Owning a dog in a city apartment takes dedication, routine and a good pair of shoes.
I live downtown Toronto with my Standard Poodle and my Dandie Dinmont Terrier. Throughout the years of condo living in the big city with dogs, I’ve learned how to live in a tight space while still taking care of all my dogs’ needs. Here are some tips and tricks I have learned while owning dogs in a big city apartment. If you are a dedicated owner, you too can give your dog a great life in the big city.
Check renting and condo board rules
I would suggest always being upfront when you apply to rent an apartment. Although rules regarding landlords having no pet clauses in rental agreements vary by province, being honest can save you a great deal of stress further down the road. Sometimes paperwork can speak loudly in your dog’s favour. I once rented an apartment in Toronto and when the landlord came back to my agent with questions regarding my Standard Poodle, I had the agent email over a copy of my dog’s Canine Good Neighbour
* certificate and I got the place.
When buying or renting a condo as a dog owner, you must be sure to check the condominium corporation’s declaration regarding pets. If a condominium corporations’ governing documents prohibit keeping pets in a unit, those rules may be enforceable by law. The condo board might also restrict the types of pets, number of animals and the size of the animals that may be kept in a condo unit. Tenants are bound by these bylaws regardless of whether their landlord allows pets, and the condo board could have the power to fine or evict tenants for disobeying them. Do your research.
Pick an appropriate breed
So much stress and heartbreak can be avoided if you start off on the right foot by picking a breed that is suitable for apartment living. While smaller breeds are generally easier apartment dogs, some are too vocal or energetic for sharing a floor with other tenants. There are also some medium to low energy larger dogs that can do well living in a flat. Research breeds that you’re interested in, meet owners at shows and events, talk to breeders and be honest about your accommodations.
Owning a dog in an apartment means you will be walking. A lot. Multiple times a day. A well exercised dog is generally a well behaved, quiet and calm dog. In other words, a good flatmate. Exercise need vary by breed and age. I walk my dogs for about an hour and a half to two hours a day depending on the weather. I do 3 longer walks of thirty plus minutes and a couple other bathroom breaks which are quick walks about the townhouse area I live in.
A wonderful plus to raising a puppy in a large urban area is that they get exposed to various different people, dogs, sounds and smells which makes socializing easier as you don’t have to look far for stimuli. The secret is to keep the socializing going throughout their life and find new, exciting friends to meet and places to go. A densely populated city should provide you with plenty.
Basic obedience is crucial to have your dog live successfully in a big city. Between the hallways, the elevators** and the narrow streets with scaffolding, you will need to be able to count on your dog having good manners in order to keep yourself in your neighbours’ good books. Learn the leash laws in your city and know where the designated off leash areas are.
Toilet training a puppy in the city is more challenging unless you live in a ground floor apartment with a garden (which most people don’t). While your puppy is young and you are physically able to, I would recommend carrying your puppy to the elevator and out the lobby directly to the designated potty area. Carrying your puppy to the right spot eliminates the opportunity to make a mistake and will build their confidence when it comes to toilet training. Be sure to reward and praise wildly for a job well done.
Texture is important when it comes to toilet training a city dog. Get your dog used to going on various surfaces like wood chips, pebbles, grass and concrete. Many dogs have trouble going on concrete as they might see it too similar to indoor flooring and thus think it’s a no-no (or maybe they just think grass is the way to go). The earlier you get a puppy used to eliminating on concrete, the better. Some dogs take to it immediately, some are reluctant, but do it eventually and some never do.
Some people who live in high rises have a litter box or puppy pads that their dogs use. Some owners construct a toilet area on their balcony that uses turf or cedar mulch. I have even heard of people training their larger dogs to urinate in the bathtub or shower. Having a litter box or balcony toilet for your dog is definitely not an excuse to not walk your dog, but rather a backup plan when you are unable to take them out.
Be respectful of your neigbours and don’t allow your dog to relieve themselves on private properties or let them destroy public flower beds. Always pick up after your dog. Murphy’s Law has taught me that if you only bring one bag, your dog will go twice. So I always bring 3 bags per dog. My pockets puff out, but at least I’m prepared!
Having great toys is a major must-have when you have dogs in a city apartment. Toys that engage your dog will keep them distracted and quiet while you are away. Hollow rubber toys stuffed with treats are a good choice as are some of the puzzle-style toys that dispense treats.
Some quick tips for big city living with a dog:
- Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed will the noise down on your floors. Your neighbours below you will thank you and your dog will be much more comfortable.
- An area rug will muffle a lot of the noise your dog makes when you play with him.
- Making friends with a dog owning neighbour is a smart move. You can let their dog out when they can’t make it home on time and they can do the same for you. Power in numbers.
- Just because a veterinarian or groomer’s business is close to your place doesn’t mean they are the right person to care for your dog. Always do your research and get references from clients.
- If it is permitted in your city, introduce your dog to transit when young. Even you drive, you never know when you’ll need to hop on the bus with your best bud.
- Keep an eye on the ground while walking your dog. Big cities tend to have broken glass and even syringes on the sidewalk and in parks.
Big city living can be challenging for both us and our dogs. The good part is that city dogs are generally walked often and, if properly trained and socialize, tend to become a real part of the community. With dedication, research, fun toys and a comfortable pair of walking shoes city living with your best friend can be great.
*Read more about the Canine Good Neighbour Program
on CKC’s website.
**Learn more about elevator etiquette on our blog Dogs and Elevators