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How and why to add a dog shower to your mudroom

How and why to add a dog shower to your mudroom
April Hershberger bathes her dog Tank, an American bulldog, in a 48-by-33-inch dog shower in her home in Pennsylvania.
April Hershberger bathes her dog Tank, an American bulldog, in a 48-by-33-inch dog shower in her home in Pennsylvania. (Photos by Justin Merriman for The Washington Post)

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When Philadelphia-based designer Lucy O’Brien started mapping out a mudroom for a client in Wayne, Pa., last year, she took a maximalist approach. She lined the walls with Pierre Frey wallpaper dotted with Parisian gardens and whimsical creatures, and she added plenty of built-ins for functionality.

She also included a dog shower. The designated washing station for the client’s two pups, accessible from the outside of the home, made life easier and added charm to the space.

Amy Vermillion, an interior designer in Charlotte, says that when the pandemic forced people to spend more time at home they realized they wanted more functional, user-friendly spaces. Mudrooms — and dog showers — were a part of that.

“There were a lot of unusable spaces in people’s homes, and people were doing so much out there, and then all of a sudden they realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to do my own laundry, my own dry cleaning, my housekeeper’s not coming, this, that and the other,’ ” Vermillion says.

These dedicated washing stations, a practical luxury of sorts, keep dogs from tracking mud through the house and save their owners trips to the groomer. And although they are called “dog showers,” they can be used for other tasks, including watering plants and hosing off toddlers’ feet.

O’Brien chose porcelain tile for her client’s dog shower and installed an extendible shower head that makes it easier to bathe the pups from head to muddy toes. To match the room’s “French and English garden, whimsical vibe,” O’Brien says, she used a brass claw-foot shower head, blue porcelain tile on the floor of the shower, and white porcelain tile on the walls. A bull nose along the edges adds a decorative touch.

Vanessa Torres and her husband incorporated a dog shower for their golden retriever, Kai, in the laundry room of a home they built in Dalton, Ga., during the pandemic. The Atlanta apartment building they had been living in since 2017 had a dog-washing station, and they loved the convenience of being able to wash mud and debris off Kai’s paws after a trip to the park across the street, Torres says. They wanted to replicate the feature in their new home.

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The bottom of their dog shower is pebble tile in shades of gray and white; the walls are lined in glossy gray ceramic tile. The shower is about three feet off the ground, making it easier for Torres to scrub Kai. It has steps that retract under the shower when not in use, which he uses to climb in and out.

Kai isn’t a fan of water (unusual for retrievers, Torres acknowledges), but he has gotten used to the washing station. It’s easy for him to get in and out, but it’s also easy for Torres to contain his wiggles — and the water. A shower head that combines the soap and water saves time; baths that previously took about 40 minutes have been cut in half. Bath time “was something I dreaded before, and now I’m happy to do it,” she says.

Here are things to keep in mind if you’re considering installing a pup-primping station at home.

1. Choose the right height for you (and your pup)

Determining the right height is a matter of personal preference. (Your washing station doesn’t have to be elevated.) Your dog’s size will probably factor into your design decisions.

April Hershberger, a DIYer who lives in a renovated barn home in Somerset County, Pa., with her husband, two sons and multiple dogs, installed a dog shower in a mudroom that they added to the house about eight years ago. Her dog Tank, an American bulldog, weighs about 65 pounds, and she has a medium-size mutt, Sparky, as well. She didn’t want to have to lift them or deal with stairs, so she installed a 48-by-33-inch dog shower at ground level. It does have a lip, though, to keep the water contained.

Vermillion measured her client, then designed the shower’s height so that she wouldn’t have to bend over too far to wash the dogs. They were able to stand with their paws on the lip, then their owner could scoot their bottoms in.

The size can be flexible, too. “You could have it be a 2-by-1-[foot] space, as long as you can put the drain in and the fixture,” O’Brien says.

2. Select the best tile for the job

There’s no single ideal option when it comes to tile for a dog shower, but choose with an eye toward durability and safety. You don’t want your pup scratching a delicate finish or sliding all over the place. O’Brien opted for porcelain tile that resembles marble for the threshold of the shower she designed, then used a combination of porcelain and ceramic tile for the floor and walls. “It’s not going to be ruined or have any sort of complications of upkeep, so it’s a good option,” she says.

Flat river rock is another great choice, because it camouflages dirt and is gentle on paws. Vermillion chose this in a black shale hue for a shower she designed. The rocks come in a mosaic, and installers add grout around the pieces. “I wanted a nice surface for the dog’s paws, but I also wanted to be able to sort of hide the dirt,” Vermillion says.

And make sure the surrounding tile goes high enough to protect the walls when your doggy shakes all that water out, O’Brien says. She also suggests using dark grout, particularly on the floor, to conceal dirt and to guard against discoloration.

3. Make room for towels, both clean and dirty

Your pup will need a towel (or two) after a shower, and you don’t want to have to run to another room to grab them. Torres had two cabinets installed in the base of her dog shower, and she uses them to store towels and other supplies for Kai.

To handle wet towels, Hershberger hung a drying rack above the shower in her farmhouse mudroom. It doubles as a place to hang other wet, dripping family items, such as swimsuits or winter clothes, she says.

4. Dog showers aren’t just for dogs

Even if a washing station is dubbed a dog shower, it can also be used for cleaning dirty kids, washing outdoor gear and gardening tools, and watering plants. If your shower is on the ground, you can do as Hershberger does and step into it to spray off your boots after sloshing through snow or puddles, or after working in the yard.

Lia Picard is a freelance writer in Georgia.