Apartment dog
December 6, 2017 1:54 PM   Subscribe

What's the best dog to get when you live in an apartment, and how do you manage if you work full-time throughout the week?

I really want to get a dog. I love them. All of them.

My partner and I are both employed full-time, and we own our apartment, so no landlord issues. However, we don't have access to a private garden, and we would be out of the house from 9 to 5 (or so), Monday to Friday.

Is this feasible? Or is it selfish? I have yearned for a dog for my entire adult life, and feel like now I'm in the position where it could finally work out. But I don't want to get a dog who will be miserable in a small (two-bedroom) space, and who won't be satisfied with just daily walks.

I've seen that low-energy dogs are recommended, though do wonder how easy those are to get if you're looking at shelter/crossbreed dogs and are thus limited to what's available.

Any tips or advice very welcome, even if your advice is "don't do it 'til you've got a garden!"

General dog rehoming tips or personal experience specific to the UK also welcome. Some of the listings I found on the local charity site explicitly stated you must have a garden to rehome, which is part of why I thought to ask the hivemind.
posted by nonmerci to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's totally possible! I adopted my first dog, a very high-energy Australian Shepherd mix, when she was four months old. I lived in a tiny apartment in the city and worked full-time.

Some animal shelters do require that you have your own backyard, but if you're living in a city, you'll find that they're less likely to require that because most people don't. I had a shared, fenced garden area at my apartment that I would take the dog to to go to the bathroom sometimes and play fetch. Mostly, though, we took long walks in the morning before work and when I got home from work around 6pm, and then a shorter walk right before bed.

The general rule of thumb is that a dog can "hold it" for the number of months old they are + 1 hours - so a 3 month-old dog can hold it for 4 hours. That means you'll probably want to hire a dog walker to come around lunchtime to take the dog out to go to the bathroom and get some exercise. You'll also want to hire someone if for some reason you or your partner won't be home right after work.

Crate training was necessary for me and my dog, because she had some separation anxiety and could get destructive if I left her home alone. So she would get a long walk in the AM, go into the crate until lunch, get walked around noon, and then go back into the crate until 6pm when I got home. Getting your dog used to the crate early will be super helpful. They should view it as their little den, with nice blankets and toys.

Get a dog! So many shelter dogs need love. :D
posted by anotheraccount at 2:01 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'd recommend looking at older dogs (5+ years old). Sometimes, but not always, older dogs are less energetic and need less running. Look for dogs who are described as 'couch potatoes'. I'd also add greyhounds and great danes to that list. Here's another list. But just keep in mind these lists are generalities and each dog is different, so talk to some rescue groups - they'll know their individual dogs better.
posted by hydra77 at 2:02 PM on December 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

I live in a third-floor walk-up condo and have a dog (Boston terrier). I work at home now, but was out of the house 8-6 M-F for the first six years I had her. If you can, I recommend getting a dog walker. I took the dog for a walk at 7am, dog walker came at about 11am and took her to the park with a small group, and then I took her out again at 6pm. I also relied heavily on the dog walker after my two knee surgeries and when I had a newborn.

I honestly don't think I would have been able to do it without a reliable dog walker.
posted by subluxor at 2:03 PM on December 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

You can definitely have a dog in an apartment! There are thousands of dogs in New York City, and many, many, many of those live without yards. I've even heard it argued that apartment dogs can have better lives than dogs with yards, as their owners have to walk them, so the dogs get to see a lot of new things and people and other dogs every day. In an ideal situation, you would have a dogwalker stop by once a day to take your dog out. Some people train their dogs to use a pad or a box inside. (Less ideal is having your dog just hold it while you're gone - it's not a good situation, but many people do it, and I've done it for two days a week, and the dogs all seemed to be fine and learn to hold it. But again, this shouldn't be the default situation.)

The main thing will be walks - ideally, a half hour in the morning and night (on days when my dog was home alone, she got closer to two hours). Look for a dog that's at least 3 years old - and smaller doesn't mean lower energy.

