I often joke that you can have nice things, or you can have dogs… but you can’t have both. I’m not entirely changing my stance on that matter… but we have found a happy medium. Here’s how we keep our pups happy, and our home clean…
Obligatory Wall-o-Text Disclaimer: The Stair Barrier product featured in this post was provided to us for review purposes. Rest assured that my love cannot be bought, and all opinions (and gleeful declarations of adoration) are genuine and my own. This post also contains affiliate links, which you can read more about here!
If you’ve stumbled upon our recent post on how to build DIY dog beds, then you probably already have a pretty good idea of who runs the show at the Accidental Suburbanites household: a pair of princess pooches named Atlas and Scout.
These goofy girls are our world (word of advice: avoid mentioning them in conversation at all costs, unless you want to spend the next 45 minutes listening to obnoxious dog-mom stories). These two have us wrapped around their little (white mitten) paws, and our house wouldn’t really feel like a home without them.
Unfortunately, all the puppy snuggles and pampering in the world doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, they’re still dogs. Dirt-rolling, butt-licking, bug-eating dogs.
And you know what reaaaalllyyyyy doesn’t jive with a pair of 50+ lb dogs with a proclivity for recreational mud wrestling and digging up tree roots?
Answer: literally our entire house.
Decorating our home around two outdoor-loving dogs has been difficult and occasionally fraught with heartache (flashback to the day Scout found the planter tray of tender little seedlings I had been growing and decided to turn them into a lunchtime salad…), BUT we’ve figured out a lot along the way.
Most importantly, we’ve learned that where there’s a will, there’s a way… (which is basically a poetic way of saying “you can have white pillows, but you’re gonna have to stay on top of that shit…”)
Here’s how we’re making it work…
1. Prevent Messes BEFORE They Happen
Living with Dogs 101: it’s a lot easier to deal with dirty paws before they find their way into your house (and on your carpet, bed sheets, pillows, sofa, etc.)
When we first moved in, we were practitioners of the ‘ol dirty towel on the doorknob method of paw cleaning. Rookie move. When winter came, I realized we needed to step up our paw patrol game. So, I put together a little basket full of washcloths that we now keep near the door. Muddy paws get a clean washcloth every time, and we never again have to grapple with the moment of sheer panic when we realize (while simultaneously trying to restrain a snow-encrusted dog on a 24″ wide floor mat) that the designated paw towel has gone missing.
Random basket of washcloths by the door not quite your speed? Try the paw plunger.
Another way I nip chaos in the bud? Instead of trying to keep the pups off the couch (an impossible task), I just use a cheap fleece blanket to protect my fabric cushions. Fleece is great because it’s easy to clean, and it’s like a magnet for dog hair… meaning when the time comes to strip off the blanket and have a clean couch again, all the mess and fur will strip away with the blanket!
2. Contain the Crazy
The single most effective method for keeping our luscious upstairs carpet clean, is preventing the dogs from hanging out upstairs in the first place. Instead of giving the pups free reign of the house during daytime hours, we contain their craziness to the downstairs.
At first we would block our staircase with whatever obstructive objects we had on hand (anything from flattened out boxes, to stacked dining room chairs, to rickety baby gates…) While our unconventional barrier methods were certainly effective for keeping the pups in their place, our entryway decor was definitely suffering.
Then Stair Barrier came along to answer our prayers. They’re changing the gate game with these super stylish (and super sturdy) reinforced fabric gates that clip onto banisters (or attach to a wall) to keep fur babies (or human babies) at bay.
The fellow dog-lovers over at Stair Barrier very graciously hooked us up with one of their gorgeous grey gates, and we’re smitten! Besides looking fab in our foyer, I love how easy it is to open and close the gate when I need to run upstairs (something I never was able to master with adjustable baby gates…)
You can shop their full line-up here, and as a bonus Stair Barrier is spreadin’ the love and offering our readers 15% off with promo code: ASBlog
3. Keep Cleaning Convenient
Prevention is key, but some catastrophes can’t be averted. (The above photo pretty accurately depicts the mean mug Scout gave me when I suggested that our household adapt a “no dogs on the couch” policy.) Try as we might, it’s not really possible to get every flake of dirt off of the pups before they sprawl out on the sofa or snuggle up on our white bed sheets.
