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Apartment Dog Guide: Your Guide to Getting a Dog for Apartment Living

Housing is scarce and rents are high, so how do you find a dog-friendly apartment, even in a “no-pets” building? Here are some clever ideas.

apartment dog guide
Showing your dog’s training certifications may persuade a landlord to accept your apartment application. Photo: elvissa

Dogs have long been notorious for making the whole apartment search process a difficult. Many landlords simply will not accept a dog.

In this Apartment Dog Guide, we’ll cover:

  • The reasons why hiding a dog from your landlord is a terrible idea
  • How to convince your landlord to let you get a dog
  • Choosing a dog for apartment living
  • Which 3 large-breed dogs are best for apartments
  • Moving to the city with a dog
  • How to keep your dog happy in an apartment

Part 1: Keeping a Dog in an Apartment That Doesn’t Allow Pets

This is never a good idea.

Sure, it can be tempting to go against the landlord and sneak in a dog despite the strict no-pet policy. After all, your property manager will never drop by or find out, right?

Wrong.

Why You Should Not Hide a Dog From Your Landlord

Here are a few reasons it’s a really bad idea to hide your dog from your landlord.

You Could Face Eviction

That’s right. You could get evicted if the landlord finds out you breached the rental contract and sneaked your pet in without permission.

Do yourself a big favor and research pet-friendly housing to avoid this altogether.

Far too many animals have been surrendered because of landlords demanding, “It’s either the apartment or the pet.”

Bad Karma With Neighbors

There’s bound to be that one neighbor who is buddy-buddy with your landlord and is just waiting to report juicy neighborhood news. It’s best to be an honest neighbor and simply stick to the rules.

Not to mention, if you stumble upon a neighbor who dislikes animals, you may find yourself being reported to the landlord.

Extra Charges

If your furball decides that dining on the carpet or going to the bathroom on the wall is a fun activity, this can incur extra charges for you at the end of your lease.

With pet-friendly apartments, these types of incidents are generally covered by your pet deposit, but in the case of no-pet housing it’s an out-of-pocket expense put on your tab.

Your Pet May Give You Away

Does your puppy scream and shout and bark and howl?

Nothing will give you away quicker than your neighbors being graced with dog music heard from down the hall.

Constant Need to Hide

Do you want to constantly feel the need to hide and shush your pet?

Home should be a place where you can relax and where your pet is free to act like … an animal. It can be exhausting to repeatedly worry.

It’s Not Fair to Your Dog

Dogs do not want to be locked up with no access to the outside world.

They need walks, bathroom breaks and exposure to new surroundings. Keeping them locked up inside your apartment at all times is simply not fair to them.

How do you find a dog-friendly apartment? It takes planning and patience. Photo: Manik Rathee

Part 2: Finding a Dog-Friendly Apartment

With rental space at a minimum and rates soaring, finding a decent, affordable apartment can be difficult — even more so if you have a dog.

Although many landlords will allow cats, dogs are often excluded, even from “pet-friendly” buildings.

And you’re really in trouble if you have a pit bull or other “dangerous” dog breed, such as a German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher or Rottweiler.

So how do you find a dog-friendly apartment, even in a “no-pets” building?

How to Convince Your Landlord to Let You Get a Dog

Follow the tips below, and you might be able to impress your landlord enough that they welcome you and your dog with open arms:

Get a Certificate of Training

Take your dog to basic obedience classes, and then work on earning them a Canine Good Citizenship certificate.

Not every landlord will understand what these “degrees” represent, so include a brief note clipped to your dog’s diploma.

Create a Dog Résumé

You wouldn’t include your personal résumé when applying for housing, but giving your potential landlord a résumé for your dog is a personal, lighthearted way to show that your dog will contribute positively to the community.

Some specific dog résumé tips:

  • Highlight any training certifications.
  • Include information about the dog’s history, personality, behavior and habits.
  • Keep the tone light.
  • Add a picture of your dog looking friendly.
  • If possible, attach letters of references from previous landlords.

Give the Landlord Educational Material

If the landlord is reluctant to consider your “dangerous” breed dog as a tenant, pass along some educational information about the breed.

Download an article or two from a reputable, well-known website explaining the adage, “Judge the breed, not the deed.” This might just convince your landlord that your “vicious” pit bull is actually a wiggly kissing machine.

Offer a refundable pet deposit — something like $500 — to convince your landlord to let you have a dog. Photo: Fran__

Arrange a Meet-and-Greet

Meeting your dog in person is the most effective way to sway a potential landlord.

