Can You Have a Happy Dog in an Apartment?


People often think you need a yard to have a dog. Or a house. Can you have a dog in an apartment or is it not fair to the dog?

Apartment dog life 3

Mr. N lived in houses with yards for all his life before we adopted him. He had no trouble making the transition to apartment life. Granted, he is not a big dog but he has plenty of energy and stamina. His favorite dog buddies include a Border Collie, a Cattle Dog and a Giant Schnauzer and he has no trouble keeping up… and often wears them out.

There are plenty of dogs in our neighborhood who almost never leave their yard and house. In comparison, Mr. N is out and about with me every day and he goes for hikes, training sessions, various dog-friendly outings and errands with me.

In order to keep everyone happy with apartment life, we utilize training/mental stimulation, daily exercise, dog daycare (in the past), play dates and dog parks.

dog in an apartment life 1
Hanging out at the pet store counter while waiting for his walk.

Key components to having a dog in an apartment

Training and Mental Stimulation

Mental stimulation is key for having a happy, well-behaved dog. Mr. N has food puzzles and to keep him occupied in the house. And we do a lot of clicker training and shaping and constantly work on his trick repertoire. Dog sports are also an excellent way to give your dog a mental workout and we’ve tried several. In the city, we have access to Treibball, dock diving, agility, freestyle, rally, obedience, drafting, lure coursing, nose work, Barn Hunt, flyball, disc and more.

Training is also essential to making sure your dog can handle living in close quarters with other people and animals and maintaining a cordial relationship with your neighbors and/or landlord.


Rain or shine, we go out. In fact, Mr. N has persevered through weather that stopped the Post Office from delivering. Daily exercise keeps the dogs fulfilled, provides socialization and makes the humans move and get fresh air as well. If leashed walks are not enough for your dog, there’s the option of biking with them or taking them for urban hikes.

Dog Walkers and Dog Daycare

One of the perks of living in an urban environment is the array of readily available dog services. Within a few blocks of our place, we have a dog daycare, several dog walkers, and people that will watch your dog during the day through services like Rover. In Portland, there are shuttles that will take your dog to and from daycare and dog walking services that specialize in running with your dog or hiking with your dog.

 Play Dates

Dogs are everywhere in the city making it much easier to arrange play dates. Once you find a dog that suits your dog’s play style, you can sit back and supervise and let them work off energy on each other. Mr. N has play dates with dogs from various parts of the city ranging from the other side of town to a neighbor on the same block.

Apartment dog life 2
On a play date/hike with Scout.

Dog Parks

If your dog has the appropriate temperament, dog parks are a good way to let off some steam. Mr. N is tiny so we frequent dog parks during off-hours when they’re almost empty and leave at the first sign of trouble. There are also dog parks with separate small or shy dog areas.

Do you have a dog in an apartment? How do you manage?






18 Responses

  1. Kitty Cat Chronicles

    March 31, 2017 1:29 pm

    These are all great tips! Dogs can absolutely do well living an apartment as long as their humans do active things with them. So often people think that having a house or a fenced in yard is all they need, but even then, dogs need stimulation and activities. Your suggestions are very helpful!

  2. Christine Caplan

    March 31, 2017 2:01 pm

    I love this post: I lived in a tiny apartment with our Jack Russell for years in the Bay Area. He did fine! We were always out and about and he loved to walk in the neighborhood. He didn’t bark a ton which was helpful. The issue I think I’d have now with the doxies is they bark a lot. You really have to manage it when they’re on the deck. So that would be the only “issue” I’d have to be cautious of.

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      April 1, 2017 1:22 am

      We don’t really have a lot of open space here so that’s usually not an issue. I can see how it would be an issue for people with more outdoor space. Actually it’s all the dogs in yards that bark at Mr. N when I take him out for bathroom breaks here!

  3. Lola The Rescued Cat

    March 31, 2017 4:14 pm

    Living in a city, our mom sees lots of doggies who live in apartments, and they look very happy. There’s a dog park just up the street from our building, and she loves seeing all the doggies coming and going.

  4. Beth

    April 1, 2017 12:00 pm

    My sister had her Pug and larger dog in a studio apartment in LA, they had no issues at all. My dogs are a little on the barky side, so if we moved into an apartment, I don’t think our neighbors would like us very much. However, I’m sure they could learn to bark less if it was important to me.

  5. The Daily Pip

    April 2, 2017 7:48 am

    Our first dog, Pip, lived in apartments with us until he was 12. We then moved to a house with a yard and he seemed totally overwhelmed by having a big yard of his own. It took him awhile to get used to it. He also had trouble with the added space and stairs inside the house. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if we had moved when he was younger

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      April 3, 2017 2:02 pm

      It sounds like he had a little trouble adjusting which can happen especially as they get older. Mr. N stays with us in relatives’ houses and hotels and such and he’s pretty flexible about things as long as I’m there.

  6. Talent Hounds

    April 2, 2017 9:25 am

    I think Kilo the Pug would be fine in an apartment as long as we followed all your great tips. Mental and physical exercise are so important for any dog anywhere. Unfortunately, Kilo does not play well with others or like the dog park or strangers but he does love walks around our area or by the water. He also enjoys private agility classes a lot and puzzles, training and games. He barks a lot at the postman or dogs walking by but he probably would not have that issue in an apartment.

  7. Jan K

    April 3, 2017 8:00 am

    In many ways, it sounds like apartment dogs in the city have many more opportunities than country dogs. Yes, it’s fun to have our own fenced in yard for exercise, and easy access to trails to walk on, but we don’t get things like shuttles to day care or things like that. There are less opportunities for socializing in the country. We are at least starting to get more dog parks and walkers, and even a daycare. But I could never say our dogs are better off than a dog like Mr. N just because we live in a house with a yard.

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      April 3, 2017 2:06 pm

      People have their preferences but I really enjoy being close to all the amenities of urban life. Visiting rural areas is fun but I love living in the city. Especially in the summer, there’s several dog events each weekend and there’s always something to do!

  8. Beth

    April 3, 2017 7:09 pm

    Barley lived in an apartment for our first 5 years together–we couldn’t do daycare or dog parks or playdates because of her reactivity, but between training classes and hiking, I don’t think she missed out on anything! In fact, we adventure less now that we’re in a house and have a fenced-in yard. Our neighborhood is so walkable that we usually stick closer to home for walks and then play in the yard. Rye would not have been a good apartment dog, though, because she notices every little sound (we had a fun adventure with her being awoken by Amish horse buggies this past weekend on vacation–a sound that Barley and I were happily sleeping right through until the beagle howl came out).

  9. Janet

    April 4, 2017 2:47 pm

    I have a question. What do you do with the doggie bag of poop? I always ended up carrying it home to dispose in my trash can because there were not any public trash containers. It always seemed so awkward carrying that little blue bag while walking four dogs. Plus the smallest would always lay down in the middle of the road that entered the cul-de-sac before ours, refusing to move, so I always ended up carrying her home. So what do you do with that little blue bag?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.