Hey dog mom!
I cannot believe it is already June! How is this even possible?! This year is just flying by. My goldendoodle Miller turns one at the end of this month. I brought her home last August and I can’t believe she will be a year old this month. While looking back at the last year and talking to a few friends who have raised their dogs in a backyard, I realized that raising a puppy in a city really is it’s own concept and brings its own set of challenges. I wanted to share a post that really breaks down all my tips for raising a puppy in a city!
When I got Miller I was living in my old apartment building, a 16-story building in Uptown Dallas where I lived on the second floor. (You can see a full apartment tour here). When I moved into that building a year prior, I never expected to get a dog while living there. Quarantine really made me realize it was the perfect time to get a dog and I quickly found Miller and brought her home only a short two weeks later. You can see how I found Miller, going to pick her up and her first 24-hours at home over on my YouTube channel here.
One of the biggest challenges with raising a puppy in a city is potty training. If you are living in an apartment building like I was, there isn’t a quick way out to the bathroom and it typically involves an elevator ride and a sprint through the lobby to the nearest grass area. I had a feeling this was going to prove one of the hardest parts of raising a puppy in a city and I was right. It was really hard but with a few tips here’s how to help make it manageable.
CREATE A SCHEDULE & STICK TO IT
When I first brought Miller home, I had her on a really tight potty schedule. It was more trips than usual just because I had to take into account the commute time. I didn’t want her to have an accident in the lobby/hallway/elevator and wanted to give her time to get outside as quickly as possible.
The first few weeks while they are still small, I’d recommend carrying them during this process so there’s no room for any accidents. By sticking to a schedule you are giving them the opportunity to go before they even might have to. Even if they don’t go, it’s creating a routine they will slowly start to learn.
GO TO A CONSISTENT AREA
Unlike a puppy who grows up in a fenced in backyard, city puppies can easily get confused on where they are supposed to go. A backyard puppy quickly learns to understand their “area” and can learn outside training. For city puppies, there are a lot more smells and their area is much more vast than a small backyard so creating consistency helps lessen confusion.
For the first few weeks, carry them to the exact same spot every time. By letting them wander and by switching up the spot, you’re not creating a consistent routine for them which they really need at this age. Unlike a backyard puppy, city puppies will need to be leashed when outside at all times. Even at this age let them get used to being on a leash when they go to the bathroom. The leash helps create consistency in their routine and let’s them know leash + outside = bathroom.
Miller lives on the balcony. I’ll leave my door open and she loves being out there! But she very much thinks of it as an extension to the house.
BEWARE OF THE BALCONY POTTY
Backyard puppies quickly learn to understand how to get outside. City puppies the lobby/elevator commute is much longer. You want your city puppy to learn that their “route” to get outside does take a little bit of time. If they start to learn instant gratification through a balcony potty their commute becomes instant similar to a backyard puppy and it can be harder to unteach them to hold it through the lobby/elevator later.
Also beware of balcony potties if you frequently travel and bring your pup to other houses. The balcony of an apartment to a puppy can quickly seem like an extension of the living space. So when traveling to other people’s homes/apartments the puppy thinks they just need to go to the bathroom in the “potty room” which can lead to accidents in other people’s homes.
I think the balcony potties can have great intentions but for puppies, they create confusing behavior that can be hard to untrain later.
I also have the same stance on this for pee pads. I think it just creates confusion and is something that is harder to break later on.
TRAVEL WITH ACCIDENT SUPPLIES
Once your pup gets too heavy to carry, you can slowly start letting them walk to their potty spot. When walking through the hallways/elevators/lobby those first few weeks be sure to carry accident supplies. It’s happened to me one too many times where your pup just can’t hold it and has an accident in a crowded apartment building lobby. It happens and if your building is dog friendly chances are they are used to it but don’t be that person who doesn’t have the means to pick it up.
*Also dogs in elevators are the cutest thing to me. Miller would run back and forth between the two elevators trying to hear and see which one would open first.
Puppy Health in a City
One of the things I was not aware of when I originally thought about getting a puppy in a city was all the things they can be exposed to that can be super harmful to them. A backyard puppy doesn’t have to worry about interacting with other dogs and surfaces that may be harmful to them. A city puppy is sharing their “backyard” with an entire community so it’s harder to contain things that can be harmful to their health.
There are two shots that puppies get vaccinated for in their first 16-weeks of life. Bordetella or kennel cough and Parvo or canine parvovirus which is the scariest of the two and one you should be well versed in if your puppy is living in a city. Parvo is one of the deadliest diseases your puppy can get and once vaccinated, they have more immunity to fight it off but their first 16-weeks of life they should avoid dog parks, restaurants, public places, playing with unvaccinated dogs, etc. You can read more about Parvo and how to remain diligent about protecting your puppy here.
