Choosing the Right Dog for Apartment Life

What characteristics make a dog well suited to live in an apartment?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #7

A listener writes, “I was wondering what type of dog fits best in an apartment.  Does it depend more on the size or the type of dog?” Like most interesting questions, this one can best be answered “It depends.” What it depends on is the subject of today’s podcast.

Apartment Living

Urban furniture and appliance stores offer “apartment-sized” versions of all the standard equipment. Petite refrigerators! Itty-bitty sofas! It’s easy to assume that the best apartment dogs are the scaled-down models, too. Indeed, size may be a make-or-break issue, because some landlords and co-op boards limit tenants to dogs under a set weight. But if your options are open, start by thinking about how the dog’s activity level intersects with what kind and amount of exercise you can comfortably provide. Consider sociability and noise sensitivity as well.

A Word About Dog Breeds

First, a word about breeds. The dog that every other apartment dweller seems to have may or may not be right for you. I’ll be mentioning a few breeds; that I don’t name the hundreds of others doesn’t mean you should rule them out. Or in. And full-bred dogs are in no way superior to mixed breeds, except that they make convenient reference points. Finally, generalizations about breeds are just that. Upbringing and individual variation make a huge difference, for good or bad.

How Zippy Is That Dog? How Zippy Are You?

Let’s start with activity level. That includes physical and mental exercise. The suburban backyard is way overrated as an exercise source -- the dog put out in the backyard often just stands there waiting to be let in again. Many apartment dwellers can meet the needs of an active dog. Do you have access to a large, safe off-leash area? I’m not talking about a quarter-acre dog run here, but a space big enough for a dog to play fetch or really cut loose and run. If so, are you willing to take the time to teach your dog to come reliably when called?

What if you don’t have access to such a space or can’t see yourself using it, but your heart’s set on an athletic dog, such as a Rhodesian Ridgeback or a Pit Bull mix? In that case, be sure you can provide aerobic exercise in other ways -- a dog sport such as agility or flyball, for instance. Less formally, you can jog with your dog, play tug, and arrange play dates with compatible dogs.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).