Help me convince my landlord to let me get a pet?
November 24, 2020 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I deserve this

I survived a global pandemic and now I deserve a dog. I had this epiphany last weekend while at the dog park with friends and their mini dachsund.

Has anyone ever successfully bargained with a landlord who forbids pets?

Some facts:
- I rent a unit in a small triplex. My landlord is a nice guy and I have a good relationship with him. I have also paid my rent on time for nearly two years during a global pandemic. I also provided him with another excellent tenant (one of my friends) when another unit opened last summer, and he didn't even have to post anything on kijiji.
- My lease does specify that no pets are allowed. In my jurisdiction, this is legal, and it's also legal for a landlord to evict a tenant for disobeying that stipulation on the lease. So I'm not going to secretly get a pet.
- The third tenant in my building very obviously and openly owns a dog that prances around the property very comfortably. I believe the reason he's allowed and I"m not is that he has been in the unit for many years and that it hasn't been renovated, whereas mine has.
- I 'm pretty sure I"m ready for pet ownership. I am 32 =, have a decent salary, lots of free time, and I absolutely love my friends' pets. I live by myself, and through much self-reflection (read: pandemic isolation) I've realized I need to care for another being, and that a relationship isn't really what's going to satisfy that desire. I have a tiny yard outside my apartment (I'm on the ground floor), and I also live a 2 minute walk from a beach, park and bike path where I can easily take the pupper for lots of walks. I'm working from home for the foreseeable future, and if I have to go back to the office I'm willing to hire a dog walker for when I'm not home.

My plan is to come up with an argument and present it to my landlord. If he says yes, I'll stay where I'm living, if not I'll move in July ( to another apartment, or buy a condo if I can find something affordable). I'm planning to say:

- I only want a small dog (ie: dachsund, shih tzu, mini pug, or something) and i will get him trained and declawed (if they do that??)
- My main argument that I've come up with why I should be allowed this is that there's been a global pandemic and I"ve been stuck in this place alone and it's really bad for my mental health. (Maybe I can get a doctor's note even?)
- I also plan to offer to pay him an additional damage deposit, either in a chunk or monthly. (Technically in my province, requesting deposits from tenants is illegal, however when he offered me the lease I wanted the place bad enough to overlook that and pay his deposit without questionining it).

Any other tips for arguments I can present to my landlord? Will the fact that I am pretty much a perfect tenant and that i may move if he says no have any weight? Has anyone else ever successfully made this argument with a landlord and come to an agreement?
posted by winterportage to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tell the landlord that you would like to get a dog and are considering moving because of the clause in the lease, but that you’d rather stay if possible. Ask if there is anything that would convince them to modify the existing lease. Nice guy or not, it’s a business relationship and your mental health doesn’t pay their mortgage if the dog does more damage than the safety deposit covers.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:50 AM on November 24, 2020 [41 favorites]

Can’t hurt to ask. Your bargaining chip is that you may move if he doesn’t allow you to have a dog. I don’t think you have to come out and say it, but it is implied from the first point, below.

You might say:
-I have decided that I’d like to own a dog.
-I would like to get your permission to have a dog here.
-It would be a small dog.
-I’d be willing to give you an additional deposit.

I would not mention training or declawing (I don’t think you would want to do that, even if you could). On that topic, I’d only say that I understand that I would be responsible for any damage caused by the dog.

If he agrees, get it in writing.

Good luck!
posted by bruinfan at 9:50 AM on November 24, 2020 [10 favorites]

Disclaimer: I have never negotiated for a pet, but I have a fair amount of experience dealing with landlords.

The two biggest concerns landlords are likely to have about dogs are damage and noise. So your suggestion of offering an additional damage deposit is a good one. You could even consider offering to pay a higher monthly rent (I don't necessarily think this is fair, but if you would be willing to do so it's an option to keep on the table).

In terms of noise, you should do research on which breeds of dogs are the calmest and least barky and focus on getting one of those. Also have a plan in place for what you will do if, say, the dog barks all day while you are gone. (Google "separation anxiety in dogs", it can be a huge issue and may not become apparent until you go back to the office.)

