I’ve recently moved from mom and dad’s single family house into a one bedroom apartment with my dog Ringo, and as expected, a new environment beings about new experiences. Some are great, like the friendly front desk staff and giant “back yard” that includes a parking lot and lots and lots of open grass, but some aren’t so great. What kind of challenges have we faced, and what have I done to make things easier on him (and of course myself)? Well:
That Random Barking “Out of Nowhere”: Every time someone walks in or out of their room or past my room, it can be heard by Ringo’s sharp doggy ears from the other side of my apartment, and of course, being such a big tough wimp he is, Ringo will warn those loud neighbors with an abrupt “BUH!” to scare them away. Sometimes, the sweet quiet little dog next door will answer back with its own “BUH!”, and then it becomes an argument between two dogs who can’t even see eachother and live hundreds of doors down from one another.
What’s the best solution to this? Grab your dog and move into a different room further from the door? Clap your hands to interrupt your dog’s cursing? Call your dog over and stuff his loud mouth with treats? You can do that. I did these things at first since it’s a good way to stop your dog from barking in general, but when it happens EVERY time someone goes by or another dog decides to yell threats at your dog who’s trying to nap in his own room, it’s not very productive. As a dog trainer, you learn that the best way to stop your dog from doing something you don’t like is to keep it from happening in the first place; how do you keep everyone’s loudness from happening so that Ringo doesn’t bark? Block the sound from coming through the door.
I bought an inexpensive “Door Draft Guard”, which was pretty much a piece of cloth that slips under the door with two foam tubes to block the inside and outside of the gap under the door. You can’t hear people walking by, doors shutting (at least not as loudly), or the charming neighbor dog’s attempts at sniffing under the door. Because you can’t hear it, it’s apparently not there, right Ringo? If you want something permanent and less “cheapo”, you can get something called a sound seal, which is a neoprene or vinyl strip that will cover the gap under the door and block out noise. There are cheap stick-on versions as well as seals that can be screwed in place, but those are obviously more expensive. Try that out before you resort to putting earmuffs on your dog…
Traveling A Million Miles To Get Outside: Leaving your apartment room, walking down a hallway, taking the elevator (or stairs for you “active” people), and making your way past a million people wanting to say Hi to your dog in the front desk area is a long trek to Ringo’s Potty Spot compared to simply stepping out into the back yard and walking 3 feet from the door. One must take account of this and realize, “Hey, maybe Ringo lets loose in the elevator because the trip to outside takes forever…” Oh! So THAT’S why the elevator smells like pee! (Not really, I swear!)
So for all you apartment newbies who have dogs who piddle on the way to the Potty Spot, be sure not to cut it too close. If Ringo begs at 6:00pm on the dot to pee, leave at 5:55pm (or maybe 5:59pm if you’re lazy) because the time it takes to wait for the elevator or make your way down those 50 flights of stairs could feel like a million years, and who wants to hold it for a million years when you don’t really have to? If you leave early every time and your dog still has issues, maybe the apartment is considered “inside” and outside of that is indeed “outside”. When I fostered dogs with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, the wall right across from my apartment was considered a tree to some of my fosters. Let’s say that in addition to poo bags, you may find that carrying a few paper towels would be a good idea too while your dog gets adjusted to the apartment life! What I did to avoid accidents while waiting for the elevator was to continuously pace back and forth so that my dogs didn’t have a chance to stop and water the invisible plants on the hallway carpet. Sure, it might be tiring, but so is cleaning pee.
Meeting “Friendly” Neighborhood Barkers: Remember that charming dog a few doors down? Well, you’ve just met him face-to-face while he’s trying to get of of the elevator that you’re planning to get into. Wonderful friendly neighbor dog is cursing at your sweet charming puppy who’s hissing threats to rip his face off. All you can think at the moment is, “Which way do I go? Which way do I go?” Where do you go? YOU GO AWAY!
It may be tough with a big dog, but the best way to get away when both dogs are going nuts and yanking at the leash is to pull your dog toward you so that he’s close, and literally walk into him, and keep walking until you’re both far away from the opposing dog. You do this so that he’ll be too busy stumbling and tripping all over himself to realize that he ran away from the other dog in the most embarrassing-looking way ever. Dogs don’t want to be stepped on, obviously, so a successful way to make your dog move backward is to walk into him. Don’t kick or stomp on him; just walk. While you do this, you can say cheerfully, “Come on, let’s go!” so that once he’s done tripping and has forgotten about the other dog, he’ll then walk with you because, “Oh right! We’re on a walk!” If your dog tries to dodge you while you walk into him, no worries; just keep walking and pull him along.
