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Never considered these things before, but we are considering getting a Lab or Golden Retriever to train as a therapy/service dog, and I see shedding. We've always had small, short haired dogs which shed, but not enough to bother with between cleanings. But when my son brings his Lab over, the house instantly fills up with hair.


I'm NOT looking for advice on what dog to get, but rather on real life experience with the Roombas. There are a lot of models, I'm wondering if the high end ones are worth the money.


So, Roomboids, what say?

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For the past 9 years, Penny and I have been Puppy Raisers for service dog organizations (Guide Dogs of America, Canine Hope for Diabetics, and two or three different Veterans/PTSD organizations). It is so very rewarding, even if it's a little difficult to give up your pup after you've had it for the first 18-24 months of its life. However, you know it's going on to do greater and very needed work, so that makes it somewhat easier. And going to the graduation ceremonies and seeing your puppy 12-18 months later after the professional trainers have finished turning it into a true service animal, is so rewarding. You get to meet the people the dog will be serving, and their gratitude will overwhelm you.


As for Labs, that's all we train and they shed hair like a Marine recruits on the first day of Basic. We bought a Roomba at Costco two years ago, and it's been phenomenal. We got the "Pet" model which has a slightly larger catch basin. It doesn't "clean" your house like a good vacuuming does, but we've got virtually all hardwoods floors (except for 3 of the bedrooms) and it does a great job picking up the hair. We run it 1-2x per week, and just drag a broom around the perimeter of the floors (takes about 2 minutes) the rest of the time, with full vacuuming sometime over the weekend. It's surprising how much hair, lint, etc. the Roomba picks up. And it works quite well in the carpeted rooms as well.


It is NOT a vacuum cleaner. It has no vacuuming suction. It is a stiff-brush sweeper with a catch basin and mild suction to keep the accumulated debris to the back of the basin so that the front half is open for more.


The Roomba actually "learns" the room as it roams around bumping into things and changing direction, making sure it covers the entire floor. When it drops to a certain battery level, it will return to base, dock itself and begin recharging. Or, if it's done with the room you've assigned it, you can push a button and tell it to "Dock," and it will find home base. Additionally, it's programmable so if you guys go to the gym from 9-11 every Tues/Fri morning, you can set it to automatically do its thing during those hours.


It's not perfect. It can get stuck under some smaller furniture where the opening between the legs is barely wide enough to let it through. Sometimes it just doesn't find its way out. So it shuts itself off. And it can get stuck under beds if you keep other things under there (wife's shoe boxes, DAMHIK). But we never worry about it.


Our model came with two "barrier markers" which are essentially a couple of small battery-operated beacon signalers (about the size of a pack of cigs) which can be used on open doorways to keep the Roomba "focused" on the area you want it to cover before it goes exploring down a hallway in search of other limits. When it gets to the marker, it picks up the beacon and won't cross it, instead turning around and getting back to work in the area it's been in. We've got an open concept kitchen, dining, family and living room area. We just set the barrier markers at the entrance to the hallway and the exit from the kitchen, and Roomba just runs itself silly doing that large area. When it's done, we pick it up and put it on the other side of the markers and it does a dandy job on the hallways and the guest bathrooms. For the bedrooms, we just put it inside, shut the door and set a kitchen timer for a 20-30 minutes.


There are models from about $299 to $900. We went with a $400 version based on its specs and the plethora of features the more expensive models had that we just didn't need. We've been pleased. Still on the original battery, and it's been used about 200x the past two years. We've replaced the edge brush twice. But the main brush is still going strong. It's a reasonably robust unit, capable of handling floor/rug transitions and even thresholds up to about 3/4" high.


Like I said, you still need to clean the house, but our Roomba keeps the dog hair to a minimum and makes our lives easier.


BTW, also look into a metal brush called The FURminator, available at Petco and PetsMart. It'll pull loose hair out of the undercoat like nothing I've ever seen. We try to use it 2-3x a week, but if we don't "furminate" the dogs for a week, we can pull a small cat's worth of hair out of each one. It will also make your life with Labs easier.

