Hartford Courant

128987078063360000 128987980250391250

Keeping Your Doggies Out Of The Doghouse

 

‘Who did this?” I’m on my hands and knees growling as I clean a mess I didn’t make. My dogs, Oliver and Theo, tuck their tails under their bellies and slink away, like teenagers caught smoking.

I know my home has gone to the dogs, but lately that’s true more than ever. For some un-dog-ly reason, my pampered bichon frisés have forgotten their indoor manners and regressed in potty training. It’s as if they had this talk:

“See that slate floor,” Theo, the lead troublemaker, starts.
“The one that looks like a patio?” replies Oliver, his ever-ready sidekick.
“Well, I say it is a patio.”
“So who needs to go outside when there’s a patio in the house?”
“My point.”
And here we are.

“If I didn’t love you so much … ” I say, as I wipe and disinfect. It’s too late to scold them; besides, I never know which one did it. I tell them how I feel, though they’re nowhere in sight. Like my kids, they know when to conveniently disappear, though they’re listening, always listening.

Call Theo and Oliver by name, and they hide behind the sofa. But run a can opener, rattle the lid to their cookie jar, or slide open the back door, and they come running like the bulls of Pamplona.

Call my kids from the next room to ask them to empty the dishwasher, and they’re deaf as Dalmatians, but whisper that you just bought two pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and their bat-like radar draws them home from two blocks away.

“Are they mad at you?” asked Sheryl Matthys, dog expert and founder of www.LeashesandLovers.com, when I asked her advice.
“If they are, they sure know how to hold a grudge.”

“Do they need more outside time?”

“Except after 10 p.m., when they’re tucked into their custom doggie beds, they’re free to flip in and out the doggie door whenever their furry feet feel like it.”

My husband, Dan, did not get the dog-lover gene, and is even more fed up with the dogs’ backsliding. However, he knows better than to pick this bone with me, or he’ll be the one in the doghouse. He knows how dogs rate with me, in many cases higher than people, including good husbands. Dogs don’t complain about your cooking or singing. They don’t care if your hair’s a mess, or your breath smells like old coffee and pizza, if you’re fat or skinny, or if you burp when you drink soda.

According to the Humane Society, I’ve got lots of canine-loving company: 39 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog, and 75 million dogs are pets. Yes, many are trouble. However, I’m sure the two-legged residents of those 39 percent households would agree with me: A house is not a home without a dog, or two.

Here are some suggestions from Matthys on how to co-habitate more beautifully with our fuzzy friends.

•Set the ground rules. To re-housebreak my boys, Matthys said to clean, clean, clean. One reason my dogs kept marking the same spots was because I was using ammonia-based cleaners. Urine smells like ammonia, and triggers dogs to mark. Best solution: One part white vinegar with three parts water. (Or buy an off-the-shelf pet deodorizer and disinfectant like Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solution.) Wipe up waste. Cover the area with the solution. Let it soak in; blot. Not sure where the spot is? Shine a black light around. It makes urine glow.

Find fur-friendly fabrics. I’ve written before about Crypton, a synthetic stain-bouncing fabric, available at JoAnn’s fabric stores, or online at www.cryptonfabric.com. Dog Gone Smart (www.doggonesmartbed.com) uses NanoSphere technology fabrics on dog beds and crate pads. The protective finish lets you rinse off soil and dirt with water. Tyler & Friends (www.tylerandfriends.com) makes some adorable products, including wallpaper, in designer doggie prints, though the fabric is not quite as durable. Leather makes another good pet choice. It wipes easily, won’t snag, and leather lubricant can usually buff out scratches.

•Think down. Choose flooring in a pet home with care. Carpet is cozy, dulls noise and, if it’s the right color, can hide fur. But it traps odors and stains. Avoid loop carpets such as Berber because claws can catch a loop and unravel the carpet. Hard floors are far easier to clean; wood is warmer than stone.

•Don’t lie with dogs.(unless you want to). I’m not promising that putting a dog bed in your room will instantly get your pooch off your bed and into his, but it’s a start. Pick one the same shade as your dog’s fur. Many styles are available online, and at stores like Petco, Target, Wal-Mart and PetSmart. Snoop around pet boutiques and you’ll find elaborate dog canopy beds, dog sofas and chaises in fun, pooch-friendly fabrics. Some end tables and nightstands out today double as dog crates in disguise.

•Have canine class. Contain squeaky toys and chews in a doggie toy chest or basket that Fifi can get into herself. And don’t give Spike a treat from a bag. Put treats in a stylish cookie jar (with a tight seal to lock in the smell) or a cool canine canister. Mine has a lid painted like a bichon’s face, and around the neck hangs a dog-bone collar with my dogs’ names on it.

• Story by Marni Jameson Contact Marni through MarniJameson.com.