But yes, definitely doable - and good luck!
posted by umwhat at 2:05 PM on December 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had a Husky in a studio apartment so maybe I'm not the best person to offer advice here, but: choose your dog based on your OWN level of energy and budget. I say budget because you basically can't get a lot of small dogs because they're often not great at holding their urine for long periods of time. In which case, you'd want a dog walker. (I'd recommend getting one either way, if you can afford it). Also, if you are happy to walk your dog for 30-40 minutes every morning and night, plus a mid-day dog-walker, you'd be totally fine getting a higher energy dog, I think.
posted by ancient star at 2:06 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have a 70-lb german shepherd in a small 2-bedroom home. I work all day, and she is in the house. I do hire a dog-walker 2 days a week, but my dog can manage being indoors all day five days/week.

The rescue/charity service may require a fenced yard, but they are not necessary if you are willing and able to take the dog out three times a day, regardless of the weather, all year round. Doesn't matter if it's pouring rain or hailing or blistering hot: the dog must go out, and must get exercise.

Many dogs are just fine confined to the house during the work day, so long as they get the exercise they need when you are home. But you must also consider factors like: not going out for a drink after work with coworkers, because you have to go home and let the dog out. Vacations get more costly and difficult to arrange. Visitors who are afraid of dogs or allergic will not want to come to your home.

Dogs are great, and far more adaptable than many people realize; but you must be prepared for what keeping a dog safe and happy entails.
posted by suelac at 2:07 PM on December 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

I lived in an apartment with a ~17 lb Chihuahua mix and a full-time job. Totally fine. I found that one of the best things to do is pee pad or litter box train the dog (much, much much easier as a puppy), so he/she can go potty not on a walk, for when it's crappy outside or you get home late or whatnot.
posted by Fig at 2:09 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

and smaller doesn't mean lower energy

this is super important to keep in mind, especially if your building has weight requirements for pets.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:09 PM on December 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I have a chihuahua and he's well suited to apartment living. Chihuahuas are tiny little critters, so they are generally great for apartments. A lot of people will tell you that tiny dogs can't hold their pee for very long, but my tiny guy can hold it for heroically long periods of time.

The thing is, even if you have a small fenced-in yard or something like that, your dog would still probably need to be taken on regular walks. It's not just about exercise, most dogs just really love getting out in the world and sniffing disgusting things, marking things, meeting other dogs in the neighborhood, etc. I live in NYC and a lot of people here will say things like "I think it's cruel to have a dog in the city," but I actually think city dogs are way better socialized and more well adjusted than a dog in the suburbs who just gets let out to pee in the yard a few times a day.

I would recommend getting a dog walker, and making sure that can fit into your budget. I don't think it's animal abuse to leave your dog alone all day five days a week, but it's not optimal, and they do appreciate not having to hold it for that long every day.
posted by cakelite at 2:10 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

One more thing! One of the very best things about adopting a rescue dog is that rescues are often great matchmakers. They will be able to tell you which dogs would be best suited to your lifestyle.
posted by cakelite at 2:15 PM on December 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

My greyhound-ish dog, Blu, is the laziest couch potato dog I've ever met. He's basically a 30kg cat, and can happily hold his bladder for the length of a workday (or a rain shower - he'd rather hide on the sofa than get wet or cold.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 2:21 PM on December 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

I agree that older dogs can hold it much longer than puppies. We have an apartment and we have a dog walker come in the afternoon. My dog can hold it to the end of the workday, but we like to have his day broken up by the walker. The only bad part about having a dog in an apartment is that you have to put a leash on the dog and put on shoes every time the dog needs to relieve itself.
posted by radioamy at 2:40 PM on December 6, 2017

