Tips for Owning a Big Dog in a Small Apartment

Dog Walking

Large dogs can live successfully and happily in an apartment if you do it the right way. Help ensure a positive rental experience for you and your larger furry friend with these tips.

Find the Right Neighborhood

Some neighborhoods are more dog-friendly than others. Before you start your apartment search, make sure you choose a neighborhood with plenty to offer you and your dog. You’ll want to make sure there is grass nearby for your pup to do his or her business, places to go for a walk, and perhaps a dog park or reputable doggy day care center.

When you are looking at neighborhood parks, keep in mind that  you will need to keep your dog on a leash. If off-leash time is needed and your dog is well-behaved and social, you may want to look for a neighborhood that has an off-leash dog park.

Some neighborhoods also have dog-friendly stores where you can take your pet to shop. While you may not find a dog-friendly establishment every neighborhood, pet supply stores are more common and can be a good place to start. Your dog can walk with you as you buy him or her more dog food and toys. A lot of pet supply stores also have training programs. You can sign up for an owner and pet class to help strengthen your relationship. It's also a fun weekend activity to do in your new neighborhood and a place to meet other dog owners in the area.

Find the Right Apartment

According to a survey, 83 percent of renters have had difficulty finding a pet-friendly apartment. I see that difficulty and raise you one 70-pound pit bull mix. While finding a pet-friendly rental can sometimes be a challenge, it becomes even more challenging when you have a big dog. Many apartment complexes—especially those owned by large property management companies—have size, weight, and breed restrictions. (As a pit bull parent, you can probably guess how I feel about breed restrictions.)

But big-dog-friendly apartments do exist, so don’t give up! If you’re having trouble, consider creating 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, proof of vaccinations and health, letters of recommendation from your prior landlords and neighbors, and of course, a photo. Who can resist that beautiful puppy face? You can also set up a dog-to-face meeting so your potential landlord can see how well-behaved your dog is, and reassure your good intentions of caring for the apartment by providing proof of renters insurance.

Establish a Routine

Dogs are smart and many can adapt to the apartment lifestyle. You can make things easier on your pet by establishing and sticking to a routine. Set times for potty breaks, feeding, walking, and playing. In addition to helping your big dog feel comfortable in your apartment, sticking to a routine will also help prevent accidents on your apartment floor.

If you work full-time and can’t take a mid-day break to go home and take your dog out, consider hiring a dog walker or taking your pet to doggie daycare. Could you imagine “holding it” for nine hours? Didn’t think so.

Plenty of Exercise

All dogs—regardless of size or living situation—need exercise to stay healthy and happy. While daily walks are great, you also want to get your dog’s heart rate up with more vigorous exercise. That’s where dog parks can be helpful. Exactly how much exercise your dog needs will depend on his age, health and individual preference.  For help determining how much exercise your dog may need, be sure to contact your veterinarian.

Niccole Schreck is a rental experience expert for, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable pet-friendly apartment and provides tips on how to move with your pet. She is also the proud owner of two dogs, Bella and Wallace, and a cat named Frisby.