Owning a dog in the city? What do I need to know?
July 28, 2008 10:46 PM   Subscribe

Owning a dog in the city? What do I need to know?

It's been almost a year since my dog passed away and I've been thinking about getting another. I've had dogs my whole life, and volunteer at shelters when I can so I know about the basics of dog ownership, training, etc...

What's new to me is living in a smaller apt (and not having a yard) since I moved to Boston in January. I wouldn't adopt for another 6 months or so, but in the meantime I need to get educated on what it's like to be a dog-owner in a super-urban environment.

Do you get used to picking up the poop? Are dog parks only for purse-dogs? Is it even fair to get a dog if I'll be working most of the day? What am i not thinking of, and what tips/hints/resources/advice do you have for being a responsible pet owner in the city?
posted by doppleradar to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Train your dog to stop and sit at the edge of the sidewalk, and not to move forward into the street until you give the command. This goes a long way to prevent accidents.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 11:29 PM on July 28, 2008

Mr. Arishaun and I both work. Long hours at times. Our three dogs do just fine. You've got to pay for their food and other expenses, right? The key is that when you come home, be willing to spend some quality time with him/her.

While we live in a house, we have a very small yard. We cope with their seemingly endless energy by walking them at least twice a day (morning and evening) seasoned with a bi-weekly visit to the dog park. Any good park should have a section per size category. Some people will be idiots and bring their toenail biters into the big dogs section and vice versa. That's where good training saves the day. I found the classes at the local Petco to be quite sufficient, as the main goal was socialization and training yourself anyhow.

Pooper-scooping gets way easier over time. Make it easier on yourself and see about training the pup to try and go in the same section. If not, you'll still be okay. Keep a lot of those little produce bags on hand and you're golden.

Good luck!
posted by arishaun at 1:18 AM on July 29, 2008

Upsides (besides the obvious):
Dog parks are fun. You meet lots of people in the neighborhood while you stand around and laugh at your dogs. And (at least in New York), they are not just for small dogs. Lots of big dogs are there. Sometimes they divide the runs into big/small dog areas.

Vets are usually easy to come by. Lots of choices - old school, hippied-out, etc.

Having to take your dog for his/her morning ritual while you still have bedhead and can't quite function and being confronted with scores of people on their way to work.
Feeling guilty about leaving the dog, especially when you don't have a yard.
Puppyhood, because both of the above are exacerbated.
posted by Shebear at 2:43 AM on July 29, 2008

If you know you're not going to be home, I would recommend not getting a puppy. An older dog might be a better fit - still active but not requiring 24/7 supervision.

Poop is not hard to get used to IMHO but I don't tend to be much bothered by things like that. You can get actual scooper things on a stick but I just find them cumbersome. I use nappy bags and my hand (in the bag!), tie the tops together and it's fine. I do a lot more hand washing than I used to, though - get good hand cream!

When we lived in a 3rd floor walk up, I used to lay out my dog walking clothes before bed so that when I woke up, I could just put them on and run the dog out. It's very stressful to run around looking for your wellies on a pouring day whilst the dog is desperately potty dancing.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:47 AM on July 29, 2008

Do you get used to picking up the poop?

Yes; just get some good bags. In fact I live in the suburbs now and I still pick up the poop. Leaving it lying there in my own yard seems gross to me. And I miss not having a public trash can every few feet to toss it in.

Are dog parks only for purse-dogs?

Not at all. In cities you'll see dogs of all sizes at the dog park. My dog is medium-sized and we actually had to watch out for the larger dogs who intimidate him (he's shy).

Is it even fair to get a dog if I'll be working most of the day?

This totally depends on the dog. Some dogs are fine with it, some will definitely not be. If you can get to know your prospective dog a little before you adopt it, you should be able to make a fairly good prediction. When we adopted Dexter, we were looking specifically for this problem after a bad experience in the past. When we were hanging out with him in the little "get-to-know-your-dog" room at the shelter, we took turns leaving the room, having the shelter lady leave the room, etc. to see if he started crying or barking. When he didn't, we felt fairly confident that he would be OK with being alone. Also the shelter should have a pretty good idea of each dog's personality (presuming you'll be adopting, of course). Talk to them about your concerns. There's always a dog walker or dog day-care if you want to break up the dog's day.

