Urban Pooches

By Kristen Castillo

March 20, 2013 5 min read

"Urban living doesn't mean your dog can't have fun," says dog-training veteran Amy Robinson of DroolSchool.com.

Just ask Elly McGuire, who shares a 670-square-foot apartment in New York City with her 4-pound Yorkshire terrier, named Schmitty.

Despite the small quarters, Schmitty is making the most of the living space by doing tricks and following commands such as "sit," "stay" and "roll over."

"Schmitty loves to do tricks!" says McGuire, noting the indoor activities are perfect for exercise during bad weather. After all the activity, Schmitty usually takes a nap.

*Apartment Living

Even in small spaces, dogs can thrive.

"I consider apartment living dogs a pretty lucky lot," says New York City dog trainer Colleen Safford, who calls New York City "the land of apartment living dogs."

Apartment dogs benefit because they "are walked many times daily, often taken to parks for off leash play or dog runs with other canine friends," says Safford.

*Staying Active

Apartment dogs don't have to live sedentary lives. In addition to play dates with other dogs and walks in the park, they can get lots of activity right at home.

Robinson suggests this intelligence test: Using three sturdy plastic cups and a biscuit, place the biscuit under one cup, and then mix up the order of the cups. "Stand back and watch your dog's brain at work," she says.

Help your dog burn energy by giving him a job.

"I recommend a 'ditch the dish' program," Safford says, noting how food can be eaten out of stuffable dog toys. "Instead of eating from the dish in 30 seconds, your dog will take 20 to 30 (minutes) to eat a meal."

*Crate Training

Crates can give pets a place of their own.

"A crate-trained dog is a more flexible dog," says Safford, who explains crated dogs feel safe with confinement.

Use a large crate to give the dog ample room. A dog bed should fill less than half of the crate, in case the bed gets too warm.

Let your dog see you put treats in the crate, and then tell the dog to get the treat. "Tell him to 'get in your house' or another phrase you choose," says Robinson, who encourages praising the dog when he goes in the crate.

"Do this again and when he goes in for the treat, close the door behind him, but stay in the room so he can still see you," she says. "As soon as he is quiet, let him out with no fanfare. Don't praise him or pet him, just ignore him for a few minutes."

Safford suggests starting crate training when the dog is a puppy.

"Your goal is to create a positive association with the crate, so when you are home, place toys in there for your pup to go in and discover. Feed your pup all meals in the crate, and when you are leaving home, be sure to stuff a great food toy for your pup to work on in your absence," she says.

Even if your pet struggles with the crate at first, be patient.

"Never release your pup from the crate when he is whining," says Safford. "This only reinforces the whining behavior. Be sure to wait until your pup is quiet."

*House Training

House training is a necessity for apartment dogs.

McGuire who runs http://www.SchmittySays.com trained Schmitty by "putting her in a pen lined with newspaper when she was a puppy." Through repetition and positive reinforcement, Schmitty's house training worked.

Unlike suburban dogs that have quick access to the outdoors, urban dogs may have to wait awhile to potty.

"In most cases, you leash up in your apartment, walk through a hallway, run the stairs or take an elevator, etc.," says Safford. "This means, your pup is expected to 'hold it' for a longer period of time and that can sometimes lead to accidents en route."

She suggests carrying young puppies to the outside, exactly where you want them to potty. Further, Safford says, "All pups in house training should not have any free roam in an apartment."

To "decrease the number of accidents during the house training process," she recommends tethering the pup to something such as a desk leg or a coffee table.

If you're not going to be home for a while, get a potty pad and tray for the dog to use for potty. Robinson suggests placing the potty pad in the area where the dog has had accidents in the past.

Keep your dog on a regular drinking and eating schedule, which should help your pet develop a potty schedule, too. Don't forget to reward your dog with praise or a treat for going potty.

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