Living in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t also have a happy, healthy dog as well (unless your apartment complex doesn’t allow dogs, of course!). Though apartment living comes with a few hurdles when it comes to dog ownership, finding the right dog breed can make all the difference.
With a little effort, the majority of dog breeds can live in apartments, but apartment living is certainly easier with some breeds than others. So let’s check out what qualities make for a good apartment dog and the top breeds that fit the bill.
What Makes a Good “Apartment Dog”?
There are a few basic qualifications for the best apartment dogs, since living in an apartment (as opposed to living in a freestanding home) brings with it a few restrictions:
- The size of your place is likely relatively small.
- You have more difficulty getting a dog to a grassy area to relieve themselves.
- You have to worry about noise level with your neighbors sharing a wall with you.
To help your dog live comfortably in your space, a good apartment dog should meet at least one (but preferably two or three) of four qualities:
- Be small to medium in size.
- Have low to medium exercise needs.
- Be able to hold their bladders for several hours at a time (or be comfortable using a wee mat or turf for their potty needs).
- Be relatively quiet.
Size and Weight
Most apartments are much smaller than the average freestanding home, so a dog will have less room to move and romp around in an apartment. The larger the dog, the less room they have in a small space and the more likely they are to feel “cooped up.”
Larger dogs will also be more likely to accidentally leaving destruction in their wake in a small space. An enthusiastic jump or tail-wag from a five-pound dog won’t do much damage in an apartment, but the same gesture from a large dog in a small space can easily knock items off a low table, knock over lamps and other furniture, or otherwise cause chaos.
In addition, larger breeds are also more prone to joint and hip problems and can have more difficulty going up and down stairs. And this can get especially tricky in an apartment complex.
When it comes to sheer size alone, it’s often best for both dogs and humans if an apartment dog is less than 50 pounds (even better if the dog is less than 25 pounds). There are some exceptions to this rule, but in general, smaller is better for apartment living.
All dogs need daily exercise and living in an apartment can sometimes make this tricky. Without a backyard, your dog must get its daily exercise quotient from walks, some amount of playing and romping in the apartment, and trips to outdoor spaces like a dog park.
Some breeds require a boatload of exercise and stimulation to be happy (a Border Collie, for example, could run circles around most people without tiring), while other breeds take a more laid back approach to life. With dedication, you can exercise most dog breeds well enough to handle apartment living, but it will take commitment and a significant amount of time each day to accomplish this.
As most people do not have the time or energy to exercise a high-energy breed all the time, the best dog breeds for apartments are those naturally equipped to need less exercise. The best apartment dogs are content with a daily, 20 to 30 minute walk or trip to the park, and will spend the rest of their day snoozing, chewing, or playing games indoors.
Even when fully grown, toy breeds and other small dog breeds simply can’t hold their bladders as long as larger breeds can. And living in an apartment can make it more difficult for you to take your dog outside.
But don’t despair! If you live in an apartment, you have a few options for your dogs and their potty needs. Because it can sometimes be tricky to constantly take a dog outside, you can either:
- Choose a dog breed that can hold its bladder for a reasonably long amount of time (seven to eight hours)
- Choose a dog that’s small enough to comfortably use a wee mat or fake turf
If you don’t want dog waste in your home and your apartment has a balcony, you can set up a bathroom area with mats or turf outside. You can also simply set aside a corner of the bathroom or other area of the home for this purpose if you don’t mind your dog going potty indoors.
The best apartment dogs will either be able to follow a routine of going outside on a leash with you every seven to eight hours to relieve themselves, or they will be small and trainable enough able to go cleanly and comfortably in or around the apartment.
Apartment living means sharing walls (and noise) with your neighbors. For the sake of peace and quality of apartment living, it’s a good idea to choose a dog breed that’s less inclined to bark. Some breeds are natural “watchdogs” and will light up at any perceived threat or noise, while other breeds will generally keep mum.