The only drawback to having a dog in the city is having to go on walks on those awful blizzard winter days. But overall, I have to say, having done it both ways, I prefer having a dog in the city. It got us out and walking around more, and this might sound odd, but Dexter seems to prefer city walks to suburb walks - plenty of new smells, restaurants and garbage-wise, new people every time, etc. His suburb walks are boring in comparison - same people, same smells. Enjoy your future dog!
posted by boomchicka at 3:58 AM on July 29, 2008

Don't let your dog drink from puddles. Even if the water looks clean, rodent urine can easily contaminate the water with the potentially deadly leptospirosis bacteria.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:14 AM on July 29, 2008

When I went through this, determined to get a smaller dog puppy, I learned very quickly that my pup needed "watering" midday until she was at least six months old; her little bladder just wasn't big enough until then to be left alone all day. I made arrangements with my employer to take slightly longer lunches (1.5 hours) so I could go home for lunch, walk her, eat a quick sandwich with her, and then put her back in the crate till I got home from work. I worked later as a result, but the total hours alone for her at any one time stayed at a a reasonable 4.5 hours each part of the day. Once she was older and physically able to go longer periods, I was able to switch back. Something you may want to research for your particular breed, before making the final decision.

Yep, you get used to picking up the poop. :) For me, I prefer the biodegradable bags that I can fold and tuck a few in pockets, purses etc.

The other great thing no one has mentioned here is that in the city, I find you don't have to cut their nails as often, since they're doing long walks on pavement or cement, which naturally "buffs down" their nails to a respectable length. YMMV depending on how far you intend to walk with them.

And I agree 100% with Benjamin Nushmutt; train your dog to handle streets safely, and only cross with your permission. Makes a HUGE difference.

Also, ditto to boomchicka; getting out and around in the city is one of the BEST parts of owning a city dog. Three times a day, we get to go out and explore. That's priceless.
posted by twiki at 5:33 AM on July 29, 2008

Get these poop bags and poop bag holders. They are great, and can attach to your leash, so you never forget to have a poop bag with you to pick up the mess!
posted by Grither at 6:41 AM on July 29, 2008

Boston now has a beautiful dog park in the South End. I've never taken my dog there but it looks lovely and well-maintained (we live in Somerville and go to Somerville's great dog park). Dogs of all sizes go.

I'll make a plug for getting a greyhound, which are excellent city dogs by virtue of being used to small spaces and spending huge amounts of time just sleeping. Greyhound Welfare and Greyhound Friends are two local adoption groups. I have a greyhound and no yard, and while going for walks in the snow 3-4 times a day is a drag, you get used to it fast.

I highly recommend getting a dog walker if you can all afford it. It reallly pays for itself in piece of mind and your personal freedom (suddenly it's possible to go out for drinks after work again!)
posted by nev at 7:31 AM on July 29, 2008

I recently got a dog in Boston and I'm in a similar living situation as you (work all day, no yard). Here's some advice and Boston-specific things that have helped me out:

1. Dog lessons are a must! There are too many distractions in the city to have even a small dog get out of hand.

2. I never leave home without dog waste bags clipped to my leash

3. My dog is about 1 yr old now, and is trained to go every 12 hours if nec. in case, for some reason, I can't get to him right away.

4. Greater Boston Dog Parks

5. 10 Places to Cool Off Your Dog
posted by spoons at 9:05 AM on July 29, 2008

I'm not sure where the OP is in Boston, but for those up near the Red Line, there's Som|Dog for resources.

As a prospective dog owner myself, I'm definitely interested in hearing other suggestions for appropriate breeds (or mutt types) for condo no-yard living.
posted by canine epigram at 10:57 AM on July 29, 2008

Where do you live? Where I do, dogs are prohibited from parks and the farmer's market, which makes having a dog much less fun than otherwise (e.g. walking to the farmer's market on a sunny Saturday morning w/o dog who is baffled and upset to be left inside, or taking the dog with and leaving him tied outside and worrying the whole time).

Don't get me wrong, I love dogs, but when I dogsit it is always disappointing that I can't take them with me to the park, I need to drive several miles to another city where there is a dog park in order to play outside with them.
posted by arnicae at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2008

Another vote for a retired racing greyhound. Low walking requirements, high sleeping-on-the-sofa potential.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:38 AM on July 30, 2008

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