When prevention isn’t possible (or successful), shift your focus to managing the mess.
Can you spot the muddy paw prints that managed to find their way upstairs? I’m convinced that carpet and dogs are fundamentally incompatible. But since we have (and love) both, we’ve had to figure out a way to make it work…
…and that’s exactly how we went through THREE carpet cleaners in three years before finally finding a machine that could keep up with our high-maintenance household.
Behold: the Miracle Worker.
We use our trusty Hoover carpet cleaner more than I’d like to admit, and this guy has encountered so much black fur and dog secretions / bodily fluids that he’s basically an honorary third pet at this point.
For particularly nasty messes, I might pre-treat the carpet by hand with Resolve and pat dry first. Otherwise, I’ll blot up any mess or excess moisture, then let the Hoover do the dirty work (the pet detergent works wonders).
Besides keeping our carpets clean and stain-free, this particular carpet cleaner has an awesome set of attachments that can be used to scrub the sin (and dog stains) out of upholstery (ya know, like the light grey sectional our dogs have claimed as their own.)
Investing in a quality carpet cleaner is essential if you want to give your carpet and upholstery a fighting chance against your family pets. This beast is hands-down the best carpet cleaner we’ve owned (and you know we’ve owned a few…).
Another lesson we learned the hard way: dark hardwood floors are a lifestyle. They’re beautiful, they’re elegant, they’re classic… but they’re also a lot of freakin’ work.
Dark hardwood floors don’t keep secrets.. especially when those secrets involve dirt, dust, or dog hair (even dirt, dust, and dog hair that is so close in color to your brown hardwood floor, that theoretically it should be invisible…) Forget muddy paws… even wet paws leave their mark on these floors!
To keep them looking clean, we’ve had to accept that mopping is a much more frequent chore than it was in our linoleum-floored apartment. And unfortunately, there’s no cleaning hack or cheat code to change that. So how do we deal with the added burden of more chores? By making them as convenient as humanly possible (that way, you’re actually more inclined to do them).
Ditch the traditional mop and bucket show and pick up a Swiffer Wet Jet. This reduces the time and effort of mopping by approximately 99% (that’s not scientific data, so don’t quote me on that). The Swiffer is also a very pleasant shade of purple, which never fails to resonate with my aesthetic inclinations every time I spritz and swoosh around my kitchen. To really increase the probability of using our Swiffer, I’ll keep it tucked nearby for easy access (like stowed behind my couch, or just inside the pantry).
4. Feed Their Appetite for Destruction
Dogs (especially high-energy breeds) need a job, and if you fail to give them one, well… they’ll find work themselves. In lieu of herding livestock, for example, our border collie mix Scout will put herself to work chewing the top off of an Ikea nightstand (thanks for that, Scout).
Instead of giving your dog the opportunity to seek out tasks that they can occupy themselves with, give them work: find toys that keep them busy and entertained, and keep them nearby. We keep a basket in their “bedroom” so if (when) Atlas gets a second wind in the middle of the night, she has plenty of options on hand (options that are infinitely better than nibbling the sequins off of a pair of ballet flats…)
Keep wayward pups distracted with toys designed to challenge them. The most common (and durable) puzzle toy for pups is the Kong, but there are plenty of other options (like this, or this) that will keep your pup occupied while they try to free the treat trapped inside.
Our girls love stuffed toys.. particularly, they love removing the stuffing from their stuffed toys. For a lot of pups, destruction is the name of the game. You can prolong that game by picking tough, chew-resistant toys. (Let’s be real, there’s no such thing as “indestructible.” Just “harder to destruct.”)
These stuffed animals are among the best, made with tougher materials and multiple squeakers. For pups that like the softness of clothing or shoes, see if this threaded dog toy will satisfy their cravings.