3rding greyhounds. My retired racing greyhound was a total couch potato. She had some major anxiety the first six weeks she was in the house, but after she settled in, she was a very easy dog. 3 short walks a day, plus some sprinting in the dog park now and again.
posted by coppermoss at 2:49 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yup, adult Greyhounds and Great Danes are what you're looking for. They are very sedate and love lazing about and napping while you're gone.
posted by quince at 2:57 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm subluxor's twin. Boston terrier, and dog walker. Bostons can be energetic but they are not as intense as Scotties and other terriers. There are some available for rescue these days.
posted by BibiRose at 3:12 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a 60 pound rescue coonhound and a 650 square foot apartment. He gets one 30-40 minute walk in the morning with me and another when I come home at 6. He's got an awesome dog walker who takes him to the park or out for a long walk at midday and that's how I've been able to make it work (the dog walker has also been a godsend for the last week after I dislocated my knee at the dog park). Crate training has also been really, really helpful. Tracker can be a bit of a nervous nelly and his crate is a safe and happy place for him to be when I'm not around. I love going on long walks and hikes on the weekends and so a high energy big dog is great for me. I think you can definitely find a dog that fits your energy levels and lifestyle!
posted by fancypants at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2017

If you're going to go the rescue route, I would say shop for the agency rather than the dog. A good rescue will ask you about your living situation and desires and will recommend dogs based on your responses; at the very least they'll steer you away from dogs that maybe too energetic or needy for your living situation.

The rescue that we worked with fosters all their dogs with local volunteers for at least a couple of weeks to try to figure out their personalities, which we found really helpful. And, since the dogs are all nearby, they brought our pick over to our home before we adopted her to see how she would react to our cats and us.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:35 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

My greyhound is 70 lbs but basically only takes up the space of his (large) bed, because he sleeps allllll day. He loves outings but also sleeping. Stairs are a problem, though not for all of them, and he does require a wardrobe of coats and pajamas. The rescue did an excellent job of picking a dog for me, so I second backseat pilot's advice.
posted by sepviva at 3:36 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Can I put in another plug for greyhounds? We've had a lurcher now for about three years. He learned quickly how to walk up the stairs and to stop trying to walk into mirrors and windows, and has been just the sweetest dog. He loves to lie on every soft thing in our apartment... a good greyhound rescue will be able to fit the right dog to your space and temperament.

We have a walker come during the day to get him out for a little extra exercise, otherwise he spends most of his day on our couch and bed.
posted by noonday at 4:05 PM on December 6, 2017

Seconding Ancient Star's advice to pick a dog regardless of size that matches your energy level, especially your morning and after-work energy levels. I'm not a morning person, nor am I real active in the evenings & our Bassett Hound / Shar-pei mix fits that perfectly. She will happily sleep all day & go for one walk in the evening; that plus a morning potty break & a few minutes of playtime or training is about all she needs. Bassetts are pretty low energy & affectionate dogs by nature, the only worry is having them in a place with lots of stairs and no elevator.
I also have an 11-month old Akita who's not as high energy as you'd expect for a big 80-pound dog. He's mentally still a puppy, so one of us usually comes home for lunch to give him a potty break and some love. He does pretty well with 2-3 potty breaks and one good (~45min) walk around the neighborhood daily, but he'll wake us up to play or end up chewing things he shouldn't if I don't give him enough mental & physical exercise. Pretty much any dog under 1 is gonna need more exercise, potty breaks, training & socialization than an older one, but even a puppy can be raised in an apartment if you care for it properly.
posted by azuresunday at 4:09 PM on December 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a pug and he and I have lived in an apartment his whole life (he's now 10). He's trained to use a litterbox when he needs to, but prefers to go outside.

I do have a dog-walker who comes and takes him out, along with a couple of other dogs, during the week. On the rare occasions when she can't come, he's still fine, but I think it's a good idea for his overall socialization and stimulation. If you can afford to hire someone, or work out a deal with a friend or neighbour, it would definitely be worth considering.
posted by rpfields at 4:10 PM on December 6, 2017

Best answer: 12th-ing a greyhound. They are beautiful, affectionate, and sleep a phenomenal amount but are good to go whenever you are. They are literally the perfect apartment dog.

