The Best Small Dog Breeds for City Living


People often equate urban living with small dogs. It makes sense in the concern of space - a Yorkie will take up far less room than a Dobie. A small dog means littler steps, shorter distances, and with some breeds, less fur in your tiny apartment and less soot dragged in from the street.

Some small dogs do make excellent urban companions. But, perhaps surprisingly, some do not. This is because there's more to consider in the makeup of a good urban dog besides size.

So What Makes a Good Urban Living Dog?

Energy: Many people mistakenly think that a small dog equals low energy. In fact, many small dogs are very energetic while quite a few big dogs are laid back. It's important to look for a breed that is calm indoors, one that prefers to relax on a chair rather than run back and forth between the chair and the door. If you are in an apartment, not only will the tenants below start tearing their hair out from the repetitive clicking nails, the staccato frenzy will likely eventually test your patience as well.

Barking: Living in an apartment or in buildings like row houses or condos means that your neighbor will know when you have an argument with customer service on the phone, what T.V. shows you watched last night and that you have an A) good dog or B) bad dog. A small dog that barks incessantly is annoying to the owner and her neighbors and could in a worst-case scenario result in a call to animal control.

Exercise: Some small dogs, such as some of the terriers, need more than ample exercise. This means time spent on such things as long walks or jogs everyday or rollerblading or biking with your dog. Other small breeds do well with just a couple of short walks a day and perhaps an occasional sport such as agility, flyball, and tracking. In general, low energy equals less exercise.

Sociability with Humans: In the tight confines of urban living, you are undoubtedly going to run into people whenever you and your dog venture outside. Some small dogs are wary of strangers and encountering new people everyday who want to pet that little cutie-pie is stressful for the dog. Choosing a small breed that is friendly will be an encouragement to step out for walks.

Sociability with Other Dogs: A great way to get your dog exercise and playtime is to go to a dog park. Most urban living situations have several available and if you live in New York, there will likely be one right down the street. But if your pooch is dog aggressive, this is not an option. If your dog unrelentingly asserts dominance, growls, or barks excessively at other dogs, it is unfair and dangerous to everyone if you visit a dog park. Choosing a small breed that gets along with other canines ensures dog parks will be open to you.

Calm Demeanor: There is so much going on around you in an urban living situation - loud noises, speeding cars, poking crowds, bright lights. And this sensory overload affects your pooch as well. Choosing one of the calmer small breeds benefits you and your dog. A dog that is comfortable around chaos will do well in urban living.

Which Small Breeds Adapt Well to the City Lifestyle?

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Boston Terrier
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Schipperke
  • French Bulldog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Basenji
  • Yorkshire Terrier

If your small dog does not meet all of these criteria, don't fret. There are ways to make city life easier for you and your pet. Consider walking your dog early in the morning and later in the evening to avoid heavy crowds. Keep small bags of food, use a collapsible dish for eating, and rotate your pup's toys so he stays interested in them and they aren't all over the place. Pick up after your dog every time. This helps to establish good will with non-dog people in your neighborhood and helps prevent the spread of canine diseases. And keep your dog on a leash at all times unless you are in an enclosed yard or park. A dog dashing across crowded streets is not only likely to get lost but also hit by a car.

With patience and training, many small dogs can learn to adapt to city life if you find you've adopted a high-energy pooch or have to leave the suburbs for the Big Apple. They are creatures of habit and will soon accept a walk down Fifth Avenue instead of a romp in the fields. But choosing a breed based on your urban living lifestyle will make things easier when you have to maneuver you and your pooch through a swelling crowd.

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