Our townhouse is divided into three levels, and our dogs hang out on the bottom level during the day while we're at work. This area is not a basement, and there is no door separating the bottom level from the rest of the house. Because Maxwell is an odd dog who absolutely despises his crate (and destroys more things when he's inside his crate than when he's hanging outside the crate) we knew crating would not be the solution. A neighbor gave us an old baby gate that we have propped up on the stairs connecting the first and second levels that serves as an easy blockade to keep the dogs contained. We've used this baby gate for years, but there are a couple problems.
Exhibit A: It's ugly
Exhibit B: It's precariously placed
We never got the baby gate properly installed, so it sort of teeters in place, resting ever so slightly against the wall....
...and wedged into the banister
Another problem with the baby gate, which may not be totally apparent from the photos above, is that it's really difficult to keep clean. The black marks that show up on the white plastic every Sunday morning as Matt blazes through the Washington Post has me reaching for my Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pads.
And, perhaps the most significant problem is that the old baby gate does nothing to keep the dogs from making another future mess on our new rug. The baby gate is too small to contain the dogs in our downstairs living room.
So, taking a note from our neighbors Joe and Laura, we invested in a gate play yard that can be shaped to fit our space and contain our dogs like one giant baby gate. Specifically, I found the North State Superyard Classic on Amazon for about $50. I showed restraint and waited for it to arrive in the mail instead of seeking instant gratification by purchasing the exact same play yard for $70 at the Toys R Us down the street. The gate itself is a bit cumbersome, but for us we just molded it in an open trapezoidal shape to fit the entry from the downstairs living room to the entryway, and we'll keep it that way until we have some need to move it, such as guests using the downstairs living room.
Now when you open our front door, you'll see this:
The other positive improvement with this new system is that it gives us a place where we can confine the dogs when guests arrive. We have fallen out of using the penny can with Maxwell when guests arrive, but Maxwell has also (mostly) gotten better about not jumping. He's still a work in progress.
Of course, as much as I like the new dog-confinement system, I am most in love with the new rug. It is a tiny bit small for our space, but the issue is that we really need a 7' x 10' rug, and those are difficult to come by in the styles we wound up liking. Now that the rug is in our space, I'm really happy I went with the bold pattern choice.