Keeping your house clean with two big dogs

Housekeeping is one of my constant battles. I adore having a clean home, but there are always two furry forces working against me.

Happy babies

These gleeful minions.

The amount of fur they produce daily is just mind-boggling — not to mention the various puddles of drool and water and clumps of clay. (We, living in the South, have the great misfortune of not having soil, like normal people do; oh, no, we have red clay instead. It is the devil’s sediment. It’s on everything. And it makes gardening a particular form of back-breaking misery.)

Furthermore, big dogs can be quite destructive. The two of them have utterly ravaged our exterior doors with their scratching and clawing and begging to get in. They also, in their fervor to be with us, punched out a glass panel in our former storm door. Charming.

So. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years to preserve my sanity and the dogs’ happiness.

  • Sweep constantly. One of these days, we’re going to spring for a Dyson, but for now, I just sweep constantly. We’re lucky to have all hardwood floors in our house, which are a blessing when it comes to cleaning up after dogs.
  • Clean the kitchen floor at least twice a week. I clean our floor on my hands and knees, like a washerwoman of yore. This makes me feel better about my life.
  • Floor runners (long, narrow rugs) at entryways. The standard rectangular rugs don’t seem to do much to catch eight paws running in from the yard. But runners? Brilliant. They cover so much more ground and pick up a lot more from muddy paws. We have an old, thick, braided runner in the basement, where the dogs usually come in, and it’s served us immensely in our battle against dirty floors.
  • Protect rugs with old towels on rainy days. When the weather is bad, I cover the few rugs we have with old towels. This works for a while, until Eden decides that the rugs are playthings set out just for her pleasure and enjoyment.
  • Or, just don’t have rugs at all. Dogs and expensive rugs just don’t mix, in my experience. If you can help it, just have hardwood floors everywhere. Personally, I find trying to keep carpet or rugs clean with dogs is a continual battle. So we only have two rugs. And they are woven jute (e.g., natural-colored/easily disguise mud and fur).
  • Wash dog bedding regularly. Our dogs can’t be trusted with expensive, padded beds, because they treat them like pinatas, so they sleep on piles of old blankets, pillows, and towels. These are fairly easy to launder, and if they have accidents, it’s also quite easy to isolate the affected bedding.

Here’s my big question, though, about housekeeping with dogs:

Pernicious Reddish Dust

I think I might be the only one with this problem, but I want to crowdsource this one. I can’t find anything online about it.

In every room where the dogs exist, we have fine layer of filthy reddish-colored dust on every surface. This was not a problem at our previous houses, where we just had Pyrrha. I’m beginning to think Eden is the culprit, because once we brought her into the home, this film of red/brown dust started appearing on everything. I know it’s dog-related, because in rooms where the dogs don’t go (like upstairs, where we have our guest bedroom and my studio), there is none of this horrible dust. It’s heavier than normal dust, and it almost adheres itself to things (like the covers of my beloved books, and papers, which it completely fouls). Am I crazy? Has anyone else experienced this? What could it possibly be?

How do you keep your house clean with pets? What are your favorite tools or tricks?


44 thoughts on “Keeping your house clean with two big dogs

  1. I love hardwood floors, especially with pets! I wonder if the red dust is related to the clay. I’m guessing you had the red clay soil at your other house, but perhaps Eden rolls more than Pyrrha?

    1. Finally, I thought I was alone and the internet says nothing about this hellish dust. My gsd and labrottie have to be the culprits see as carloina clays every where I look. So nasty

  2. I don’t what the heck could be causing that reddish dust. My first inclination is that Eden might be more of a body shaker (i.e. likes to shake out her coat). Could it be related to dog dandruff?

    I know what you mean about the constant fur battle. I have only one dog, but she’s a cattle dog with some shepherd thrown in, and she is a shedding machine, with two big fur blow-outs a year. For the last two years, I’ve used a broom and followed with a swiffer. Both helped keep things in check, but my husband’s recent purchase of a Dyson has revolutionized our “hairy” situation.

  3. “It is the devil’s sediment.” Best ever! ^^

    I…am not good at cleaning. But we have hardwood floors and tile on the first floor, and carpeting only on the second floor. Hardwood again on the third. So, a lot of sweeping goes on here. I’ve got a dustbuster for the first flight of stairs, and a vacuum for the second floor. We have throw rugs, but more often than not, they’re just kind of folded up somewhere instead of actually employed.