The scary part about parvo, is that it can live in the ground for up to two years if an infected dog was there. For Miller’s first 8-weeks until she was fully vaccinated and 16-weeks, we carried her everywhere and only took her outside to go to the bathroom. We were super cautious about her interacting with other dogs we didn’t know and tried to limit her contact to areas other than our selected potty spot.
This was really hard and when your puppy is this young they are so cute and want to take them places but living in a city requires sacrifices for their health! Just like you wouldn’t take a day-old newborn baby on a plane or to the grocery store, keep your puppy home until they are vaccinated.
CONSIDER PET INSURANCE
Similar to how kids in daycare are just more prone to getting sick because they are around more kids and germs, puppies who live in a city interact with a lot more dogs than backyard dogs do. We used Lemonade and it is only $200 a year with a $200 deductible. This covers things like ear infections, allergy shots, emergency visits, etc.
A lot of dog parks require dogs to be fixed in order to enter dog parks. If you aren’t planning on birthing any puppies I would highly suggest getting them fixed. Not only is it less of a liability and a hassle on your part if you don’t want puppies. It also calms them down and if your pup is living in an apartment and a small space the less energy can be a great thing. Talk to your vet about what age to start the process.
Our vet (CityVet Oaklawn) offered a puppy package where all her first year of shots, day of emergency visits and her spay surgery were included for one cost. It was cheaper than it would have been if we had itemized everything individually. Be aware of puppy packages at vets because a lot of them have that as an option!
Socialization & Exercise
Once your puppy is vaccinated with all their shots at 16-weeks, it’s important to try and socialize them as much as possible. This is also when they will be able to start exploring their neighborhood and enjoying frequent walks.
IMPORTANCE OF SOCIALIZATION
We socialized Miller at our apartment with my friend’s dogs early before she was fully vaccinated to get her used to loving other dogs. City pups interact with other dogs almost every time they walk outside. Having a dog that is friendly and can easily interact with other dogs is so important. It is such a nuance when we are walking and a dog snaps at Miller or gets aggressive with her. No one wants a mean dog and when you live in a city, socialization is super important.
We were lucky enough to make friends with a few other dog moms in our building who also had puppies similar ages as Miller. We were able to join a playgroup with them and it was Miller’s favorite thing ever. She loved being able to play with the other dogs and run off some energy. It was great exercise for her and it gave her loads of socialization.
FREQUENT DOG PARKS
There are a lot of dog parks in Dallas, a few of our favorites are White Rock Dog Park and Mutts. Typically, dog parks have a big and a small dog park. If your dog is a big dog you can still bring them to the small dog parks when they are puppies to get them used to interacting with other dogs. Miller loves the dog park and it’s so fun to watch her meet and play with other dogs.
There are usually never any issues with dogs snapping at her but always be aware that some dogs are more aggressive than others and you don’t want to put your pup in a situation they aren’t ready for. I started bringing Miller to the dog park for only 10-15 minutes at a time to not over stimulate her. Just read the body language of your pup and if they are cowering between your legs try to let them find a space where they can interact with only one other dog at a time.
Because I work from home right now, I haven’t put Miller into daycare yet. But if you do work out of the home I would highly consider doggy daycare even just one day a week. There are a million places and typically the process consists of a free day of daycare for their interview to see how well they socialize with other dogs. Daycare can help prevent separation anxiety and help stimulate them and run off energy while you are away from the home. If you also aren’t able to walk them frequently throughout the day, daycare can provide means of exercise for your pup as well! Some of the most popular doggy daycare spots in Dallas are Abbie’s Dog House, Camp Bow Wow and Ruffit.
MULTIPLE WALKS OUTSIDE A DAY
This one is super important for city pups! I know my backyard childhood dogs growing up didn’t get frequent walks because we had a huge backyard where they could run and play outside all day long. A city pup doesn’t have that option and therefore requires frequent walks throughout the day. I have Miller on a pretty consistent walk schedule and luckily I love to walk and it was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to get a dog.
We walk in the mornings before work for about a mile and then during lunch for as much as I can give during my lunch break it varies between 20-45 minutes. We also walk after work which is typically our long walk for 1-3 miles depending on the weather.
I knew this was going to be long but didn’t quite expect it to be this long haha. I have a lot to say when it comes to being a dog mom. I love my sweet girl and she brings so much joy to my life. If you have ever been on the fence about getting a dog in the city I wouldn’t hesitate. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. The friends I’ve made since having a dog, the constant companion in an apartment and the ability to take her to so many restaurants and experiences are unmatched.