Best City and Apartment Dogs

Photo by Sandy hays

For city and apartment dwellers, that joyful decision to bring home a dog should coincide with a reality check: Not all rescue dogs and dog breeds are well adapted for an urban environment, or for the square footage offered by an apartment or condo. Here’s a roundup of the top breeds for apartment living, as well as the most important considerations for a canine in the city.

Top Dog Breeds for City and Apartment Living

  • The Pug – Playful and gregarious, your Pug will have energy for long walks and he’s destined to become the beloved mayor of the block. When you get home, he’ll be quiet and ready for couch time.
  • The French Bulldog – Little and friendly, the Frenchie loves exploring the city with you. He’ll bark if something is amiss, but otherwise he’s a quiet breed.
  • The Japanese Chin – Described as catlike, the Chin is affectionate, adaptable, and requires only minimal exercise.
  • The Newfoundland – Though too big for a studio, the Newfie can live happily in a large apartment. He doesn’t require a lot of exercise, and takes the hubbub of the city in stride.
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – Sweet-natured and quiet, the Cavalier is a perfect fit for apartment living. But he’s not a good choice if you must leave him alone all day for work, because he can develop separation anxiety.
  • The Dachshund – Though Doxies have a tendency to bark, they can learn to be quiet with patient training and positive reinforcement. They love exploring with their people, but can also tolerate a few hours alone.
  • The Metropolitan Mutt – This refers to any mixed breed rescue dog with the temperament for city and apartment living. You’ll know him at the shelter by his calm confidence, engaging, but quiet personality, and tendency to sit rather than jump around. The shelter staff can vouch for his street cred.

Breed Characteristics to Look for in an Apartment Dog

While the breeds above are strong bets for city and apartment dogs, temperaments of individual dogs vary significantly. Here are a few other factors to keep in mind:

The Dog’s Energy Level

The dog’s energy—and yours—are important factors in choosing an apartment-dwelling canine. Living with a high-energy dog is simply more challenging in an apartment where space is limited and there’s no convenient yard for regular play sessions. It’s feasible only if you have the energy—and the time—to take your dog to the park, and to take long walks or go for a run during the day. When you leave a high-energy dog at home for hours on end without adequate exercise, he’s likely to engage in destructive chewing. Though crate training is helpful and prevents household damage, it isn’t fair to leave a lively dog contained for long stretches.

Dog breeds that may be too energetic for the big city and small spaces include most sporting dogs, herding dogs, and terriers, as well as mixes that include these breeds. These dogs were developed with stamina for long days of hunting and herding, and to cover a lot of ground in the process. Australian Shepherds, for example, are highly athletic dogs who need to be on the move throughout the day, as are German Shorthaired Pointers. Compact Russell Terriers may be the right size, but they actually have bottomless reserves of energy and do best with ample room to roam.

How Noisy Is the Dog—and the City?

For the close quarters of city and apartment living, a quiet dog is ideal. You may love your talkative best friend, but he won’t be endearing himself to your neighbors. Many small dog breeds lean towards the yappy side, including Miniature Schnauzers, Chihuahuas, and Dachshunds. Russell Terriers get another strike against them as apartment dogs because they are highly vocal. While patient training can help curtail barking in some dogs, it’s unrealistic to expect a noisy breed to become the silent type. Peace and quiet are also more likely when you keep your dog company—many bark because they are lonesome and bored.

The hustle and bustle of the city can also be unnerving for some dogs. This has more to do with individual temperament than specific breed traits. Socialize your dog from an early age so he’s comfortable with crowded streets, honking horns, and new dogs at the dog park. If you’re rescuing a dog, the shelter staff can probably help guide you to a quiet, laid-back dog, and even one who once lived in the city. An even-tempered pooch also makes a great cubicle buddy if you work in an office that allows dogs to come to work.

Other traits to avoid in your search for an apartment-dwelling canine include a penchant to over-protect or guard the family (think Dobermans or Rottweilers), and a known separation anxiety—this is a common trait among any of a number of small terriers who self-console through destructive chewing. 

A word of caution: When you start your search for a city dog, ask the landlord first—whether it’s okay to have a dog, of course, but also whether there’s a weight limit (typically it’s between 25 and 50 lbs.), and whether specific breeds are banned in the city or building—this is a fairly common practice.

Can a Large Dog Live in an Apartment?

Yes, speaking of size, a large dog can live in an apartment if there are no weight restrictions. In fact, lots of small breeds are too noisy and high-energy to make good neighbors in a living situation where you share walls with other tenants. Other variables matter more than size; look for a quiet dog who’s reasonably low energy, calm, and sociable and polite around other people and dogs. Some mellow giant dog breeds make wonderful partners for your city adventures. Big dogs who are easy to live with in town or country include the gentle Great Dane, the placid Irish Wolfhound, and the low-key Basset Hound. 

The truth is, most dogs can exist peaceably in an apartment given enough exercise and attention. Whatever the size of your dog, make walking and other outdoor play sessions part of your daily routine. Because city and apartment dogs don’t have yards to romp around in, giving them enough exercise requires extra effort. As a bonus, you’ll enjoy the health benefits of being active with your dog.

Are Beagles Good Apartment Dogs?

The Beagle is a plucky, biddable dog with an agreeable temperament, which along with his compact size and his medium energy level, makes him a good candidate for an apartment dog. His short coat requires little grooming from you other than brushing, and the occasional bath. If you live in a cold climate, you’ll want to create a fetching cold-weather wardrobe to keep him warm: a dog jacket for city walking is requisite in winter. A word of warning about the Beagle: He is a hound dog, and hounds are known for their distinctive baying. Some find this endearing, others not so much (see noise, above). Hopefully your neighbors are forgiving, but if the baying is an issue you can address it with training, so it shouldn’t be a deal breaker if your heart’s set on a Beagle.