  4. Yep. All of it. Yep, yep, yep.
    (Incidentally, having gone through 4ish vacuums in the past handful of years: The yellow Dyson is no good… it’s supposed to be equal to rugs and hardwoods, but it does a terrible job on rugs. Go for the purple!)

  5. I don’t know what to say about your dust problem, except maybe wipe the dogs down with one of those chamois cloths like they sell at Poochie Bells when they come back inside. The best thing I think I bought myself was a steam Shark for the kitchen floor!

    1. I just moved to a house with red clay under the deck and I cannot keep any surface clean since moving here. I did not have this issue at either of my other homes. I found that the rooms that I keep closed off don’t have the dust. If you find a solution aside from banning them from the entire house I’m all ears!!

  6. Echo is the same. Sheds like crazy…and it’s white fur. Sometimes I sweep up so much fur I’m positive that I could create another German Shepherd puppy…or maybe a litter of them. We basically don’t wear black in our house and if we do we pack a lint brush to take with us when we leave. Everyone who interacts with Echo also knows to avoid dark clothing or pay the furry price. 🙂 We just own it. Control it as much as possible with baths and brushing, vacuum constantly, and just know that Echo is always with us wherever we go…sometimes she’s not even with us, but her fur is! 🙂 Mud and dirt? Well…again…all white dog=messy. But you can always tell where the mud is, so that’s a perk. 🙂

  7. I can sympathize on the hair! I was vacuuming constantly when Zoey was here. I was about to invest in a Rumba. We have no rugs and hardwood floors which makes life easier. Still, I always keep a lint roller around and run out the door if wearing black pants…haha.

  8. We have a Dyson and it is so awesome! Love it! I wish we had hardwood floors, though, because even with the Dyson I know our carpets are so dirty. Ace sheds short black hair constantly. I can never get ahead. And he has so much dandruff. Plus, we have the two cats. I would like to vacuum every day, but I do it twice a week at best, usually once a week. I also have drool on the walls from Ace shaking his head around. It’s a never-ending cleaning process, that’s for sure.

    I don’t have the red dirt/dust though!

  9. You know, I think hands and knees is the only way to get a floor satisfactorily clean. I usually use a spray mop with a washable pad (basically a non-disposable version of the Swiffer Wet Jet) which is okay, but all mops seem to just push dirt around to me. Especially dog hair that the broom missed.

    Another tip: get a natural fiber broom. I bought a horsehair broom (for a steal at TJ Maxx), and it picks up so much more dog hair. I have to go outside and pull dog hair out of the broom now, but with our old broom the hair just drifted in the air.

    As for the dust, I’m thinking it’s clay+dog dander. It’s either getting airborne from them shaking, or from them running around playing. Try giving the dogs a quick wipe when they come in from the yard.

  10. This is one of my favourite things about blogging – people going through EXACTLY the same issues as you! Basically every morning our living room has balls of fur, that look like those ball things in western movies that float across the screen! I can’t remember what they’re called!

      1. I realize this post was 5 years ago. I have 4 dogs – all 1 years old. We have a dog door that opens into a kennel in our open kitchen.

        Our dogs love to dig. And since we are in Georgia – that equals red dirt.

        Then when they come inside, even though they are in the kennel – we get dust EVERYWHERE. EVERY. WHERE.

        That’s why I was looking for hints. Since we let them come in and out during the day – I guess it’s our fault. I like they can get out of the weather if they need to – but can run around and play during the day.

    1. Omg, I have those same kind of balls daily! Lol. Well, we have 7 dogs (2 labradoodle pups) 3 adult doodles, an English Mastiff, & our misfit, a Schnauzer mix (Shepard). The dust is unreal. We live 3 blocks from a rock quarry and our home was built in 1939. I can easily dust daily! I do vacuum daily sometimes twice due to Mastiff & schnauzer mix. Was hoping for a miracle answer!

  11. That’s funny. My solution to the dog hair all over the floor is to just leave it there. I mean, sure, every so often I sweep, but there’s no point trying to keep up with two German shepherds’ undercoats!! I love it when people say, “Oh, it’s really bad this time of year, isn’t it?” Um, there’s pretty much no time of year that German shepherds don’t shed!

    Your girls are so beautiful!

  12. Reading your blog has helped me mentally prepare for what’s to come. You know when you do research about the breed, they say things like “you’ll find clumps of fur everywhere”, you kind of go: “that’s ok~ I can live with that…” until it becomes real.

    My German shepherd is 4 months old, and the shedding has officially started. Our solution to this cleaning situation is to lower the standard and redefine “clean”.

    Great blog!

