Nicole Crystal’s house in Oradell, N.J., wasn’t always a fun house for her Goldendoodle. Before she bought Bowie three years ago, she regularly polished the vintage pine floors of her 19th-century home, had a cozy reading nook in a corner of the living room, and covered her white sofa with colorful throw pillows.
Now, Bowie runs the show. Area rugs cover the floors to keep him from scratching the wood or slipping. The reading nook has been replaced with a ball pit to hide doggy treats. And the white sofa is sheathed in a slipcover, the throw pillows stored away in a basket.
“It’s all about him now,” said Ms. Crystal, 39, a photographer. Bowie even has an Instagram account with 3,700 followers.
Ms. Crystal never expected to be the kind of dog owner who would surrender the home she’d spent years restoring. Yet here she is. “If asked four years ago how my dog would affect my home décor, I would have said, ‘Not at all,’” she said. “I would have been so wrong.”
Pet adoptions have spiked during the pandemic, as people look for ways to break up the monotony and loneliness of coronavirus quarantine. And of course, like babies, puppies come with gear. They need beds, crates, toys and bowls for food and water. Like new parents, new dog owners quickly learn just how much of their home they’re willing to surrender to their new family member.
However, with a few thoughtful purchases and some attention to detail, any home can feel like a welcoming space for dogs and their humans.
Keeping Your Style, Even With a Pup
While researching her book “At Home With Dogs and Their Designers,” Susanna Salk found a common trait among the designers she profiled: Nothing in their home was off limits. “Dogs were on fancy antiques. Dogs were on beautifully upholstered velvet sofas,” she said. “You have to go into it with an attitude of acceptance. The dog is a part of the family.”
Designers do have their tricks. Carolyne Roehm buys extra fabric when she upholsters a piece of furniture, then lays the swatch over the cushion when one of her six dogs wants up. Bunny Williams uses faux fur throws to protect furniture, a tip Ms. Salk applied to her own home in Connecticut, where she has three dogs.
“First of all, they look great in a room,” said Ms. Salk, who also wrote “At Home in the English Countryside: Designers and their Dogs.” “If I know that I’ll be gone for a long period of time, I’ll put those out and the dogs will just lie on it and it protects your sofa cushion and you throw it in the wash.”
When buying new furniture or rugs, choose colors that complement your pet’s fur (if you have a golden retriever, for example, avoid navy.) Look for stain-resistant materials, like microfiber. Choose patterned rugs that hide stains. Indoor-outdoor rugs can be washed down. Other types, like Ruggable rugs, can go in the washing machine. And get a pet-hair-friendly vacuum cleaner, like a Dyson V8 Animal. If you have a puppy, avoid furniture with wood legs, because what puppy doesn’t love demolishing a stick?
Alessandra Wood, the vice president of style at Modsy, an online design service, likes leather because the fur from her dog Coco, a Chihuahua and Jack Russell mix, won’t stick to it. But don’t expect that leather sofa to look pristine after a few rounds with your pet. “It’s not for type-A people who would freak out when they see a scratch,” Dr. Wood warned. “You have to be someone who loves a good pair of vintage boots.”
Get on Your Dog’s Level
Spend time figuring out what your space looks like from your dog’s vantage. That’s right, get on your hands and knees and check out the view.
“Is there an electrical cord under the couch that you may not notice? Are your most important pieces of artwork at mouth level? Is it safe for them? When in doubt, put it up,” said Colleen Demling-Riley, the dog behaviorist at Dogtopia, a national dog day-care franchise based in Phoenix. “Dogs will be dogs, they will chew things.”
Pay attention to how far your dog has to jump to get to the sofa (if you allow that sort of thing). Over time, that impact can take a toll on any dog’s joints. Position an ottoman, stool or sturdy poof at the foot of the sofa to provide a lift, without sacrificing the style of the room.
Store the toys in a basket that the pooch can access, but choose one that looks nothing like the ones that store human items, lest the dog mistake your favorite slippers for a new chew toy.
And watch to see where your dog finds a calming corner. Maybe it’s a nook in your home office, or a living room chair. Wherever it is, help your dog claim it by leaving a blanket, bed and some favorite toys. “If your dog is there, let him be,” Ms. Demling-Riley said.
Making a Bed for Your Four-Legged Friend
Wire or plastic crates are not the most attractive accessories, so choose the spot for yours wisely. “If it feels like an eyesore, it may not be the best place,” said Dr. Wood of Modsy.
A cloth crate cover that matches your décor can help camouflage it. Or, tuck it away under a table. Charlotte Reed, the host of the syndicated radio show “The Pet Buzz,” who kept six dogs in a Manhattan apartment, tucks crates under end tables in her living room, which is now in Florida, making sure the dog still has a view to gaze out.
Before you invest in a pricey dog bed (and there are plenty to choose from), spend time observing your pet’s sleeping behavior. Some dogs stretch out long, others sleep in a ball. Some like to nestle up against a wall. Once your dog is house trained and no longer chewing up everything in sight, look for a bed with a shape, and a style, that fits.
“You can have a lot of fun,” Dr. Wood said. “That is definitely a place to lean into your style, your color palette.”
Ms. Crystal, the owner of Bowie, has six dog beds, including a raised one in the kitchen that helps keep Bowie cool. And Kim Kavin, the author of “Little Boy Blue: A Puppy’s Rescue From Death Row and His Owner’s Journey for Truth,” has two mutts and three beds. Her favorite bed is made from a wine barrel that she had shipped from California to her home in Long Valley, N.J. “I paid around $ 200 bucks at a craft market in downtown Napa. It ended up costing more than a whole case of wine,” she said. The barrel sits in her den, and her dog loves it about as much as she does.
One caveat for new dog owners: Don’t rush out and make impulse buys. Until your dog has settled into your home, and you have settled in with your dog, resist the temptation to splurge on gear. You may not know yet if you have a wine-barrel kind of pup or one who prefers a pooch penthouse.
“Don’t over-invest until you know,” Ms. Salk said. “Get to know your dog first.”
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