Don't make arguments related to your mental health or emotions; even though you have a good relationship with your landlord, on his end it's ultimately a business transaction and he's not responsible for your emotions. But the fact that you would consider moving out if you can't have a pet here is relevant -- landlords hate losing tenants, especially good tenants who pay their rent on time.

In general landlords tend to be more accepting of small dogs than large dogs (for example I have seen leases where only small dogs were allowed) -- so definitely make it clear that you are only considering a small dog.
posted by mekily at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

I used to rent from a landlord that allowed one (1) dog in his properties but only in the houses (no duplexes, no apts). I was renting a house from him because I had a dog but the house was way too big for us. We had the additional issue of only being able to rent outside of city limits because of breed restrictions (German Shepherd). Anyway, he was also renting half a duplex to some friends of mine. when they moved out, I begged him to let my dog and I move in. He relented but he had to write up a special lease just for us because his usual duplex lease was very No Dogs.

I think it worked because
A) I was a current tenant and proven to be responsible,
B) I signed a year-long lease
C) I was willing to pay Pet Rent (extra $100/month, altogether my new rent plus pet rent was less than the monthly cost of renting that whole house), and
D) He knew the dog and liked her.

A-C you can do, D is less doable because don't just get a dog and hope it works out (unless you have a solid backup plan).

Good luck! Having a dog is awesome.
posted by Gray Duck at 9:58 AM on November 24, 2020

I lived in an apartment that didn't allow pets. After several months, I wanted to get a cat. I wrote to my landlord asking permission and offered to pay a "pet deposit" that she could keep when I moved out in the event that any deep cleaning was necessary. She was totally cool with this plan and I got my kitty and all was good. Couldn't hurt to ask, and offer a pet deposit.
posted by nayantara at 10:01 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Please don't offer to declaw the dog. No reputable vet will do that outside of emergency infection situations. It's just not a thing.

Agree with bruinfan that it shouldn't be part of your original argument. If the issue even comes up, maybe the landlord is worried about hardwood floors or mess, offer to keep the dog groomed and its nails trimmed. It'll help the dog stay healthy and happy too.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 10:06 AM on November 24, 2020 [58 favorites]

To address the potential declawing issue since you brought it up as a possibility: don't.

Dog declawing is almost universally avoided outside of a few truly unusual cases, and it really doesn’t deserve serious consideration unless your vet recommends it.
posted by cooker girl at 10:07 AM on November 24, 2020 [21 favorites]

You've gotten good advice. Something that might come up is a question about whether you'll be getting a puppy or an adult dog. Puppies are...special. Even when you are 100% engaged with the dog.

My dog was truly THE EASIEST PUPPY. I really got lucky. And on top of that I was very responsible with him. He still chewed a bit of molding around two different doors and peed on the floor multiple times. Have an answer ready for how you will deal with the inevitable puppy problems if you do get a puppy.

Something else to consider: what if your dog is loud and disturbs other tenants? How will you respond?

and declawed (if they do that??)
Not a thing. You keep a dog's nails trimmed. Not trying to be rude but definitely do some reading/youtube video watching about dog care and grooming. And behavior/training. It's not going to endear your landlord to your cause if you go in sounding like someone who has never owned a dog before. This question makes it sound like you are thinking of a dog as a larger, more interesting cat, when that is definitely not the case.
posted by phunniemee at 10:13 AM on November 24, 2020 [36 favorites]

As a landlord who owns a duplex, I can tell you that my biggest concern isn't damage, but barking. With shared walls, a barking dog in one unit means an intolerable situation for the people in the other unit, and may result in THEM moving out, which I really wouldn't want. And I agree with Mekily that a dog that behaves one way while you are at home may behave a different way when the pandemic is over and you go back to work. It is true that some breeds are more / less barky, but what is really important is the individual dog. You may have more success if you work with your landlord in advance and agree to get an older (not ancient - but not a puppy) dog that has a history of being non-barking.
posted by sonofsnark at 10:40 AM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't mention what you "deserve," your mental health, the pandemic, or the fact that you have been a great tenant. Agreeing with responses above to focus on what matters most to the landlord, namely:

1) I will pay an additional pet deposit
2) I am also concerned about barking and will look for a dog (via foster, for example) that doesn't have a history of barking.
3) I will get signatures from the other tenants that they are ok with me getting a dog.
4) I may have to move out if the pet ban isn't waived for me.
posted by nkknkk at 10:59 AM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

I know more than one person who has had success going the emotional comfort animal route. As I understand it, with a note from a professional, landlords can't legally say no. (At least here in Oregon.)
posted by gottabefunky at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Right now in some areas there are no dogs available, as as many people have decided to adopt all at once. So be prepared to have some delay or problems even getting a dog.

If I were you I would start researching 1.) Small breeds that don't/seldom bark and where you could get one from a reputable source, and 2.) How to train your dog so it is the best behaved dog in the city, let alone on the block.

To train a dog not to bark you train it to bark on command. Whenever it is about to bark you command "Speak!!" and then you simply never train it to bark, except during walks as a reinforcement to the training.

Your landlord will be much happier if you present him with a request "I'd like to get a Boston Terrier from a breeder who can let me have one in June; I chose that breed because it is one of the five cited as being least likely to bark."

Also consider getting a beagle retired from a research lab. Beagles are lovely kindly dogs who put up with terrible treatment without getting a bad disposition, which is why the research labs use them. If they get five times daily injections they don't get bitey. But they are also very noisy dogs who will bark a lot - and for this reason they are often surgically rendered mute.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

As a heads up, especially since you mentioned Canada - dogs are hard to come by right now. A lot of rescues comes from outside the country (which is not happening right now), and good breeders have 9-15 month waiting lists. I know, because I'm on one.

Living in a very pet-unfriendly rental province as well, some of the experiences I and others have had that have lead to success. In short - do your research upfront (which, given the declawing comment its clear there's more you need to do) and be able to speak to your plans. Think of it as a "pet interview" because in reality, it is. And in this case, they're not even "hiring".

* Be very explicit about defining the dog you are looking at bringing in. Define small (is it under 12" or 18" in height, under 20 or 30 lbs, etc). Define breed / breed mix. You will have a lot harder time with breeds labelled as "aggressive" or "bully breeds".
* Have a vet lined up ahead of time. Be prepared to agree to spay/neuter.
* Look into dog training and be able to speak about your plans.
* Know where your dog will spend the day and again, be able to speak about these plans. At home, in a crate, at doggy day care, will someone come to walk them, etc.
* Offer both additional pet rent and an extra pet deposit. In BC, the official pet deposit is another 1/2 months rent.
posted by cgg at 11:24 AM on November 24, 2020

Something about your question put me off and I clicked away. But then I thought it over and I think it might help you approach your landlord.

If you treat a dog - a complex little being, but also a life-altering living arrangement - as something you deserve, for your mental health, I think you will come across as the kind of pet owner the landlord may have had bad experiences with in the past - the kind that doesn't understand that puppies can eat corners of walls, that older dogs become incontinent, that dogs claw at cupboards to put their noses into your used Kleenex (seriously, wtf), and that a dog whose owner suddenly returns to work may start barking or howling all day.

So I echo that you need to do your research and present your landlord with the type of dog and dog living arrangement that shows you know what's up.

I used to foster lab pups for a seeing eye dog program and I had a rescue dog who was problematic and I too really, really want a pandemic dog, have been speaking to the very few foster-to-adopt programs that have dogs, and I own my home + yard and have two strapping lads and...ultimately I still have mostly come to the conclusion that as I'm in a career-building phase of my life, my lifestyle is not dog-friendly.

I've also in the past briefly rented out space in my basement where the tenants let their dog wreck the kitchen. I wanted them to be happy so I said yes, kind of knowing they didn't know what they were getting into...never again.

I'm the person you need to convince, so maybe think how you would wow me with your knowledge and commitment.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:30 AM on November 24, 2020 [24 favorites]

P.S. I'm also convinced that there is a strong possibility that a lot of people will be dumping their pandemic puppies later, so if you are committed for the next 15 years (doggy lifespan), there may be a plethora of dogs coming.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just a note about little dogs - they're usually more inclined to bark, and a number of them are very hard to housebreak. (My experience was with daschunds - they peed everywhere and barked incessantly.) I'd far rather have a calm larger dog than a little one in my rental.

