Tuesday, June 25, 2013

City Dog: What to Know When Moving your Dog to the City

Before adopting our pups, I was always curious whether there was anything different about owning a dog in the city compared with where I grew up. We've been learning a lot as we go along, and trying to share what we know, and we just received this really interesting question:
What are some things a country or suburban dog can plan for when moving into the city?
Here are some things we've learned while having our dogs in the city.

Become a Walking Pro:
Living in the city can be challenging and our walks often feel like an obstacle course. From dodging food left on the ground--a disproportionate amount which seems to be chicken bones--, the sounds of the raging el train overhead, fireworks year-round, squirrels, rats, and feral cats, and crowded sidewalks filled with dogs and people.
Before moving to the city, we recommend beginning to take your dogs on regular daily walks around your neighborhood. This will give you a chance to begin working together in a comfortable and familiar environment, and you will also begin to understand your dog's triggers. Once you have identified your pup's distractions, you can also try changing up your walks so you can practice working in different settings. We've found it's helpful to treat every walk like a 'training walk' to make sure our dog is focused on us. We work on focus through regular check in's, and we wrote more about it here and here.

Start a Bathroom Routine:
With most of us living in multi-unit buildings, we actually need to prepare and take our dogs out for something as simple as a bathroom break. We developed a regular feeding routine, that has helped us with our bathroom routine. Our dogs eat twice a day: breakfast and dinner. We take them on their walks after they've eaten those meals (with a 20 minute digestion period). We don't leave water out, but they drink during their meals, and of course if it's hot outside they drink more and we take them outside directly afterwards. Besides the two food potty breaks we have a mid-day break and a before-bed break. We would recommend slowly transitioning your dog to a bathroom schedule before you move so it's more comfortable and less stressful later. We wrote more about the bathroom habits of city dogs, including what to do for late night emergencies, in our post here.

Finding Alternative Exercise:
Most city dogs don't have backyards, which can be a huge transition for dogs that are accustomed to having a lot of space and playing fetch. We have just become more strategic with the ways we tire out our dogs using a combination of physical and mental exercises.
We wrote about ways to get the most exercise on a shorter walk here.
And some mental stimulation to supplement or use during bad weather days in our post here. 
We also know a lot of city dogs that go to doggie daycare, go running with their people or hired dog runners, and walking groups. There are some dog parks in the city, though we don't like going to them for these reasons.

Be Considerate of Shared Wall Neighbors:
It could be confusing for dogs to move from a single-family home to a multi-unit building in the city. They might bark and react to the noises and sounds of other people constantly walking in the hallways. We are lucky our dogs have never been barkers, but we did have some visiting dogs that would bark at every strange sound they heard. I'm not sure if this is something they get used to, or if there can be some type of training (anyone?).
It's also important to be aware of any extra noises your dog could make and be respectful of the neighbors. It can be difficult to find dog-rentals in the city, so all of us dogowners should work to be respectful so people think well of owning dogs in apartments.
We wrote about some considerations when sharing walls with neighbors in our post here. 

Developing a Routine for the Humans:
I think the hardest transition might be getting the people accustomed to the routine. Every day we need to wake up a bit earlier to go on a morning walk, and we need to make sure we return in time to complete an evening walk. We also need to remain diligent about our training and be prepared to be outside in all types of weather.
Here are some ways we make our before-work walk quick and easy.
Here are some ways we prepare ourselves to walk in cold weather. And in the rain.

These are just our experiences, but I know there are a lot more things that we're missing.
What are some things you would recommend for country or suburban dogs moving to the city? 
Or any other questions about dogs in the city?

Renting with dogs
The most important training used for everyday city life
We don't mind not having a backyard because things like this and this make it all worth it.


Anonymous said...

One thing I did when I lived in a townhouse was to use noise machines (on white noise), especially when I was not home. That way Melvin was not barking at a conversation he could hear through the walls. I still use the noise machine. We live in a new build community and there are workers and hammering and all sorts of noises the dogs would normally bark at. The noise machine eases all that out.

Two French Bulldogs said...

It almost looks like there is a lot more to do there than non-city life
Benny & Lily

Kiira said...

Great post!

I was just thinking this morning that your pups are so well socialized, and I bet a lot of it can be attributed to those daily walks in the city. I've even seen huge improvements in Monkey (originally terrified of trucks, buses, the el) and Petey (used to be shy around strangers, now enjoys meeting new people...especially the homeless ones). It took 3 years!!! but they are now city pros.

And I second ohmelvin's comment about the white noise. We have a noise machine and leave the radio playing. My boys are left uncrated, but I make sure that they don't have access to windows during the day, or else they bark at people passing by the house. I've used frosted window films in a few places to obscure their view.

Anonymous said...

Great tips, I need to read the post about shared walls though because we are getting ready to put our house on the market and downsize to a situation that involves shared walls.

houndstooth said...

I think one of the biggest challenges is getting used to the noise, at least for our dogs. Having good obedience skills is more important for us when we visit the city than when we're walking in our more rural area, too.

Unknown said...

My little boy, lives with me in a duplex in the city. We moved from an apartment. I think any move is stressful for animals and preparing them for the upcoming environment is a must to have a relaxed, happy state of mind. I take the time to walk my boy in the new neighbourhood before we move in. Make it a fun trip with lots of things to smell and search for (he is a ratter - Yorkie-poo). He needs lots of mental stimulation and as long as I provide this on a daily basis, he settles into new digs quite easily. He finds new environs interesting and it helps him adjust when the time comes to move. I find that keeping routines as close to normal as possible important.
The barking at sounds has been addressed with focus commands, so it does require me to be more focussed on what new sounds are around and catch him in the bud to a game, rub tummy, treat, etc. so he associates sounds with a good experience. I try to the best of my ability to stay calm and in control in any otherwise unsettling situation. He tends to take my lead.
Thank you for posting this, it is helpful to read the posts/comments.

Renting With Rex said...

I wrote a book called "Renting with Rex: How You, Your Dog, Your Landlord and Your Neighbors Can All Thrive in Rental Housing." The website is: www.rentingwithrex.com.

There is information about living in a city, living without a yard and setting a schedule with your dogs to help with house training. There is also information about keeping your close neighbors happy and acclimating your dog to living in an apartment like setting.

There is an entire chapter about being elderly or disabled and having a dog, which reviews all the legally required rights of having a pet if you are in two of the federally protected groups and have a pet.

One of my favorite chapters is "The Four Myths of Keeping a Dog in an Apartment" where I talk about beliefs like "Dogs Need a lot of Space with a Big House and a Yard" and "Only Certain Breeds Can Live in an Apartment" and "Dogs Can Be Happy in an Apartment" and "One Might be OK, But More Than One is just Too Many."

The book is available in hard copy, e book and downloadable per chapter.

Unknown said...

White Noise Machine Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.

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