I volunteer as a dog fosterer and my rescue gets a lot of ex-working greyhounds. I would recommend getting one from a rescue where the dog you are matched with is in foster. If it is your very first dog, just getting to grips with being responsible for a dog is probably enough to be getting on with without having to also introduce an ex-racetrack dog to the indoors, introduce dog leads, introduce stairs, and introduce house training. All of these things are part of taking in a foster so you can just benefit from that experience and get on with making your new family!
posted by DarlingBri at 4:43 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

We have a pug who we got from a pug rescue organization as an older dog and he's great. He loves his walks (1 in morning, 1 after work, at least 1 more in the evening) but he is fine during the day to sleep on the couch. I agree that going with a rescue is great because they will help you find a dog who will fit your home and lifestyle.
posted by ceramicblue at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a Collie/ Golden Retriever mix who was @ 7 - 8 when we adopted him, and he was fine with apartment life. I currently have a Jack Russell Terrier who's @9, as long as he gets out several times a day, he's fine. Make sure some of the outdoor time is a good walk and chance to smell things, run a little, chase a ball, etc., not just once around the block for a pee.
posted by theora55 at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2017

Best answer: Plenty of people who live in apartments have dogs, but I do agree with you, I see rescues often want a yard/garden. You may have to go to different rescues to find one willing to work with you. Are you willing and able to walk the dog before/after work? Are you able to take the dog on a walk during the afternoon or find someone/hire a dogwalker to do so? What's your activity level? Do you run, hike, etc?

Find a dog that matches your activity level. Getting a "lazy" dog if you're an active person won't be the right fit and vice-versa. Your apartment size doesn't really matter, it's what you do with the dog that matters.
posted by vivzan at 5:30 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, yes, yes: retired racing greyhounds. They are like giant, awkward cats. Mine hates cold/wet, does fine with 3 x 10 minute walks per weekday (with longer strolls on the weekends) and is literally motionless and/or sleeping for 20 hours a day. I’ve come home mid-day and she is genuinely annoyed to be woken up. Sometimes we have to coax her out of her crate after a workday.

Just do your research on the somewhat abnormal lifestyle you’ll have to abide by: you will have to buy expensive custom coats and high quality beds, you can’t let them off-leash unless you’re in a 100% fenced area, you can’t use a retractable leash, you can’t tie them up outside a shop and pop in, and they aren’t really keen on roughhousing although they can be playful in other ways. There is a lot of advice online about greyhounds and adoption groups tend to be VERY ENTHUSIASTIC.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:46 PM on December 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I should add, we live in a 850 sq ft condo in downtown Toronto. No yard. Leash walks only. Both work full time.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:48 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

This pup is 35lb pointer mix who sleeps all day long. (I know because I have a camera set up because I am obsessive and this calms my anxiety about What Ifs when I am away.) We share a 350 square foot apartment without issue. I work full time, and she fine without a mid-day break, and she was fine with a mid-day walk when affording a dog-walker was a thing I could do. We do go out before and after work; she now has pretty advanced arthritis so not nearly as long as when I rescued her a few years ago.

I highly recommend choosing a dog based on your lifestyle, and working with a rescue organization. I got Charlie after contacting a rescue about a different dog, and they suggested her based on personality fit. They had a very in-depth application, and a home visit, but I have never had a yard and that was never an issue. I love adult dogs because (usually) they are more mellow or their personality is more obvious. I also love adult dogs because I don’t have the right lifestyle or patience for a puppy. Size of a dog isn’t really that big of a factor (at least to me) because it is more about how the dog manages itself in a space. I have a friend with an expensive 20lb miniature something and it is the most hyper and high energy dog and having that little beast in 350 square feet is a nightmare. Alternatively, I watch a 100+ lb rottweiler mix occassionally and she is a great apartment dog.

If you get the right dog for you, size is only an issue with weight restrictions on some housing. And also it can be more difficult to find dog-friendly housing in general.

