home, so there's rarely anything too tempting in there. If you're a big meat eater, yeah, at least get a trash can with a cover, ideally something the dog cannot get into while left alone. I don't know that it needs to be a lock; this would probably depend on exactly how determined your dog is.

I don't really see the point of a dog-level sink. I'm the one filling the water bowl, not him, and I'd rather not have to do it bending down just for the sake of a cute kitchen novelty. Which probably wouldn't be cheap to install, either.

I think it would be kind of cool to have some built-in dog dedicated space, like maybe a closet adapted so that it can be a kennel/den at floor level with dog storage above. Even if he's not getting that elaborate with it, he should definitely think about where the dog's bed or crate will go, and where dog things will be stored. I'm pretty low maintenance about dog stuff, and yet I still find that it piles up. I shove it all into a cupboard, but it would be nice to have a "dog closet" with a hook for the leash and harness and shelf or cubby space for food, toys, random dog supplies, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

If we could wave a magic wand, these are the things we would do/change in our home:

A doorbell with a non-standard sound, so the dog won't bark whenever someone comes calling on a TV program.

Smoke detectors well away from the kitchen so they only go off when there's really a fire.

Regular width doorways, that can accommodate standard baby gates, for the kitchen (or wherever you expect to confine a puppy before it's fully housebroken).

A deck low enough to the ground that the dog can't get underneath.

A nice niche in the kitchen where the dog dishes can be accessible yet out of the way.
posted by DrGail at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Easy access to the backyard, so you don't have to troop all the way through the house to let the dog out at night, or so you can leave the door open in summer.

Securely privacy fenced backyard with sun and shade.

Water available outside.

Good pavements in the area to make dog walking easier. This was important to me as I have bad balance and trip easily on unpaved surfaces.

Make sure that other people in the area have dogs, people put up with the occasional dog barking at a squirrel etc so much better if they are used to dogs in the area or own one themselves.

Non slip floors. While I like our laminated hard wood floors to look at, our dogs hate them, even with rugs and non slip mats on them. In winter when they are playing it seriously cuts down their space to tussle when it's too cold for them to go outside. Wish we'd got all carpets. Our dogs aren't big shedders though, with a lab the ease of cleaning up all that lovely thick double coat moulting everywhere might be of more concern and he'll want easy swiffered floors throughout the house.

If I had the money I'd have a dog bathing area put in the mud room, or a big laundry sink put in (my dogs are small enough I could lift them and wash them there).

Make sure he knows where he's putting the crate, if he crates, before he moves in. Watching my MIL trying to fit one in a tiny house along with her furniture was interesting.

If he can afford it a swimming pool or pond, labs love water.
posted by wwax at 9:44 AM on January 21, 2014

I just thought of one thing I would definitely choose if I were strictly picking a home based around the fact that I have a big silly dog: a long hallway for ball chasing and fetching. Again, pretty sure I wouldn't turn down a place that didn't have this, nor would I build this into a new home deliberately, but if I was looking at places and saw one with a long hallway, I would definitely take it.
posted by Sara C. at 9:45 AM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Awesome answers so far, thank you!

Clarification: The dog does NOT go on the counter top. I was thinking more about wear and tear around the edges of counter tops with paws/nails trying to see what is up there. A laminate would be more likely to peel off.

Keep 'em coming!
posted by NoraCharles at 9:48 AM on January 21, 2014

We have a lab-mix now, and he LOVES running around the house chasing objects. Fortunately, we have an open layout where we can literally chase him in circles around the house to wear him out. Something to think about: Room to play inside!

Beyond the fenced yard, which is nice, make sure he has somewhere to WALK the dog. Dog's need stimulation and enjoy the ability to smell different scents and see different places and interact with other animals and people. Maybe it's a trail nearby, or maybe it's just a walking-friendly neighborhood. Our subdivision, for example, has a one-mile loop around it that's perfect for walks.

Flooring will be a concern. Our previous owners put in nice white berber carpet before we moved in. Ugh. Guess what? Dog's have accidents, even the best trained ones, and they get sick. (Our former Great Dane/Bloodhound mix once ate a 2-lb box of chocolate that he proceeded to vomit all over our white carpet!) So if tile/hardwood is an option, and he keeps the nails trim, go for that. It's so much easier to clean up any icky and also to sweep up any hair. (As others mentioned, our lab sheds like it's going out of style.)

The number 1 thing I'd look for is a nice window seat. Our dog loves staring out the window by laying atop our couch (assuming your dog can handle that without barking up a storm), but Roman shades make it hard for him to do that until we've actually opened them for him — just something to think about, because our shades have a smudge on them from the dogs pushing their head under it when we weren't home.
posted by ilikemethisway at 9:54 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Avoid coffee tables with sharp, pointed edges. Very important for periods of extended TV watching while petting the dog lying beside you.
posted by invisible ink at 11:05 AM on January 21, 2014

What I wish I had with my big dog:

- a mud room. Right now my front door opens straight into the living room, so if I've got a muddy dog the mud gets everywhere.

- a hose outside or a logical dog-friendly bathtub/shower.

What I have that I love:

- a window for her to look out, and a chair underneath it that is HER chair. It's covered with dog fur and who knows what else, but that's the one that she's allowed on and she loves it.

- I have a Kia Soul and I keep the back seats permanently folded down so she has a big flat area to ride in. When I need to cart people in the backseat, I just fold up the seats and voila' - for the most part they are fur free.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2014

Oh, and I took one of my spare rooms and made it into a room with seating for her to look out the window - I prefer it to encouraging her to sit on the living room furniture, which I don't especially mind I guess but it turned out nice to make her a little lounge room. She sleeps with me and we have no crate, but I suppose one whole room could take care of that. She does have other spots around the house.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2014

No major stairs. Ugh. We just moved into a second-floor apartment (no elevator) about the same time my 14-year-old Corgi developed arthritis, and it's a huge pain to carry her up and down them three times a day. I don't know what we'd do if she were any larger.

Definitely definitely no carpets. My Corgi has been getting sick a lot recently and I am so grateful we have new, durable wood-like laminate.

I always said that if I had a house I'd create a dog-washing station in the back yard! Even just a couple of posts with cross-ties, a hose that connected to hot and cold water, and a couple of hooks for towels. An indoor dog-washing friendly bathroom would be even better!

I suppose this is more decorating than actual house, but if you're going to keep the dog crate in the bedroom, some way to make them look nice and out of the way. Our dogs sleep in the bedroom with us because a) they're spoiled and b) we don't have to heat/cool the whole house at night, but their crates are really unattractive and kinda in the way. I'm in an apartment so I don't have a lot of options, but I wish it wasn't so ugly.

If I owned a home, I'd love to have better ventilation (HEPA filter?) so it was easier to make it smell less like dog.
posted by radioamy at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2014

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