Tips From Dog Trainers for Apartment Living

I’m happy to see more condos and apartments becoming dog-friendly.

Perhaps the owners are finding that they can rent the units faster if they allow dogs. Or maybe residents may remain in the same place longer because their dogs are accepted. Whatever the reason, it’s great for dog owners.

This acceptance has, unfortunately, also caused some problems. Complaints about barking are not unusual as are issues with owners not picking up after their dogs outside. Hearing about a few of these issues, I asked ten dog trainers who live in apartments or condos what they do (and recommend) to keep the peace. Here’s what they said:

Barking is a Problem!

When people live in close quarters, a barking dog is an annoyance to everyone. Several trainers agreed that an alarm bark now and then is one thing, but repeated, repetitive barking is something else. Two trainers said with emphasis, “Don’t reward your dog for making noise. Ever.” At the same time, do reward quiet.

There are a variety of training techniques to stop barking and most begin with rewarding quiet—so start there. But if you are having trouble with barking, talk to a trainer.

Outside Bathroom Habits

Several trainers recommended that when taking your dog for a walk to relieve himself, walk the perimeter of the property instead of right outside your door. Not only will this help keep the grass areas cleaner, but you will also be farther from the windows of your downstairs neighbors. No one wants to hear “Sweetie, go potty! Come on, go potty!” first thing in the morning.

I would think that this need not be repeated as it’s emphasized so much, but apparently not everyone follows through: please pick up after your dog. The rolls of clean up bags are inexpensive and it’s so easy to carry them, so there is no excuse not to clean up. Please, just do it.

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Indoor Housetraining Options

Teaching your dog to relieve himself inside is a more common request than we might think. This can help the owner from needing to make early morning and late night trips outside. Plus, in bad weather, you won’t need to go out. If your dog has the ability to go inside, this will relieve some panic on your part if you can’t go home at lunch or need to work late. (This doesn’t mean you can forego all walks, of course, but you can eliminate a few.)

So how does this work, exactly? There are a few different options for teaching your dog to relieve himself inside. Potty pads are popular right now and work well for smaller dogs. Litter boxes for dogs were common a few years ago but don’t seem to be used as much now. They are still an option though.

A couple of trainers who work in large cities said that their clients wished to teach their larger dogs to relieve themselves in the tub or walk-in shower. Now, before you react with a, “Ugh. Gross!” remember the tub or shower is easily cleaned and disinfected. There is also more room for a large dog to do what’s necessary whereas a potty pad might not. It might not be the option for everyone but it is for some.

If you’d like some housetraining advice, call a local trainer.

Give Others Some Space

Not everyone likes dogs, not all dogs like each other, some people are afraid of dogs, some dogs don’t like kids; the options go on and on. Just give everyone some space.

If you or your kids want to pet a neighbor’s dog, ask first. A couple of dog trainers said it’s so easy to ask and asking first can prevent a number of potential problems, but many people just don’t think about. This is especially important when a lot of people, and many with dogs, live in close quarters.

One trainer who lives in a high rise in New York City said she’s made it a rule that no one is allowed to pet her dog in the elevator, ever, even if they are friends. This came about because her dog was getting mobbed by people every time they were in the elevator and her dog became afraid of riding in it. Once she stopped all the petting and attention, her dog relaxed again.

Be Proactive Rather than Reactive

Most of the trainers I talked to recommended that dog owners be proactive to help their dog be good rather than waiting until there is a problem. Six of the ten trainers I talked to said that walks are vital for both good mental health as well as exercise and a chance to go potty. Dogs need to get out of the house, they said, smell different things, enjoy a brisk walk, and perhaps even jog a little. Dogs who stay in the apartment, no matter how big, and don’t get outside regularly can go ‘cabin crazy.’ They can start barking, urinating and defecating inappropriately, and often become destructive.

Several trainers recommended regular use of brain games. These food dispensing toys are great for encouraging the dog to use his nose and think to solve the puzzles. You can use some of the dog’s food in the puzzle if you’re worried about his weight or if that’s not an issue, some small treats. When the dog gets a chance to use his brain and play some games, he’s going to be less bored and less apt to get into trouble.

Training is, of course, important, too. Not only will the basic obedience exercises help in the apartment, out on walks, and during your daily life; but training also helps increase communication between you and your dog. When the two of you understand each other, then you are more able to interrupt unwanted behavior before it’s a problem and you can emphasize the actions you wish to continue.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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