Dogs and Apartments: How to Make It Work

The security deposits. The potential landlord problems. The hesitation. The guilt? Renters can often face roadblocks when considering whether to adopt a dog.

But even if you don't own your own home, you can still be an excellent pet parent -- you'll just need to figure out a few things first:

Q: Which breeds are best for apartment living?

Don't rule out a big dog just because you live in an apartment; some larger breeds are actually low-energy. And while you may think any smaller breed might work out, some can be high-strung -- and you don't want your dog barking every time a neighbor walks down the hall.

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The AKC has compiled a list of "Best Dogs for Apartment Dwellers," which includes bulldogs, pugs, greyhounds and shih tzus (see full list here). However, since many rescue dogs are of mixed or unknown background, keep in mind that you should take a dog's individual personality into account.

Speak to someone at the shelter who's familiar with the dogs. If you adopt from a rescue group, your potential pooch is likely coming from foster care -- that means its foster "parents" can offer plenty of insight as well.

Q: But there's no yard! What do I do about exercise for my dog?

Of course, the D.C. area has plenty of dog parks in nearly every jurisdiction -- these can be even more fun for your dog than a simple yard, since there will be plenty of other dogs for him or her to play with. But don't discount long walks, either. If you're in an urban area, walks around the city mean plenty of interesting smells to sniff, as well as people (and squirrels!) to meet.

Local trails, such as those in Rock Creek Park, are another great option for your dog. Figure out the closest one to you, grab a pair of sneakers and enjoy nature, get some exercise and spend time with your fur kid.

In addition, a growing number of apartment communities now have dog parks or dog-friendly spaces. If you're considering moving soon, look for buildings that offer such amenities.

Missing Attachment The most important thing to know about training your new pup, according to Petco dog trainer Chloe Sternlicht, is that dogs respond best to positive reinforcement. So be patient when Fido makes a mistake and smother him with praise and treats when he get it right. Sternlicht gives some tips for getting your dog to respond to basic commands.

What about in the winter? If you can afford it, consider having your dog hang out at a dog daycare a couple of days per week. After a day of tumbling around with other furry friends, your dog will be happy and tired out.

You can also consider taking your pooch to walk around a pet-friendly store such as PetSmart or Petco. He or she will get to meet other dogs and maybe even pick out a new toy.

Other low-cost options will let you socialize along with your dog. If your building allows other dogs to visit, invite a dog-owning friend over with his or her dog, and let the dogs play in your apartment while you and your pal catch up. Or visit a friend who has a yard -- just bring some wine or something to grill as a thank you.

Q: Don't some places have restrictions on breeds?

Yes, both individual buildings and certain localities may have restrictions. For example, pitbulls are banned in Prince George's County. Make sure you know the laws and rules where you live. If you have trouble finding information from official sources online, call the dog-licensing office in your county or city and simply ask.

Check with your landlord or leasing agent to determine any breed or weight restrictions on dogs in your buildings.

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Q: Does it cost extra to have a pet in an apartment?

Sometimes. Some buildings charge an extra fee for pet rent, which can be anywhere from $25 to $80 or more. If you're planning to move soon, look for buildings that don't charge this extra fee. However, if you're in a place that does charge pet rent, remember that, if you can afford it, it's a small price to pay to have a loving new companion.

In addition, some buildings charge an extra security deposit for renters who have pets. This should be spelled out in the terms of your lease.

If you're worried about getting your deposit back -- whether your general security deposit or the specific pet one -- your best bet is being extra-vigilant, which will be good for both your dog's health and your bottom line. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so he or she doesn't get bored and cause damage. Take your dog outside promptly and regularly (and get a dog walker if you're gone for long stretches) to avoid accidents. Crate-training can be a good option to keep your pet relaxed and avoid damage for short stretches of time; talk to your vet to determine the best method for your dog.

Q: How do I find a pet-friendly building?

You'll probably just have to do your legwork on this one, but remember that many apartment-search sites allow you to filter specifically for those buildings that allow dogs.

There are also a few things you can do to stack the deck in your favor if you're looking to move.

Before you begin your search, make sure you have all your pet's important documents in order, such as rabies and other vaccine certificates, dog license, spay or neuter certificate, and microchip information. Many rental companies ask to see this information when you're applying for a place or moving in, and having your materials ready to go ensures there won't be any last-minute scrambling to find a missing document.

[NATL] 9 Animals You Didn't Know You Could Adopt suggests assembling a pet resume: "It may sound silly, but this can really work. Be sure to include a description of your dog's personality, any obedience training completed, validation of shots and health, letters of recommendation from your prior landlords and neighbors, and of course, a photo. Who can resist that beautiful puppy face?" 

Q: How do I get my new dog used to apartment living?

Whether you have a large house or a small apartment, you'll want to create a cozy space just for your dog: a crate, corner, spot under a table, or even a closet (with the door left open, of course) that feels safe and comfortable. "Dogs are den animals," according to the American Humane Association, and they need their own, closed-in space to feel secure.

You'll also want to establish a routine with your dog. "Dogs are smart and most can easily adapt to the apartment lifestyle," said. "You can make things easier on your pet by establishing and sticking to a routine. Set times for potty breaks, feeding, walking, and playing."

While some people may feel guilty over bringing a dog into an apartment, remember that your potential pet might be living in an even smaller space in a shelter, and without a loving "parent" or family. If you feel ready to adopt a dog, you can make it work in an apartment if you prepare properly and are cognizant of your pet's needs.

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