A widely believed myth is that if you live in an apartment, your options for owning a dog are limited. Many people believe that a dog without a large yard will be an unhappy pet. Thankfully, the truth is that any dog can be happy living in even a studio apartment, as long as they are properly exercised (physically and mentally) each day.
Often times, small dogs that are believed to be perfect for apartment life become destructive or turn into habitual barkers. The same is true for large dogs that are given access to even the biggest of yards. This is because simply providing dogs with room to run is not exercising the dog. Dogs will rarely exercise themselves, and no amount of space can provide a dog with the mental exercise they need. For a truly happy pet, owners need to take time each day to help their dog burn energy.
All dogs that live in an apartment without a yard need to be taken on daily walks. Walks give your dog a chance to burn physical energy they have stored up and get fresh air, while the change of scenery encourages them to use mental energy smelling and taking in their surroundings. Taking your dog on daily walks also keeps you in the position of the pack leader. Dogs who believe themselves to be pack leaders often become high strung and develop behavioral problems from the stress of leading and protecting their pack.
Walks should be kept at a quick pace, and even dogs with low energy levels need to be given at least one thirty minute walk each day. If your dog is up to date on vaccinations and properly socialized, you can go to dog parks or popular dog areas for walks and play-time. The new scenery will be refreshing for both your dog, and yourself.
Along with their main walks, dogs should be taken out for at least a 10 minute walk before each meal. This helps dogs both physically and mentally, as it gives them the impression they are working for their food as they would do in the wild. Remember, wolves do not have owners to give them food. When they are hungry, they have to go out and find it themselves, which often means a lot of walking and running.
Physically, this is good for your dog because it helps them burn off some energy they might otherwise try to burn off after they eat. It is important, especially in larger breeds, to keep dogs calm for at least an hour after meals. Running and rolling after eating can result in bloat, a dangerous condition that can quickly lead to death.
To keep your dog mentally satisfied, not to mention well behaved, you should set aside time for training each day. This can be done at any time, though before meals is a popular time due to the dog’s willingness to earn a meal.
Training sessions should be kept at about fifteen minutes each to prevent boredom. Two sessions a day is ideal, with one session being used to introduce new tricks and commands, and the second session being used to go over commands that your dog has already learned. Basic commands you should teach your dog during these training sessions are sit, stay, speak, lay down, and roll over. After your dog has learned these commands, the possibilities to what you can teach your dog are endless.
Remember, if you are training your dog before meals and using pieces of kibble as a reward, you should begin to command your dog to perform known tricks and use praise as a reward in place of food. Dogs that work only for food rewards may decide they aren’t hungry enough to follow commands, which can slow down the training process and show your dog that it is in control.