Though, with time and patience, you can train a “watchdog” to be less reactive, it’s simpler to go with a dog that’s little less likely to light up in the first place. Some dogs will also tend to bark or howl when left alone, so a good apartment dog should be one less inclined towards this kind of separation anxiety.
The 21 Best Apartment Dogs
Now that we’ve looked at some of the most important criteria of what makes for good apartment dogs, let’s see the breeds that make the cut for the best dogs for apartment living.
Cuddly and kind, the Bichon Frise is a popular toy breed that requires little exercise and isn’t prone to yappiness or other excessive barking. They are easily adaptable to new environments and are willing to listen to training and gentle correction.
They can, however, be inclined towards separation anxiety. So you may have to be careful about separation whining or barking and look into separation anxiety training if this happens.
Despite looking like they walk around with a perpetual cartoon frown, the Brussels Griffon is an extremely sweet breed of dog and wants little more out of life than love and cuddles. In fact, they will often demand love and cuddles (and play!) at home, but they don’t need a lot of outdoor exercise to be happy.
They can be stubborn and difficult to train, so try to nip any bad habits—like watchdog barking, whining, or indoor soiling—in the bud before they become too firmly established. And a loving training regime will do wonders to curb any unwanted behavior.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
You’ll never be in want of love or cuddles with a King Charles Cavalier around. An extremely friendly and easy-going dog, some will greet guests by giving a couple of friendly barks and licks. But they aren’t inclined to bark excessively or at strange noises (unless they see a bird out the window).
They’re a curious and playful breed, but don’t need much exercise beyond a daily walk. Their favorite place is in a lap—your lap, a friend’s, a stranger’s, any lap will generally do!
Popular for their small size and big, sweet eyes, the Chihuahua is an often-seen apartment dog. Though their size and minimum exercise needs are perfectly suited to apartment living, they can also be prone to loudness if not well-trained. So be sure you know how to train against excessive barking before you take on Chihuahua ownership!
Chihuahuas are probably best trained on a wee mat or turf since they can’t hold their bladders very long.
Coton de Tulear
Bouncy balls of cotton-fluff, Coton de Tulears are adaptable, friendly, and fun. They’ll make their own entertainment when you’re busy, but they will also take direction well if it’s time for training or games.
They need to spend one or two days a week romping around a park to run, but otherwise are content with daily walks. They’re happy to be outside or inside snuggling, whichever’s on the menu.
English Bulldogs are sweet, gentle, and fairly low-maintenance. Not much inclined towards exercise or barking, these dogs would rather be sleeping or lounging than running or sounding the alarm, making them one of the very best dogs for apartments.
Do take care that these are brachiocephalic dogs, which means they have flat faces. This can make breathing—especially strenuous breathing—difficult, so be careful with exercise and hot weather and make sure to monitor them closely.
Friendly, funny, and relaxed French Bulldogs will often be happy to entertain themselves. But they’ll almost never snub an affection pat, so don’t mistake independence for aloofness.
Another brachiocephalic dog breed, so little exercise is needed or required here. Though do take care that the French Bulldog is inclined towards (over)eating, which means you’ll have to be careful of weight gain, since it’s difficult for them to run off those extra pounds.
Glen of Imaal Terrier
A spunky, curious breed, Glen of Imaal Terriers are eager to explore the environment around them. They are less inclined towards confrontation or hunting than other terriers are, so are a little less likely to get themselves into trouble.
Glen of Imaal Terriers require some quick exercise to be happy, so in addition to a daily walk, they’d like a few days in the park, a jog, or other opportunity to run every week, but will be happy to spend the rest of the time indoors with the family.
Though they’re large, extremely prey-driven dogs, Greyhounds are happy couch potatoes and will be satisfied with a daily walk and playtime at home. This is especially true for former racing Greyhounds who are more than content to retire to a life of relaxation.
