Combining households can be a stressful event for anyone—who gets what room, what furniture stays, what furniture goes, and how do you keep one tenant from taking over the whole space? Many dog owners have experienced this. Adopt a dog and suddenly there’s a crate in the middle of the living room, a dog bed taking up half of the bedroom, and a menagerie of chew toys strewn about the house.
How can you keep your home from looking like your dog runs the place?
Dog owners, especially new pet parents, love to make sure their dogs have the best of everything—the best bowls, the fluffiest bed, and the tastiest treats. We leave them home all day, so get them the best toys we can find to keep them occupied. We walk them daily, so we want to have the most comfortable leash, not to mention the matching collar. And dog jackets ensure they’ll stay warm in the winter, dry in the rain, or just look plain adorable. And is there anything cuter than a dog dressed up in his Halloween best?
With my first dog, I was definitely prone to buying all the things I thought she should have. I didn’t realize how much stuff I had acquired until one year and another dog later, I packed up to move. At least Jemma had her own dog backpack to help…
Once we stop to think about it, dogs don’t really need that much. Good quality food (and accompanying bowls), a leash for daily walks, a collar for their ID tags, and a few toys (once you figure out what toys your dog will actually play with, it gets easier to pare this category down). While the extras are nice, if space is a concern, your dog will continue to be perfectly happy with less. Spend some quality time with them and they won’t even notice the handful of missing toys.
Of course, for all the dog necessities you still have, organization is key to keeping squeaking toys from taking over your home. Leashes and coats can be hung by the door with the people outdoor wear. And for other pet gear—out of sight, out of mind. Stackable crates (easily kept in a closet) can keep dog gear all in one place and easily accessible. A toy bin can corral all the gear that Fido still has access to, and just a simple milk crate will do. My dogs know where the toys go, and while I haven’t taught them to pick up after themselves (yet), they go straight to their bin when they’re looking for something to chew or toss around with each other.
The dog crate can, by far, be the most difficult thing to incorporate into your home, especially if you have a large dog. At one point, it was under my dining room table. It then moved to a corner of the living room, and eventually made its way into the bedroom. And then I adopted another dog, and needed double the crate space. While it occasionally seems like my home models an aisle of PetSmart, I’ve decided that the crate is a permanent addition. While I briefly considered getting rid of it (think of the space!), my dog thought otherwise—her crate has always been her safe space, and while she’s graduated from being kenneled while we’re away, she still sleeps there and hangs out in there when she wants some personal space.
If you’re looking to make your crates a bit more integrated into your décor, crate covers may be a great option. Available in a variety of fabrics and styles, they simply go over the top of the crate, and have a fabric door opening, which can be rolled up or down (as can all the sides), for varying levels of coverage. Just beware of the fabric cover if your dogs like to pull things into his kennel to chew. There are also crates designed to look like end tables that just happen to have a door, and these can blend effortlessly into your home. Alternatively you can look into large dog kennels which you could keep outside, and within which you could keep all of their toys so that things are nice and tidy.
Human or Pet
Another way to minimize the pet gear overflow in your home is to adapt human gear to your dog. Floor pillows make great dog beds, and serving bowls make excellent dog bowls. Dog treats (or food) can easily be stored in human food storage containers. Mattress pads can double as car seat protectors, while fleece throws make cozy (and easily laundered) dog blankets. In the colder months, dogs will need that extra warmth and comfort when they sleep, look at this perfect bed for winter to see if this will suit your dog just right, there won’t be any unexpected four-legged visitors in your bed!
Adapting gear you already own to your dogs both saves you money and helps prevent your home from looking like it rolled straight out of a pet store catalogue. I’ve found that dogs don’t mind, and oftentimes need to be explicitly taught what doesn’t belong to them. They’ll happily share the bed, the couch, and your dinner plate. After all, they are a part of your home now.
By Rachel Leisemann Immel