Despite What Strangers Assume, My Massive Dog Does Great in My Little Apartment

People claim to know a lot about Monkey's well-being, but he does great in an apartment.

When I first got my Saint Bernard puppy, Monkey, it was fascinating to discover just how open total strangers were with their opinions. Certainly, there is a lot of love for Monkey — I mean, look at that face — but there are also a lot of people who feel the overwhelming desire to tell me all of their thoughts about Monkey, Saint Bernards, and especially about me for daring to bring a Saint Bernard into a city like San Francisco. It seems like everyone knows what do and don’t make the best apartment dogs.

In just one short walk to the coffee shop, I’ve had strangers approach me and blurt out the following:

  • “You keep that dog in a tiny apartment?”
  • “Wow, you must live in a really big house.”
  • “Do you have a yard?”
  • “You know he’s going to get bigger, right?”
  • “Do you live IN the city?”

I wish I could say that I just smile and tell them to have a great day because it shouldn’t matter what they think or that they’re judging me, but I’m not that good of a person (don’t worry, I’m totally in therapy), and so I feel the need to explain myself — ourselves — in an attempt to earn their approval that I’m not a bad person after all.

So, to those people, who’ve made it abundantly clear that they think I’m a silly little girl who’s torturing her giant breed dog because I live in a San Francisco apartment, I say this:

My city apartment is actually a perfect home for my Saint Bernard. And it still will be when he weighs 180 pounds.

First of all, not that it’s really anyone’s business, but I’m very lucky in that my apartment isn’t that small. In fact, Monkey has his own little room. Sure, it was once the dining room, and then my office/guest room, but now it houses his crate and his dog bed and that’s fine with me.

Also, we spend a lot of time in Tahoe. For a city dog, Monkey spends a lot of time romping in the snow and by the lake.

But even though that stuff is true, it also shouldn’t matter. What matters is that Saint Bernards don’t really need or want a huge house. What they want is to be close to their person.

The reason I chose to get a Saint Bernard was because the breed matches my personality and lifestyle well. Yes, Monkey is already big (100 pounds at seven-and-a-half months) and he’s only going to get bigger (anywhere from 160 to 180, most likely). But he’s also incredibly gentle, even as a puppy, and slow moving. The other day a woman gasped at his size and then said, “Well, at least you’ll get a lot of exercise” (don’t even get me started on that), and I just laughed because even though he loves to run when we go on hikes, he takes just as much pleasure in sauntering down the street at a snail’s pace. (All the better for passerbys to admire how handsome he is.)

I’m a pretty mellow person and most Saint Bernards are as well. They don’t need acres to roam because they’re not as active as other breeds. As long as Monkey gets some good walks in (and they vary — sometimes he gets several 20 minute walks throughout the day; sometimes he gets a two-hour hike in the woods), he’s content to spend the rest of the day sleeping at my feet. And by “at” I mean “on.”

Still, when the ski season started, I was excited to bring Monkey to the house I rent in Tahoe with a group of friends. The house has a large enclosed deck and I thought Monkey would love spending time out there. Hahahaha: NO. Monkey doesn’t want to be out on the deck alone. After two or three minutes, he starts pawing at the door. “Let me in Mama! I wanna be with YOU!” In fact, he’s so attached that he would rather sleep in the car (windows down and in the shade) while I’m having lunch than stay at the house alone. He feels better knowing I’m nearby. (And I feel better keeping an eye on him because, well, he’s still a puppy and we know how that can go.)

Truthfully, when I compare Monkey to some of the smaller, more active dogs I see, I think it must be tougher for those pups to live in small city apartments. High-energy dogs run up to Monkey and jump jump jump bark bark bark circle circle circle whine whine whine, whereas Monkey, for the most part, just lumbers and lollygags.

I’ll admit I’ve wondered if those dogs get enough exercise, if they’re lonely at home all day when their person is at work (my neighbor’s dog can bark for three hours straight on a “good” day), or how they’re faring in their environment. But then I remind myself that I don’t have the whole story. And that all I can do is assume the owner did as much research as I did before choosing her dog and that she picked the perfect one for her home and lifestyle.