  13. Sorry, I can’t relate. Not that I don’t have tons of dirt and dog hair. I’ve just given up. 🙂

    BTW, I read an issue of Consumer Reports recently that rated a Bissell vacuum very close to a Dyson for about $200 less. You might want to look into it.

  14. We clean every other day – sweeping, vacuuming, dusting. The dog beds and furniture throws are washed every weekend, and the dogs are bathed every other weekend. It’s a lot of work – but we have 4 dogs 🙂

  15. I have two dogs. I vacuum everyday, pass a moist mop every other day. I bathe my dogs on a regular basis as well as brush them. It’s a lot of work but so worth it. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  16. How about drool/nose art on windows? I can’t seem to get it off easily with windex no matter how hard I scrub…

    Best regards!
    South Hakney Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

    1. Simple soap (Dawn) water mixture get s the nose drool off windows easily. Magic erasers work wonders also but not ear as cost effective .

  17. I just found this blog post while searching the internet for tips to keep my hardwood floors clean with a border collie mix and a black lab mix! We have black fur EVERYWHERE in the house, on every surface, in every meal, stuck to the baby’s drool covered face, and all over our clothing. I sweep the living room, kitchen, and dining room daily, but I don’t usually make it around to the other rooms. We thankfully have a Dyson that someone just gave away, but I can only use it when the baby is awake, which is difficult in its own way because baby wants to chase the vacuum. And, I can totally relate with the horrible clay dirt. We live in South Carolina, so not only do my dogs’ paws track in the clay, but also SAND. Ugh. What can ya do.

    1. We live off the coast of Florida, and my two sweet dogs track in SO much sand/dark dirt mix. It is EVERYWHERE. I both sweep, and the Roomba helps (but only if I sweep beforehand…there’s just too much sand and hair. Haha)
      Sand is sneaky.

  18. I found this article after doing a search on red dust. Coincidentally, I also have two German Shepherds and I have the same problem with nasty red dust on every surface of every room the dogs go in and none in the rooms they do not go in. Also, I live in the south (Virginia). I believe I might know what’s causing it. My back yard is not entirely but has a large portion that is full of red clay. I believe the dogs carry in the clay on them and once it drys out in the house it turns into the nasty red dust that sticks to everything around.

    1. Yes! That has got to be it, Lori. Thanks for sharing. I also live in Virginia and our backyard is just red clay. It’s horrible! I wish there were an easier solution…

      1. I live in Alabama, and I truly thought it was just my house that had the constant thin (but sometimes thick) layer of red clay dust on everything! We have cots for our shepherds, they stay in the kitchen with access to the backyard through a dog door while we’re at work, and it doesn’t matter if I wipe the countertops 47 times in one day, they’re still going to be covered in dust! The cots pretty much sift whatever dirt they bring in, so when I go to sweep the dust has turned into a very soot-like powder that’s impossible to get completely swept without using a mop afterwards. If rain comes before we get home, the soot is then transformed into a wonderful muddy fortress.
        However, giving up my dogs is no option, so I will live with it indefinitely. 🙂

  19. Same here, two big dogs and in the South… Red Clay. We asked our AC guy and he said to keep the AC unit fan set to ON and not auto. This causes your blower to run constantly but with the newer star energy compliant units we didn’t notice any change in our utility bill. What this does is keep the air flowing and running through your air filter. You’ll need to keep a good filter in there and change it out about every 2 weeks. Helped us out a lot though we still have some of that red dust settle everywhere but no where as much. Only happened AFTER we got the two big dogs. Don’t know if it’s because they roll in the grass / dirt or what. You would not believe what those filters look like when we pull them out. I’m probably going to supplement with some smaller air purifiers through the house. I’ve done that before and it really helped… also helps with the kids allergies.

  20. Just found this blog late too, while searching terms like “my house is always tidy but dirty” and “why is my house so dusty?” I live on the beach in Mexico with four dogs, a Rottie, two GSD mixes, and a Chihuaua. I have the beach sand on one side of me and the desert on the other, with wind constantly blowing the grit and the dog hair tumbleweeds everywhere. It sticks even better to surfaces when you add a layer of salty humidity from the sea as a base. The dogs track in dirt and then slobber in it, literally creating mud inside the house. I feel like my house is never clean. Lately, I’ve had a few mice too, so I’m using time I could spend doing normal cleaning trying to get rid of them and disinfect after them. I’ve also had a bumper crop of daddy long legs and teeny tiny ants that die and leave their corpses scattered all over the floor. Leaving the doors and windows shut all the time just isn’t practical in my climate. You can’t even buy a self-wringing mop here; I had to actually go to the States to get one. And my house (a rental) is old and full of crevices and cracks for gunk to accumulate. Where the dogs nap during the day along the wall in the living room always has a big dirty smear. It’s kind of driving me batty and distracting me from work.