Are Corgis Good Apartment Dogs?

Corgis’ are affectionate and sociable creatures who are content to cuddle when you’re home, and who welcome your visitors enthusiastically. These are ideal traits for apartment living. Give the Corgi sufficient exercise (daily walking), and a few busy toys to keep him occupied when you’re away, and he’ll be content to live in an apartment. And because his adult size hovers around 30 lbs., he’ll probably fall within the weight range your landlord allows if there’s a size restriction. The Corgi is an especially watchful dog breed: he’d love a windowed space that gives him a view of the world outside. 

Are Labrador Retrievers Good Apartment Dogs?

Yes, very much so, even though they’re big dogs. Labs and Goldens are known for their high energy (in spite of the occasional lazy dog among them), especially when they’re still young. They can also be destructive as puppies, like most puppies are. This is where you and your proclivities matter: If you’re an active human, and possess the patience to train your Lab puppy, there’s no reason on earth you can’t invite him into your apartment living (save the landlord’s forbidding it). Your Lab may grow to be a big fellow, but remember, he’ll get his exercise outdoors—when you play with him in the park, or walk or run with him. So he’ll view the apartment much the same as you do, as a place to hang his leash. And when the two of you are chilling at home, his favorite place will be curled up on the sofa next to you.

A word to the wise: If you fail to exercise and engage your Lab, he may become sullen and destructive. And if you’re starting with a Lab puppy, be prepared to deal with the normal teething woes and the natural inclination to chew (give him some tough toys). By all means enroll him in obedience training. Include your dog in your daily exercise—Labs make excellent running buddies. If you’ll be away during the day, crate training is a must, but wear him out before you go, so he’ll settle down when you leave. You may be able to sidestep some of these early requirements if you’re acclimating an older (adult or senior) Lab to apartment living. But know that Labs are whip smart and trainable: They’ll do your bidding, if only you show them how. And they’re oh-so-friendly—it’s no wonder the Lab has remained America’s favorite dog for 28 years running.

Are Pit Bulls Good Apartment Dogs?

Perhaps surprisingly, they can be. Allow us to explain an important distinction, though: The ‘Pit Bull’ refers not to a breed, but to a breed type that includes the American Staffordshire Terrier (the Amstaff), the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier, among others. The Amstaff is the ‘show dog’ version of the American Pit Bull Terrier, known to get along better with other dogs than the American Pit Bull. He’s smart, loyal, and trainable, and with adequate exercise, can be happy living in an apartment. Know that the American Pit Bull Terrier has a proclivity to protect his human family and to compete with other dogs. So while this dog is generally trustworthy around members of his own family, unknown dogs and people can trigger these instincts. Before you choose one of these breeds as your apartment roomie, do your homework and find out what you can about the specific dog you’re considering. And make sure he’s allowed: Pit bulls rank high on the list of restricted breeds in many apartment buildings. If you’ve found the perfect pittie—and the perfect apartment—but your landlord seems doubtful, prepare a folder with information about your dog, including endearing photos, and offer an additional cash deposit to demonstrate how committed you are to being a good tenant.

Are Goldendoodles Good Apartment Dogs?

Maybe. What’s true of the Lab or Golden is true of this trending dog breed: Exercise matters more than the dog’s size when it comes to the Goldendoodle’s suitability for apartment living. This dog possesses traits of the Golden Retriever and the Poodle—he is a friendly, intelligent, playful, and highly social canine who doesn’t do well being left alone for long hours. And he has energy to burn, and there’s the rub: If you can’t invest a fair amount of time tiring out your Goldendoodle, he’ll potentially be miserable—and destructive—in your small apartment. But he’s also exceptionally trainable. So if you can commit to the training, and the exercise and mental stimulation (provide lots of toys), living with your ‘Groodle’ in an apartment might work. For this breed, individual dogs may be better suited to living in a cramped space than others, so do your homework ahead of time and find out everything you can about the temperament and exercise needs of the specific dog you’re considering. You should also know that this breed barks loudly, but not indiscriminately—his big voice isn’t likely to interfere with your living arrangements unless he develops separation anxiety, a condition you can address through training.

Are Boxers Good Apartment Dogs?

Yes, with a caveat or two, and by now you’ll surmise what they are. Boxers crave their people, so you’ll need to commit to spending plenty of time with your beloved Boxer. He is a quiet dog with impeccable grooming habits, making him an agreeable roommate, and a pleasant neighbor. The Boxer is not a huge fan of the cold, and because he’s a brachycephalic breed (he has a shortened muzzle), he doesn’t stay cool well in the heat. These traits conspire to make him more of an indoor dog. But he needs plenty of mental stimulation and at least regular exercise, nothing over the top: Two walks a day will suffice, or hire a walker in your absence. He’d also love the chance to hang out with other dogs once in a while—maybe other tenants with dogs in your building would enjoy participating in doggy play dates from time to time. If you can give him those things, and lots of loving affection, your Boxer should be happy and willing to coexist with you, even in tiny digs. 

It’s best to take your time deciding whether a dog is a good match for your lifestyle in advance, so you don’t face unnecessary frustration or, worse, bring home a dog you must later give up. If you stay mindful of noise and energy levels, choose from the breeds listed above—or adopt a mellow mutt—you’ll have a wonderful dog who’ll make your cozy apartment feel more like home, and exploring the city together will be tons more fun.

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