Dogs are domesticated—a word meaning “belonging to the house”—but for the lucky dog today it is increasingly more the house that belongs to them. We extend our homes to include them. Not only do my furniture choices and my rug color (to say nothing of my dog-toy collection) speak of their place in my home, the space itself is defined by how we use it with dogs. Moreover my dogs have not only furnishings, but actual furniture.
There is evidence of dogs sleeping in their masters’ beds back to the fourteenth century; Henry of Lancaster was said to let his greyhound called Math into bed.III And so by the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century pet-merchandise catalogs included a category of dog-specific furnishings, echoing products for humans: the house and the bed. Dog houses and kennels had been around for hundreds of years: the gable-roofed structure with one entrance, upon which you might expect to see Snoopy piloting his WWI fighter plane. Intended to keep a dog out of the inclement weather more than provide them with a suitable room of their own, they also were places of punishment or penance, as anyone who has been in the doghouse with their parent or partner knows. But by the twenties a progressively minded dog parent could buy “the perfect dog house . . . a cozy, dry, comfortable, scientific house” with a slanted roof, side door, and protected entrance hall. Made to endure hurricane-level weather events, it was billed as “the dog house a dog would buy for himself”; adding: “if he were buying a house.”IV At thirty-five dollars (the equivalent of over five hundred dollars today), it is doubtful that any dogs had the means.
Bedding, in the doghouse or out of it, began as an extension of farm-animal bedding—sanitary straw or woodchips, sold by the bale. Over time, straw was replaced by cedar shavings, and the concerns addressed by manufacturers went from economic to sanitary (keeping fleas and other nasties away), to cosmetic (keeping the coat glossy). Then kennels came inside and became, essentially, beds: mattresses on a frame or on the floor.
Some were spring-upholstered; some were little more than raised cabinets on legs. Willow and rattan baskets, paired with a cushion, suited the small dog; a chaise lounge fit the more dog-sized dog. Baskets might be hooded, to protect from drafts; cushions, pneumatic. One Abercrombie & Fitch model mimicked a bunk bed, with a cushioned chair below “for day use” and a “comfortable bed” above for night. By the forties, personalization happened, and the dog’s blanket or cushion or bed could be embroidered with their name, just as the owner’s towels were monogrammed with their initials. Confusion about whose towels and whose bed these were was at last settled—at least for the literate. But just in case, a sub-industry of dog-repellents—“Pup Pruf” was one—appeared, promising a non-staining means of keeping a dog off your chair.