The Minimalist Dog Owner's Guide
Are you a dog lover? We definitely are. And while our dogs aren’t a major source of clutter or confusion, they can be a handful sometimes. In our previous home, it sometimes felt like they were occupying a major percentage of the home, interfering with our ability to keep things clean.
After we moved to our new place, we didn’t want that to be the case. After decluttering and organizing, we came upon some strategies that made our dog-owner lifestyle fit with our minimalist lifestyle perfectly. We wanted to share them with you so that you can enjoy your canine companions without feeling cluttered or stressed!
Choose a few toys - and stick with them
Dogs are kind of like children in that they have toys. And they like to play with their toys. Sometimes they even get toys as gifts from visitors who come over too.
One of the quickest ways we’ve found that a house can get cluttered is with a dog that leaves their toys all over the place. Tennis balls under the couch, squeaky toys and Kongs scattered on the floor, a blanket dragged onto the couch and their bed shoved into a corner.
While we understand that dogs will be dogs and they should have some fun, it doesn’t mean that their toys have to be scattered all over the home. Choose a few good toys that your dog loves, a good toy chest or basket or container for them to be corralled into, and leave it at that.
Bonus points if you’ve trained your dogs to put away their own toys and tidy up after themselves!
Choose high quality leashes and collars
I don’t know if your dogs are leash chewers - our Great Dane can be - and so the leashes get kind of gross after a while.
Even if your dog isn’t a leash chewer, the usual wear of rubbing around and collecting hair and fur and oils can age a collar quickly.
While you can clean leashes and collars, we recommend investing in higher quality ones - ones made of leather in particular - that will age well.
Create a dog-care caddy
At one point, we found that our dog’s items were scattered all over the house. The deshedding brush was in the bathroom, heart medication was in the spice cabinet, leashes were in the foyer, other medication was in the bedroom.
I got tired of not only finding these items, but then having to go search for them again when it came to things like the heart medication. Instead, I put all of the items into one caddy that is located in the closet. I can even keep the medical and vaccination records in there (although we’ve recently taken to scanning all our documents in to Evernote for better safekeeping and organizing.)
Allocate time to spend with your dogs
Part of minimalism is spending time on the things that are most important to you. This usually includes family and loved ones- and for us, that includes our dogs.
It’s easy to ignore the dogs, especially when work and family stuff gets overwhelming. I feel bad when we get really busy, because it’s very clear that the dogs get neglected. And when we were insanely busy the past couple years, there would be days that I wouldn’t even have time to scratch their ears or have them lick my hand.
The quote of “A dog is part of your world - but you are their entire world” comes to mind. After all, we are their packmates - and they are wired for approval and social interaction from us. A life without that interaction isn’t a happy one for the dog - and isn’t fair for it either.
We’ve changed that. I ensure that I spend at least a good five to ten minutes when I get home every day to play with them, get them a bit excited and get their tails wagging. I usually also try to spend at least a good ten minutes at night giving them some cuddling or head scratching as well. Even better if we can all go on a walk together and get some exercise in.
Address behavior issues early and often - so they don’t become an issue
A lot of the things that complicate having a dog is having to do with behavioral issues. Things like chewing, urinating in the house, social anxiety, guarding and other behaviors that are seen as a negative can cause your dogs to feel like a burden as opposed to a joy.
I’m not saying that our dogs are perfect angels - Paddington barks at everything and gets excited by literally everyone, while Mr. Darcy has a habit of chewing and throwing up in the house - but we worked hard to ensure that major behavioral issues were addressed early on.
Keep an Open Floor Plan
This depends on the types of dogs that you have of course, but we find with having a Great Dane that it helps greatly to keep an open floor plan. The less furniture and less things that we have, the better - for a couple reasons.
First of all, Paddington is wonderful, but he is terribly awkward with his body - he has a hard time moving around things sometimes, and will bump or wag his tail into items unintentionally - so we ensure that he has a clear path to where he needs to go.
Secondly it makes it easier to keep your home clean if the surfaces are all open and cleared of clutter. Swiffering the floor of dog hair is easier when the floors are hardwood and clear of fussy furniture legs and dust collectors. Wiping down countertops are easier when there aren’t a lot of items on it (the major downside is just seeing how much our dogs shed in just one week! It’s kind of gross to think about sometimes).
Bonus: Having to clean up “accidents” is a lot easier with an open floor plan as well ;)
Lastly, an open floor plan also makes it easier for you to not feel like your dogs occupy a lot of space. Paddington is kind of like having a third roomate who sleeps on the floor, given that he’s bigger and heavier than I am - but with our open floor plan I don’t find him to be in the way as much as I did in our previous living situations.
Hope that these tips help! Living with your dogs shouldn’t be stressful and shouldn’t be cluttered. Really what our dogs need from us more than anything else is our love and attention. Part of us choosing to live a minimalist lifestyle was to be able to spend more time on the things that we love and bring value to our lives - and in our case, that means also spending more time with our furry companions.
Do you have any strategies or ideas as far as living a minimalist life with your dogs? If so, I’d love to hear about them! Tell me about them below in a comment.