The Housing Scene

Dogs may be man’s best friend. But when it comes to moving from one residence to another, you have to be your dog’s best buddy -- and your own.

In other words, you should consider Fido’s needs just as you consider yours and those of your children’s. After all, he or she is part of the family. And to paraphrase an old saw, if your dog ain’t happy, ain’t nobody gonna be happy.

“Having a pet is a responsibility similar to having children,” Barbara Todaro of Franklin, Massachusetts, RE/MAX Executive Realty posted the other day on ActiveRain, the popular real estate community and chat room. “They all have needs.”

Jeff Dowler of Solutions Real Estate in Carlsbad, California, agrees: “Doing your (doggie) due diligence is essential so you don’t make a big mistake.”

One important factor many people fail to consider, especially when they are buying an existing home as opposed to new construction, is whether the previous owners had a dog of their own. If they did, your dog will probably be marking their own territory as soon as you move in.

According to the Best Friends Animal Society, claiming the house as their own is most common among dogs that are not spayed or neutered. But any dog has the potential to mark territory. And a sniff test isn’t enough of an assurance that this won’t happen, says Rebecca Gaujot of Vision Quest Realty in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

“Your dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than yours,” says Gaujot, who started the ActiveRain conversation on canine issues. Her advice: “If possible, avoid homes where the previous owners had dogs.”

You’ll not only want a dog-friendly house, you’ll also want a dog-friendly community where animals are cherished, not downgraded or even denigrated.

For starters, realize that many places, but especially condominium properties, have restrictions on dogs and other pets. Some are severe, such as weight and breed. Some limit the number of pets. And some may even ban them entirely.

If you don’t know the rules going in, you may have to get rid of your pets, or pick up and move somewhere else. “When a family has pets, it’s best to think about their needs, too, before the move, than to find out the hard way that there may be issues,” says agent Patricia Feager of DFW Fine Properties in Southlake, Texas.

If your dog requires room to run, consider a community with large lots and houses with plenty of backyard. Or a spot that has a dog park or recreation area not too far from the house you are planning to buy.

But again, make sure you know the rules, especially if you plan to erect a fence so your dog can enjoy your yard without supervision. Some communities set down requirements for the type of fence you can put up, and some ban them entirely.

If you plan to walk your dog daily, you might want to look at places that have sidewalks. They are easier to navigate for humans, especially older folk. Agent Matthew Klinowski of Downing-Frye in Naples, Florida, ran into that problem himself at his previous house. There were no sidewalks, but the Klinowski clan didn’t realize how important they were until after they moved in. “I prefer to walk our dogs on sidewalks whenever possible,” the Florida agent says.

Another thing to consider: Many places require owners to pick up after their pooches. Of course, this is the right thing to do wherever you live, but many communities mandate it. And if the property doesn’t, the local government might.

And one more thing: Whereas a neighborhood where people are out walking their dogs morning and night can be an indication that it is a good place for a social pup to make friends, a place where tethered but otherwise unattended dogs are barking continuously at people passing by “might not be the most pleasant place for walks,” Gaujot offers.

Back inside the house itself, Gaujot suggests looking for open floor plans so you and the kids can enjoy play sessions with Fido. If the house has a stairway, say, to a basement rec room or to the upstairs sleeping area, make sure the steps are carpeted so your dog -- and kids -- won’t slip, slide away.

If your pooch is getting up in age, you might want to consider houses that have just a few steps -- or none at all. As my own 40-pound pal moved up in years, I had to carry him with me every time I went to my basement office. Otherwise, he’d sit at the top of the steps and whimper until I went back and fetched him.

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