Unfortunately, I think you should be ready to move next summer.
posted by summerstorm at 12:02 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

I think you've gotten a lot of great advice, and one thing I'd add is that you might ask your neighbor who has a dog whether there was a no-pet clause in his lease, and if so how did he go about negotiating that. It's possible that one of the reasons your lease says no pets is because this dog might have been grandfathered in and the landlord has since had a change of heart about allowing pets, but it couldn't hurt to see if the landlord is amenable to the idea before presenting him with this.
posted by sm1tten at 12:03 PM on November 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

Please learn a lot more about caring for dogs, different kinds of dogs, how behavioral issues are addressed, etc. This will make you a convincing candidate for dog ownership to your landlord, and to an adoption agency. It will also help you feel good while you wait for your own dog, and it will make you a better dog owner and give your future friend a much better life.

I wish I could recommend a specific book or video series to you, but the only book I can remember is called "No Bad Dogs" and was from the last century. There are also some monks who specialized in assessing dog personality -- that might be a good avenue for you to pursue.

Finally, while you are reading and learning, think about the personality of the dog you would like. Think about it a lot :) This will not only help you be happier, but will also help you be more attuned to the personality of the dog you eventually adopt.

One thing from me personally: I hope you will avoid dog breeds that have a history of medical issues. Dachshunds have hip/spine problems, pugs have trouble breathing, German shepherds have hip problems -- not every single dog of these species, but enough that it's clear that the traits that the species as a whole have been emphasizing are tied to these problems. I personally don't hold it against people if they love a dog in one of these breeds -- love trumps all, for sure -- but if you have a choice, please please don't increase demand for this kind of thing. Even reputable, excellent breeders are part of an industry that leads to more dog suffering. Consider adopting a rescue dog from a shelter/fostering/rescue group, especially one that isn't one of these kinds of breeds (adopting a pug means that you've increased pug demand overall, since other people will insist on a pug...etc.).

You might find that it's quicker to get a dog from a breeder than from a rescue. I hope you're conscientious enough that you're willing to wait anyway. There are rescue groups bringing dogs from other countries, for example, and those dogs really really need love too.
posted by amtho at 12:06 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

I used to be a small-time landlord. When I allowed dogs, one peed on a rug of mine (open doors in summer for ventilation) and damaged it. Another clawed the back of the front door because, mail carrier. Cats often stain rugs and wood floors. Pets are very likely to cause damage; pet owners promise the moon and then fail miserably. So when you talk to the landlord, specify size and characteristics. Many breeds are bark-y, causes trouble for other tenants. Breeds known for aggression are a bad idea. Young dogs are more likely to be hard to manage. Un-neutered dog, absolutely not. Maybe look for a mellow middle-aged dog who needs a new home; my best dog ever had been a stray, was maybe 7, and was very chill. He did need time to get good at house training, so stayed in the kitchen with its vinyl floors when I was at work for a year. The more detail you can provide about why a dog will be well-behaved, the better. Also, research dog training classes, and guarantee that you and dog will attend. The landlord may want extra rent and/or additional deposit; I think that's very fair.

My current dog is a Jack Russell Terrier from a shelter, seldom barks, more chill than I would have imagined, the only damage he does is chewing up toys. Dog size may not be the best measure to go by.
posted by theora55 at 2:30 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

If I were your landlord and you offered to declaw a dog I’d probably refuse on the basis of that because a) it’s horribly cruel and b) it shows you’ve never owned a dog and as a new dog owner I’d be more nervous that you’d end up with a nuisance pet because you didn’t know how to handle it. Do a lot of research first and then come up with a compelling argument as to why this particular dog you have your eye on won’t be an issue due to age/breed/personality/whatever.
posted by Jubey at 3:25 PM on November 24, 2020 [21 favorites]

