The Pros and Cons of “Apartment Dogs”
Which breed is the right fit for city living?
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If you live in a city and are researching getting a dog, chances are you have run across the term “apartment breed.” Apartment breeds tend to be smaller and on the quieter side, with a lower activity or play drive. These are the types of pups who are happy chilling on the couch in between walks and can easily maneuver around a one-bedroom or studio. This is not to say larger dogs can’t live happy and healthy lives in an apartment. Many bigger dogs with low-key personalities can vibe with the high-rise life — as long as they get plenty of chances to stretch their legs outside of their living space.
The truth is that smaller dogs can actually make it easier to find an apartment in the first place. Despite a new law banning home insurers from breed discrimination in New York, landlords will often deny a rental application based on a dog’s breed or size, with a common weight limit being 25 pounds. And if your landlord has a no-pets policy, you have a better chance of convincing them to bend the rules if your dog is on the petite side.
As with any dog, there are good things and not-so-good things that prospective pet parents should take into account before making their final decision. To help take the guesswork out of it, we’ve created this guide to the pros and cons of popular apartment dogs (and mixes of those breeds).
Dachshunds are a questionable choice for apartment living for only one big, loud reason: barking. Relative to their small size, Dachshunds have a deep, resonant bark — and it’s one they like to employ frequently. Though early training can mitigate this breed instinct, it is unlikely to abolish it altogether. However, Dachshunds can also make wonderful apartment companions. They are big couch potatoes who are happiest just being around their person (sometimes a little too happy, as they can also be prone to separation anxiety).
They also have one breed instinct that makes them uniquely perfect for apartment living: rodent hunting. Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers and rodents, so they will happily try to catch any mouse your landlord won’t. Mine has even caught a waterbug or two.
Editor’s note: writer is biased due to adorable Dachshund ownership ;)
Good size selection (Mini, Tweenie, and Standard), all under 30 pounds
Rodent hunters extraordinaires
Can be prone to separation anxiety
Might bring you a dead mouse
2. Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terriers are an often recommended apartment breed due to their petite size, tipping the scales at just seven pounds. However, these originally British babes aren’t always perfect roommates. Like Dachshunds, Yorkies can be prone to barking. Unlike Dachshunds, their bark is a much more tolerable yap and therefore less likely to get you a noise complaint. Yorkies are also a good mix of energetic and low-key. A few quick laps around your one-bedroom and these pups will happily nap on your lap for the rest of the day — and their size means those laps are less likely to bother your downstairs neighbor.
Housebreaking is the biggest issue with this breed, especially if you have to run down a 5th-floor walk-up before you make it outside. The hard truth is that you might need to invest in some pee pads for these petite pups and their even more petite bladders.
Small and light
Good energy mix
Prone to separation anxiety
Difficult to housebreak
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
You might be wondering “are there going to be any silent dogs on this list?” — and the answer is no because there are no completely silent dogs. However, you will get pretty close with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who are often chosen for their prized sweet and silent dispositions. But while these small pups are not big on barking, they do come with other caveats. Cavaliers are very one-person loyal and can therefore be prone to separation anxiety. Unlike their counterparts on this list, they aren’t one to bark about it — but your absence will still take a toll on the gentle breed. They also require more exercise than other breeds on this list.
Prone to separation anxiety
Require more exercise
With their trademark smushable/kissable faces, it’s no wonder that Pugs have a loyal following both on Instagram and IRL (case in point: Noodle the Pug!). A Pug can be a great apartment pet due to their small size and minimal barkiness. However, if you and your Pug are sharing a small space you have to be okay with two things: shedding and snoring.
The Pug’s distinct smushed nose causes almost universal breathing problems in the breed (as is the case with Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds) which leads to wheezing and snoring while sleeping. If you are a light sleeper and have no choice but to share a bedroom with your pet, you might want to consider a different breed. Otherwise, you can always put lint rollers and earplugs on auto-ship.
Low exercise need
5. Bichon Frise
These puffy puppies can do really well with apartment living — under the right conditions. Bichons are small and light as a feather, usually under 15 pounds. They are also low energy and their exercise needs are flexible and minimal. However, like the Yorkie, Bichons are notoriously difficult to potty train. They can also be barky, especially when left alone. And while their “hypoallergenic,” minimally shedding coat is perfect for small space living, they do require more frequent baths and grooming — which can be a pain in a small apartment bathroom.
Small and light
Flexible energy and exercise needs
Barky when left alone
High maintenance grooming needs
Difficult to housebreak
6. Mini Doodle
Doodles, i.e. the various Poodle mixes including, but not limited to, Goldendoodles, Labradoodle, Bernedoodles, etc. are easily the most controversial breed of the last 20 years. Mini versions of these pups are especially common in cities filled with apartment dwellers, mostly due to their quickly trainable temperaments and hypoallergenic coats. However, depending on which breed mix you get, the Doodle energy needs might be more than a few small rooms can handle.
Any working breed mix, such as the mini Aussie-doodles, is going to require frequent access to exercise and large open spaces to maintain a healthy temperament. Additionally, the rapid spike in popularity of these dogs has led to irresponsible breeding, meaning your perfect studio-sized mini-Doodle puppy might end up far less mini once they reach full adulthood.
Various traits from different mixed breeds
Higher energy needs
Unpredictable breed needs
Subject to irresponsible breeding
7. Mixed Breed
When looking to adopt any dog, apartment breed or not, it’s always best to consider rescuing before going to a breeder. Many people are surprised to discover that shelters are full of all the breeds on this list, or better yet, a combo of these breeds. Mixed breed dogs can provide a best of both worlds scenario, like an easier to potty train Yorkie-mix or a less sheddy Pug mix.
Mixes that contain none of the breeds on this list can also thrive in an apartment living, such as a Pocket Pittie (a.k.a Pit Bull-type mix) that usually comes in under 40 pounds. The biggest risk when it comes to mixed-breed dogs and apartment living is that temperament, size, and energy needs are more unpredictable. However, the staff at a shelter or rescue can usually provide guidance in this area, giving you a little more peace of mind before you bring your pup home.
More breed combinations to choose from
Various traits from different breeds
Safer to go through a reputable rescue over a non-reputable breeder
Less predictable breed needs
Less able to predict full-grown size (if adopting a puppy)
New York’s hottest clubs are members-only dog runs.
Veterinarian Dr. Shea Cox separates fact from fiction when it comes to low-shedding breeds.
Spoiler: It’s not about the breed. But these pups are pretty brainy.
Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.