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Spring Cleaning Tips for a Multi Dog Household

Ah, February! The month of grey skies, cold, frequent rain, heart-shaped everything, and wondering whether one’s floors will ever free from muddy paw prints despite the daily mopping… Life is truly better with dogs around but it often is much muddier!

I’m writing this on Valentine’s day – although it won’t appear for a while – and have spent much of this evening curled up on the couch with my husband watching sappy movies before he heads off to London tomorrow with work for a couple of days. As usual, our viewing was interrupted by various and sundry dogs coming to make sure that we were still present, and that we still loved them. They pitter-patter in from time to time for reassurance, and then go back to their previous stations on the stairs, or in front of the fire. This happens no matter where Dave or I are within the house and no matter what we’re doing – our dogs seem to need to know that we haven’t deserted them while they are sleeping. It’s very sweet, actually, this checking-in thing they do; they like keeping tabs on us.

Last weekend, given the fairly nasty weather, it seemed like a good opportunity to clean the house. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking Spring Cleaning happens when you can throw the windows open wide and let the fresh air in but it was bitterly cold last Saturday so what were you at, woman? Surely you weren’t flinging open windows and doors with that biting wind? Well, no, I wasn’t and of course you’re right. But here’s the thing: after several months of closed windows and coal fires, the house starts to get a little…stale. And the mud splashes on the walls start to become more bothersome.

Fudge is a big fan of running around muddy fields and no matter how quickly we get to the towels when we come in from our evening walk, she always seems to leave a fine spray of mud on the walls of the entranceway. All three of our dogs have their chosen spot on the stairs, too. This is evidenced by a slight greying of the wall in several spots as they tend to lean there out of habit. So it seemed that it might be a good idea to get bucket-loads of hot water, some cream cleaner, and some cloths and go to town on the walls, skirting boards, and radiators. Furthermore, as Honey’s surgery is scheduled for Thursday this week (she’s going to have an operation to offset a worn cruciate ligament) we needed to rearrange the sitting room slightly to accommodate the crate that some friends have kindly lent us for the duration of her recovery. Thus, scrubbing, brushing, hovering, and dusting seemed like a good choice for a cold, wet weekend. We know that Spring proper hasn’t arrived yet because the moulting of coats hasn’t really got underway but, nevertheless, there is a constant gentle spread of dog hair through our house and even if I hovered every day, I would still find rogue clumps hiding under beds or behind sofas. (I know this from past experience!)

In actual fact, the house may need several days of proper cleaning like that but one of the things I learned this weekend was the wonders of baking soda and vinegar. If your home, like ours, has a lingering scent of chien mouillé, a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and water in a spray bottle can work wonders. It acts as odour neutraliser and can be used as a spray, or a solution for spot cleaning rugs or soft furnishings directly. (The Wikihow website has a useful page of cleaning tips here. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Your-House-to-Not-Smell-Like-Your-Pets) Of course you should always do a patch test somewhere inconspicuous first but I am definitely sold on the idea. And if it can get the smell of wet dog out of our car, I will be hunting down the originator and awarding medals, or possibly even cash prizes! Anyway, the upshot is that despite our dogs looking most offended at the notion that we might need to clean up some of their mess, it’s amazing the difference that can be made with some general purpose cleaning fluid , hot water, and basic cupboard staples.

The next thing will likely be an overhaul of all our pet bedding. Generally, we use old duvet covers, sheets, and towels to line our pet beds but Honey is a consistent chewer of loose covers and there comes a point when there are more holes than fabric. A trip to one of the town’s charity shops is usually the answer to dwindling supplies as they often sell bedding cheaply. Our three are hardly discerning trend-setters so they don’t mind if the colour scheme is a little off, or if prints clash. As long as they have soft warm covers, they’re quite happy. These have the advantage of being easily washed and dried so require very little maintenance. It’s usually cheaper than padded or foam dog beds too. Again, Honey has destroyed several of these by chewing them and pulling out the stuffing so they’re really not worth the expense as far as we can see. (Obviously, your mileage may vary.) The next dry day will also see the plastic dog beds being scrubbed with detergent and scalded to ensure that there are no nasties dwelling within. If you can find a cleaning solution that doesn’t have a scent, it’s probably for the best. Remember that a dog’s nose is much more sensitive than ours and chemical smells can be quite off-putting for them.

In the past, we have used plastic dog bowls for food and water but as ours are now getting quite old, I think it’s time to invest in some new ceramic bowls that can go in the dishwasher. Bacteria can build up in the scrapes and crevices that form on plastic bowls over time and as they’re so often damp, either from water or food or washing, they can be a fertile place for bugs to develop.

As I mentioned earlier, the Spring moult is imminent so now’s also a good time for making sure that your dog combs and brushes are in good order and ready for use. I know we all brush our pets regularly but it becomes more important during moulting season and your floors, clothes, and soft furnishings will thank you for getting a head start on it. Just like human hair brushes, your pet’s brushes should be cleaned frequently with a suitable cleaner. Make sure there’s no old fur lingering in them, and that there are no tines out of place that might scrape or cut your furry friends. Maintaining your grooming tools will help to ensure that your pet stays as comfortable as possible throughout the moulting season.

My hope is that if we get as much of the cleaning and maintenance in our home done while the weather is dreary now, we will be ready and able to run out the door on new adventures when the sun arrives again. While this can seem a long way off right now, the increasingly light evenings promise that there really is light at the end of the tunnel!

In the meantime, I hope you and your canine companion(s) had a super-happy Valentine’s day. Ronnie, Fudge, and Honey send lots of love to you all!

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