Often I get asked whether having a dog in a flat is the right thing to do and whether this will make him happy, or if it is better to wait until living in a house is on the horizon. My answer is never the same, as there are all sorts of scenarios and situations to consider.
To make things clear, I have decided to write this article about it and I hope it will help you to solve some problems that you may be experiencing with your dog or to avoid problems down the road.
Does size matter?
A house is something that we all dream of and many of us are not able to afford the luxury of a house with a garden or yard. Dogs fortunately don’t really care about that. As long as they have a roof over their head, food and love they are happy. For example, I know of a couple who own 3 young huskies and live in a flat in Central London. That doesn’t sound right, does it? There are situations like this where a garden or backyard is a must, whereas there are others where you can happily live in a tiny studio apartment with your four legged best friend.
Many factors come into play with the most important being:
* Age (is your dog very active or happy to lay on the couch all day?)
* Breed (are they a low maintenance dog or a working breed?)
* Background (did you just adopt your dog or you have raised them since they were a pup?)
Let’s have a look at why these 3 factors are the most important to give you and your dog a happy life together.
Age is a determining factor when bringing home a new dog as young dogs require much more attention and space. Let’s see how owning a flat vs a house makes a difference.
• Flat: owning a flat makes checking on your young dog much easier as space is more confined, but not having a garden requires more time outside for walks. Also, if you have a big dog they may not fully develop their strength and agility (dogs who have access to a big back yard tend to be healthier as they can run more and have less muscle imbalance issues).
• House: more work in the terms of poop scooping, checking on your dog and securing the fence before the arrival of the puppy. On the other hand, once that’s sorted, your dog will learn to go in and out by themselves, especially if you can fit one of these fantastic doggy doors, or “Dog Flap” as they are known here in the UK. They come in different sizes, click here to purchase one of the best on the market. I can speak from personal experience. It is, however is best introduced when the dog is young. (Training takes longer the older the dog.)
As you can see there are pros and cons to both house and flat. That said, a big house or a flat with a garden is better in the long run, but I wouldn’t rule out having a young dog in a flat. If at this moment in your life you really want to raise a young dog but it is not the right time to move, do not despair, just make sure you give your dog all you can to be happy in a flat:
• Take them out on walks at least 10-15 minutes per walk, 3 times per day (morning, after work and before going to bed)• Make sure they have toys laying around (this one is one my favourite at the moment)
What is great about this toy is it is a multi tasking treat feeder, distractor and teeth cleaning. I have also written a post about 5 of the best distraction gadgets and toys for a dog who may suffer with boredom and become mischievous (click here for here or below for more ideas)
• Leave plenty of water before going to work and a snack (something that they will love is frozen peanut butter in a Kong; if you don’t have one yet check it out here, or click on the link and read the review I wrote about Kong’s,
(together with other highly reviewed and trusted toys)• And most importantly, read this article I wrote about keeping your dog busy when you are not at home
This is the million-dollar question: what is the right breed to own in a flat?
Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer. Theoretically, all breeds can live happily in a flat. This question can’t be answered on its own, without considering age, which we just discussed above, and background, which we will discuss in this next section.
• Breed size• Small breeds are technically better for a life living in a flat as they need less space and can still fully grow and develop in a smaller house. For example, a 1,000 sq Foot flat will provide more living space to a Chihuahua than a German Shepherd. • The size is not everything though as the character of the dog is what really matters. There are some big breeds (Mastiff, Great Dane or Newfoundland, just to name a few) that are known to be laid back and low maintenance. Some of these dogs, in spite of their size, will be happy even in a small flat sleeping the day away on the couch, as long as they will get enough attention once you get back home.
• Working breeds• A big no no for a flat are working dogs, especially when puppies (things are different for older dogs, see next section). Adopting a young collie from a farm, whose parents have been working all their life, or a husky from a sled dog kennel is clearly something that we shouldn’t be doing, as these dogs are happy when working outside.
“Breaking them in” …to a life in a flat will be hard on both of you. Shelters are full of pure breed working dogs who were abandoned, because they caused havoc in the households where they lived.
There was nothing wrong with these dogs, they were simply lacking enough attention and space because the type of house that they were brought into wasn’t the right one.• If owning a working breed is your dream and you live in a flat, it can still be an option for you if you have plenty of time because you are retired, work from home, have a flexible schedule and so on. I would still consider one of these breeds but not as a first dog or not without any training knowledge. You may be able to find Dog Trainers locally who will be your very own “Dog Whisperer” and whom can offer guidance and support. Whilst not the cheapest it is certainly effective and will see great results if you follow their guidance.
Why is the background of the dog so important? Take one of these working breeds that we were discussing above. As we said, raising a pup will be hard work in a flat but what if we were to adopt a retired working dog? Then things would be very different for an older retired working dog. This does not mean that they won’t require any attention or exercise as it’s still equally important to spend time outside with them and socialising with other dogs, but as an older retired working dog you can have the best of both worlds. A well-trained but now more sedantry and calm dog.
The same goes for dogs that are known to be “high maintenance” (which are still in most cases working breed dogs such as Shepherds, Collies and Pointers) but who were adopted from another home or shelter at an adult age. These dogs will still need more attention than a “low maintenance” dog who is just as old, but it won’t be as hard as raising a pup coming from parents with an excellent working attitude and drive.
To sum it all up
If you are considering bringing home, especially if you live in a flat, your first dog have a good read of this article and make sure that your house and lifestyle match the dog that you like.
Giving a dog a happy and healthy life whilst living in a flat is something easily achievable so long as you fully understand the meaning of the 3 chapters in this article. Too many times, I hear people complaining about coming home to their flat to find it upside down because of their mischievous dog, who most of the time is not at fault. These dogs simply have too much energy due to their age and their owners have neglected them. Usually, this does not happen out of malice but out of ignorance and a poor breed choice. Hopefully you will have gained some insight into the right type, age and breed for you and your family.
Chosen well you need not worry if you live in a flat, you and your dog will have many years and create some beautiful memories for you all.
If you found this article useful, I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments below.
Dolly & I wish you a great day
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