Prepare carefully for this meeting:

  • Make sure your dog smells and looks good.
  • Put a fetching collar on them.
  • Before the meeting, take them for a long walk or romp to tire them out.
  • Bring training treats with you to keep them attentive.
  • Finally, make sure they don’t jump up on anyone or make any messes. In other words, bring poop bags.

Offer a Pet Deposit

Even if your lease doesn’t include a pet deposit, offering one shows how serious you are about renting a particular apartment.

An offer of $500 — refundable when you move — might be the incentive your landlord needs to award the apartment to you.

Offer to Get Renter’s Insurance to Cover Damages

Show your landlord how seriously you take their needs by purchasing renter’s insurance to cover any damages related to your dog.

Offer to Sign a Multi-Year Lease

Turning apartments over and filling vacancies is expensive and time-consuming. The longer tenants stay, the easier and cheaper it is for landlords.

Agree to a multi-year stay to make your dog request more appealing.

A Note About Service Dogs

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog or small horse trained to perform a specific service to a person with a disability.

No landlord can refuse to rent to you for pet-related issues, even if the building has a “no-pets” policy.

The landlord reserves the right to rent to whomever he or she wants, of course, but the landlord cannot deny you tenancy simply because you have a service animal.

Although you are not required to show proof, a doctor’s note goes a long way toward convincing people that your service animal is legitimate.

No, it’s not cruel to have a big dog in an apartment. It depends on the dog, but many large dogs are perfectly content in small quarters: Photo: michalk37

Part 3: Choosing a Dog for Apartment Living

Choose your dog wisely.

A dog can bring you intense enrichment and delight — or, quite honestly, stress and despair.

Obviously, some problems cannot be foreseen, but the following guidelines can help protect you from common pitfalls:

1. No impulse buying/adopting.

“How much is that doggy in the window?” is a phrase that should never fall from your lips.

And no going to your local shelter “just to take a look.” If you do, you may very well leave with a dog, a cat and the cat’s kitten. What you need to do first is plenty of research.

Don’t miss Petful writer C.D. Watson’s story “How My Impulse Buy at a Pet Store Became a Nightmare.”

2. Make a researched decision and reach a consensus with family members.

If your partner has been waiting for that Golden Retriever and you come home with a Peekapoo, you might be sharing the couch with that pooch. It’s hard to go hiking with a Peek, and Goldens make very heavy lap dogs.

3. Consider your environment.

You know how in real estate, it’s location, location, location? Well, this is a primary concern when choosing a dog.

But don’t assume big breed means country, small means city.

The breed temperament matters, not the size:

  • Irish Setters are beautiful and neurotic, energetic and goofy. They are happier with a lot of space, and these dogs would not be right for apartment living.
  • Despite its large size, a Great Dane, could do surprisingly well in a small apartment. Why? Because these big dogs like to meander around the block and go home and sleep the rest of the day.
  • Pugs can do well in apartments, but terriers? Not so much. Yes, they are small, but Jack Russells were bred to hunt vermin on large farms. They will go nuts in your tiny apartment — unless you have a major rodent problem.

Use breed generalizations as a guide, not as an absolute:

  • Some Golden Retrievers are couch potatoes, whereas others want to be NBA players.
  • Labrador Retrievers are almost always great with kids, and Chesapeakes are a different sort completely.
  • If you’re looking for a mixed-breed dog for an apartment, you can make some good educated guesses based on physical characteristics and temperament testing, particularly if they’re an adolescent or older.

Finally, in your dog quest, ask for advice from others who have dogs, as well as animal specialists and veterinarians.

Don’t believe everything you read on breed-related sites. They often have a strong bias:

  • Sharpei and English Bulldog sites won’t tell you the breeds are inundated with health problems.
  • Cocker Spaniel sites won’t tell you the dog is not great with children. Cockers are on some of the “problem dog” lists compiled by homeowners’ insurance companies. One bite and your policy can be canceled.

Part 4: Getting a Large Dog for an Apartment

Does your love for big dogs worry you when thinking of that tiny apartment you rent?

How will they exercise? Will there be enough room?

These are valid questions. And although you could bring a small breed into your family, those giant, lumbering and cuddle-friendly bodies of large breeds are just too irresistible.

The good news?

Not all big dogs feel cramped in small spaces. In fact, some of them live quite happily in apartments, despite their size.

Which Big Dogs Are Good for Apartments?

