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 โ€” 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?

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32 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?

  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 devilโ€™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!

  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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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! ๐Ÿ™‚ Mud and dirt? Well…again…all white dog=messy. But you can always tell where the mud is, so that’s a perk. ๐Ÿ™‚

  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. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  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. Itโ€™s a lot of work but so worth it. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  16. How about drool/nose art on windows? I canโ€™t seem to get it off easily with windex no matter how hard I scrubโ€ฆ

    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.

  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…

  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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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