We discovered these awesome rubber balls while living in our apartment, and they were great for indoors or outdoors. These dog bowls arrange kibble in a puzzle… forcing your pup to slow their roll by turning dinner time into a challenging game.
5. Believe in Miracles (ya know, like the song by the Ramones…)
The biggest challenge of all in our pup-inhabited home is without a doubt the struggle to keep white things white. Nothing illustrates this better than the cream colored chenille throw pillows we picked for the couch in our family room. My instincts told me we were playing a losing game… but my eyes told me “yes, gorgeous, do it, yes.”
My instincts weren’t wrong. I debated heavily on whether or not I should show you what this pillow looked like before I threw it in the wash, but ultimately I had too much pride to admit how far gone this guy had gotten (suffice it to say the color looked a lot less “cream,” and a lot more “Tuscan Sunset“).
Luckily we discovered the restorative powers of OxiClean (or as I like to call it, Miracle in a Bottle). This stuff works wonders on all of our ill-advised white purchases (bed sheets, pillows, blankets…). The picture you see above was taken after our newly rust-colored pillow took a spin in the washing machine with White Revive, and I swear this pillow looks more pristine than it was the day we bought it.
Now that I’ve shared some of OUR best tricks for keeping a clean house amidst the chaos of two pups, I’d love to hear YOURS! Best methods, favorite products, go-to cleaning gadgets… I want to hear it all! Share in the comments below! 🙂
Random question, but where did you get that grey sectional??? I’m in LOVE with it!
Thanks Anna! It’s the “Livingston” 2-piece sectional from Furniture Row 😉
You definitely need a robot vacuum. It is absolutely wonderful. It runs all the time and my dogs have adapted well to it.
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Totally on my wish list!! (Although… I’m not convinced my dogs would ever fully adapt 😂)
I also have 2 big dogs! I keep them off the couches during the day by leaving throw pillows on them. It keeps them off somehow 😉 When we cuddle at night I cover up with a fleece as well!
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I’m glad you’ve found an effective deterrent to keep your couch safe from your two big pups, Randa! (Unfortunately our girls have figured out how comfy it is to rest their heads on throw pillows… spoiled rotten, I tell ya!)
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I have found that Scram Mats from Amazon work miracles. They emit a loud tone that dogs don like and it deters them from getting on the couch. Very affordable too.
I’ve used the same ones for 8 years.
Dear Lord. I’m so glad to have company in the “dogs vs clean and decorating” category. Thanks for the article.
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It’s a good thing they’re cute and sweet… makes it a little easier to put up with the messes they make 😛 Thanks for reading, Jean!
I just want to say your an awesome dog mommy!! I admire how much you have lived your life around those girls. They are blessed to have you and your husband to love them so much. I have two large boxer and a 15 month old boy. I feel the same why you do about them. Great article and very helpful. God Bless you and your family 🙂
I love this article!! We have 2 beagles, and I really didn’t think beagles shed as much as they do! We practically have a 3rd beagle with their shedding! I’ve found a really useful tool to be a Dyson Hand Vac – small and compact it’s great for cleaning up messes….. one of our beagles loves to counter surf, so it is often put to use vacuuming up broken crockery LOL
I know exactly what you mean — I could basically make a third dog out of the fur I sweep up from our baseboards every week! 😑
A counter surfing beagle… that sounds like a sight that’s worth the occasional piece of broken crockery! 😂 Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve been meaning to invest in a good hand vac, and have heard great stuff about Dyson (they’re so pretty & colorful too!)
IROBOT roomba is fantastic! I have hardwood and a shedding dog. I set it to vacuum once a day. Has really decreased my workload.
We’ve heard great things about the Roomba, and finally took the plunge on black friday 😉 So far, I’m smitten!! I might have to update this blog post, because it’s definitely a game-changer if you’ve got pets that shed like crazy!
