Uptown Dogs: Tips for Canine Apartment Life
As populations in America’s metropolitan areas continue to grow, our canine companions are having to learn to adjust to urban living. For many, this includes adapting to apartment life. Luckily, most apartments are amenable to their tenants having pets, but there are a lot of things to consider to create a safe and happy living environment for all involved.
Sniffing Out the Perfect Spot
When looking for an apartment with your pet, keep a few things in mind. Most apartments require deposits, some of which are refundable and some which are not, but they may also require a monthly pet rent. You’ll want to be sure to include this in your monthly budget. I recommend looking for an apartment with a dog park as well as this will give you a place to let your pup run free and burn off some of that pent-up energy. Some apartments have strict breed restrictions or limits on the number of animals that you can keep in a unit, so be sure to ask about these and other qualifications.
Establish a Routine
One thing of the utmost importance to dogs in apartment settings is establishing a routine. Dogs that are used to a backyard where they can be let out at any time may revert back to accidents in the house while they get used to their new home and schedule. Things that can help with this are crating your pet while you are gone, providing treats and toys as stimulation during the day while you aren’t there and being consistent on when you take your dog out to the bathroom. They will need to go out at least twice a day, but some dogs require a mid-day break, so consider having a pet sitter come over to take them out while you are at work or enrolling them in doggie day care on your work days. A regular exercise routine will also positively benefit your pup as the more sedentary lifestyle of living in an apartment may lead to unexpected weight gain.
Keep the Peace
When living in a multiple occupant building, owners should be mindful of surrounding neighbors. Dogs that bark at the sound of a pin drop may not make the best roommate for you or a welcome neighbor for those around you. Your lease may have a clause in it requiring that your pet not be allowed to make loud noises repeatedly or for an extended period of time. Unruly behavior can lead to complaints and strained relationships with your neighbors. For help training your dog to keep quiet, speak to your veterinarian, who may be able to give you advice or point you to a qualified behaviorist to help with the problem.
A New Leash on Life
Apartment dwellers should use the leash each and every time they take their pets out, even tenants who live on the first floor with grass access from their patios. This ensures the safety of your pet from cars in the parking lot, other pets or wildlife in the area and neighbors who may not appreciate canine companionship as much as you do. Some pets will resist going to the bathroom while on a leash if they haven’t experienced this before and may require extra patience and positive reinforcement in order to take up the habit. In conjunction with walking pets on a leash, it is very important to always pick up after your pets. This goes for apartment dwellers as well as anyone taking their pet to the dog park or trails or on a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Pet feces can carry the eggs of intestinal parasites, some of which can infect both our furry friends and humans. Bacteria in animal feces can also enter our drinking water when not properly disposed of and is considered by the EPA to be a source of water pollution1.
If your unit has a balcony, you’ll want to be sure to safeguard it for your pet. For small dogs, make sure they will not be able to wiggle their way between the bars of the railing. Large dogs need to be monitored at all times to ensure they don’t decide to jump over the railing after another pet, person or other passing interest. Many dogs will benefit from being kept in a crate when you are not home to monitor them. The small space can be comforting to them and also keep them off of furniture and prevent them from doing any damage to the apartment while you are not there to supervise.
These are just a few words of advice on creating and maintaining a great living situation for our canine friends in an apartment. For further guidance or answers to specific questions you may have, be sure to visit with your veterinarian. By forming realistic expectations of apartment living from the start, you can ensure a happy and successful experience for both you and your pet.
Cindy Carter, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in Austin, Texas. Dr. Carter began her career as a relief veterinarian servicing more than 18 hospitals in the Austin area but finally found a home as an associate veterinarian at Austin Corner Vet.