Very sensitive, snuggly, and loving, Greyhounds are tuned into your emotions and needs. They are quiet dogs, but they are also inclined towards separation anxiety and separation-based destruction. So start training them early how to handle your leaving the house if you don’t want to come home to the destruction of all your worldly possessions.
Playful, spirited, and brave, the Havanese is a high energy breed that requires daily mental stimulation. But they don’t need much more than a short daily walk when it comes to physical exercise.
It’s a good idea, however, to bring this dog on regular outings in the world—especially to different locations whenever possible—to feed some of that mental energy. But, otherwise, the Havanese will be happy to spend the day indoors, sticking close to their family and snuggling.
The Lhasa Apso is a loyal, sweet, and gentle dog with model-like hair. They’re also smart dogs, though, unlike many clever dog breeds (such as terriers), Lhasa Apsos are not inclined towards mischief or destruction when bored. They will, however, seek you out to ask for playtime and attention when they need it.
They will also sound the alert if startled, so some training may be necessary. But, even then, the Lhasa Apso has a fairly quiet, and less-than-intimidating bark.
Miniature Pinschers are clever, fearless, and affectionate. Give them love, play, and a daily chance to sniff and explore, and your Miniature Pinscher (or “Min Pin”) will have everything its heart desires.
These are natural watchdogs, but easily trained, so you can curb excessive barking with a little know-how (and a lot of treats!). Min Pin’s need a chance to run at least once or twice a week, but are otherwise content with a daily walk and some playtime at home.
The Papillon is a smart, responsive, and playful breed. They can be timid towards strangers, but once they love you they love you, and there’s no letting go.
Graceful and energetic, they love to play with their families and need to run off some energy, but a daily walk and some time in the park will be enough for them.
The Pekingese is an affectionate, but not overly-needy dog, happy to spend time either alone or with people. A Pekingese will also alert you to any visitors that come a’knocking, but won’t get carried away with barking.
They are sweet dogs, eager to cuddle and play, but who don’t need too much exercise. In fact, the Pekingese is another brachiocephalic breed, so be careful with hot weather and letting your Pekingese get too much exercise too quickly.
All Poodle breeds (Toy Poodle, Miniature Poodle, and Standard Poodle) are highly intelligent dog breeds that are easily trainable. But the Toy Poodle requires the least amount of exercise of the three types and is often the most even-tempered, so they’re typically the best choice of the three breeds when it comes to apartment living.
Curious and playful, the Toy Poodle does well when provided with regular stimulus. It’s a good idea to take your Toy Poodle out and about with you when you’re running errands or are otherwise outside. Letting them see the world will help them focus all that mental energy, and will provide a daily dose of fun.
Pugs are generally quiet, laid back dogs that make great apartment companions. They’re sweet and goofy, and while they’re happy to play with you, most Pugs don’t need excessive amounts of attention throughout the day to be happy.
They also don’t require much exercise and too much can even be harmful, as their brachiocephalic faces can cause breathing problems if they over-exert themselves or are out too long in hot weather. Do note that they can be prone to weight-gain, however, so be diligent in balancing out their meals and walks.
Friendly and relaxed, the Shih Tzu often has a large-dog temperament in a small-dog body. They’ll be happy to explore the world with you or chill out on the couch, depending on what you want to do that day.
They’re also eager to learn and are highly trainable, so playtime is a must. But they don’t need too much in the way of exercise to be content.
Silky Terriers (or “Silkies”) are loyal and loving to their families, but are often wary of the world. So they can be prone to giving the alert by barking, both indoors and out, but training will help curb this tendency.
Playful and energetic little dogs, Silkies are eager to play but will be happy with a short daily walk when it comes to their exercise needs. And when they’re not playing, they’re happy to curl up in small spaces, which makes apartment living perfect for them.
Affectionate and fearless, Skye Terriers will take on the world, but they are sensitive to harsh words or reprimands from their families. Come at them gently and they’ll never be far from your side.
Skye Terriers are mild-mannered and easily adaptable to city life and apartment living. They need daily walks but are otherwise content to play, explore, and snuggle at home.