I, too, took the Roomba plunge. I splurged for a top of the line Roomba (we have three dogs) the week of Thanksgiving. My boyfriend’s daughter and her new boyfriend popped in unexpectedly, and the floors were covered in hair. I was mortified. I had been doing research previously, and could not seem to rationalize spending this much money to save myself time and sanity. Boy, was I wrong. It has been a GAME CHANGER. When I saw how much hair was in that sucker every time I ran it, I no longer wondered why I couldn’t keep up. Plus, the model I purchased was 100.00 off, AND I used the 20% off coupon at BBB. score and score.
Once you go Roomba, there’s really no going back! We’ll just set him loose upstairs and let him do his thing (yes, I somehow decided our vacuum is a “he” 😂). Total game changer!!
Roomba is great in theory and my bad back loved it, but I went thru 3 before I gave up..each lasted just past the warranty and I only had 1 fairly short haired dog. I just lost my dog of 17 years before Christmas and I’d totally take the hair to have her again!
I’m so sorry for your loss, Gail. It sounds like your pup had a great 17 years. And you’re right: they’re worth all the furry floors in the world. 🖤
Thanks for sharing your Roomba experience — I’m so surprised to hear that! Hopefully as the technology improves, these little vacuums will become more durable! Heck, maybe one day they’ll make a Roomba that can scrub my baseboards too 😂
Thete is your million dollar idea…the baseboard Chi-chi
I would suggest getting rid of the swiffer wetjet and getting a steam mop….no chemical residue for the dogs to lick off their paws or the floor, and does a fantastic job on all hard floor surfaces. MIne even has the attacement to refresh area rugs.
Your dogs and home look beautiful 🙂
Less for cleaning and more toward “freshening” but one great trick I’ve learned to combat the dog smell that you get (especially during the wet/winter months when pups are getting damp from being in and out) is to put a few drops of essential oils on your furnace filter and let the blowers run for a while. This REALLY helps air things out and freshen the air inside. Extra plus if you can open your windows for a bit too. Lemon lavender and rosemary are my fave mix to add. Gives your house that “just finished spring cleaning” scent!
Thanks for the tips! I have yet to get a Swifter with the spray option but might have to finally dive in. We have two mastiffs (150 and 175 lbs.) so hair and muddy paws are the devil here. I’m still searching for magical mats to help with dirt coming in. I do like the TOFTBO bath rugs from IKEA. They wear well and handle lots of washings. At $10 I have three lined up in the mud room just to try and make sure their paws hit at least twice. 🙂 I LOVE my Roomba (also a ‘he’- mine is named Dirty Harry because his job is dirt and hair). A “keep them off the couch” trick I’ve seen is an upside down plastic hall runner like used in offices. The carpet prongs aren’t very comfortable. They roll up or side under the couch when family is home. A “Fur”minator has helped a lot too. I can tell when I don’t use it.
I have 2 Australian Shepherds with a lot of long hair and fluffy undercoat and I also use a large throw to cover my sofa but then I have all that dog hair in my washer and dryer. Do you have any suggestions for that issue?
Oh my goodness, I’m so happy I stumbled across this blog post. We have two 14-month old, 80+ pound golden retrievers that I love like crazy, but I’ve given up on having a clean house! There are definitely suggestions in here that I’m going to try. I love the stairway gate and I’ve actually been wracking my brain about what to do because these two destroyed our last pet gate. Literally destroyed. These two are so destructive and what one doesn’t think of destroying, the other one will. We were foolish to get two puppies the same age but last summer we lost our other two and were missing having dogs in our home. I keep telling myself that this time next year they’ll be much calmer, but I have my doubts. Since re-homing them isn’t an option in our house, I’ll try your suggestions. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Where did you get your dog beds?! So lovely!
When you wash the fleece blankets do they release the hair as easy as they hold it?
Where are the dog beds from? Too cute!
we practically have given up on decorating we have 5 dogs but with your article our house may look a little nicer
Not a fan of limiting the amount of house or furniture a dog(or dogs) can use. They don’t get out whenever they please the way that you do. Your home is their whole world besides the walks and occasional trip to the dog park or what not.