Okay, so maybe the new dog beds were more for me than for Peapod and Pippin, but I thought I was doing us all a favor. Their old beds — two worn, janky, mismatched, biohazards that were a general disgrace to the master bedroom — needed to go.
So, when I stumbled across the pretty Laura Ashley pillow-style dog beds on clearance, which I know means no turning back, I bought two. The fabric, a pale blue and cream French print, cotton blend, would go beautifully in our bedroom. I loaded the 36 x 24-inch puffy, poly-filled beds in my car and raced home, eager to experience the instant upgrade.
As home accessories go, dog beds are sizable items, yet they are often a room’s weak spot. Most are as ugly as Halloween. This is partly because the industry has been making dog beds out of recycled men’s leisure suits from the 70s.
DC takes one look at the new beds and shakes his head. “They’re not going to like those.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“Peapod likes a bolster to lean against, and Pippin likes to nest.”
“Since when did you become the Dog Whisperer?
I parade the new beds ceremoniously into the bedroom. I pick up the two, skanky, disgusting old beds and squire them out.
“Slow down,” DC says, and takes the old eyesores off my hands. Meanwhile, at the sight of their beloved beds being airlifted, Peapod, our rat terrier mix, knits a worrisome knot in her brow. Pippin, the miniature labradoodle, unleashes a concerned whine. DC lays the old beds next to the new ones. “Let them choose.”
To their credit, both dogs give the new beds a try. After about 15 seconds, Peapod shoots me a withering look, turns tail and goes back to her old bed. Pippin, the pleaser, tries twice. Both times he crawls up, lays down, and tumbles off.
“BZZRRT!” DC makes the sound of a disqualifying game-show buzzer and jerks his thumb backward.
“But they look so much better,” I say. Four brown eyes look at me as if I just ran off with their cookie jar. It was bad enough when I learned DC had opinions about home design, but now the dogs have opinions, too?
“They like their old beds,” says DC, their lawyer.
“Well, I’m not going to let my house go to the dogs.”
As DC and I debate form vs. function, the dogs’ heads swing back and forth as if they’re watching a tennis match.
For the next two weeks all four beds stay in the bedroom. And, despite how nice the new ones looked, they got a unanimous tail-down verdict.
To find out how to get dog beds right, I visit several websites devoted to this, which proves I am not the only one who overthinks small matters, then I call Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and author of several books on dogs. He also, and this is key, has a beautiful home. (I’ve seen pictures.)
Though he personally doesn’t like a lot of dog beds lying around, because “they’re ugly, tacky, trip hazards,” (Exactly!) he does have a few. He offered these guidelines to help you pick a bed your dog will love that looks good, too:
Ask your dog. “Dogs have preferences,” said Dunbar. “Some breeds don’t like dog beds at all.” The malamutes he’s known, for instance, all would rather sleep on the floor. Dobermans, on the other hand, don’t do floors. To learn what your dog likes, take your dog to the pet store. Lay several bed styles down and see what he or she picks.
Identify your pooch’s sleep style. Whether your dog is a curler, sprawler, nester, lounger, leaner or cuddler (I’m not making this up) will shape his bed preference. Sprawlers like large flat pads; leaners like bolsters for back support. Curlers and nesters like the deep sides of a donut bed.
Pick your placement. Put your dog’s bed in a cozy corner or against a wall, where no one can sneak up from behind. Because they’re pack animals, dogs like to hang with you. So have beds where you spend time, like in the kitchen or family room.
Get the size right. Basically you want a bed that’s a little bigger than your dog. Measure your pup from nose to tail, then add six to 12 inches.
Factor in fabric. Dunbar likes leather because it stays clean. His second favorite dog bed material is sheep fleece. Both are neutral and go with almost every interior. Look hard enough and you can luck into dog beds in fashionable fabrics you can live with, too. Or buy some water- and stain-resistant fabric, like Crypton, and make your own. To meet shedding halfway, choose a fabric that includes the color of your pet’s fur. Regardless, look for removable covers you can wash, or beds that are completely washable.
Check contents. A soft, non-stuffed pad might be enough. “My big concern with filling is, if your dog is a chewer, the dog might consume the foam or other stuffing and that can be dangerous,” said Dunbar, adding that beds with orthopedic or memory foam support mattresses for aging and arthritic dogs are overkill. “That might help the owner rest easier, but come on.”
Try training. “You can train a dog to use any bed,” he said. “Put him on the bed, then praise, pet and feed him. Treat, treat, treat, and pretty soon he’ll think, ‘I like it here.’”
“Here Peapod and Pippin, I have something for you!”
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.