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My old neighbors had a Roomba and two German Shephards they kept indoor at night (too many critters here to leave dogs outside at night).


Let's just say if you buy a Roomba you'd better be prepared to use it after the dog has been let out.

For a dog, especially a medium or large sized one, a Roomba is just a very pleasant surprise chew toy, especially when it's programmed to go about its business in the early morning or late evening. ;)



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Ah, good Fernando, I'd forgotten you do that! We even talked about how to get a dog that doesn't quite have the temperament to be a guide dog. Thanks for the very detailed response, what you do with the roomba is exaxtly what we would do. Sounds like now we just need to make the dog decision.

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I bought a Roomba a few years ago--probably 8-10--and it was a complete disaster. It would wander aimlessly, get tangled up in the fringe of area rugs, wander under chairs and trap itself in a state of total confusion, and launch itself down staircases with nary a shred of artificial intelligence. I sold it on eBay and was glad to be done with it.


My son and his wife recently bought a house and got a high-end Roomba (I believe one step below the most expensive). The first one worked well for about two weeks, then lost its tiny little electronic mind, after which it started getting stuck and confused. Back to the store. Number two wouldn't dock from the beginning. Back to the store. Number three--the avowed final attempt--has worked well for about a month.


Apart from that, I'd echo most everything that Fernando said. It's a little bitty sweeper and it does help, though it's not as powerful as a decent vacuum cleaner. The most helpful thing you can do is to groom your pup on a regular basis. It's actually a good way to establish your relationship with your dog, and using something like the furminator, along with pretty regular baths, goes a long, long way toward cutting down the mess.


I worked our golden retriever as a hospital therapy dog for about five years and we both loved it. It's incredibly rewarding. As our pup aged, his arthritis made it too difficult for him to continue, so it's been about three or four years since he retired.


Regardless of the mess and the effort, it's all worth it. Dogs are a great addition to your life, and working with a therapy dog is a fantastic way to help others in a way that you'll find satisfying and rewarding.

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I was an early Roomba adopter - and we loved it so much we bought about $20K of stock in the company.


As FB says - although it does have some suction, it's not a "real" vacuum - but it delays the need for "real" cleaning by a factor of probably 10:1. As long as you don't have the expectation that it will do as good a job as a person with a proper vacuum, you should be happy.


We have had dogs (as many as 4 at a time) and it DOES make a difference. At the time, there was a pet specific model, with different 'brushes' that don't clog up (as much) with fur. Note that you DO have to do more than empty the bin on Roomba - it does require regular cleaning and service to keep in top operating condition. The typical service parts are all easily acquired, not very expensive, and simple to swap out. (Little things like casters, brushes, filters, etc...)


In short - it's not cheap but it's money well spend. We are actually just about due for a new one, and I'm probably going to pull the trigger on the top model. (I missed the Black Friday deal at Target, and have been kicking myself...)

As they say about tools: "Buy it right, or buy it twice."

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We bought a refurbished Model 560. As all have said, it's a sweeper, not a true vacuum.


Once in a while, after working for a few weeks, the unit develops a 'clicking' sound. A thorough cleaning and de-hairing of the brushes takes care of it.


The de-hairing is accomplished with the included brush comb and a small screwdriver for the 'gears'. I've had to open the gearbox a few times in the 1.5 years we've had it.


It DOES pick up a good amount of hair. Not much good on the rugs we have around the house.


Would buy again, for sure. Big help.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The early 400s with NiCads had short battery life. New stuff is better. Worthwhile addition for sure but you'll still need a good vacuum and steam cleaing for carpet periodically.


Good luck with the dog. Years ago I hunted with a half breed lab that was the dog of a lifetime. Lived to hunt and had unerring skills for everything from grouse and pheasants to ducks and geese. Inexhaustible endurance even in sawtooth swale and thorns right to his last day. Detailed stories could go for hours. Schooled the younger dogs to do it his way....Get one like that and you will for sure never forget...Some are a heck of lot smarter than we think.

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