If you’re on the lookout for a big dog to fit your apartment lifestyle, consider the following 3 breeds:

Great Danes are not difficult to train, and they don’t usually bark a lot: Photo: DevoKit

Great Danes

Prepare to sacrifice your couch if you plan on having a Great Dane around.

These dogs are huge, and they’re not always good at sharing seating space with their humans. At 130–200 pounds, Great Danes are essentially the equivalent of having another adult person in the home.

That doesn’t keep them from being great companions, though.

Not a fan of early-morning walks or working out? Neither are Great Danes. In their minds, as long as there’s a spacious couch in the vicinity, all is right with the world.

Of course, they still need exercise, but they’ll be happier with 1 or 2 half-hour walks per day.

Besides their overall love of lying around, Great Danes are pretty easy to train, making puppyhood in a rented space more manageable.

Perhaps most important, while these dogs might have an intimidating look, they don’t usually bark — unless there’s good reason for it.

That aspect alone can remove unnecessary stress from you and your neighbors.

Greyhounds are chill, laid-back dogs to have live in your apartment. Photo: Liza

Greyhounds

Greyhounds may be known for racing at speeds of up to 43 miles per hour — but they are also some of the most laid-back large-breed dogs around.

Sure, they’ll zip through the dog park on occasion, but a few good laps is more than enough to keep them happy.

Greyhounds typically grow to be 60–70 pounds. They’re easy to spot, with long, narrow bodies and a strong chest and torso.

Surprisingly, they’ve acquired the nickname of “couch potato,” meaning small spaces won’t cramp their style.

Unfortunately, thousands of Greyhounds are bred to become racing dogs in the United States. Once they’ve served their purpose on the track, they’re retired and usually given up to shelters. This sad practice makes adopting a Greyhound an excellent idea.

If you decide to bring one into the apartment, good news: Their grooming needs are minimal, and their tendency to bark is low, making them perfect roommates.

Bullmastiffs don’t stay little forever, but they love lounging around inside. Photo: Danielle Scott

Bullmastiffs

Coming in at around 130 pounds, these giants typically want nothing more than to nap peacefully with their humans.

The biggest problem of having a Bullmastiff in an apartment? Tripping over their large bodies while they nap.

These big dogs are incredibly affectionate and love being near their family.

Couple that with their passion for sprawling out and snoozing, and you might find them snoring (and sometimes drooling) the day away at your feet, so watch your step.

Bullmastiffs need regular 20- to 30-minute walks daily to stay healthy.

But yours will be just as happy lounging on the couch throughout an entire movie marathon, if that’s what the day has in store.

Moving to the City With a Dog
No car in the big city? Be sure you know the public transit rules about pets. Photo: dee_dee_creamer

Part 5: Moving to the City With a Dog

Life would be so much simpler if we could just explain to our pets what’s going on: “Hey, buddy, we’re moving to a new city. There are going to be some changes, but everything is going to be great. Sound cool?”

Unfortunately, pets aren’t so savvy with language, so before making a big change in your (and your pet’s) life, do some careful research to make that change as smooth as possible.

Here are a few tips that will help prepare you for moving to the city with a dog.

Research the Neighborhoods

Don’t just check out the neighborhood with regard to your happiness and convenience. Keep in mind your dog’s needs also.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Pet supply stores
  • Groomers
  • Veterinary clinics

Proximity is all that much more important if you won’t have a car. Not many bus drivers will allow your Great Dane to hitch a ride along with you to Petco.

Don’t forget to check out how canine-friendly the area is. An entire city may boast the number of dog parks it holds, but certain neighborhoods might not particularly care for dogs.

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Your new neighborhood may be surrounded by parks, but are the parks actually dog-friendly? Photo: Crischan

Locate Parks

Finding parks is simple enough, right? Just pull up a Google Map of your new neighborhood and find all the little green squares.

But you might not be getting all the information you need.

Not all parks are open for dogs. And even the ones that do allow pets might not permit them off-leash.

Check out the information from the city’s parks department online. Find out:

  • Where the closest parks are located
  • If they are dog-friendly
  • If they have off-leash hours
  • If they have special fenced-in areas for dogs to play

Having a dog park within 1–2 blocks of your new home can make all the difference in a city, especially if your pup is used to romping around a lawn every day. Your dog will thank you for it, and you both might make some new friends.

Avoid Busy Roads

Not only is it a good idea to stay away from high-traffic areas, but it’s also a sound decision to steer clear of streets lined with storefronts.

