For many people, a dog is part of the criteria for achieving the “American Dream” – a perfect complement to the house with a yard. Many shelters, rescue groups and even breeders, in fact, make a “fenced yard” a prerequisite before they would even consider placing one of their wards with you. But people who live in apartments love dogs too, and while a house may not be in the immediate future (or ever – who needs yard work?), the idea of owning a dog is what will make their life complete as well. Why not?
It is possible to love a dog in an apartment… that goes without saying. It just takes a little more effort, and it starts with choosing the right kind of dog (and the right apartment).
Choosing Your Apartment Dog
Some breeds do better in apartments than others, and remember: size isn’t always the determining factor. Many small dogs – terriers and beagles among them – are very high-energy dogs who like to move around and run for most of the day, and are likely to be problem barkers. Nothing will get your neighbors angrier than a constantly yapping dog next door. Several large breeds, on the other hand – Great Danes and mastiffs, for example – will happily hang out on the couch (yes, that’s where dogs go immediately after you leave) for most of the day, as long as you give them their daily dose of exercise. Dogs that live in apartments may actually get more exercise than many dogs with fenced yards. How many home owners with fenced yards are guilty of a reliance on that yard, rarely taking their dogs for a walk?
Carefully research the breeds in which you are interested (that goes for mixed breed dogs as well – you’re just dealing with more than one breed in that case). Do not get a dog that is described as “prone to cabin fever” or “hates to be confined” or “needs a job.” Neither of you will be happy in any apartment for very long.
Apartment dwellers may want to consider an older dog. Puppies and young dogs are so full of energy and regardless of the dog’s personality once he matures, that energy level may put you on the receiving end of some nasty notes from neighbors or management. Older dogs are calmer – mellowed – as a general rule.
Choosing the Apartment
Unfortunately, non-dog people who own apartment buildings or run condo boards may wrongly think all small dogs are the only appropriate apartment inhabitants and all big dogs are a completely bad idea. You may need to invest some time in educating them (if they’re willing to listen). If you have to fill out a formal pet request, include some photocopied pages from books or printed articles extolling the virtues of your breed of choice as a good apartment dweller.
If you’re looking for a new apartment, try to find an apartment near a “green area,” a place with grass and pleasant pathways or a park – you cannot afford to be lazy about the exercise you give your apartment dog and won’t always have time to drive a significant distance to a place like that in order walk your dog. Spend some time walking around your potential new neighborhoods and keep an eye out for dogs – if you see a bunch of them chances are it is a dog-friendly neighborhood. Evaluate the traffic, too: are there lots of side streets or mostly main streets that may require you to risk your life every time you cross?
Some people actually invest a lot of time in investigating new neighborhoods before making a decision. When renting, it might be a good idea to wait and ask if dogs are allowed after otherwise impressing the landlord with what a wonderful tenant you will make.
If you’re planning to get a dog to fit an apartment in which you already live, be honest and critical of your surroundings. There are certain environments in which no animal would be happy and perhaps it is as good a time as any to reevaluate whether or not you’re really happy there.