    So far my solutions have been:

    * Using all tile floors (although I did just buy an outdoor rug for the living room that I can hose down if necessary).
    * Sweeping religiously every night before bed (the dogs go in their own bedroom to sleep, so I wake up with a clean floor that lasts for a few minutes at least).
    * Putting down sand over dirt in the tiny yard where the dogs play and potty.
    * Making the dogs stop for paw wipes on rainy days or alternately, walking around with mop rags on my feet. Seriously.
    * Using baby gates to keep the worst of the mess carried by the dogs out of the spare room and my bedroom.
    * Buying a mini shop vac that can handle the fine particulate matter that seems to doom regular vacuums.
    * Buying dog beds that have removable, washable covers for the living room and using old blankets, towels, and t-shirts in the “puppy room.”
    * Not allowing the dogs on the sofa or beds, which they test all the time.
    * Hiring a cleaning lady for the living room, kitchen, and bathroom, so I can sort of start with a clean slate (she hasn’t started yet, but I’m counting the days and also wondering how much I need to clean in advance for her, so she won’t be completely horrified). I can handle the bedrooms if she can really scour the rest. Thinking about hiring a mobile dog groomer to come once a month too, to really give the pooches a good professional scrubbing.

    I love my dogs, but my dream is have one of those charming country estates (preferably in Europe, as long as I’m dreaming), where they have their own entrance, mudroom (complete with shower/grooming station), and little wing, and I’d have my own grownup space that stays nice and clean all the time. My friends without dogs or who only have tiny dogs don’t understand. Sigh…

  21. I love this post….this red dust it’s everywhere, it drives us crazy. We have a Australian shepherd, lab mix, and a boxer.
    My mom has breathing problems and they all 3 sleep with her. All of our main floor stays covered in red mud. You sweep hair constantly then wipe the furniture constantly, and have to thei throw away your rag, because it is full of mud and hair.

    It’s every they don’t appear to have anything on them when they come thru the digit door. It’s driving us crazy, I change filters twice a month, and an looking into duct cleaning and while house my mom’s health depends on it. Thanks to this blog, it helps to know others understand….because our family

  22. The best window cleaner for getting off nose art, or almost any other kind of window gook is a mix of 50% ammonia and 50% water. So buy a huge jug of ammonia for $3 and refill your Windex bottle forever. You can use this spray to pre-treat fabric and carpet stains too, it’s great.
    Cleaning up after German ‘shedders’ is a never-ending battle. We’ve had shepherds for decades, and the best tool for dealing with their insane double coats is a furminator. Our daughter is a groom salon manager and she recommended it to us – I would never be without one. I comb out loads of fur and don’t have to vacuum/sweep nearly as much.
    Muddy feet are a nightmare… so we keep a big coffee can by the back door with an old towel. When they want in, if the feet are muddy, each paw gets dunked in tepid water, then dried with a towel. The first couple of times there was a bit of rebellion… until it became clear that those mucky feet were getting washed or they weren’t coming in the house. Now it’s just routine, and the feet are squeaky clean, coming in. Don’t get me wrong. The mud still magically gets in. Just a lot less. But it’s part of the territory, having big dogs. Anybody who’s had one, knows. Good luck with all your pups and the challenges they bring! 🙂

  23. Yes yes yes! The red dust is driving me out of my mind! It’s everywhere. I dust one room, then another, and so on. I go back to the first room and bam – there’s red dust! I vacuum constantly and there’s red dust and dirt in the vacuum. I have a black dog and a white dog. My vacuum has a filter and I clean it constantly. I’m thinking about buying an air purifier and if that doesn’t work, I just don’t know.

