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How to Get Your Dog Used to Living in an Apartment

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."

Getting used to an apartment takes time for dogs.

Getting used to an apartment takes time for dogs.

Moving Your Dog From a House to an Apartment

If you are moving into an apartment, your dog will have to get accustomed to some major life changes. This means your dog will have to polish up his manners because he will be forced to be around people more, and some behaviors which might have been acceptable in his previous home may no longer be allowed.

Some of the main problems dog owners encounter upon moving with their dog into an apartment are excessive barking, inappropriate elimination, and other behavioral problems linked to the stress of adjusting to new living quarters.

Tips for Apartment Training Your Dog

Living in an apartment exposes dogs to a significant amount of change. There are different smells, noises, and sights, and some can get overstimulated and stressed. It takes time to adjust to such changes, and it is normal for your dog to appear uneasy and disoriented. Time should help your dog get used to living in an apartment.

Reducing Excessive Barking

If your dog used to live in a detached home or an apartment, he may be quite upset in hearing new noises around him. He may not be able of grasping the concept of other people living upstairs or next door making noises. If your dog is territorial or a bit fearful, every noise will startle him at first. It takes a few days to counter-condition this behavior and desensitize him.

This may take time, but after a few weeks, your dog should have gotten accustomed to all the noises and should know that they are part of normal life. If you have not yet moved to the apartment, it may help to stop by your apartment and record some common noises, like the elevator going up and down, people walking down the stairs, or voices. Then you can play these recordings at home while you play with your dog or feed food.

This can help you expedite the process of getting used to unfamiliar noises. Another great way, but that may take some time, is to use classical conditioning to help your dog adjust. Every time your dog hears a noise, toss a treat before it has time to react to the noise by barking.

With time and consistency, your dog will start associating all annoying noises with great things such as treats. He will earn not to fear them anymore. Gradually, taper off the treats once he seems to accept the noises without reacting and looks at you, drooling for a treat instead!

Reducing Inappropriate Elimination

Accidents may happen when a dog is in a new place. She may not know where she must go, potty and she may not be confused. Do not scold your dog for this. Give her some time, usually, after a week, she will know the routine that you must go downstairs to take her potty. If you have a puppy, it may be difficult to house-train, knowing that you must call the elevator, go down a ramp of stairs, open the door and look for a green spot. It may seem like a mission impossible at first. If you do not feel like going up and down dozens of times a day or if you work, you may have to invest in training pads until your puppy gains better bladder control.

Puppy pads are placed on your balcony or in a special corner of your home, far away from where your dog plays, sleeps, and eats. Some of these are scented so that your puppy is attracted to use these. If you must head for work, you must find a safe room or install baby gates to ensure your puppy stays in a safe area with no access to dangers.

Crate training is a good option, but only if you must be away for a few hours. Having somebody come to your home to walk your puppy or dog is a good option if you work long hours.

Reducing Behavioral Problems

If your apartment is in the city, your dog may not be used to seeing so many people and dogs. If your dog is not the most social animal in the world, he may display unwanted behaviors such as excessive fear or defensive aggression. If your dog has these behavioral problems, you are better off letting him wear a muzzle. Your dog may not be comfortable sharing a small space such as an elevator with other people or may have never seen bicycles, umbrellas, or shopping carts.

Classical conditioning here works well too. Give a treat to your dog when you see a person or other dog approach before he has time to react. If he still reacts, you need to increase the distance. You may notice that he tends to get nervous when people are within a certain distance. Work on this so your dog learns to associate approaching people with a treat. Never give treats if your dog is growling or lunging; otherwise, you may be enforcing the wrong behavior.

Some dogs may get really stressed up to the point of requiring medical intervention. These are rare instances, but some dogs may chew on their paws, may chase their tails, run around in circles or develop other troublesome behavior problems such as depression or aggression. Consult with a dog behaviorist and your vet if you encounter these types of problems.

However, if your apartment is in the city, you ultimately have a big advantage. Look at the dogs around you. Most you will notice are quite docile and social. This is because they have been used to seeing dogs and people on a daily basis. This is why dog owners are often told to take their dogs to the city to improve their social skills. After some time, you will notice your dog will be better behaved and even be quite a great example of a canine good citizen! By the way, you may even enroll your dog in this program and get certified.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Ema Muntean on September 29, 2011:

:( I have a giant schnauzer and a cocker spaniel, I am going thru a divorce and I am moving out in an apartment with a small fenced patio and yard. Yesterday I took Lycan my big schnauzer to the apartment for the first time and he was really agitated and nervous and he cried :( it broke my heart. I will try to do the things listed above and let you know how its going.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 20, 2010:

My large mixed-breed Setter had to make some adjustments when we moved from a house with a fenced yard to a condo with no yard. It's amazing what they can and will get used to doing once they know the routine. Great article for pet owners.

thekittyhut on October 16, 2010:

Nice hub alexadry! Thanks for the info

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on October 16, 2010:

Dog gone good hub..!