// by Melody Taylor
Even if they are the cutest members of the family, sometimes living with a pet can be a messy situation. We talked to local dog training and home cleaning experts for tips to help pet owners achieve the best of both worlds: a clean home and a happy dog.
Clean your dog, not the house
One of the simplest ways to maintain a clean, pet-friendly home is to prevent your pet from making messes in the first place. Give your dog’s paws a quick wipe before coming in the house from outside, and muddy prints won’t make their way onto floors or furniture.
Tracee Sule, owner of St. Augustine-based Zoomeez Dog Training and a certified professional dog trainer, recommends placing a soft, shaggy mat designed for dogs near exterior doors. “They’re super absorbent, so if the dog comes in at the back door, or from the pool, this is a great way to dry their paws before they run in the house,” she says.
Sule also recommends frequent—daily, or at least weekly—brushing to prevent fur shedding, particularly if you have a double-coated breed of dog, like an Alaskan Husky, a Shiba Inu or a Pomeranian. Larger dogs can carry dirt, sand and dander in their coats, so frequent baths are also a must.
Clear the air
“One of the most overlooked things that can help keep a cleaner home is changing out HVAC filters frequently,” says Josh Kennedy, owner of First Coast Home Pros, a Southside multi-service home and carpet cleaning and service company. He recommends checking filters monthly and changing them at least every three months, or whenever they appear dirty or have accumulated pet hair.
All washable linens, including bed sheets, throw blankets and pillows, trap pet dander and should be laundered weekly. Kennedy also recommends frequent vacuuming, including areas under furniture where pet fur and dander tend to accumulate.
“If you have the opportunity to choose your furniture at the same time you’re choosing your pet, synthetic fiber rugs and furniture will hold up much better than natural fibers for people with pets,” he says.
Manage stains and odors
During the puppy training phase, Sule recommends supervising your pooch on a leash throughout the day, and taking him out on a frequent schedule. When you can’t be with your dog, corral him in a gated area or crate, and restrict access to carpeted areas and rugs. Dogs must have access to fresh drinking water at all times, as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association, but training and frequent “potty” breaks can prevent most accidents inside the house for healthy dogs, Sule says.
When accidents happen, Kennedy recommends pouring enough hydrogen peroxide on the area to minimize the spread of the urine stain—only if you have synthetic carpets. “The reason urine stinks is not from the urine itself, but from the bacteria that grows on it. There’s an oxidizing process that takes place as hydrogen peroxide dries, and it can zap it,” he says.
Put your dog to work
Some dogs chew on furniture or valuables because they require extra mental stimulation, particularly while owners are away from home. To address this, Sule recommends that dogs be required to “work” for some of their food each day. Try filling a food puzzle toy with kibble or treats, or placing food in the bottom of a muffin tin and topping each cup with a tennis ball.
“Working for the food in this way, it uses the dog’s natural scavenging instinct and it drains their mental energy tank. Then they will have less energy to go into being anxious or to chewing on your couch,” she says. Sometimes chewing or digging can be triggered by separation anxiety or another underlying issue.
Break it up
The amount of time a dog can be left unattended can vary, depending on the dog’s age, health and breed. If your work requires you to be away from your dog for more than a few hours at a time, Sule recommends hiring a dog walker or sitter to break up the day.
“They don’t necessarily have to go on a full walk; but if they can at least go on a potty break, there are a lot of benefits to that,” she says. “House training will be reinforced, and they’ll also get to interact with another person in a positive way and get some mental stimulation, too.”