It’s a dog’s life: Pooch-management on the home front
- Credit: Archant
Having a dog about the house should be easier than ever, thanks to the wide range of pooch -proof soft furnishings now on offer. Richard Burton found out more.
I'm not a dog person. I did have one when I was at school. My mum had to put sheets over the sofa so they didn't get covered in hairs and a pal told me he wouldn't play in my bedroom because it smelled of dog.
The man who brought her to us as a pup said she was a mongrel. I just assumed that was a mark of status, like pedigree, because Petra the Blue Peter dog was a mongrel and she was a bigger star than John Noakes.
I remember my mum reassuring a snooty neighbour that our new Hoover Constellation - a buzzy ball that floated on air behind a hose you drag it along like a wobbly pup on a lead - kept the front room carpet free from anything unhygienic.
It only worked in part. When I grew into long trousers I had to wrap Sellotape around my hand and stroke them clean before I could leave the house. A few years later, I left home and got a cat.
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More recently, I dog-sat for friends. They left an A4 sheet detailing walks, where to find poo bags and how to crush pills in with the hypo-allergenic mixer. And more importantly, which rooms were out of bounds, which was most of them.
Outside, tall iron gates blocked the drive. They were chained and bolted because these dogs were proper pedigrees and, well, you never know who's passing. There was an outside tap with a hose I had to use if either of them pee-ed on the new lawn.
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It struck me that anyone who'd care that much about a patch of turf - in this case, what estate agents call one tennis court's worth - would probably care more about what they're padding around on inside the house.
Indiscretions there will penetrate any unsealed grout line, stain anything wood and swell anything laminate, all of which will need more than a hose to put right; in worst cases involving bleach, sandpaper or a floor-lifting tool in that order.
That's why there are companies marketing stain-resistant and hypo-allergenic surfaces, something to do with increasing what floor people call the wear-layer. (The industry standard is 0.3mm for anyone still awake.) And then there's the issue of slip resistance. Boffins in places like the British Standards Institution in Hemel Hempstead have produced a rating for that, called BS 7976.
As for furniture, the makers have, quite literally, got that covered too, producing sofas using dog-friendly woven fabrics including the likes of felts, chenille, herringbone, those with subtle patterns or "dimensionality" which helps to disguise stains and make hair less noticeable.
And low-pile fabrics such as microfiber or synthetic velvet are used for odour resistance, partly because there's less material to trap smells and they're often tightly woven, which makes them easy to clean and renders them almost claw-proof.
If you want to take the science out of it, think about using outdoor fabrics indoors. The sort that stays out all year surviving everything from mould and mildew to record floods and frosts and storms whose names we can't pronounce is more than a match for most dogs.
And it's worth remembering one golden rule: any fabrics that are washable won't hold on to smells. It's usually the padding underneath that's the problem, and that's where you need to consult the experts.
I've been more dog-conscious of late. I interviewed a model in the company of the most docile and fittingly attractive pet, and a boxer (the interviewee, not the dog) who forced me to use cushions as a barricade to spare a cleaning bill the whole time I was in the house.
My step-father tends to swap his living room furniture around from time to time. He has a favourite chair and guests use whichever ones are left without the fluffy blanket draped over them.
I've also become aware of a growing use of dog cages, not the six-sided ones you use to take them to the vet, but the wrap-around fireguard types that screen off part of a room so pets can be isolated when visitors drop in.
It's worth noting all of this, given that one in four British households includes a dog. A recent survey suggested that owning a cat or dog could actually affect the sale of your home. The poll, by the carpet and sofa specialist ScS named pets as one of the biggest turn-offs when viewing.
Would-be buyers were most affected by bad smells and general mess, with those aged 45 and over, searching for their "forever home" most likely to be affected by lingering smells.
Many agents actually advise on steps vendors may want to take to remove evidence of canine cohabitation, quite apart from taking someone for a long walk during viewings. I was once with an agent in Kings Langley who suggested to a single mum selling a period terrace she hid not just the little bed, but bowls, leads and family photos.
The seller insisted she'd had the place steam cleaned so there'd be not the merest "whiff of dog". I know, said the rather youthful agent, but the buyers are of a certain age and sensibility. And if they detect the merest clue, it'll trigger something in the brain that means they'll think they can.
The seller thought he was barking. I thought he was well worth his commission. Clearly, psychology was more than just a pet subject.
On the flip side is another statistic - one that suggested four in five prospective homeowners say they wouldn't put in an offer on a property if it wasn't pet-friendly.
That promoted the online agent emoov to partner with the dog sitting and walking app, Rover.com, to set up special house viewings for dogs.
Over one September weekend a few years ago, they specifically invited dog lovers to bring the whole family to view pet-friendly properties on their list.
Priorities included features such as a fireplace to curl up next to, a suitable garden to play in, good walkies potential in the neighbourhood, and large front windows from which to gaze.
I will confess, I do have a 'no dogs' policy on properties I've let. And it's something I've had to police lest there's a chance that someone else may be joining them after they've settled in.
One smart and rather entrepreneurial lad making his way in the business world presented himself as single, credit worthy and someone who'd hardly be noticed because he's "out most of the time on work or play".
Indeed he was. His Instagram had more than 100 pictures of him and the Dulux Dog with whom he was "inseparable". I even knew the dog's name. It was tattooed on his arm.