Is your home getting buried in your dog’s things? Toys (with various amounts of stuffing intact) everywhere? Leashes you can never find when you need them because they have magically transported themselves to a different room?
De-clutter your pet’s things and get your house back in a few simple steps:
Narrow Down Your Options
Let’s face it, your dog probably has too many dog toys. If you regularly fall into the habit of grabbing a toy for your pup every time you’re in a pet store (or Amazon) check out line, it might be time to set some rules.
Rule number one? Figure out what type of toy your dog enjoys the most and stick with that. It makes little sense to buy a random assortment of flavored toy bones, squeaky toys and ropes when your dog really just wants bouncy balls.
“I am a firm believer in buying what you need for your pets,” says Elizabeth Dodson, a multiple-dog owner and co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management service that helps you organize all aspects of your home.
For dogs that love having a job to do, that might mean toys that can get their energy and confidence up, like balls for fetch or tug of war ropes – both of which are great for muscle building and exerting some of that energy, Dodson says.
On the other hand, if you have a dog that tears the house apart when he’s home alone, Dodson recommends having durable chew toys available, as they are good for a dog’s teeth and hard to break. If a dog is tearing apart certain types of toys, remove them. A dog can eat the contents, or they can wind up all over the living room.
Find a Place for Everything
Picking one corner of your house to store toys can make rooms look more organized. The easiest way to do this? Use baskets or containers.
“We like to use wire baskets or sometimes even a canvas bag/bucket since they can be washed regularly,” says Annie Draddy, co-founder of Henry & Higby, LLC, a professional organizing services firm. “When shopping, look for baskets that have a wide opening and that are more shallow so that your dog can easily access the toys.”
If you have a large house, Draddy says it might make more sense to have several baskets throughout the house and vary the material depending on the decor of the room.
Want some help tidying up at the end of the day? You might be able to teach your dog to put away his own toys – especially if you have a dog who is good at fetch and retrieve. To do this, start by placing a low basket in front of your feet during a game of fetch, says Tonya Wilhelm, a dog trainer and the author of Proactive Puppy Care.
“As he’s running back with his toy, ask him to drop it as his head is over the basket,” says Wilhelm. “Once he drops, tell him how smart he is and give him a treat.”
Once he’s learned to drop the toy in the basket (it might take a few tries, especially if he misses at first) Wilhelm suggests moving the basket about two feet to your side.
“As he’s coming back with his toy, point to the basket and ask for his drop,” Wilhelm says. “Continue this process until his aim is better and you can move the basket further away, then call it another cue, such as ‘pick up’”
Create a Walking Station
Do you spend extra time running around the house picking up items every time you want to take your dog for a walk? Move everything near the door and create an organized, easy-to-access walking station. It can be a small piece of furniture, a chest or even a large basket where you place all your dog’s items.
“Keeping all the pet’s items in central locations keeps your home organized so that you are not going out and buying more of what you already have,” says Dodson. “It also helps the rest of the family: if one family member takes the dog for a walk one day and another on another day, then everyone knows where the items are.”
The ideal walking station should include all of the items that you need every day, like a leash, collar, jacket (winter or rain), clean-up bags and possibly shoes or even towels for cleaning up on messy weather days, says Draddy. Don’t forget to also include basic cleaning supplies to prevent dirt and mud from spreading throughout the house.
“The area near a door is also good because you can wipe down your dog’s feet and coat to prevent water and dirt from getting into the house,” says Dodson. “Remember to wipe down the dog’s coat because they will end up rolling on your carpets or furniture leaving a musty smell to your home.”
Walking stations don’t necessarily have to be near the front door – they just need to be near an exit so they are the first thing you see when you’re coming in from a walk. “My walking stations were always in my laundry room or garage because I used this area to go in and out with my dog for a walk,” says Dodson. “I could also close the doors and get my dog wiped off prior to her escaping to the rest of the house.”
Once your walking station is ready, Wilhelm suggests teaching your dog to be comfortable with being handled, especially their feet if they’re going to be cleaned regularly after a walk.
“If a dog needs help in this department, start by touching his foot, then providing him with a tasty treat,” says Wilhelm. “Then, build on this by picking up his foot before treating, rubbing his foot before treating, etc.”
You can also teach him a good sit and stand stay, which Wilhelm says is helpful when putting on harnesses and cleaning feet and bellies.
“Start with your dog in a sitting position, wait two seconds then treat your dog; do this five times in a row,” Wilhelm says. “Practice this until he can easily sit/stay for two seconds at a time for five sets. Then, build your time by having him sit for four seconds before treating, do another five sets, then release with ‘OK.’”
Organize Food and Treat Storage
The best way to store pet food is in a waterproof, airtight container so your pet can’t get into it and the food won’t go stale. Look for containers that latch safely so there’s no chance your dog can simply push the lid off and get into the food. Ideally, you should also find a place for the container close to where you feed your dog.
“For instance, if I feed my dog in the garage or on the front porch, I keep the air tight container or garbage container (for multiple big dogs) in the garage or on the front porch,” says Dodson. “If I feed my dog in the kitchen, they my air tight container is on the floor in my panty.”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer, whose work has been published in DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo!, & Popular Mechanics.