How To: Take Your Dogs from the Backyard to an Apartment

Most people move from the city to the suburbs as they advance through life, leading to children and pets – the American family life. But what if you already have a dog or two and are planning a move into an apartment and away from that house with a backyard? Here’s a few quick tips to help you and your dogs transition to a different lifestyle.

The most important thing is to research potential apartment complexes thoroughly before signing a lease or putting down a deposit. There are many apartments that don’t allow pets at all, or have strict limit of one or two. There are also some with restrictions on breeds and size of your pets. Just because the complex is perfect, don’t try to fool the management and say you have less than their limit or your dogs weigh 20 pounds less than they actually do. That is an automatic lease violation and they can keep your deposit and have you out by the end of the month if you don’t get rid of your violating animal. Play fair and by the rules and everyone will safe and happy with the arrangement. There is often an additional pet deposit (most are non-refundable) due when you move in. This is to be expected because dogs are considered an additional risk to management. Make sure to financially plan for at least a couple hundred dollars as the deposit, more if you have multiple pets.

The location and layout of the complex is also very important. Some are very animal-friendly, while others haven’t given it a second thought. It’s your responsibility to know what will be most convenient for you and all your dog-care needs. The natural tendency is to get a unit near the top (whether it’s only two story or a high-rise) because there will be less noise from higher units. While that is a sound strategy for someone without pets, a dog owner would be better off with a place on the first floor. Think about taking your pet out first thing in the morning or that last time before bed and having to travel down many stairs and levels before making your way outside. A few footsteps on the ceiling are worth the benefits of being 20 feet from outside. That relates to another important point – consider the surrounding area of the unit. If it is all parking lots and shopping centers, that may be great for you and getting a gallon of milk, but what about a nice grassy area for your pooch? The ideal location would have grass areas in between the building(s) for walking your dogs. Also, check the area for the local dog park or a facility where you can give your pets some off-leash time to run around and socialize with other pets. Being close enough to drive there even once or twice a week would make a tremendous difference in the health and happiness of your dog. The final screening point is the location of the nearest animal clinic. The last thing you would want is to wait until an actual emergency to have to get the phone number and/or location of the facility. Being 5-10 minutes away instead of 20 minutes is a world of difference when your dog’s life is at stake.

There are things you can do before you leave your single family home to prepare for the move as well. Get into the habit of walking your dogs at least once per day. They will get in the routine easily, especially if you walk them around the same time, and will learn to go to the bathroom while on the leash. It’s good exercise for your dog as well, even though they have a backyard, most dogs don’t get the cardio work they need inside the fence. A well-paced walk most days for 15 minutes or more is plenty to keep them in shape. If they sleep outside or in the garage, consider having them sleep in the house. That gives you the opportunity to teach them about making one last bathroom run before going to sleep. There’s nothing you want to avoid more than a few nights of “accidents” when you get to the new place because your dog isn’t used to sleeping in the house.

Finally, work on your pet’s behavior in the house environment. They will be at home when you aren’t around at the new place, which means they need to know what not to do and what is acceptable. Try dedicating a room to be the dog’s room when you are away. Keep out the nice furniture, get a dog bed in there and a few of their favorite chew toys so they have something to occupy their destructive energy if the mood strikes. Barking is another sticking point for pets unfamiliar with the apartment lifestyle. Some positive training before moving should help the process. Another way to help is to get to know the neighbors at the complex. Let them know you have dogs (maybe they do as well) and you expect good behavior from your pets. Exchange phone numbers in case there’s an emergency or maybe one of you will need a pet sitter at some point? A neighbor can be your best friend or your worst enemy at an apartment complex. Set things up correctly in the beginning and you are well on your way to creating friends instead of enemies.

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