Dog Owner DIY 101

Try our five fast fixes for doggie damage to your home.

No one ever said owning a dog was cheap. In fact, owners will spend about $700 this year to care for a medium-size pooch, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But there’s one cost that number doesn’t include: doggie wear-and-tear to your home, damage that can range from the unintentional — nail scratches on your hardwood floor and torn carpet — to the intentional — goodbye, sofa pillow.

The good news: Most doggie dings are easy to repair and won’t break the bank if you bypass a pro. So why do people often balk at playing Mr. or Ms. Fix It? Amy Matthews, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Sweat Equity” and “Bathroom Renovations,” chalks it up to plain old fear.

“Most of our nerves come from trying something we haven’t done before, and not being confident in our abilities,” she says. “But be brave! Even the pros had to do something for the first time at one point, and you’ll never know what you are capable of unless you just try.”

So if your house sports nicks, scratches, tears, or holes courtesy of your beloved dog, read on to learn how to repair them. The best part? Most projects suit even beginner do-it-yourselfers, and can be done from start to finish in less than 30 minutes.

Aargh Moment #1
Your dog jumps on the screen door to get your attention and leaves a 2-inch tear in his wake.

Project Rx: Patch the tear.
Time: 25 minutes.
Skill level: Easy.
Stuff you’ll need: New screen material and scissors.

1. Cut out a rectangular shape around the tear with scissors.
2. Trim a piece of new screen to overlap the hole by about 1 inch.
3. Unravel several strands of screen on each side of the patch.
4. Cover the hole with the patch. Weave the loose screen strands into the surrounding screen.

Keep it from happening again: Replace problem screens — like a screen door that your dog constantly leans against — with “pet” screen material (it has a tighter weave to make it sturdier), or add a metal guard that protects the lower half of the screen.

Aargh Moment #2
The doorbell startles your dog and sends him skidding across the hardwood floor. The result: Several obvious scratches.

Project Rx: Sand and fill the scratches.
Time: 30 minutes.
Skill level: Easy-medium.
Stuff you’ll need: Premixed wood filler (pick one that matches your floor), mineral spirits, a plastic putty knife, fine-grain (180-grit) sandpaper, and varnish, polyurethane, or a similar product that matches your floor.

1. Rub sandpaper over each scratch in the direction of the wood’s grain.
2. Clean the wood dust off the floor with mineral spirits.
3. Use the putty knife to fill the scratches with wood filler. Let dry.
4. Sand the excess wood filler. Clean the area with mineral spirits.
5. Refinish the area with varnish, polyurethane, or a similar product.

For light scratches — ones that you can’t catch a fingernail on — gently swipe fine steel wool over the scratch in the direction of the wood’s grain.

Keep it from happening again: Scatter several throw rugs anchored with rug pads in high-traffic areas. Also, keep your dog’s nails trimmed and filed smooth.

Aargh Moment #3
A few errant Cheerios in your child’s bedroom causes your dog to gnaw at the carpet, leaving a small tear.

Project Rx: Sew the tear.
Time: 20 minutes.
Skill level: Easy.
Stuff you’ll need: Curved upholstery needle, monofilament thread, tacks, hammer, and scissors.

1. Pull the carpet’s torn edges together.
2. Nail tacks about 6 inches on either side of the tear to hold the carpet in place while you work.
3. Sew the carpet back together using the upholstery needle and monofilament thread. Use a wide stitch (1 inch or so) to avoid placing extra stress on the seam.
4. Fluff up the carpet fibers to cover the stitches. Remove tacks.

Keep it from happening again: Counsel your kids to keep food — or anything your dog may want to scratch or bite at — off any carpeted floors. Clean up food or drink spills right away.

Aargh Moment #4
Your puppy decides the wall next to his  dishes makes a great new chew toy.

Project Rx: Repair the dent or hole.
Time: 1 hour.
Skill level: Easy-medium.
Stuff you’ll need: Pre-mixed all-purpose joint compound, adhesive mesh tape, spackle knife, scissors, fine-grain (180-grit) sandpaper, paint primer, paint.

For dents:
1. Fill the dent with joint compound using a spackle knife. Let dry.
2. Sand the area. Remove any dust with a damp rag.
3. Prime and paint the area.

For holes:
Pick off any loose paint and drywall from around the hole.
2. Cut and place a patch of adhesive mesh tape over the hole, overlapping the gap by about 1 inch.
3. Apply a thin coat of joint compound over the area using your spackle knife. Let dry.
4. Sand the area. Again, remove dust with a damp rag.
5. Prime and paint the area.

Keep it from happening again: Move your puppy’s dish so he’s not tempted to try the wall again. Monitor him while he eats. Put him in the backyard, his crate, or a small pen when you can’t supervise him. Consider feeding him in his crate, which is less chewable than your walls.

Aargh Moment #5
Your home-alone dog grabs a pillow off the couch and pretends it’s a toy. The result: A tear in the pillow and stuffing on the floor.

Project Rx: Fix the tear.
Time: 20 minutes.
Skill level: Easy.
Stuff you’ll need: Fray-stopping product such as Fray Check (available at fabric or craft stores), thread, needle, scissors.

1. Return loose stuffing to pillow.
2. Apply Fray Check to frayed fabric edges. Let dry.
3. Sew the tear closed with matching thread.

Keep it from happening again: Stow loose pillows in a closet or other safe spot while you’re away from home. Consider a slipcover if you think your dog will chew on your upholstery.

Don’t be surprised if the idea of tackling any of these projects — however easy — gives you a giant headache. Matthews feels your pain.

“It is always hard to start,” she says. “There is no secret to starting a project other than putting it in your calendar and just doing it.

“It’s kind of like going to the gym — hard to drag yourself there but once you get into the groove, it can actually be fun. Really! And the reward you get when you’re done is a great sense of accomplishment — and bragging rights!”

Maureen Kochan, the former editor of DOG FANCY, is a freelance writer and editor in Southern California who swears her dogs have talons, not nails.


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