Tibetan Spaniels are extremely easy-going dogs. Adaptable to new situations and environments, they are equally as happy to go on long walks as they are to snuggle on the couch.
Though they may sound the alarm for visitors, a well-placed treat will silence any barking. And they’re otherwise quiet enough that your neighbors will wonder whether or not you even have a dog in your apartment.
Like most terriers, Yorkshire Terriers (or Yorkies) are spunky little balls of mischief and fun. They’re loving and cuddly with their families, but they are often shy of strangers. Many will try to run away or hide if a stranger tries to pet them, so it’s a good idea to socialize them early.
Yorkies are energetic and playful and are happy to run, but don’t actually require much daily exercise beyond a regular, half-hour walk. Many Yorkies will also sound the alarm by barking if they hear visitors or other “suspicious” noises, but training can minimize this tendency.
How to Help Any Dog Adjust to Apartment Living
Though these are the best dog breeds for apartments, most dogs can learn to live in an apartment with enough exercise and the right training. And even the best apartment dogs will need to learn how to cope with the unique circumstances that make up apartment living.
So let’s look at what you need to do to teach your dog how to adapt to apartment living.
#1: Train Them to Get Used to the Noise
Apartments can be loud. There’s noise above you, below you, to the sides of you, and the noise from people walking down the hallway in front of your front door. To your dog, all these people making noise near your home is a flagrant breech of privacy, and they can induce fear, anxiety, and even fear-based aggression.
Help your dog get used to the noise of apartment living by connecting the noise to positive stimuli. Give your dog a happy-sounding cue word (like, “What’s that?!”) and a treat whenever you hear the noise from your neighbors. You can also invite a friend over (one that your dog likes) to knock on your door. Give the cue word and the treat when your dog hears the noise, then give your dog an extra reward by letting your friend inside for happy pats and cuddles.
#2: Give Them Their Own Designated Space
Your dog is a part of your family, and the apartment is a den for all of you to share. But just like you need your own space away from other people sometimes, so too does your dog.
Make the apartment seem larger for your dog by providing them with their own, human-free zone. This might be a crate, or a dog playpen, or even just a dog bed in the corner of the apartment. Just make sure it’s a space where your dog can retreat to when they want some time alone and that you don’t try to bother your pup when it goes there.
#3: Introduce Them to Other Dogs in the Complex
If your apartment complex allows dogs, then chances are there are a good number of other dogs living in the building. To help your dog feel comfortable with these dogs (especially hearing these dogs move, bark, or whine throughout the day), see if you can introduce your pup to the other dogs in the building.
Try to take your dog to the places the other dogs go for bathroom breaks, or introduce yourself to any of your neighbors that you see with dogs. Set up doggy playdates to help your pup make friends with the neighbor dogs (and you may even make some human friends out of it too!).
#4: Teach Them How to Use a Wee Mat or Train Them to “Hold It” for Long Periods of Time
Wee mats smell faintly of urine and pheromones, so dogs will naturally be inclined to potty on them. But even so, you’ll have to train your dog on how to use the wee mat or the indoor turf to make the process fun and easy and avoid any accidents.
If you choose to forgo wee mats and train your dog to wait until you can go outside together, then you’ll have to progress slowly. Many grown dogs can potentially hold their bladders for upwards of 8 hours, but not all dogs can manage this. Start by taking your dog outside every 2 to 3 hours and then increase the time between outings by half an hour every few days until you get up to between 6 and 8 hours. If your dog starts to have accidents indoors or sniffs or whines to go outside, then you may need to decrease the time between potty breaks. Alternatively, you may think about getting a doggy turf to place in your bathroom or on the apartment balcony.
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Courtney scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She is passionate about bringing education and the tools to succeed to students from all backgrounds and walks of life, as she believes open education is one of the great societal equalizers. She has years of tutoring experience and writes creative works in her free time.