The best dogs for living in a big city

Turning Points 4 min read

There’s no reason to think that living in a large urban center is counterintuitive to owning a dog. Often, we think of dogs as needing massive expanses of nature to run around in and explore, but that’s not necessarily true for every breed. Although it may seem like an easier decision when you do have easily accessible outdoor space, you can still find the best dog for your living situation.

How much space do you have?

The first question to ask is how much space DO you have? Do you have a postage-sized yard, or none at all? Will you need to bring your dog on an elevator, where you’re sure to share the small space with other people and possibly other canines?

If you have no outdoor space at all, how close is the nearest dog (or dog-friendly) park? Once you’ve established that, ask yourself honestly how much time you’ll need to spend walking to/from/at the park. Will you be able to make that work with your schedule?

Are you allowed to have a dog?

Next, for renters, find out if you’re allowed to have a dog. If you are, you may be required to pay a pet deposit, or the breeds you’re allowed to bring home may be limited. If you share your space with a roommate, are they open to acquiring a four-legged roommate? It would be unfortunate if you brought home your new fur friend, only to find out your roommate is allergic.

Similarly, how close are your closest neighbors? Although some dogs are quieter than others, all dogs will make some kind of noise. If you share most of your walls with neighbors, this could be an issue.

How long will you be gone each day?

Once you’ve considered the above, think carefully about how long you’ll be out of the house each day. Like people, dogs can get separation anxiety. Breeds like French bulldog, Maltese, and Cavalier King Charles spaniel are the right size for city living, but they can be needy and require a lot of attention from their owners. French bulldogs are low energy and well-behaved. Cavalier King Charles spaniels are easy going and friendly, but they’re better suited for people who work from home or are gone only for short periods of time.

Small dog breeds for city living

After establishing what level of commitment you can make, you can focus on which breeds are best suited to your life. Generally speaking, small dogs adapt to city living easier than large dogs. From a practical standpoint, they take up less room, both in your home and out on the busy streets. Some of the best small breeds to consider are:

  • English bulldog: Low energy, so they need less exercise, but lots of health issues
  • Yorkshire terrier: Lots of energy, so they need daily exercise, but can be difficult to house-train
  • Whippet: Great for families, they need daily exercise, but don’t cohabitate well with cats
  • Pomeranian: Smart and obedient with big personalities, but can be difficult to house-train
  • Dachshund: Smart and snuggly, but very vocal and require lots of stimulation and attention
  • Miniature and toy poodles: Smart, easy going, and hypoallergenic, they need daily exercise

Medium and large dog breeds for city living

There are a few medium and large breeds that can work well for big city living, too:

  • Basenji: Mellow with minimal shedding, they rarely bark, but they were often used as hunting dogs, so they have a strong prey instinct
  • Great Dane: Friendly and cuddly, these large dogs need more physical space, but don’t require a ton of daily exercise
  • Newfoundland: Low energy and friendly, they love to snuggle

Dog breeds with friendly temperaments

However, size isn’t the only thing to take into consideration. Dogs with friendly temperaments are more conducive to successful urban living. In the city, you and your dog can’t escape daily interaction with other people and dogs. Aggressive and predatory breeds don’t play well with others, which could lead to confrontations and difficult situations. Friendly dogs like those below are good bets:

  • Shih tzu: Friendly, but difficult to house-train and can be predatory
  • Pug: Low to medium energy and quiet, but can be difficult to train
  • Boston terrier: Cheerful and smart, need daily exercise, and can be stubborn in training
  • Corgi: Friendly with people (but not necessarily with other dogs) and easily trained, but very vocal and high energy
  • Bichon frise: Adaptable and not inclined to bark needlessly but require frequent grooming (which can get expensive)

Dogs breeds that are easy to train

Although all dogs, regardless of where they reside, should receive obedience training, it’s especially important when living in close quarters with other human beings and canines. Therefore, have a training plan in mind, and when selecting the best breed for your city life, don’t overlook breeds that are easy to train, like:

  • Chihuahua: Affectionate and loyal to their owners, but loud, as well as assertive around strangers (both human and canine)
  • Labrador and golden retrievers: Intelligent and friendly, they need a lot of daily exercise and can struggle with separation anxiety

Another important caution is to check in with your homeowners or renters insurance policy and see if there are any dog breeds that aren’t covered. Often, dogs that are considered aggressive—like pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds, and American bulldogs, to name a few—are excluded from coverage.

At the end of the day, even though there may be similarities within a breed, please remember that each dog’s personality will be different. You may find a larger dog with a quiet, calm temperament that will do fine living in a city apartment. Conversely, not every small dog is a good fit for the close confines of urban living. At the end of the day, the most important things that dogs need are love and care … and regular exercise!

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