This is a good way to quickly get out of a bad situation when you don’t have time to call your dog or gently pull your dog back away from danger; talking loudly and yanking the dog can also be seen as you egging him on in some instances. A dog on leash acts differently than usual, so even a friendly dog can become defensive when another dog is snapping at them not even a foot away and the leash makes them feel like they won’t be able to run.
The safest way to prepare for potential dog incidents is to make sure to stand far away from the elevator and position yourself infront of your dog before the doors open. When the doors open, check that no one’s there. You can make it a habit to tell your dog to sit and stay while waiting for the elevator too. When inside the elevator, make sure that, if there’s space, that you have your dog standing in a corner where it won’t be seen the moment the doors open, so if someone tries to come in with their dog, they’ll see you with a leash at the door and the dogs won’t see each other right away. It’d be good to have your dog sit and stay inside the elevator too.
If walking down the hall and you see a dog up ahead, simply U-Turn and call your dog to follow you. Even if your dog is trying to look back and engage with the other dog, don’t scold him or stop; just keep walking and cheerfully tell him to Heel or Let’s Go. You can enter back into your room, or keep walking until the neighbor has entered their room, then U-Turn and continue on your way to the elevators as if nothing happened. This is a good way to deal with dogs outside too. Don’t let your dog get too close if you know the other dog will bark. If you see a dog and know he’s good, walk by (with distance), and always praise your dog for not reacting badly to it. Ringo doesn’t mind dogs, but he does mind some men, so I do the same procedure when he tries to bark at them outside or before walking into an elevator. Avoiding conflicts is better than dealing with them when you shouldn’t have to.
Meeting Awfully Wonderful Neighbors: Not everyone loves dogs – It’s horrible, I know! – but it’s the truth.
Letting your super awesome friendly dog who loves to jump up onto people to say Hi so that strangers pet and love them isn’t as acceptable in an apartment as it would be at a dog park or Petsmart. What a surprise! Even having a dog walk up and lean against someone who dislikes dogs makes them scowl at you with disgust and sneer, “You must be one lousy owner!”
I actually had a lovely sweet little old lady say this to me when Ringo almost jumped up on her upon exiting the elevator – thankfully I was able to pull him away at the last moment before she blew a fireball in his face. It’s shocking to get jumped on when you’re standing RIGHT at the elevator door in a dog-friendly apartment building at the time everyone walks their dog, I guess. The fault isn’t hers though, even though I really feel that it should be. You can’t control anyone but yourself… and your dog. No matter where you are, if there’s a chance that a person could suddenly appear out of thin air near you and your dog will try to rudely greet them with excitement, it will happen. The best way to avoid conflict is to always keep your dog close to you, even when outside, until the last moment when he’s about to circle around and poop/pee on his Potty Spot. If you do otherwise, a nice little old lady will be assaulted by your horrid mongrel for no reason at all because you obviously “don’t know how to control your animal”. A 6ft leash is meant to be kept 1ft long when you live in an apartment because “that’s what they’re meant for!” Can you tell that I’m bitter? Yes. Yes you can.
The Elevator is Scary!: Ringo never had this issue, but some dogs can be scared of the elevator. A good way to train your dog to accept it is to never FORCE your dog to use it. Take the stairs, as horrible as it seems, but, before you do that, take the normal motions of getting ready to go into the elevator. Walk up to it, press the button, and if the door opening scares your dog, back up a bit and let it open, then go and take the stairs. If you expose your dog to the dreadful elevator, but don’t actually make him go into it, he’ll soon become less afraid of it. Eventually, let your dog enter the elevator, and then walk back out and take the stairs. Do this every day until you’re sure he’ll be okay with the scary doors closing behind him and feeling the elevator moving down to the bottom floor. Once he can be in the elevator and it can move, maybe take it easy and go down only one floor so that the trip is brief. Eventually go down two, then three, then four, then a million floors at a time (I hope to God your apartment isn’t a million floors high) The elevator will then be seen as a great shortcut to the Potty Spot without ever having to take the stairs. Yay!
Other Stuff: That’s the only issues I’ve come across (so far) while living in an apartment. What kinds of problems do YOUR dogs have, and what have you guys been doing to cope with them? Have any been successful, are still an issue, or were they solved thanks to this post? Feel free to share in the comments and let us know how wonderful (or horrible) your apartment life with your dog is!