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Navigating City Life With Your Pup

From the constant hullaballoo of traffic to the cramped apartments that cost an arm and a leg, nothing about city life exactly screams pet friendly. Yet dogs manage to be very common even in cramped city life. Despite the challenges, dogs can even thrive in a city environment, particularly with the right approach and resources. In fact, cities offer a rich variety of services designed to help your pup that you might not find other places.

How can you join the ranks of people successfully pulling off pet ownership in a big city? It's actually pretty easy once you know a few tricks.

Getting Started

"Having a dog in the city can be easy with a little preparation."

So, either you are moving to a city with your pup or you live in the city and have decided to take the leap into pet ownership. In both cases, there are some things to consider before actually ushering the dog into their new life.

The aspects of city living that will most affect your dog include:

  • Lack of traditional bathroom spaces

  • Need to be out in the city in all weather

  • New threats to safety

Knowing how to address these issues before they arise will go a long way toward you and your dog's quality of life.

Bathroom Training in the City

Since you can't typically turn a dog out into a yard to take care of their business, bathroom breaks in the city tend to be a bit more involved. This is especially true for dogs who are moving to a city from a more rural area and have to adjust to going to the bathroom on concrete.

In order to make things as easy as possible on your pup, consider:

  • Getting into a Routine – dogs are smart and pick up on patterns, so having regularly scheduled bathroom breaks will do wonders for them. Since full-time jobs make this complicated, enlisting the services of a dog walker might be necessary.

  • Paying Close Attention to Your Pup's Body Language – most dogs will attempt to communicate the fact that they have to go, so be on the lookout for scratching at the door, restlessness, and other indicators.

  • Reinforcing Behaviors – doling out verbal praise and treats when your dog waits to go outside to use the bathroom can go a long way toward reinforcing the behavior.

It's also good to remember that most cities have laws about animal waste, which means you'll need poo bags with you every time you go out. "Scoop the poop!"

Weather Concerns

No matter what major city you live in, dangerous weather will rear its ugly head and make things harder for you and your dog. Since you have to be out with your pup several times a day and likely won't have a back yard to let them run out to quickly, this tends to make more of an impact on both you and your pup.

Some of the most common weather you'll need to prepare for includes:


Though being wet isn't necessarily dangerous, it is inconvenient. To mitigate its effects, you can get your dog a waterproof jacket. It's also a good idea to keep towels near the front door for wiping off muck before you give your dog free reign of the apartment.

Snow (and the dreaded Salt...)

People generally don't enjoy going out in freezing conditions, and some dogs feel the same way. Unless your pup is a husky or other breed that loves the cold, bundling them up before you go outside might be necessary. This is especially important for short-haired breeds and some smaller dogs.

"Ice melt chemicals are not regular salt and can cause severe burns to your dog's paws."

Booties are another helpful thing to have on hand for snow storms. Not only do they protect your pup's paw pads from the cold, but they save your dog from other winter hazards. Businesses tend to apply a lot of ice melter. While this is generally referred to as “salt”, it’s important to note that it’s usually potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, or another chemical that can cause severe skin irritation and chemically “burn” your pup’s paws.

Some dogs are more sensitive to these ice melting chemicals than others, and repeated exposure can make it worse. In addition to shoes, you can consider picking up waxes and salves that protect your dog’s paw pads. It’s also a good idea to rinse or wipe their paws off after walks too.


Much like dog's paws are sensitive to cold, they can be hurt by heat. Sidewalks tend to heat up to dangerous degrees during the summer, and black asphalt temperatures can even exceed 160. It’s best to avoid asphalt as much as possible, but barring that, booties are useful in these extreme temperatures, as well.

Additionally, heat can dehydrate dogs or lead to heat exhaustion the same way it does in people. Having a portable water bottle on hand keeps your pup from suffering from overexertion in the sweltering city, and seeking out shade or cooler areas is a good idea on hot days.

Staying Safe in the City

From carelessly disposed of garbage to other dogs, there are many ambient threats to your dog's safety every time they exit your home. Being mindful of these dangers is half the battle when it comes to steering your pup away from them. For a complete list of tips on keeping your dog safe during outings, click here.

City Enrichment

Of course, not everything about city life involves preparing for danger. There're plenty of opportunities for enrichment, as well. In the city, your dog will have access to:

  • Dog parks galore

  • More opportunities for socialization

  • Access to medical care

  • Expanded Pet Services, such as daycares, dog walkers, trainers, and more.

"Cities also offer a lot of resources and opportunities for your pup."

The Dualism of Visiting Dog Parks

Greenspaces can be a bit harder to come by in the city, but making a point to find them will delight your dog. One such way to satisfy your dog's need for greenery is to find the dog parks in your area. Not only do these spaces offer your dog exercise, they also provide much-needed social time.

Of course, visiting a dog park comes with responsibilities, too, and should be done with care. You can never be certain when there will be a clash of personalities, so you'll need to feel confident in your ability to control your dog before visiting.

Also on the list of things to take care of before stepping foot in a dog park? Having up-to-date vaccines and a spayed or neutered pet. It's a public space, and it's your job to make sure you're using it responsibly.

Other Forms of Socialization

Joining a community of dog owners in your city can mean a social life for you and your dog. Sometimes this comes in the form of etiquette classes, which are a great way to bond with and train your dog. Other times, finding a niche for you and your dog is a matter of tracking down pet-friendly establishments in your city.

If you're lucky, your city's government or visitors' website will have a page dedicated to all the pet-friendly places in the area. All it takes is a little bit of searching to find them. Otherwise, it might be a matter of calling ahead or visiting individual establishments' websites.

Some popular dog-friendly and public spaces include:

  • Beaches

  • Restaurants

  • State Parks

  • Public Monuments


The accessibility and diversity of places to eat, transportation, and entertainment in the city also typically translates to vet care for your pet. Not only will you have your choice of standard veterinary care, you'll likely to have quick access to emergency clinics, as well.

Extended Care

On top of veterinarians, you may need doggie daycare, dog walking services, trainers, or any combination thereof. An abundance of these services exist in any city, allowing you to take your pick based on the needs of your dog, affordability, and accessibility.

Getting Practical

Though it may not always resemble the traditional conception of what it's like to own a dog, having a pup companion in the city comes with benefits for both owner and pet. Taking advantage of them is a matter of thinking ahead and keeping safety in mind at all times.

Now that you've considered the most universal concerns about bringing a dog into the city, let's discuss how your living arrangements should affect the type of dog you adopt and navigating apartment living with a pup.

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