The Best Dog Breeds for Apartment and Condo Living
If you live in an apartment or condominium building, making room in your heart for a canine companion may seem a whole lot easier than it is to actually welcome a dog into your home. While limited apartment space may not be the best environment for a fully-grown Saint Bernard, there are a few breeds that thrive in smaller quarters—and expert canine behaviorists have good reasons why, as all of these breeds are on the American Kennel Clubs' list of better apartment dogs.
Size often plays a big factor into how well a dog can inherently fit into your apartment. While some of the dogs on this list are indeed smaller than most, a few of the smallest breeds are actually poor candidates for apartment living due to their vocal and energetic behavior, says Dr. Karen Sueda, DVM, a board-certified veterinary specialist in behavior at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. "The best dog for your home may not be the smallest at the shelter," she says. You wouldn't think that a Greyhound would be a better fit for a one-bedroom apartment than a Chihuahua would, but if you're concerned about the noise level and constant barking, Sueda says, a Greyhound is actually a better (read: quieter) fit for you.
Vocalization goes hand in hand with the dog's behavior. When checking your lease or speaking with your homeowners' association, there may be some breeds that are actually prohibited due to their energetic or protective behavior. Unless you're able to provide lots of exercise and stimulation throughout the day, some breeds—like border collies and labradors—can quickly turn destructive in an apartment environment. While herding and hunting dogs are well known for their exuberant "working" tendencies, if your dog is a mixed breed, these traits can become mitigated due to mixed DNA, according to Jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington. "Mixed dogs can be great because they're not 'so much' of anything, and may be better suited to apartment life despite their breeds' hereditary traits," she says. This can be helpful when it comes to adoption, Thomas shares, since many of the neediest pups aren't totally purebred.
Here, experts are sharing their picks for the best dogs for apartment dwellers—follow along as we highlight why they chose each.
Some smaller breeds can be quite vocal and excited by everyday movement, Sueda says. But the Bishon Frisé is a prime example of a small breed that has just the right amount of energy for a fun family. "Compared to a terrier, which tends to be quite excited all the time, Frisés are much more relaxed—but they do have higher energy levels than some of the bigger dogs, like greyhounds," Sueda shares. These hypoallergenic pups are perfect for city landscapes; they are confident enough to approach humans and other dogs alike with curiosity, but as they rarely exceed 16 pounds, Frisés are also very manageable in any space.
Just like Martha's very own Creme Brûlée and Bete Noir, Frenchies are very alert and aware of their surroundings—but they're one of the smaller breeds that don't tend to be very vocal. Sueda recommends these petite bulldogs for singles or couples who aren't home all the time because they don't require too much exercise, and they're content being by themselves or sharing a home with fellow canine siblings.
If you don't have a size or weight restriction on your lease, Sueda says that many bigger dogs tend to be docile, easygoing, and not fussy whatsoever—which couldn't be more true for the shaggy, teddy-bear-like Newfoundland. They are definitely one of the world's largest breeds, Sueda says, but these gentle giants are known for their affinity for kids, which makes them a great fit for families. They do respond well to training and can thrive in more spacious apartments, since males can be as heavy as 150 pounds; they don't require constant exercise, but having a dog that heavy in a minuscule space could be problematic in emergencies.
If you'd rather curl up on the couch with a good book, then consider the reliable Basset Hound, a dog that has historically bred to keep a close watch over their families, according to Joan Hunter Mayer, a certified dog behaviorist, trainer, and owner of the Santa Barbara, California, service agency The Inquisitive Canine. These hounds are mild-mannered and may not be the most energetic of the bunch, but they are some of the most loyal canines you can find.
Shih Tzus were bred specifically for close companionship and being lap dogs, Mayer says, so they'd be better disposed for living in small homes. "Because of their size, it would be easy to participate in indoor activities such as fetch, scent games, or agility activities like walking along or jumping over furniture," she says. Since these pups were never used for hunting or shepherding purposes, they also don't need frequent exercise: "They're often less likely to want to go for a 10-mile run."
The Japanese Chin is an extremely playful toy breed that one expert describes as "gentle, friendly lap dogs." As they often don't exceed more than 10 pounds, Chins are a great fit for most families, says Beth Mullen, a certified canine behavior consultant that owns and operates Dog Latin Training and Behavior Consulting in Washington, D.C. "They are easily trained using positive reinforcement methods and love to play," she says.
The Dachshund often has a reputation with breeders and behaviorists beyond their signature lean physique—they're highly adaptive to their surroundings and can be "potty pad" trained for those who can't always easily make it outside on demand. According to Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a Texas-based small animal and exotic veterinarian, Dachshunds also know when they should leave you to your space. "They only need a tiny space to sleep and play," she says."If a person is busy with work at home, these small dogs love to have a dog bed to sleep in while you work on your computer."
Pugs are a renowned favorite for many reasons, but Dr. Sueda says they score high across the board in published research on canine behavior for amicable behavior characteristics and for not being overly territorial. This breed rarely barks, can be easily trained, and is immensely receptive and loyal to their owners. If you travel frequently, pugs are small enough to easily fit into your plans, and they won't be fussy in new spaces after they've had the chance to saunter around a bit.
The Sussex Spaniel is indeed a hunting dog, but as Mullen points out, they're usually more relaxed than their hunting counterparts. While they are larger than a toy-sized dog, they don't require too much extra grooming beyond occasional baths and brushings once or twice a week. "Sussex Spaniels were originally bred in England to flush out birds from brush for hunters," she says. "[They] can live in cold or hot climates, and they tend to be well natured towards people and other dogs."