Oh and rescues tend to be more expensive to adopt from than a shelter, but they also know their dogs.
posted by chaostician at 8:55 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I live in a yard less house with an 11 year old cairn terrier who acts like a puppy. He only gets leashed walks and car rides. I also provide doggy day care to a 60 lb hound type dog who lives in the neighborhood. I charge less than the professional places and walk the dogs twice a day. I live on a fixed income and having the extra cash is a nice treat. We hooked up on Nextdoor.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:10 PM on December 6, 2017

We have an older Chihuahua mix who does just fine in our one bedroom. We do pop in throughout the day as a side effect of our schedules, and we often take him on longer hikes on days off, but on work days a 15 minute walk in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening, a pee break before bed & lots of cuddles and tug of war is fine for him. I'm pretty sure he barely leaves the couch when we're gone. I would describe your activity level and lifestyle to a shelter and see if they can recommend a good match.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:00 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

My dog (adopted) is basically the perfect size and energy level for our lifestyle and apartment (he's 26lbs, was 4 years old when I adopted him, and his energy level is pretty mellow - he's fine with a couple decently long 30-60 minute walks a day, but he can still out-hike me when we get out on the weekends, and he's big enough that he doesn't have a toy-dog-bladder). We do have a daily walker, because of his social and mental needs as much as anything, but on the days when his walker can't make it he's fine through the whole workday. He sleeps super-deeply while we're gone (I monitor closely with a camera and automatic bark alerts, because neighbors) and honestly it's been fine. Doggy day care would also be an option for a dog that needs more activity than that.

The only thing that was hard for us is that he does have a lot of behavioral challenges, leash reactivity among them, so when we were in a bigger and more dog-filled building we had to be really careful. We made it through with nothing more than the occasional barking fit outside the elevators, though. If you're looking at adopting an adult (or considering any dog, to be honest), I'd take behavioral needs into account as much or more as physical needs.

My aunt, who is a professional of some note in the animal welfare world, has often said that many apartment dogs are better off than house dogs - they get regularly walked (unlike the many many dogs who are just put out in the yard with owners that treat walks as optional) and people have no choice but to pay attention to them. There are lots of big but mellow dogs in my neighborhood, from greyhounds to goldens, and they seem to lead pretty happy lives.
posted by mosst at 12:24 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll add to the greyhound, and possibly great Dane chorus. We have one of each and they are incredibly lazy.

The Great Dane comes with size challenges, and everything is more expensive (in my case, things like buying double doses of heartworm medication because dosing is based on size and there isn't a single dose big enough.) And both Danes I've owned have had random health issues that weren't serious, but annoying and expensive. But everyone thinks they needs lots of space when what they really need is a nice comfy sofa. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to drag a teenager out of bed at noon.

The greyhound would be perfect, but I agree with what above posters said about 1) doing your research about how greyhounds are different and what their special needs are, and 2) getting one from a foster home. I love our girl - she's the best thing ever. I would have twelve of them if I could. But I've owned a lot of dogs and dealt with a lot of special needs, so I was up for the task of teaching her about the world, including a week of physically moving her feet for her on the stairs to get her to figure it out, and cringing every time she would get halfway down and decide to just make a jump for it. Owning your first dog will be enough of a change for you without having to deal with those issues as well. Plus with a dog that's been fostered, the rescue can do a great job of evaluating the dog's personality and matching you with the right one.

As far as things like custom coats and fancy beds, you never know. I learned to crochet when we decided to adopt a greyhound so I could make sweaters and snoods and hats to keep her warm. Turns out she runs hot and wants nothing to do with such things.

She loves to run when she has a chance, but would be just as happy with regular walks. And while you have to watch out for their thin skin, they are bread for strength and speed, not what we think looks cute. So they have significantly fewer health issues than other breeds and longer life spans than other dogs their size.
posted by thejanna at 12:25 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lived with my 4 year old, 70lb (rescue!) German Shepherd in an 800 sq ft apartment. I walked her each morning and at night when I got home. I also had a dog walker for a mid-day walk. She did great!
I read that dogs sleep an average of 16 hours a day. Your dog will likely sleep a lot of the day while you’re at work.
Having a dog is wonderful! Please rescue a dog and let them match you with an older dog who needs love!
posted by natasha_k at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are such beautiful comments—thank you all so much for sharing your story, and for giving me such practical advice and encouragement.
posted by nonmerci at 12:28 PM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

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