CHICAGO -- The human home is now just as much the dog's.
Homeowners who are building or remodeling have taken to considering their pets' needs as much as they do those of their biped family members, turning "pet-friendly decorating" into industry buzzwords.
This is about more than stylish dog beds that cost upward of $350; this is about stain-resistant fabrics, scratch-resistant flooring, colors that match a pooch's coat, or out-and-out design and architectural elements.
In Chris Rudolph's case, the Chicago architect put in "dog overlooks" and a "Doggy Detox," a large porcelain-tiled shower with hand-held showerhead, when building his country home in Three Oaks, Mich.
With dual entrances from both outdoors and the garage, the shower is where cleanliness is next to dogliness for his Labradors, Elmslee and Priscell, upon return from an outside romp. The Doggy Detox is lined in durable Italian tile that canine claws cannot mar. There is a towel rack and a spot for shampoo and brushes.
The "dog overlooks" are two square openings, one for each dog, cut into the wall of the second-floor loft that overlooks the first floor. This way, the Labs "can know where their humans are without running all over the place," Rudolph says.
The idea came about when the house was being framed and one of the dogs stuck her head through the wall framing, trying to get a sighting of her people. Rudolph took the hint and since has put another one of these into a client's house.
Rudolph -- like many of the millions of pet owners in the U.S. who spend billions on their four-legged friends -- has become part of the growing American trend of creating a home with sensitivity toward pets' housekeeping and style needs.
The roots of the phenomenon may have taken hold when pet columnist and author Julia Szabo started writing years ago about easy solutions for keeping pets and a clean, stylish interior. In her 2001 book "Animal House Style, Designing a Home to Share with Your Pets" (Bulfinch, 176 pages), she shares a state-of-the-art compendium of every possible solution, every available product and company contact for creating the pet-friendly home.