Dog mom essentials: 10 home tips for a happy pup

When my dog, Sunday, walked into my life 14 years ago, I thought taking care of her would be a walk in the park. Before her, we had a family dog for almost 10 years -also a yellow Labrador Retriever just like Sunday- whom I spent much time with and cared for.

But circumstances between Sunday and Shine (our family dog) differ, mainly because Shine lived in a house and had an entire family and household looking after her, while Sunday lives in a condo with me. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to care for dogs for half my life, and even more so, having a 14-year-old Lab. Taking care of Sunday is a sweet and continuous learning experience. In addition to giving her proper nutrition and ample exercise, I also make sure that our home is a safe place for her. Here are some tips I’ve learned from personal experience as well as research on how to make your home safe and comfortable for you and your pups.

1. Keep their feeding utensils clean. Dogs can be messy eaters and drinkers. Noticed that slimy thing on your dog’s bowl? That’s biofilm and it’s composed of different types of bacteria. Wash their bowls after meals so your dogs don’t catch infections and other illnesses. It also helps maintain their feeding area tidy and pest-free.

2. Read labels and keep toxic items away from your dogs.I used to have scented candles and diffusers at home, but Sunday sneezed a lot whenever I used them. It turns out, scented candles contain harmful chemicals like paraffin (a carcinogen), and essential oils and fragrances that can irritate your dog’s nose.

With Sunday

Studies have shown indoor air pollution is caused by toxic ingredients in regular household items and cigarette smoke. It has harmful effects on both humans and animals. Choose candles made with natural ingredients and opt for non-toxic household cleansers and DIY solutions. And think of your dog’s health (and yours, too!) before you light up that cig to keep your home cig smoke-free.

3. Certified plantita? Make sure your plants are pet-friendly!Dogs and puppies love to lick, bite, and chew anything in sight—including plants. To keep your fur babies safe, research which plants are good and bad for their health. 

4. Use a cover or slip to protect your couch. If you have a no-dog-on-the-sofa policy BUT your fur baby is a couch potato, a cover or slip will come in handy. Wash the couch covers and bedding weekly to keep your sofas clean.

Sunday sound asleep on the couch (with a cover)

5. Seal trash bins tightly. Dogs love to scavenge anything—even trash. But a lot of common kitchen and food scraps are dangerous to dogs. Bathroom and toilet trash are also bad for your dogs’ health, as they contain harmful chemicals and ingredients.

6. Got a precious senior dog? You can help them be comfortable and injury-free in their old age.As dogs get old, they become more prone to arthritis which could be painful and limit their mobility. They may slip and fall more often as traction in their paws decreases, making them susceptible to injuries. Putting rugs or carpets on the floors will prevent them from slipping. Doggy stairs or ramps also help when they have difficulty getting up and off the bed, couch, or car.

Sunday and her custom doggy stairs by The Pet Project

7. Furs are everywhere! Dogs shed so much fur all the time, it’s a wonder they don’t go bald! If constant shedding is getting to you, invest in an effective vacuum to get rid of the fur. A lint roller can also do the trick. Aside from having these tools, brushing your dog’s coat regularly can help. And while you’re at it, check your dog for ticks and fleas. These baddies are real pests and can bring diseases. They can also burrow themselves in furniture and floorings, so clean thoroughly and disinfect. 

8. Install mesh wire or screen and doggy gates to prevent your dog from escaping or falling. Put mesh wires on the sides of your gate and under (if you live in a house) or on the balcony (if you’re in a condo) to keep them from running away and prevent any accidents. A doggy gate also keeps them safe indoors, in case someone leaves the main door open.

9. Clean and organize their toys often.Chances are that your dog has a ton of toys (and rightly so!)—from bouncy balls to teddy bears to squeaky toys. Maintain your place tidy by washing the toys regularly and keeping them in a covered bin. If you can teach them to pick up their toys, that will be great, too!

10. Keep your dog in a cool, well-ventilated place, especially in this scorching hot summer. 

Prevent heat stroke by keeping them in a place with an e-fan or AC. Make sure they have access to clean drinking water to stay hydrated. Our pets’ lives are precious and priceless, and their well-being should be one of our top priorities.

Lastly and most importantly, cherish your dog every day. A house can be clean, beautiful, and aesthetic, but what makes it a home is the love, joy, and comfort of the ones living there, including dogs and their beautiful clutter. Sure, dogs make a lot of mess, and leave their fur all over, but their lives are short. One day, your house will be clean and neat, furniture will be in pristine condition, but you’ll miss the chaos of their toys and their fur all over the place. So in the meantime, enjoy their company and unconditional love, and keep your home clean, safe, and comfortable for them. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, mother figures, and dog moms!

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Bun Estavillo is a runner, holds a day job, and owns a small business baking cookies for good doggies. Her full-time job, however, is taking care of her 14-yr old Lab, Sunday. Best job ever, hands down.