Even if your dog has never slipped their collar or gotten off the leash, a busy road would be a bad place for that to happen.

Especially if your pet is prone to darting out the door ahead of you, choosing an apartment that is on a quiet and residential street is a safer decision than a main road.

Though there can be a great deal of convenience living on a stretch of storefronts — groceries, banking and nightlife all within a block of your front door — think about the noise. You may not be bothered by the constant sounds of traffic, delivery trucks and club music, but your dog has much more sensitive ears.

Even if your apartment has a yard, take your pup to the dog park. It’s good for them! Photo: krystianwin

Part 6: How to Keep Your Dog Happy in an Apartment

Bringing a dog into your apartment doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Living with a dog in even the smallest of studios is doable, as long as you know what to expect and how to plan ahead.

Use the following tips to make sure your dog is living a safe, healthy and happy apartment life.

Know Your Breed

What kind of dog do you have? What are their habits, quirks and needs?

Knowing your breed inside and out can be a lifesaver when it comes to apartment living because different dogs have different needs.

Take Border Collies or Labrador Retrievers, for example — 2 energetic breeds who require lots of space to move around in. When they get bored, they get destructive, which doesn’t end well when you’re living in a rental unit.

Great Danes or Bullmastiffs, on the other hand, are usually happy with a couple walks daily and a comfortable couch to nap on.

Do some breed research and figure out exactly what your dog requires. Understanding their temperament will let you home in on the kind of apartment care they’ll need.

Socialize — and exercise — your canine apartment dweller at the dog park. Photo: Ross Masoner

Find a Safe, Off-Leash Green Space

Many people think not having a backyard — a typical scenario in apartment living — means not having a dog.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Find the nearest dog park to your apartment and try to visit at least several times per week.

Even if you take your dog out on regular walks every day, having a space for off-leash running and playing with other dogs with is important to your pup’s health and well-being.

Got a backyard? Great, but your dog will still benefit from regular dog park visits (as long as they’re healthy and updated on vaccines).

Dog parks are plentiful in most urban spaces, so you should be able to find the perfect one for you and your pup.

Stock Up on the Right Toys

If you’re at work all day and your dog is left to hang out at the apartment alone, they’ll need mental stimulation to help prevent boredom.

Luckily, there are tons of resources to keep your dog entertained and engaged all day long:

Pet webcams and treat dispensers let you:

  • Watch your dog while they’re home alone to make sure they’re not doing anything sneaky
  • Reassure your dog with your own voice
  • Dispense healthy treats to keep your dog active and excited throughout the day

Tip: Avoid leaving your dog home alone with bones, which easily splinter after constant chewing (and pose a huge choking risk). Opt for an engaging dog toy instead to keep them safe.

Check out these dogs who make great apartment roommates:

Partner With a Dog Walker

Last, but certainly not least, find a trusted dog walker who can visit your apartment daily.

Even if your work days aren’t too long (and your dog can keep from having an accident inside), human interaction and exercise during the day will positively affect their demeanor, attitude and behavior.

If you don’t know anyone locally, try using an app to find dog walkers in your area. Not only will they take your dog out during the day, but also they’ll send GPS updates and notes about how the walk went.

These seemingly small things — human interaction and exercise — can make a world of difference for your apartment-dwelling dog.

There’s really no better way to make sure they’re happy and healthy while living in an apartment.

With the FitBark2, you can track minute-by-minute activity, sleep quality, distance traveled, calories burned, and the overall health and behavior of your dog.

Best Way to Keep Your Dog Fit and Happy

Looking for a way for you and your dog to get healthy together?

Check out the FitBark 2, the highest-rated dog health monitor in the market. It’s a small, colorful device that you attach to your dog’s collar.

The FitBark 2 monitors activity levels, quality of sleep, distance traveled, calories burned, and overall health and behavior 24/7. Battery life is 6 whole months, so you can worry less about recharging and more about bonding with your pup.

The device fits dogs of any size, and the FitBark loves the water as much as your dog does.

What to read next:

5 Reasons NOT to Adopt a Dog

Adopting a dog is a wonderful decision and will change your life. Just make sure you’re making that decision for the right reasons. See the article

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At Petful®, founded by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and editor Dave Baker, we are on a mission to give our readers the best, most accurate information to help their pets live happier, healthier lives. Our team of expert writers includes veterinarians Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, and Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, among others. Petful is also the leading independent source of U.S. pet food recall information on the web. Learn more about the amazing team behind Petful here: Meet the Team.

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