Renovating your home is like getting braces in junior high. The end result is pretty, but going through it sure isn’t. Ideally, we’d just go on vacation and come back to a finished house, but life isn’t HGTV and sometimes you’ve gotta live through the construction. My own home was recently full of tool-belt wearing strangers, power drills and dust, and my dogs’ routines were as disturbed as my own. Here’s how I kept my pups — GhostBuster and Marshmallow — calm as the contractors banged on.
1. We got out of the house
A couple years ago, we did some work in our kitchen. One day I left Marshmallow (a timid Jack Russell mix) at home with my husband while a plumber installed our new dishwasher. Apparently, putting in a dishwasher is a noisy process involving a lot of banging and swearing. I returned home to find an apologetic husband, a shaking dog and a fresh urine stain on the carpet.
When we began our recent bathroom renos, I’d learned from the dishwasher mistake. Every day when a contractor showed up, I would ask if they could give me a heads up before any particularly loud work began. I arranged our walks around the contractor’s game plan, and got us out of the house before the scary noises started. We had some very long walks and spent some pleasant afternoons playing and napping in the backyard.
2. I created a safe zone
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to go out for a walk when contractors are working. Some companies want a homeowner on premises. When this was the case, I worked hard to keep my dogs as comfortable as they could possibly be while strange humans were making weird noises in our home.
If the contractors were working on the downstairs bathroom, we sequestered ourselves upstairs. If they were working upstairs, we headed down. And if they were doing the most annoying thing ever and working on both at once, we camped out in my bedroom.
Some chill music and a bag of treats helped make my room into a little oasis where we could get away from the dust and noise. A group cuddle on the human bed kept everyone calm.
3. I distracted my dog
Too much lazing around isn’t good for anybody though, so we also worked on some of our training when we were trapped in the smaller parts of the house. We practiced the sit, down, stand and stay commands, and I hid treats under Solo cups for some nosework fun.
Whenever possible, we much preferred to hang out down in the larger basement space. GhostBuster is a gigantic Golden–Lab mix who needs to get his energy out, so we turned the rec room into an impromptu agility course, jumping over couches and coffee tables while tile saws whirred in the background.
4. I introduced my dogs to the workers
We had a lot of different people in and out of our home during our bathroom renos. Window guys, drywall guys, plumbers, the dude who specializes in shower doors — you get the picture. Some of these folks were in and out and never had to interact with my dogs, but others needed to periodically walk through our living spaces during the course of their multi-day jobs. I needed to make sure my dogs were properly introduced to these tradespeople so they wouldn’t accidentally be surprised by a Carhartt-clad stranger appearing in the kitchen.
When new contractors arrived, I asked if I could introduce them to my dogs before bringing GhostBuster and Marshmallow out for a meet and greet. GhostBuster was always the first to approach, and Marshmallow followed his lead when it was clear the new people were cool (and that treats were falling from the sky).
5. I recognized signs of stress in my dogs and myself
When GhostBuster is stressed, he itches. When Marshmallow is nervous, she licks her lips a lot. When I’m anxious, I sweat.
Renovations take up a lot of our energy, but if we’re attentive to our pet’s body language and honor our own feelings, we can tell when we need to pull our focus away from the project — for everyone’s sake. My dogs are very sensitive to my emotions, so chances are if I need a stress-busting walk in the woods, so do they (and they won’t stop bugging me until we’ve taken one).
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