Apartment Dogs: How to Live With a Dog in a Flat

2018-02-21 | Care & Safety



Many people who live in apartments and flats would love to own a dog, but worry about the unique challenges and difficulties that arise when raising a dog in an apartment.

If this sounds like you, there’s plenty you’re probably considering. Can you even keep a dog in a flat? What are the best dog breeds for an apartment? How can you get a landlord to let you have a pet? How can you make sure your apartment dog is happy?

Here at Animal Health, we want as many people as possible to be able to experience the joys of pet ownership, regardless of where they live. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you through every step of the apartment dog journey – from picking the best dog breed for a flat, to finding apartments that will let you have a dog, and of course plenty of helpful tips on actually living with a dog in an apartment.



Best Dog Breeds for Apartments


First thing’s first – you’ll need to decide what sort of dog you’d like. However, this can be a more complex decision if you live in a flat, as not all dogs are well suited for apartment living. Factors such as more limited space, the proximity of your neighbours (who might not appreciate a barking dog!) and a lack of outdoor space can all make living with a dog in an apartment more difficult than in a house. On top of that, you want a dog that suits your lifestyle and hobbies. 


Many people assume this means they’re limited to smaller dogs, but this isn’t necessarily the case. A little dog may be wise in a smaller flat, but there are other characteristics that are more important when determining whether a dog is a good apartment dog. Generally, you’ll want a dog that is:

    • → Quiet
    • → Low-energy
    • → Calm
    • → Friendly and good with people

fluffy chihuahua dog

Many smaller dogs can actually be very energetic and occasionally yappy, whereas a big dog may be far more laidback. For example, beagles are quite small but their working background means they need loads of exercise so it can be difficult to properly meet their needs without a garden. On top of that, they’re prone to “baying”, which your neighbours might not be delighted about!


On the other hand, a tall, speedy greyhound might not strike you as the best apartment dog and many think that the answer to “do greyhounds make good apartment dogs” is a resounding “no”. Yet, they’re often called the 45mph couch potato because even though they can definitely run, they really love to sleep and are incredibly laid-back and calm; they tend to sprint all their energy away!

All this said, we’ve got some suggestions of great apartment dogs for any situation – take a look...

tall greyhound

Hypoallergenic Apartment Dogs

For those with allergies, a hypoallergenic dog is often a wise choice. Plus, there’s another benefit for those who live in flats; an apartment dog that doesn’t shed may go down better with a landlord as they’ll naturally create less mess. Here are some dogs that don’t shed and are well suited to apartment living:

      • → Basenji
      • → Bichon Frise
      • → Chinese Crested Dog
      • → Coton de Tulear
      • → Havanese
      • → Maltese
      • → Poodle
      • → Shih Tzu
      • → Yorkshire Terrier

Best Big Dogs for Apartments

Don't let size put you off. Big dogs can live perfectly happily in an apartment, provided that you’re able to meet all their needs. Consider some of these laidback gentle giants if you’d prefer a bigger dog:  

  • → Mastiff
  • → Great Dane
  • → Standard Poodle
  • → Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • → Shar Pei
  • → Greyhound
  • → Basset hounds (not big, but heavy!) 
  • → English Bulldog

basset hound running


Best Small Apartment Dogs

Small dogs do take up less space, so it’s easy to see why many people living in a flat choose the fun-sized option. Take your pick from these miniature canines:

  • → Bichon frise
  • → Bolognese
  • → Boston Terrier
  • → Brussels Griffons
  • → Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • → Chihuahua
  • → Chinese Crested Dog
  • → Dachshund
  • → Havanese
  • → French Bulldog



Apartment Hunting with Dogs

Finding a rented flat with a dog can be a struggle. Many landlords and letting agents refuse to accept pets, with many adding a ‘no pets’ clause to tenancy agreements. However, with a bit of patience and strategy, you’ll be able to find a suitable apartment.

Give yourself time

Be aware that apartment hunting with a pet could be a lengthier process. Start your search early to make sure you’ve got the time to find the right place.

Look at pet-friendly rentals

Rather than falling in love with flats you’ll never be able to move into, limit your search to companies and landlords who are happy to take pets. Lets with Pets is a good resource to help you narrow your search.

Get a pet reference from previous landlords

Landlords may be more open to the idea of you having a dog in your apartment if you can prove your pet is well-behaved and you’re a responsible owner. If you’ve owned a pet in a rented property before, ask your previous landlord for a reference that shows your dog wasn’t a problem.

