Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Why Not Get a Large Dog in the City?
Looking for an apartment dog with a little bit more to give? Most people stay away from large breeds for a few reasons:
- Many apartment leases forbid dogs over a certain size; others might set the maximum at 100 pounds.
- They can be expensive. Besides eating more food just because of their size, these breeds can cost a lot more if they need emergency health care. Some places will also charge extra pet rent for a large dog and may require an extra pet deposit because of the potential damage from a large dog.
- Large dogs need space for more exercise. Some breeds need an enclosed area for at least an hour a day.
- They take more time to bathe and brush.
- Large breeds produce large stools which will need to be bagged and hauled to the trash.
Are you still set on getting a large dog for your apartment? Research the breed you are interested in and read this article. Also, be sure to receive approval from your building manager first before you get your heart set on one of these breeds. If everything is okay and you are willing to put in the effort, these are the best large dogs I can recommend for apartment living.
The English Mastiff
English Mastiffs are one of the heaviest breeds around, require adequate space, exercise, and have a huge appetite. They are at the top of this list because they are one of the calmest breeds around and do well even without a backyard to run around in.
Yes, they are calm, but when I mention exercise, a walk around the block is not enough. A big dog like this may exhaust most people, and you need to be willing to take them out several times a day. They also have to be obedience trained early on, or they will be impossible to handle otherwise.
English Mastiffs will need brushing at least once a week, but they do not shed as much as some breeds. If they are groomed with a curry comb or soft bristle brush every day, you will minimize any chance of shedding.
These dogs are notorious for drooling, so look around before deciding on an adult or puppy—you might be able to find one that does not drool as much as others. If your dog is an excessive drooler, however, and you are fixated on having a clean living space, things are not going to work out. Not to worry, check out the next breed on the list.
A lot of people are surprised when I recommend the Greyhound for city living, but this skinny breed is actually a good apartment dog, despite their size. If you are willing to provide this fast dog with exercise every day, he or she will stay happy on the couch the rest of the time.
The Greyhound's coat is short, easy to keep clean, and comes in all sorts of colors. Many Greyhounds are actually retired racing dogs and are used to being crated. For this very reason, they usually adapt well if left alone for most of the day.
This breed is less underfoot than the smaller breeds, quiet, and less likely to bark at anyone in the hall; if you have an extra couch they can take over, the Greyhound is a good choice for your apartment.
The Great Dane
This is another large dog that gets used to small spaces. Great Danes do not need a large yard to romp in as long as the family is willing to give them plenty of exercise. They are not excessive barkers and are fairly easy to obedience train.
Since they are so large, Great Danes have similar issues to those discussed with the English Mastiff. They need to go out for long walks to exercise, not just a short stroll around the block to “do their business." Grooming takes a little longer just because they are so big, and they do eat a lot.
My main problem in recommending the Great Dane (and the reason that they are not rated higher on this list), is their tail. If you have an apartment with a lot of knick-knacks and you are not willing to throw those things out, a Great Dane is not a good choice. Their tails are powerful, and when your dog gets excited and the tail starts moving back and forth, little things tend to get broken.
This breed was developed by crossing two of the best apartment dogs, the English Mastiff, and the medium-sized English Bulldog. They do wonderfully in an apartment because they do not bark much.
Although the Bullmastiff can be a good breed for a first-time owner, it is not always the best choice. They are powerful, not as calm as the English Mastiff, and might test their owner. Obedience training is a must, and it is always a good idea with any large dog to reinforce the commands periodically.
Drooling can be an issue with this breed, too, but not all lines are the same. Make sure you get to look at the parents if you are buying a puppy, and choose a dog that drools less.
The Afghan Hound
Like the Greyhound, Afghans are sighthounds and will also spend a lot of time just hanging out on the couch. They do need a lot of exercise, although, even more so than some other large breeds. If you do not have a large area to let them exercise in, they might develop behavioral problems. Keep in mind that walking is not enough for a sighthound.
This dog's mellow nature is a good reason to consider it for apartment living; however, its excessive exercise and grooming requirements cause the Afghan to be rated lower on the list. Besides requiring an hour or so of exercise each day, you need to regularly groom and brush its long coat. No matter how busy you are, a groomer cannot take care of this for you. That beautiful coat will get nasty and matted if not taken care of every day.
