Are you one of the 68 percent of Americans with a pet? Maybe you’re among the growing number of animal lovers who have more than one. More than just pets, our four-legged, feathered or finned friends have truly become part of the family. That means that their needs also come into play when buying a house or remodeling the one you have. It also means that your new or redone residence can truly be a dream home for all of its inhabitants.
“All my homebuyer clients in the last five years have had a pet or pets except for one,” says Kimberly Dotseth, broker and owner of San Diego-based Blend Real Estate. “And, every pet person I work with wants nice, comfort indoors: Comfortable rooms, good lighting, an open kitchen area and not too many stairs. Pets like single-story homes, too.”
They also like having their own spaces for viewing the outdoors, sleeping and eating. “Think about cats, for example,” Dotseth notes. “They really love to look out windows. So for homeowners, make that a priority. Give them a perch or window to call their own.”
On the exterior of a home, Dotseth says, fenced yards are a must. “Sellers, you will be made to pay for the absence of a backyard fence in some way. You’ll get a reduced price or hear about fencing later when repairs are requested.” Between the two is the pet door. “Most pet doors I see in homes for sale are really old or simply gross,” the broker notes. “A brand new pet door is a huge selling point. Spend $100 on a new door, have it installed, and get every penny back in the sale.”
Home builders are also seeing that adding nice new pet features is very appealing to prospective homebuyers, 70 percent of whom have animals. This includes local as well as national builders, and community amenities like dog parks as well as individual property details.
“Davidson Communities has been demonstrating pet features in its model homes for years as a way to connect with the way people live,” says the Del Mar company’s vice president of sales and marketing, Cathie McGill. “We believe model homes should inspire innovation and creativity, which we extend to include features for the family pets, as well.”
“The model homes at Arterro at La Costa in Carlsbad demonstrate a couple of dog amenities; the most significant being the ‘dog house’ in the upstairs bonus room, which functions as secured space for a dog that would otherwise need a crate or kennel.” Another community’s home had a well-equipped dog shower. “When we were selling Arista at The Crosby, we had a lot of interest in the dog shower, which was presented as an easy problem solver: How to clean the dog without messing up your new home.”
Pet needs come up often in remodeling plans. In fact, it was one of the top 10 trends identified in the 2015 National Kitchen & Bath Association’s designer survey. Your pet will often, (though not ideally, according to some experts) eat in the same room you do, so their needs are increasingly factored into a kitchen remodel. Some essential points to consider:
• Where can the pet bowls be situated so that they’re not sliding across the floor and tripping humans and, optimally, in a non-kitchen space (e.g., laundry room);
• At what height should the pet bowls be installed to avoid neck strain for larger breeds, as they’re often built into an island base or cabinet pull-out;
• Where should the pet’s food be stored, so that it’s easy to access for humans but not animals or pests.
Other remodeling plans are impacted, too, by your pet’s needs. Where should its many non-food supplies — like leash, collar, waste bags, flea powder and medicines — be stored so that they’re convenient for where they’ll be used? Organizers are increasingly available and popular for these purposes. The key is planning them into your project so that the space and budget are available.
Bath time is no easier for four-legged babies than it is for human ones. Some homeowners, like Davidson’s buyers, have special pet baths or showers, depending on the animal’s size and temperament. Again, the key is factoring in the space and plumbing needs early when working on a remodeling project. How simple or elaborate your pet’s shower or bath will be is up to you, but ignoring their bathing needs is no more practical than ignoring your own or your children’s.
Graham Bloem, long-time trainer and owner of San Diego-based Specialty Dog Training™, is one of the professionals who recommends against dogs eating in the kitchen. “Not only is the kitchen unsafe for dogs with cooking utensils and stove-top items, but it also is the source of human food in the home, which makes it more difficult for the dog to focus on the task given. Dogs should have their own space away from other dogs and people to enjoy their daily meals. They can eat in their crate or similar safe space, or in a designated room in the home.” Your laundry or mud room could be a good spot for feeding, as it will likely have easy-clean, moisture-friendly floors for spilled food or water.
Bloem recommends having at least one in-home training session to discuss important pieces of house manners and elements that set your dog up to succeed. “This includes picking a safe, quiet and comfortable location for regular feedings, a location for the dog bed(s) — we recommend that each common room have one — a crate, if crate training, and boundaries where the dog(s) should be supervised or unsupervised. The most common locations recommended for the dog bed will be high-traffic areas such as a family room, so that the dog feels as though he or she is a part of the pack.”
Bloem also trains rescue dogs to become service animals for veterans through his nonprofit Shelter to Soldier. “Service animal and non-service animal home setup is typically similar,” he notes. “The only thing that may differ is that the service dog will often need to be close to its owner while sleeping in order to assist them if necessary.” If you’re adding a service dog to your household, planning for a dog bed near yours could be a helpful part of your acclimation process.
“It is important to remember that dogs explore with their noses and mouths, and by setting them up to succeed, there will be more opportunity to reward positive behaviors. In the long run, this will make your dog a more enjoyable companion and family member,” Bloem advises. They will also be far better roommates!
Gold is a San Diego-based, NKBA-certified, independent kitchen and bath designer and the author of “New Kitchen Ideas That Work” (Taunton Press).
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