Be prepared to negotiate

Many landlords will only allow dogs with additional conditions in place, such as higher deposits. You’ll make a good impression if sweeten the deal and agree to these:

  • → Offer to pay an additional pet deposit that will cover any damage your dog might make.
  • → Agree to pay for a full professional clean when you leave the property.
  • → Make sure your tenancy agreement clearly outlines these terms and states that you’re allowed to have your dog there.

Choosing the right apartment for a dog

Choosing a suitable property will make living with a dog in an apartment much easier. Think about the practical elements:

  • → Are there parks nearby and places to walk your dog?
  • → What floor is the apartment on? A ground floor or first floor apartment will make house training a puppy and taking your dog out much easier.
  • → Is there a lift? If not, are you prepared to carry your dog up the stairs?
  • → Is there plenty of floor space? Your dog will need room to move around, so it’s best to pick somewhere that isn’t too cramped.



Tips for Apartment Living with a Dog

Having a dog in an apartment means creating a safe and engaging environment for them. It also means training and socialising your pet properly so that they’re happy and well adjusted to apartment life. In this section, we’ll address some of the common concerns around keeping a dog in an apartment and share some top tips for making sure your beloved dog is happy and healthy.

brown dog sat on a chair in apartment

Basic Principles Behind Keeping Your Apartment Dog (and Your Neighbours) Happy

Your dog will still have all the needs that a dog living in a house has, with the main difference being you’re unlikely to have a garden for your pal to run around in. This means that dogs can become cooped up, stressed or destructive if you don’t put in extra effort to make sure they’re getting all the exercise they need. On top of that, your neighbours will be living in much closer proximity, which needs to be accounted for when you’re training and socialising your dog. The last thing you want is angry neighbours complaining about your dog barking all day and night! With that in mind, here are some key principles that will ensure your apartment dog is happy and healthy.

Regular Exercise

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to just let your dog outside. This means you’ll need to spend extra time walking your dog – for an apartment dog, you might want to take them for three or four walks each day, plus any toilet breaks they need.


Getting your dog into a familiar routine will make your dog feel a lot more settled, which is essential in a flat or apartment. Try to walk and feed your dog at the same time each day. This will make toilet training much easier!

Socialise your dog

You’ll likely be running into neighbours and other pets around your apartment block. Your dog needs to learn to be happy and calm around strangers.

Train your dog

We’ll go into some specific tips on this later, but training is essential for apartment dog success. Make sure your dog understands what’s expected of them and that they don’t exhibit any problem behaviour, such as excessive barking or destructive tendencies.

Create a space for your dog:

Find a comfortable place in your apartment where you can put your dog’s bed or crate, as well as their toys. This will help to settle your dog.

Leaving a dog alone in an apartment – should you do it?

There’s a good chance you’re going to want to leave your dog home alone at some point, and even on a regular basis if you’re going to work. It’s much harder to set up an apartment so that your dog can go out in the garden whilst you’re out (dog flaps certainly won’t do the trick if all you’ve got is a balcony!). So what’s the solution?

It’s worth mentioning that many experts don’t recommend regularly leaving adult dogs alone for more than 4-6 hours a day, and for puppies this drops to 2 hours a day. Dogs that are left alone for too long can become depressed, restless and may start exhibiting destructive behaviour such as chewing or biting furniture.

If you do need to leave your dog alone all day, you should take the following steps and precautions:

Hire a dog walker or use a doggy daycare

It’s unfair to leave your dog unable to go out and relieve herself all day. If you’re going to work every day and leaving your dog alone, hiring a regular dog walker is wise. The dog walker can come in in the middle of the day and give your dog a break from her own company, as well as give her a chance to stretch her legs.

Similarly, you could drop your dog off at a doggy daycare and they’ll look after your dog the entire time you’re out of the apartment.

Use a crate for comfort

If your dog’s crate trained, their crate can provide a safe sanctuary for them to chill out in during the day, which can make destructive behaviour less likely. However, if you’re at work all day you should leave the crate door open, so that your dog is free to move around the apartment too. Regularly crating your dog for 8 hours at a time will have a negative impact on her health and wellbeing.

Pet cameras

Seemingly anything’s possible with modern tech, including setting up your own personal dog surveillance system for peace of mind. There are apps available that will transform phones and tablets into dog monitors so that you can check up on your dog. They’ll also relay information including when your dog is barking, which can help you to pinpoint the root cause of bad behaviour. Some even let you talk to your dog (so that they can ignore your commands on a long distance basis too!)

