(by Erin Hutton) We all know the stereotype: 2 kids, a dog, a white picket fence surrounding a big yard, and a stay-at-home Mom. It is, perhaps, the easiest way to keep a pooch pleased ? letting him run around in the yard with the kids all day. But what about those of us who live in the city and work full-time? The singles and dual-income families among us? Shouldn’t we be able to keep a happy dog, too? The answer is, undoubtedly, yes ? with proper care many dogs can be content in a yard-less living situation.
Nancy Tragard, a Pittsburgh-based pet sitter for Grand Paws Pet Sitting, says the key is to “take your dog’s feelings into consideration all the time. We have to ask: What are we doing to keep the dog happy?”
The first step is to know what your dog’s needs are based on breed and size. Smaller dogs generally fare better in the city than large ones. The biggest breeds, such as German shepherds, are not apartment dogs ? there just isn’t enough space. However, you could keep one in a house with even a small yard. If you’re choosing a dog to keep in the city, as with buying a car, smaller is usually better. But if you’re moving from the country and just can’t part with your beloved Dalmatian, try to find a place with a yard and make sure you have enough time in your schedule to take your pup on at least two long walks (half an hour minimum) every day.
Nancy Tragard sits for a Great Dane and a Foxhound, which are both large, energetic dogs that need to run. These dogs have a yard to play in and when it rains or snows Nancy runs up and down the stairs with them for their midday exercise, a key component to their health.
Happily, most cities have large dog parks where you can take your dog and let him or her run off the leash. So, if you’re tired at the end of the day, but your dog isn’t, you can head to the dog park and let him or her run while you relax and supervise.
Once you know you can meet your dog’s needs outside of your work hours, consider what your dog will do while you’re at work. While a dog can survive the nine, ten, or eleven hours you’re away, it makes for an unhappy pet who is more likely to get into trouble. Nancy never recommends leaving a dog alone all day. “They’re miserable,” she says, “We’ve domesticated our dogs to the point that they crave and need our attention as much as possible.”
If no one can get home during the day to take your puppy out to relieve himself and play a bit, consider hiring a pet. There are many reputable pet-sitting companies that employ trained and insured pet care professionals that will visit your pet. Many even offer services like vacation packages that allow you to leave your dog at home while you’re away with the confidence that someone will come check on her several times a day.
Or, if you feel your puppy needs full-time care, consider dropping him off at dog daycare on your way to work. When you pick him up, he’ll be happy after a day of attention, play with other dogs, and proper care. And you’ll be happy because you’ll know a lonely pooch hasn’t dug through the kitchen trash or chewed up the couch cushions.
Dogs with separation issues are well suited for daycare. As Nancy reminds us, our domestic dogs desire our constant attention. Some even have separation anxiety. While a dog with true separation anxiety will need to see a behaviorist, one with just a touch of neediness can be easily placated.
Nancy suggests purchasing and using a cong to give your pup when you leave. A cong is a small rubber toy that’s hollow inside with holes at either end ? fill the hollow with a treat or biscuit, cover the holes with peanut butter, and freeze overnight. On your way out the door, toss your dog the cong. She’ll happily lick at the frozen peanut butter to get the treat inside. She’ll be distracted and entertained while you’re driving away (no barking!) And by the time she’s gotten her treat, she’ll be tired and ready to rest for a bit.
When no one is home, a tired dog is a good dog. If a puppy is getting enough exercise from pre- and post-work exercise, mid-day walks, and weekend adventures, he’ll likely spend much of his alone time resting or playing with a toy or two that you’ve left him instead of howling or chewing on your new shoes.
With these tips and a dose of consideration for your neighbors, you should be able to establish a mutually pleasant existence for you and your city critter.