Going To The Dogs: How Pets Are Changing Home Designs

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 7:25am
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 8:02am

Audio icon Download mp3 (7.37 MB)

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
The fake fire hydrant is a popular attraction at the dog park at Velaire at Aspera in Glendale.

A survey by the American Pet Products Association finds nearly 70 percent of households have pets. While they include reptiles, fish, birds and cats, there is a pack leader: dogs are most common, found in an estimated 60 million households. And they’re changing the way our homes are built and designed.

Apartment Living

On a sprawling apartment complex located off the Loop 101 in Glendale, Sandy McKee proudly points out a dog park. There are hoops to jump through, barrels to soar over, and balls and Frisbees to chase.

“You can see how fun that is,” she said.

Dogs and fun weren’t used in the same sentence when Sandy McKee began her career in multifamily housing 25 years ago.

“We had separate pet buildings. Pets were not welcome,” she said. “Owners did not want the mess, maybe or maybe the carpet replacement. There was a lot of cost involved to owners and they just didn’t want to deal with that.”

Today, communities like the 286-unit complex McKee manages cater to people with pets.

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
About 25 percent of residents at Velaire at Aspera have pets, mostly dogs.

“We have to welcome pets if we’re going to increase our rentals,” she said. “Back in the day when we didn’t do that I don’t think they realized how many rentals they lost being that way.”

The Velaire apartment community was designed nearly two years ago with dogs in mind: from the canine agility course to the 24-hour dog spa.

“Basically a big bath area for them so they don’t have to do that in their apartment home and the mess that comes with that,” McKee said. “The fur dryers are provided.”

Like most apartment complexes, Velaire doesn’t allow aggressive breeds as identified by some insurance companies. It’s a policy other communities follow and one the Humane Society of the United States would like to see disappear. The group says the concept of “dangerous” or “aggressive” breeds is urban legend and restricting pets based on appearance does nothing to support public safety.

While McKee’s complex does not restrict size or weight, they do limit pets to two per unit.

“We have about 25 percent of our residents owning pets,” she says.

Housing Needs And Wants

Surveys show Millennials — those between 24 and 38 years old — are the most likely generation to own pets. Angela Roth is in that group.

“This is Pierre,” she said. “He’s a little over a year old, and he’s our little fur baby”.

When Roth and her husband brought their 9-week-old French bulldog home, their townhouse felt a bit crowded, so house hunting kicked into high gear with a focus on Pierre.

“Things that he would appreciate like a yard, and space for his toys and a kennel,” said Roth. “All the things you would think about with a baby but for a dog.”

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Pierre's family purchased gray flooring to help make his fur less noticeable.

Now that they’ve nearly doubled their space, Pierre can spread out his toys, race up and down stairs, and munch on peanut-butter-flavored bones pretty much wherever he wants.

But, before they moved in, the Roths went shopping with Pierre in mind — or more precisely, a piece of Pierre in their pocket. They collected some of his fur, stuck it on a piece of tape and carried it with them to pick out flooring and furniture that would hide his fur.

“We certainly got looks at both the design studio and the furniture store and even Home Depot picking out some of the finishes, with people going ‘What are they doing with that piece of tape?’” she said. “But it has paid off greatly because he can be on the furniture and us not have to worry and we don’t have to worry about sweeping every single corner before guests come over.”

Dog beds and bowls are what Erik Tinker’s clients most want to hide. He builds sleeping cubbies in laundry rooms and feeding stations in kitchens.

“Just keeping the food and bowls off the ground,” he said. “It is kind of an eyesore, a little bit so people are hiding that into the cabinetry.”

As pets get older they can require accommodations just like people. Some homeowners request walk-in bathing areas and elevators to help four-legged family members get around.

At a property on the slopes of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Tinker said a special area will be added.

“So they built out a custom deck just for the dog to have a play yard, off the side of the house,” he said.

So, what’s next? Well, designer dog houses, of course. Custom built mini-homes to match the big house, complete with tile flooring, motion sensor lighting and air conditioning. Tinker hasn’t built one yet but knows the orders are coming and he’s ready.

“The sky’s the limit with those,” he said.

If you like this story, Donate Now!