Similarly, there are specialised dog cameras that will even dispense treats at your behest, if you feel like shelling out on something pricier.

Leave the radio or TV on

Leaving the TV or radio on at low volume can be beneficial as it’ll dampen noise from the apartments around yours, meaning your dog is less likely to get stressed out and start barking. Equally, if your dog has separation anxiety, the sound can calm them and help them to feel less alone.

Tire them out before you leave

You might have to wave goodbye to snoozing through your alarm 12 times before finally dragging yourself out of bed and to work. If you’re going to leave your dog home alone in an apartment, it’s essential that they’ve had a good walk before you leave. This will tire them out and mean they’ll probably just spend most of the day sleeping.

Toys for apartment dogs

If you’re leaving your dog at home, you should make sure she’s got plenty of toys to keep her busy. Puzzle toys with treats hidden inside them will keep her entertained for hours!



Apartment Dog Training Tips

Certain skills and training are essential if you and your dog are going to live harmoniously in an apartment.


It’s not great in a house, but in an apartment it’s vital that your dog doesn’t spend all day barking. Flats are often very close together, and barking will drive your neighbours up the wall if it continues for hours. Here are some strategies to train your dog not to bark:

Positive reinforcement – give your dog treats or toys when he or she stops barking at something.
• Don’t scold or shout at your dog for barking as this will agitate them and often make matters worse. Ignore your dog while he or she is barking, only rewarding them with attention once the barking has stopped.
• Teach your dog the “quiet” command. To do this, you’ll first need to teach your dog to bark on cue. Tell your dog to “speak” and then reward her when she barks. Repeat until your dog can bark on command. You can then teach her the “quiet” command. Firstly, tell your dog to “speak”. Once she's started barking, say “quiet” and reward her with the treat once she's stopped barking.

Apartment Dog Toilet Training

The big challenge with apartment dogs, especially with young puppies, is that most apartments don’t have easy access to a garden. This makes house training your dog more difficult, as you can’t just run outside when she’s desperate. If you’re in a block of flats, it’s likely you’ve got lifts or stairs to navigate before you leave the building which will slow you down.

An older dog that’s already toilet-trained will have much less trouble adjusting, but for puppies a plan needs to be set in place. A puppy will need to relieve herself every couple of hours, with the general rule being that a puppy can control her bladder for one hour for every month of age. For example, a two month old puppy will be able to hold it for about two hours.

We’re going to share our top tips for overcoming the challenge of successfully raising a puppy in an apartment and making sure she’s properly house-trained. Make sure to read our guide on bringing home a new puppy for more general advice on toilet-training a puppy, including how to use positive reinforcement effectively.

puppy sat in food bowl

Carry your dog outside

If you’ve got to go down several floors to get outside, you should carry your puppy. This will make her less likely to have an accident in the communal areas of your apartment when you’re taking her out for a toilet break. It’s also easier on her joints, as many dogs struggle with stairs.

Crate train your puppy

A lot of people don’t like the idea of putting their puppy or dog in a crate, but there are a lot of benefits if they’re used correctly. Dogs are naturally den animals and will normally adapt to crates very easily, often going into them of their own accord.

For instance, dogs won’t normally make a mess in their sleeping area, so keeping your puppy in a crate overnight can prevent accidents. Bear in mind that if you do take this option, it’s still wise to take your puppy for a toilet break in the middle of the night.

Furthermore, puppies love to chew, play and explore and if they’re left unsupervised they can cause damage. A crate provides a safe place for your puppy if you need to leave her on her own for a bit. That means she won’t be wreaking havoc in your apartment whenever you turn your back!

A crate also provides your puppy with her own little safe haven. Dogs are naturally den animals and will normally adapt to crates very easily, often going into them of their own accord.

Backup Options

It can be challenging to get a puppy outside quickly enough when you live in a flat. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have some backup options for when things go awry. These could include:

Absorbent pads – these normally have an attractant scent that will encourage your puppy to use them. You can also train her by praising her when she uses the pad. • Artificial grass – if you’ve got a balcony, a patch of artificial grass could be placed there. That way, you won’t have as far to go but you’ll still be teaching your puppy good habits.

