Can You Have a Pet and Good Furnishings?

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Can You Have a Puppy and Nice Furniture?

Q: My partner and I are in a four-legged stalemate. He wants a puppy because "puppy!" Not me because we just decorated our wonderful Cobble Hill apartment. I can already see a puppy turning the wooden legs of our coffee table into his favorite chew toy. And what about our poor sisal rug? My partner insists that people with dogs have nice furniture, and ours will survive if we train our pup. I'm not sure. Who is right?

ON: A puppy can certainly destroy a set of sofa cushions in a matter of minutes. But as your partner points out, people with nice furniture have dogs. How do you do that? By establishing rules and adhering to how and where your pet can move until they are old enough to be trustworthy.

Before you bring a puppy home, you and your partner need to agree on how you want to protect your lovely belongings. "It's not just about training a puppy, it's about getting everyone on board," said Andrea Arden, a Manhattan dog trainer.

If you don't want pee stains on the sisal rug, don't go there. Roll up the rug until the dog is adequately house trained, or keep it away at all times. The same applies to all living room furniture. If the puppy doesn't have access to the legs of the coffee table, he won't be able to chew them.

Crate the puppy when you cannot supervise him, and use baby gates or pens to limit where he can move. At other times, keep it on a leash around the home so it is always within reach.

"Management, in the simplest sense, is about preparing the puppy for success by doing everything possible to avoid foreseeable mistakes," said Ms. Arden. "Until I feel this puppy has good chew toy habits, I will not be giving him access to areas of my home where he can cause harm."

After all, a dog will be trustworthy enough to sit in your living room. You can trust it even on your sofa. Or you might want a dog that will never sit on human furniture. And that's fine. Just set the rule right away and train the dog as soon as he is allowed to enter the living room to relax at your feet.

If all of this corralling feels like a burden, consider adopting an adult dog instead. "It's not that you get an adult dog that will be like Lassie," Ms. Arden said, "but in general it can be less of a stress to get an adult dog." Maybe less stressful on your relationship.

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