The Standard Poodle
I see many working and hunting breeds kept in inappropriate environments (apartments), and a lot of effort is required to keep them calm. If you need a low-shedding, "hypoallergenic” large breed, the Standard Poodle is your best choice of the hunting breeds.
Despite their reputation as city dogs, the Poodle is actually an old hunting breed and is the most active of the dogs on this list. Except for their coat, they are not as appropriate for an apartment as an English Mastiff or Greyhound.
If you learn how to control your dog's barking, however, and are the kind of person who will walk your dog enough to keep them (and you) tired, Poodles can make a great apartment dog. You will never need to spend money on a gym membership again, but you may end up spending it anyway on keeping them groomed.
Note: Labradoodles and Goldendoodles may or may not be “hypoallergenic” and/or shed less. Don't believe some designer sales pitch and purchase one of these breeds—you may be faced with having to relinquish them after a year.
Some Breeds Drool and Require Extra Clean Up
I did not include the Newfoundland and the Dogue de Bordeaux on this list, despite them being calm and doing well in apartments, because they slobber excessively. I also think the Neapolitan Mastiff is an excellent choice since they tend to lie around. They are great family guard dogs, but they do slobber excessively, unfortunately.
If you are willing to deal with excessive drooling, an English Mastiff or a Bullmastiff is a better choice. If you do not want to carry around a drool rag and clean up after them every day, a large breed that does not drool, like the Greyhound, is a better choice.
Finding That Perfect Dog for Your Apartment
When you decide to get a dog, you need to consider whether you want a puppy or an adult. A puppy might be a lot of fun at times, but an adult might already be housebroken and better able to adjust to your apartment easily.
Make the first stop on your search the local animal shelter. Keep in mind the kind of dog you are looking for, and if you are told that the cute, little Labrador-cross is perfect for an apartment, hold on and keep looking.
You can check other animal shelters at Petfinder.com, look for a breed rescue in your area (type in your city, the breed you are looking for, and “rescue” into your search engine), and also take the time to go to a dog show and visit with some of the breeders that are showing the type of dog you are interested in.
Do not buy from a pet shop or internet puppy sales site. They sell to anyone and do not care what happens to the dog. Many of them are also linked to puppy mills. (If you do not know what a puppy mill is, take a few moments to look at your search engine's image page.)
That perfect large breed is out there. Take some time to consider the problems you might run into. Remember, this dog is going to be in your apartment and part of your life for about 10 years or more.
- Best Six Medium-Sized Dog Breeds for an Apartment
If you are living in an apartment that limits the weight of your dog, and the breeds on this list are just too much, check out this list of medium sized dogs.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is the Great Pyrenees a good dog for an apartment?
Answer: Livestock guard dogs like the Great Pyrenees were bred to accept a lot of exercise. If you ask a dog like this to live in an apartment, he is going to be restless. He will most likely develop behavioral problems (barking excessively, digging at the walls, getting in the trash).
These dogs also shed, a lot.
© 2018 Dr Mark
If you have another large breed that would be good for an apartment, please leave a comment:
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 30, 2019:
Hi Sophie that is not really a good idea. The dog may be able to live in your apartment when you take him out enough but he is going to be extremely bored when you are not around enough and he is not able to stretch his legs. There are some good large dog breeds on this list but I would definitely not recommend such an active breed for an apartment.
Sophie Holst on May 28, 2019:
Heey! So i live in a 25m2 apartment and i was thinking about getting a dog :)) the dog that i was thinking about is the Saint Bernard, which i know will grow up to be a huge dog, but can it live in such a small apartment? I am very active and i live right next to a dog park, so there will be pleanty of excercise, but still, is it posible?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 30, 2018:
Judy, try doing a search for "corded dog". There are some great poodle photos in there, so you might find what you are looking for.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 30, 2018:
Hi Judy, sorry I do not. THere are a lot of great standard poodle pictures over at Flickr.com, but I put in "dreds" and "dredlocks" and did not find anything.
Judy Ward on January 29, 2018:
Do you have any pictures of Poodles in cords (like dreds) to share? I saw one only one time at a dog show in Texas some years ago. I loved the look of it.