Clean up accidents properly

Accidents happen, but unfortunately dogs tend to return to the same spot over and over again. If you don’t clean up properly, your puppy is likely to repeat their accident in the exact same place in your flat. Make sure you thoroughly clean away any accidents during house training to avoid falling into this trap.



Common Problems & How to Solve Them

“My dog won’t stop barking or howling in the apartment.”

This can happen if your dog has bad separation anxiety and barks when you’re not in the house. This can be an issue, especially if you don’t realise there’s a problem until your neighbours complain about the noise. Fortunately, there are a few things you can try in order to reduce or eliminate problematic barking or howling.

sandy dog barking in apartment

Find out what she’s barking at

It’s a good idea to identify the triggers that set your dog off barking. This could be neighbours walking down the building’s corridors or seeing people and other animals through the window. It could even be the noise from surrounding apartments. Once you’ve identified the trigger, it’ll be easier to formulate a plan to tackle it.

Block views

If you’ve got windows that your dog can see out of during the day, block the view. Your dog will probably see all sorts of interesting things through the window – random people, other dogs, cats, the postman – but any one of them might entice her to bark. Simply drawing the curtains or blinds will make this less of a problem.

More exercise


If your dog is barking when you’re out of the house, there’s a chance she’s feeling restless and bored. Make it a priority to give her a long morning walk before you leave for work. That way, she’s too tired out to spend all day barking her head off.




We’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth saying again. Make sure your dog has plenty of toys to keep her entertained when she’s home alone in the flat. Toys with treats hidden inside might prove enough of a distraction to stop her barking.


Positive Reinforcement


Use the training techniques we outlined in our section on ‘barking’ to train your dog to bark and be quiet on command. Most crucially, don’t shout at her when she barks – as far as she’s concerned, you’re joining in and she’s likely to get even more worked up! The single best thing you can do if she barks is ignore her and show her that it won’t get her anything.


Enlist the help of a friend


If you’ve figured out that your dog starts barking when people are walking past the apartment door, you could try to desensitise her to this stimulus. Ask a friend or family member to help you train your dog out of barking.


This can be done by having the person walk past the apartment door repeatedly. If your dog doesn’t bark, or stops barking when you tell her to, give her a treat. If she doesn’t, ignore her. This can help her get used to the everyday sounds in a block of flat and hopefully train her not to bark through positive reinforcement.


Don’t make it a big deal when you leave the flat


It can be tempting to give your dog a big goodbye every time you leave the house. However, this can cause your dog to get overexcited which can then provoke separation anxiety and barking when you leave. Instead, act like nothing is wrong, or say goodbye to her half an hour before you leave.


Leave for shorter periods of time at first


If barking is a real problem, you can practise leaving your dog alone in the apartment by going out without her for short periods of time at first. That way, she’ll start to understand that you will come back and you’re not leaving her behind forever. You can gradually increase the time you spend away without fear of her barking or getting stressed out.


Hire a animal behaviourist


If you’ve tried the above methods but the problem has persisted, it could be worth getting the assistance of a professional animal behaviourist. They’ll help you to figure out the causes of the barking and show you how to train your dog to stop.


“My apartment smells like dog!”


Unfortunately, dogs don’t always smell like a bed of roses. But if the smell of dog is put your friends off visiting, here are suggestions on how to keep your apartment fresh:


Clean regularly


Mopping and vacuuming every few days can help to stop smells building up. Try our Odor-Kill deodoriser if you want to kill the smell every time.


Open the windows


Airing out your flat each day can help smells to dissipate.


Launder dog bedding weekly


Dog bedding is one of the biggest sources of dog smell, and in a small apartment this can have a big impact. Try an odour-resistant anti-microbial bed to reduce this, and make sure you wash dog bedding once a week.


Wash your dog


If you’ve cleaned the flat from top to bottom and the smell still hasn’t gone, it might be time to give man’s best friend a bath. If you’re living in a flat, it’s a good idea to do this every few weeks or so, as smells will start to build up a lot faster than in a big house.


This will obviously also depend on your dog’s breed, her coat, and her exercise habits. If she’s constantly rolling around in mud for example, you’ll probably want to up the frequency of her baths. Try our one-step shampoo and conditioner for an easy solution.


Get an air freshener


Air fresheners, purifiers and diffusers can all help to get rid of the smell of dog and replace it with something a bit more pleasant. Even using a scented candle (in a safe place that’s out of reach of your dog) can freshen your apartment up a bit.