Another thing to be cautious of is telling your landlord that you can "get him trained." Apologies if I'm reading into this, but the way that's phrased implies that you will give the dog to someone else who would train it. The dog will mostly be spending time with YOU, especially right now, and the way you interact with the dog starting from the day you get it will be the biggest determinant of its behavior. A lot of new dog owners unintentionally reinforce bad dog behavior, just not knowing better. For example, you have to be super strict with not rewarding dogs with pets/attention if they're doing ANYTHING you might not want them to do forever in every situation with every person. So if you don't want them to jump up on your 90 year old grandma, you can't do anything except immediately turn your back on them every single they jump up on you. If you don't want them to cry when you leave, you can't reward it by coming back home if you hear them cry as you walk away (which means a period in which all of your neighbors hate you as you train that behavior out of them). It would be a red flag for me if I was a landlord and heard any whiff of not having a realistic understanding of how this works.

Honestly, as someone who had a dog in multiple apartments over the years, it was a huge added stress to live in places where most tenants didn't have dogs- every time my dog barked or I noticed nail scratches on the floor I'd stress that it would cause issues. My dog was pretty much as well trained as she could have been and still, the landlord will have to replace all of my carpeting when I move out because she had dementia and started peeing/pooping on the carpet in the year before she died. I would be super stressed about that right now if my apartment wasn't as dog friendly as it is. So it might be worth considering if this will really be as much of a relief to your mental health as you feel like it will be.
posted by quiet coyote at 6:20 PM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

This pandemic is especially hard on people living alone. I understand the isolation you feel. I would try meeting with your friends and their dachshund outside more often. This may be an alternative solution that has fewer tenant/landlord complications.

I love dogs but unfortunately my living situation isn’t ideal right now for a pet. It seems like every few months I have to dissuade myself from adopting a dog because although dogs are amazing creatures I sometimes forget that I’m not ready for the added complexity they require.
posted by mundo at 7:17 PM on November 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am a landlord who allows condo tenants to have a dog under a certain weight size. I allow the house tenants to have a larger dog on the condition that the pup lives mostly outside; this is Wellington and temperate climate so 3/4 of the year it's perfectly fine to have the dog outside all the time in their fabu doghouse, almost kennel. Installed at their expense.

I required both sets of tenants to put down an extra deposit for damage along with raising their rents. Are you prepared for that contingency?

I would seriously consider the viability of retaining you as a tenant because:
* You offered to declaw your dog. It is cruel and not at all a thing and shows that you know nothing about dogs.
* Your usage of your mental health as a bargaining point (second point).

You've gotten quite good advice from everyone. Watch a bunch of youtube videos about dogs. Do research. Talk to your friends who are dog parents and spend more time with them outside, if possible. Did you mention to them about your idea of declawing? And if you do decide to speak with your landlord, consider a different approach because if the opening sentence of this post is any indication of how you plan to communicate, it may not go well.
posted by lemon_icing at 7:26 PM on November 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

This question makes it sound like you are thinking of a dog as a larger, more interesting cat
This is tangential, but for the benefit of anyone reading this who doesn't know anything about cats, do not declaw cats either; that is also an awful thing to do.
posted by confluency at 11:39 PM on November 24, 2020 [17 favorites]

Not to pile on, but it feels like you are thinking of acquiring a THING, and your life will magically be improved. Rather than you will be taking in a living creature to share your life with, and that creature has feelings and needs and it’s not at all about the dog being trained, but about YOU learning how best to meet the needs of your new companion. Please heed all the excellent advice above. I think your expectations are not realistic and I encourage you to really think this through before acquiring any pet.
posted by LaBellaStella at 6:28 AM on November 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

We have an across the hall neighbour whose girlfriend has a dog. At times, they have left it and it was howling all day long, and I am trying to work from home I was the sole support of my family. The dog was also quite large, and my child is absolutely terrified of it. So I do think that there are legitimate reasons for a landlord to say that in a multi dwelling building, it’s just not the same as if it’s your own house and you can do whatever you want. Our walls are fairly thick and I very seldom hear the person in the unit beside me. But I could hear that dog, all day long.
posted by ficbot at 9:02 PM on November 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

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