If only strangers would give me the same benefit of the doubt.

Do you live with a big dog in an apartment? Do people give you a hard time about it? I want to hear about it!

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11 thoughts on “Despite What Strangers Assume, My Massive Dog Does Great in My Little Apartment”

  1. First, Monkey is gorgeous! I just wanted to melt when I saw his beautiful St. Bernard face!! Our Emmie(the 4th Saint for my husband and I collectively, spanning 30+ years) also had the longer snout which means less drool…YAY! Second, the UNINFORMED (on any subject) can be very judgemental, smug, even nasty…how sad to live life in that frame of mind. Next, Thank you for your well-written blog. Everything you said was so very true. These canine wonders do NOT NEED a huge yard…or any yard at all…as long as they are walked everyday for a total minimum of 30-40 minutes day. It is the size of your heart not your home that is of consequence. St. Bernards also DO NEED to be with their humans…whether near you or “on” you, as they are deeply affectionate, loyal, eager to please you, sensitive to your scoldings for any misdeeds, and will love you with every ounce of their 120-200lb selves. As long as you’re prepared for drool, some shedding, and LOTS of cuddling, loving a St. Bernard in your home will be one of the most comforting, satisfying, enjoyable, endearing experiences you’ll ever have.

  2. I have a dane in 50sqm apartment and while my great Dane cannot talk to tell me he is loving it here, I can tell. He is generally well-behaved. He does not munch on our books and Monopoly and other board games that are in our corner table. My only struggles are (1) when we fail to run him in the morning, he’d play-bite in the evening, and (2) he hates to go outside when it’s just slightly raining so potty is a problem. Why am I posting this? I am planning to get a poodle and a st. Bernard. These are my dream dogs.

  3. Ashleigh Thielke

    I am thinking about getting a St Bernard pup for myself as I am totally in love with them. How do you go about leaving them home when you are working?

  4. Great article we just got a St. Bernard puppy to go along with our year and a half labradoodle it’s working good so far monkey is a great looking dog

  5. thank you! i love big dogs and i’m getting a st weiler lab mix. i live in a small apartment, but i have a huge park across the street and overall i’m pretty available for her and i will have friends to help me out when needed!

  6. This was a great relief and help for me. I live on the second floor of a house. My rooms are practically on the roof. So I have a roof in front of room (I know that’s sounds weird) and there’s another roof on top of that. So I don’t have much of a yard but there’s definitely lots of space for a dog to move around. I so want a St.Bernard but everybody I spoke to about it would say that they get huge and you don’t have space. I got freaked out about it. So good to know that now I can have a St Bernard and shut out all the judgmental and advising glances.

  7. Monkey is so beautiful!

    People don’T understand… many huge dogs like St-Bernards don’T need THAT much exercise… They do quite well in a small appartment… This shouldn’t be a problem at all… If you take frequent walks, you’ll never have a problem… I personally live in a rather small appartment (won’T be that small when I get rid of the roommate). But there is a park literally across the street… 10 seconds from the door. The dogs can get all the exercise they want !

  8. I have a saint bernard myself! Hank!! And he is 2 yrs old!
    I couldn’t agree with you more on everything you said!
    Hank also likes to be on my feet and sit on my lap. They are silly!!

    Have you had any aggression behaviors with your dog yet?

    At 8 months old my saint started to become food aggressive when other dogs are around… including when Im eating!!
    Only annoying part but other than that i LOVE MY SAINT!

    1. So my Saint is ab a year and a half old and the only problems I have had out of here are when I’m at work or school she will find something to chew on. Mostly papers that I’ll leave on the counter or dining room but other then that she is amazing. Hardest part is trying to find a apartment that will allow her

  9. I think this is a wonderful blog!!! I am moving to Seattle and after years of not having a “pet friendly” landlord I am very excited to get a dog and my opinion is the bigger the better. I really want a saint Bernard or even a Great Dane which I heard are also amazing apartment dogs. This was very helpful thank you!

    1. Thanks, Sydney! These articles on best apartment dogs might be good for you to read:

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