Is an apartment an appropriate place to raise a large breed dog or puppy? Can large dogs live in apartments?
Usually, but it depends on the individual! The most important things to consider is the dog’s life history, their breed background or pedigree, and your willingness to exercise your dog outside of the apartment.
Most dogs are extremely adaptable if you can build a routine that they can look forward to. Many dogs don’t cope well with uncertainty - they strongly prefer having a set schedule. Having a certain time when they can go potty, eat their meals, engage in play time, and opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental enrichment, will go a long way towards ensuring that your big dog has a happy and enriching life.
To prevent behavioral problems from developing, it is crucial to provide enriching activities for your dog on a regular basis. Many of the large dog breeds were originally selectively bred for utilitarian purposes, such as guarding property, herding livestock, hunting and retrieving waterfowl, pulling a sled over many miles, and so much more!
Here are some easy and fun activities you can provide for your dog within the space of your apartment!
1. Ditch the Bowl, Get a Snuffle Mat!
Most people will fill a bowl with kibble, set it down for their dog, and 10 seconds later, it’s gone. A snuffle mat engages a dog’s hunting instinct and they learn to use their incredible sense of smell to find each kibble. Instead of finishing a meal in 10 seconds, it may take your dog 10 minutes or longer. “Hunting” for their food is mentally exhausting - we’ll guarantee that your dog will curl up for a nap after eating a meal out of their Snuffle Mat!
2. Hide a Toy Around the Apartment and Tell Your Dog to Go Find It!
Start off with a really easy problem, such as letting your dog watch you hide a toy behind the couch, or in a cardboard box, and tell them to search for it. Once they find it, celebrate and play with the toy, either by playing tug or fetch. As your dog gets better at the game, you can find more and more difficult hiding spots. This game requires a lot of concentrating and focusing on a job, which is something that most dogs will appreciate!
Alternatively, you can hide treats around the room and ask your dog to sniff them out, or, you can restrain your dog and have your roommate hide in the next room, and encourage your dog to find the “lost person”!
3. Provide Lots of Long-Lasting Chews, Stuffed Kongs, and Puzzle Toys
Giving your dog an opportunity to chew on an appropriate object on a regular basis will go a long way towards ensuring that your dog is living an enriching and fulfilling lifestyle. Allowing your dog to chew may help reduce anxiety and improve mood - the act of chewing releases those feel-good endorphins! Praise your dog for chewing the right thing and redirect them if you find them picking up your shoes or other inappropriate objects.
Regular exercise is critical!
In order for a large breed puppy to grow properly, they do need to have a regular opportunity to run free in a safe, enclosed area. This is not structured exercise, such as jogging or repeatedly playing fetch, but rather, allowing your puppy the chance to run around at their own discretion in a bigger open space than your apartment living room would provide.
For adults, we recommend daily exercise at least once, but ideally, twice a day. Leashed walks are nice, but if you have access to a large, enclosed space for your dog to really stretch their legs, that would be even better!
Swimming is a great form of low-impact exercise, especially if your dog loves to retrieve toys!
Canine fitness equipment won’t take up too much room in your apartment, and if you’re a fan of clicker training, it’s a fun way to build your dog’s strength, balance, and flexibility.
There are so many more fun activities to do with your dog, and luckily for you - your dog probably can’t wait to try them all out with you!
Does a dog’s breed have anything to do with how well they will do in an apartment?
Not always, but usually! Many purebred dogs will share similar characteristics with other individuals of the same breed, especially with regards to behavior.
Here are some things to consider about some popular large breed dogs!
Alaskan Malamute - they’re not quite as active or demanding as Siberian Huskies, but being a “part of the pack” is very important to them. If you spend long hours away from your apartment, your Malamute may spend the time howling and crying in a desperate attempt to get you back home. Malamutes are amazing companions, you just need to spend some regular quality time with them and show them that they’re loved!
Great Pyrenees or other livestock guardian dogs - these dogs were originally bred to patrol their property and scare off any intruders. Great Pyrenees, and other similar breeds (such as Anatolian shepherds, Maremmas, etc) are prone to “night barking”. If your apartment is in a bustling city, the night time sounds will be very stimulating to your Great Pyrenees. It’s not uncommon for a Great Pyrenees to stay up all night barking at things they perceive to be threatening. Great Pyrenees are a strong-willed and protective breed, they take their “job” very seriously!
Mastiffs - there is a big variation among Mastiff-type breeds - as an example, many English Mastiffs are calm and self-assured, whereas the Italian Mastiff (Cane Corso) tends to be higher energy and requires a job to be happy, while the fearless Brazilian Mastiff (Fila Brasileiro) is distinguished by their intense aversion towards strangers. Mastiffs are very loving and intensely loyal to their family and desire nothing more than being close to you. Your Mastiff will be very happy if you include them on your pet supply store runs or visits to your favorite local brewery! One more thing - don’t forget to have a designated drool rag for your Mastiff!
Labradors or other retrievers - dogs from this group are HIGH ENERGY! While these dogs can definitely adapt to apartment life, you must go out of your way to provide sufficient exercise and mental stimulation for these dogs, or they may become destructive.
We recommend activities such as jogging, bikejoring, throwing a Frisbee, playing tug, or swimming at a lake! You can even provide mental enrichment for your Labrador right out of your own apartment. Instead of feeding your dog their meals out of a bowl, use a “snuffle mat”, like this Wooly! Snuffle mats engage your dog’s sense of smell and hunting instinct, AND prevents your dog from scarfing down their meal instantly. Win win.
This Belgian Tervuren’s favorite job is to sniff out treats that have been hidden! The treat is hidden at the top of the tire well.
German Shepherds or other large herding breeds - these dogs are exceptionally intelligent, and like many working breeds, need a job to do, or they may develop anxious behavior. German Shepherds tend to be amazing detection dogs, so we definitely recommend incorporating a lot of activities that involve sniffing out a treat or toy! If your German Shepherd is still young with lots of energy to burn, try to see if you can find a local dog sport club or fun classes such as Barn Hunt, nose work, dock diving, or disc dog in your area! Actively working and training towards a goal will make you and your German Shepherd very happy!
Great Danes or other giant breeds - after a rambunctious puppy-hood, most Great Danes and other similarly giant-sized dogs tend to grow into adults with low energy levels, though it’s important to provide regular opportunities for exercise, to keep those joints and muscles strong! Be sure that you provide a large and comfortable bed for your giant dog, and puppy-proof the entire apartment! Most giant dogs are eye-level with the kitchen counter top and it takes them very little effort to snag a slice of pizza from the kitchen or a chicken carcass from the trash bin!
Have you ever had to share a small space with a large dog? What did you do to keep your dog busy? Share your experiences in the comments below!