Keeping a dog in an apartment is a fact of life for many Canadian animal lovers. Some breeds are better suited to the lifestyle than others, but in many cases we choose – or get chosen by – the dog long before we know where we are likely to live. In those situations, our dog has to adapt to the home we end up in, and this can be difficult especially for older animals. Here are some tips from Dr. Issam Kadri for helping your pet adjust to the change to apartment life:
Tip #1: Scheduled Potty Breaks
This is obviously an important aspect of acclimatizing your pet. For dog owners whose animals are used to having a yard at their disposal, it’s necessary to get your pet into a routine that he or she is comfortable with.
Adult dogs typically need to “go” every 6 hours, although they can stretch to 8 if necessary. For the first few days in the apartment, take the dog out every 4 hours so he gets used to the fact that he will get a chance to go at regular intervals. When he starts showing he knows the drill, gradually extend the time a little bit each day until the interval is 6 hours between trips.
If you can’t make it home at midday to take him out, consider getting a dog walker or ask a neighbour to let him out for a quick pee break. Small dogs seem to manage well with pee-pads or “potty patches,” which contain a tray that holds a pee-pad covered by a grid that holds artificial, washable grass.
Tip #2: Access to Fresh Air
For a dog that’s used to being out in the garden all day long, the transition to an indoor environment can be especially frustrating. Avoid letting your pet become stressed by getting an apartment that has a balcony, or at least large windows you can open where he can lie and look out, with access to fresh air. Dog-proof your apartment to make sure your dog can’t fall out – “high-rise syndrome” is an extremely common cause of fatalities among pet dogs living in apartments. Don’t assume the screen on the window will support his weight – you may need something a little stronger.
Give your dog an opportunity several times a week to go out and spend time lying on the grass. Apartment dwellers who get walked just for exercise and potty purposes seldom get the chance to “stop and smell the roses” and your dog could become depressed if an activity he loves is suddenly taken away. Find a quiet park or field where you can both sit outdoors every now and then, without necessarily having a purpose other than relaxation.
Tip #3: Reading the Pee-Mail
Dogs love to read the markings left by others, and when the only outdoor time they get is on their walks, you can expect them to spend an inordinate period investigating all the interesting smells they can find. Far too often, dogs are walked at breakneck pace along the road, expected to do their business and then walk back home without ever having a chance to find out the neighbourhood news. If you want your dog to be happy in his new apartment life, give him the chance to get to know the other dogs in the area by their scents.
Tip #4: Limit Crating
It’s an unfortunate aspect of living with a dog in an apartment is that many of them spend more time in crates than anywhere else. This causes a number of problems, particularly if extended crating begins before the dog’s is fully grown. Dogs crated for several hours at a stretch get insufficient natural movement activity and can develop joint problems as a result, or destructive behaviours such as licking or biting themselves or pulling their fur out.
While nobody wants urine stains on the carpet, a dog in a crate is less likely to soil in an emergency and this can lead to bladder infections that plague him throughout his life. Limit the amount of time a dog is crated by sectioning off an area of the kitchen or passageway where he can move around freely in a large enough space. This will result in a much happier, healthier pet.