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

If little of that seems workable, a small dog may be easier to exercise; but remember the terriers, and don’t assume that “small” equals “placid.” Conversely, the world holds many a large-sized couch potato. Rescue Greyhounds are notorious for being just that. Another good choice: adopt an older dog. He may have lost his home because his owner died or got sick. Job loss and foreclosure send many nice animals to shelters these days, too.

No matter how active you are, some working dogs are generally ill-suited for pet-dog life. Among these are the so-called field-bred Labs and Retrievers, and working lines of certain other breeds. 

Mental Exercise

Take into account mental exercise, too. That includes not only training but interactive puzzle toys and food-dispensing toys. How much mental exercise can you give? Many smart, bored dogs come up with ways to have fun on their own -- couch eating, shoe stealing, and unrolling the toilet paper are just a few possibilities. When a client’s neighbors complain that his dog barks all day long, the first cause I look for is boredom. (Of course, these problems aren’t limited to apartment dogs.) If you don’t see yourself providing much mental stimulation and need a low-mental-maintenance dog, leave the Jack Russell Terriers and Border Collies to someone else.


Next, think about sociability. In an apartment building or a condo complex, your dog will be meeting your neighbors, their friends, their children, and their pets. You may be better off if you avoid the guarding breeds, such as Rottweilers and Akitas. Also think twice – or more -- about the flock guardians, for example Anatolian Shepherds. Be cautious, too, of any breed whose standard includes terms like “aloof,” “pugnacious,” or “reserved with strangers.” Sometimes these are code for “Once I’m grown up, forget having your takeout delivered.” Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Pugs are generally friendly dogs, as are Beagles and many Labs. Responsible shelters and rescue groups evaluate their dogs’ behavior and will help you make the right match. I also recommend that anyone looking for a dog read Sue Sternberg’s book Successful Dog Adoption. Its clear guidance in choosing a family pet emphasizes friendliness.


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).