Living with Big Dogs in the City

Large Dogs in Apartments

I love big dogs.

No disrespect to small dog owners, but big dogs somehow seem more “doggy” to me.

I love playing with big dogs. I love when big dogs lean up against me and fall asleep after emitting a deep, grunty sigh. I love it when they crawl up into my lap. I love their robust barks and their generally genial temperaments. I even love it when big dogs jump up on me.

Jada Big dogs
Rhodesian Ridgeback

Buzzfeed agrees with me. Take a look at their list.

The only bad thing about big dogs is that they don’t stay with us as long as we’d like.

Our dog Bodhi isn’t a particularly large Weimaraner – as breed enthusiast Anne Taguchi wrote, Weims range in size from “medium to horse!” But he’s big enough at 70 pounds!

Big Dogs
Bodhi at Dog Run

Large dogs like Bodhi present urban dwellers with particular challenges. The most pressing is finding an apartment that allows big dogs. Many buildings do not allow dogs over 50 pounds, probably even more have lower weight limits.  I don’t really understand the bias landlords, co-op boards, and condo boards have against large canines. If it’s about noise, just visit any dog run in the city and you’ll see it’s the smaller dogs that bark the most! If they think big dogs cause more damage or are more likely to be vicious, those are questionable reasons as well.

Rob Foellinger, an apartment consultant in Indianapolis told the Chicago Tribune newspaper that weight limits eliminate

… many favorite breeds even though the rationale for the pet policy may not have merit… “No one could explain to me where we got the idea we should accept or reject pets based on weight. Why not do height? Let’s do color of eyes. It doesn’t make any sense,” … Therefore, Foellinger surveyed 1,200 veterinarians, animal trainers and humane societies to get a feeling for which canines were most likely to cause damage in an apartment and which were most likely to do well in an apartment. The response from 400 pet professionals showed many landlords were barking up the wrong breed.

According for Foellinger, the best breeds for apartments are large dogs such as retrievers and collies. He says that small dogs dominated the worst ten list, including terriers, Pekingese, Chihuahuas, and Miniature Poodles.

Bearded Collie Big Dogs
Bearded Collie

“It’s all about temperament,” said Foellinger, who has a Dalmatian, “but a lot of small dogs we welcome with open arms suffer from separation anxiety, they bark all day, they’re very territorial and are more apt to bite … Big dogs will drive you nuts, too, but try to get a golden retriever to bite anyone. His idea of a good time is to lick five burglars at once.”

Dalmatian Big dogs

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Pet Dog Trainer, and she agrees with Foellinger’s findings, she wrote that problems with urban dog ownership, things like “high exercise needs, sound sensitivity, a tendency to bark excessively — have nothing to do with size. Some dogs are beautifully suited to life in the city, and others are not.” For a very thorough discussion of merits and challenges of big dogs read this article by London at The Bark website.


If you’re a big dog owner and looking for a place to live in New York City, there are several things you can do to help your search. First find a real estate sales agent who is savvy about pets. A good broker will know which buildings allow big dogs and which condo and co-op boards are easy to work with. Prep your big dog to impress a board; you can have your dog certified as a well-trained dog and you can develop a resume for your dog. There are even coaches who can get your dog ready for a board interview. You should also visit dog runs and talk to owners of big dogs to see what their experiences were. We’ll touch on all these topics in depth in a later post.






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