  24. Great blog, thank you. I don’t feel so alone in my constantly furry house… I have a golden/shepherd mix with skin allergies that pulls his hair out and a long hair GSD whose pastime is to grow fur so he can shed it. They shed all year long, every minute of every day, and night. We call the tumbleweeds ‘puppies’ and name them. Some are the size of teenagers. On windy days, it’s easier to open all the doors and let the breeze carry them out of the house and into the pool, then empty the skimmer and filter. Like some of you, we’ve simply had to redefine what ‘clean’ means. My biggest issue is our furniture, the leather stuff is fine, but the other couches smell like dog all the time, and that’s their fav place to lay when they come in wet… nasty nasty. We have a couch cover, but I think we just need to set the couch on fire and put it out of its misery. I did finally get a little hand held vac, can’t afford the Dyson, but the one is so easy for just a quick vac every day in the main living areas, I really love it. The big vac comes out on the weekends for the carpeted areas and rugs. If you pick up the ‘puppies’ first, then vacuum the hard floors, it’s much easier on the vac too. Feeling your pain peoples…

  25. I have two GSD’s that live with me in Colorado where the air is very dry. I covered my whole back yard in sod (turf) grass which worked great until the seasons and furry friends tore it up. I repaired my ducting which had many holes, cracks, and gaps that pulled and pushed dust around. I change my filter monthly even though it says it’s good for three. It’s used for heat and AC. I use a double flap dog door with a (pet-safe) artificial turf ramp, a shark vacuum, and the FURminator brush.

    The last thing I do is tape a 20″ x 20″ basic air filter to the outside (either side works as long as the filter direction is correct. I use the outlet because it keeps the dust contained if it’s knocked over) of a 20″ box fan and run it on low to medium. I turn it up when the dogs are going in and out of the house. I also change this filter at least monthly. It really makes a difference and will outlast any expensive air purifier. Because our air is so dry I use an ultrasonic humidifier in our bedroom. Our tap water works great but hard water can leave a dusty film if used with this type of humidifier. I still clean religiously every weekend even though I too have learned to “deal with it” but hopefully these tips will contribute to the war on dust.

  26. I am so glad I found this blog! We have 3 pups and two of them shed a ton. I live in New Mexico and have a layer of dust on EVERYTHING also. I very easily could dust everyday. I’ve been trying to find the reason for this also because it seems to have gotten worse. I was thinking of having our HVAC system cleaned. Has anyone done this? We also have carpet which I’m sure doesn’t help but a dog door as well. Has anyone else found that to be a cause for a tremendous amount of dust in their home? Thank you for this blog! 🐶

  27. I too am struggling with the red dust. It is hard to keep it clean I find it like you said everywhere the dogs go. I think they bring it in on their fur from running around. I dust once a week and its back just as thick the next couple days. Im finding it on the return vents and at the top of my bedroom curtain where the ac/ heat blows it down -_-

  28. Okay, I realize I am seven years late to the party, but- like you- I’m scouring the internet for advice. I live in Oklahoma, home of the devil’s sediment. We live in a new-ish addition which was built upon tons and tons and tons of red, RED clay. Even grass struggles to grow. We have a Great Pyrenees. We came from New Mexico, which is extremely dusty in its own right. We NEVER had a dust problem there. Little white Pyrenees tumbleweeds? Of course. Dust? Never. Now, we have the tumbleweeds now stained a lovely mauve in addition to a layer of red silt on literally every surface of my home. I could dust and the very next day, the layer of dust is back. It has driven me to tears more than once. I don’t know how to combat it! I keep thinking maybe it’s the dog, but we never had trouble with excess dirt and dust in even a dustier state than this one. I suppose it’s slightly comforting that I’m not alone, but I extend to you every ounce of empathy. I can’t even walk around barefoot without having red soles. Luckily, our house is 100% tile.

  29. This article cracked me up because THIS IS MY LIFE! I have 2 bullmastiffs and also live in the country. While we do have red clay, the dust fortunately isn’t an issue for us. Everything else seems like a CONSTANT battle! A few changes that I’ve made that have been very helpful include:
    *No carpet! All flooring is either hardwood or tile. I do have 1 rug under my bed, just because I love the look of it, and since I can’t keep pretty throw pillows on my bed without these monsters knocking them off, my rug has become the only thing I can maintain since so little is actually exposed.
    *Vacuum every day, or at least every other day. I bought the Bissell Cleanview Swivel Pet Rewind (about $160 on Amazon). GAME CHANGER. I wanted a really good vacuum with a HEPA filter, but a friend who researches EVERYTHING in depth, recommended this one to me and it is awesome!
    *Leather couches instead of fabric. Between drool, hair, and dander, this switch will make your life SO much easier. It’s especially important if you have anyone in your home who has allergy issues.
    *Lastly, I’ve learned that it’s really impossible with 2 large dogs to keep my home as perfectly clean as I’d like it to be, and that’s just going to have to be ok. The trade off is seeing my 2 little buffaloes living a happy life, and that’s worth it!

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