Raising a Dog in the City

Your Complete Guide to Dog Care and Dog Training.

Raising a Dog in the City

Selection of a Suitable Breed
Teaching Your Dog How to Get Along in the City
Dog Sanitation
Exercising the City Dog

We mentioned before that his willingness to serve man has put the dog in a position of dependency. The degree of dependency varies according to where the dog lives. And this leads us to the often-asked question: “Should dogs be kept in the city?”

The subject of keeping a dog in the city has many supporters and objectors. The supporters say dogs don’t mind where they live, just so long as they can be with their masters. And to back up their claim, they point to the thousands of dogs that seem to enjoy urban life. When it comes to the objectors, the arguments range all the way from cruelty to animals to the statement that dogs are sanitary nuisances. Pro or con, both sides have some convincing arguments.

There is no question but that city life imposes restrictions on people and dogs. Neither the space nor freedom of movement found in the country is available in the city. The modern city is a conglomeration of steel, glass, concrete, brick and asphalt; all formed into buildings, sidewalks and streets—all erected in limited space. Ground and floor space are costly commodities in the big cities. There are no “wide-open spaces” in the cities, except in the parks. And these are usually out-of-bounds for dogs. Unfortunately, very few backyards remain in the cities, and empty lots are turned into parking places until the owners decide to erect another apartment house or skyscraper.

True, some apartment houses have spacious grounds, beautifully landscaped. But they also have no dogs allowed signs. While you may keep a dog in the apartment house, you cannot take him into the grounds. The alternative, of course, is to walk and exercise the dog on the sidewalks. But even here you run into restrictions. In most cities, you must keep your dog on a leash. He may not run loose. If he does, he runs the risk of being picked up by the dogcatcher. Or, if he manages to elude the dogcatcher, he faces the ever-present danger of being struck by a car or truck.

All of this appears to strengthen the arguments of those who think dogs shouldn’t be kept in cities. However, there is a middle-of-the-road aspect to this matter of raising a dog in the city. It can be done and successfully if you will recognize the limitations imposed by city life.

If you plan to raise your dog in the city, you must take three important factors into consideration. They are 1) the selection of a suitable breed or mixed breed, 2) proper training for the dog in how to get along in the city and 3) providing the dog with adequate exercise as an outlet for excessive energy.


A comparison of the various breeds, including size, weight, disposition, has been covered in the chapter on selecting your dog. In general, the very large dogs, such as the St. Bernard, Irish Wolfhound and Great Dane, are not recommended lor city life. Nor are the Sporting Dogs, such as the Irish or English Setters, Pointers and Retrievers. Both the very large and sporting dogs need plenty of space and exercise, usually more exercise than the average city dweller can or will give them.

You will see these breeds in the city. People keep these dogs for various reasons: to scare muggers and burglars away, as a symbol of status (the biggest car, apartment, television, etc.), and simply because they like big dogs. We have no quarrel with the reasons for wanting a big dog, only the im-practicality of the project. Unless you are the rugged type, willing to take long walks in the rain and snow, forget about the big dogs.

Boxers, German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Collies and dogs containing mixtures of these breeds are popular in cities. They are not small dogs, but manage to adapt to city life providing they get enough exercise and what we’re going to call “survival training.” And by “survival training,” we don’t mean defense against the atom or hydrogen bombs or disease. We mean survival against the forces that work against the dog’s chances of getting along in the city.

Every year, hundreds of city dwellers get a puppy of a large breed or mixture and attempt to raise the pup in the confinement of a cramped city apartment. It works out well while the puppy is young and small. But when he grows up, races around the apartment to the annoyance of everybody, the luster of owning a dog soon rubs off. Eventually, the dog has to go and the owner frantically looks around for a new home for the dog or else turns him over to the local humane society.

The above is not an extreme example. When the writer was manager of the Bide-A-Wee Home for Animals in New York City, he saw many dogs brought into the shelter because they were too big for city apartments. And from reports, Bide-A-Wee is still getting these unwanted dogs. Since Bide-A-Wee has the policy of never destroying any animal unless incurably ill, these big dogs that were evicted from city apartments spend their days in the Bide-A-Wee shelters. Some of them may be lucky enough to get a home in the country.

T he small, medium-sized and toy dogs make the best city pets. These dogs take up less space and don’t need the lengthy and vigorous exercise periods required by larger dogs. Regardless of breed or size, all city dogs need to be taught how to get along in the city. There is more to city living than getting enough exercise. If that was all that was necessary, city dogs could get exercise on portable treadmills. But city life has more complex problems.

Your Complete Guide to Dog Care and Dog Training.