Moving Into A Small Apartment With Your Pet

As cities across the world continue to get bigger, small suburban towns are also increasing their population and spawning large apartment facilities to handle the growth. These complexes not only attract newcomers but also homeowners in the area. Many families are trading the bother of keeping up a house for the convenience of an apartment. Perhaps your family is one of these.

You face the move with mixed feelings. Sadness at parting from old friends, relief at knowing someone else will fix the faucets and cut grass, and anticipation of more time to do the things you want to do. Of course, the task of moving is enormous.  You know it will take a while before your family is comfortable in the new home.  But you’re prepared for some turbulence in the family routine. But what about your pet?

The advertisement read ‘Pets Welcome!’ but will Sparky feel welcome?

Veterinarian Christina Slater, from Houston, Texas, rejects the idea that breeders can foretell how your pet will adjust to life in an apartment complex. ‘Every dog has its own personality,’ Christina says, ‘The way you have trained him determines how your pet will cope with a new situation’

Apartment dweller Bob Carter says, ‘We’ve had our dog, Dusty, for five years. We lived in a house but did not confine Dusty to the yard. He ran with other dogs in the neighborhood. Now Dusty is kept on a leash, and he does not like it. He has taken a dislike to two other dogs in our building, and when I walk him he won’t relieve himself unless I drop the leash.’

There are eight buildings where Bob lives, and every tenant family has children or dogs: or both. If in this type of situation, your pet would not be dangerous to other dogs or children, there is always the chance that harm might come to him from them, or he might be injured by a car in the parking area. Even the well-disciplined pet cannot be allowed to run at will in a compact living arrangement, and dogs who have never worn a leash before must become accustomed to restraint.

On the other hand, some dogs react to life in an apartment complex with enthusiasm.  A pet who had a lonely yard life to himself may be delighted to accompany his owner on long walks and may respond happily to meeting other dogs.

Such an eager young dog is named Tiger, whose size is awesome compared to the small dogs living in nearby apartments. In his last home, Tiger was allowed to run, but there were no other dogs in his neighborhood. Tiger is only now learning to socialize with other dogs.  His customary greeting to a new acquaintance is a swipe of his large paw! And he does so with the fullest of affection and excitement. Truly, this is one dog that is loving the new changes of living in a small apartment.

How hard it is for a dog to make the change from living in a house, with a nice-sized yard, to moving into a small, compact apartment complex?

Ideally, your pet will have the training he needs to make the change with very few hurdles. However, even a dog who has had basic training must make some adjustments.  For one thing, it takes time for a dog to learn the difference between the sounds of passers-by and the sounds of approaching visitors. A dog that has been encouraged to bark at intruders may drain an owner’s patience during the first few weeks in an apartment.

There is also the problem of exposing a dog to a ‘different’ group of people. ‘The first time my dog, Bellie, saw a baby crawling on the lawn, her hair stood up!’ laughs teenager Carrie David.

Accepting differences is not impossible, of course. Carrie’s dog, Bellie, quickly became friends with the younger members of the community: ‘Bellie has become very motherly toward babies,’ this pet owner comments with laughing amusement.

Animal psychologists also like to remind us that elimination can be a serious problem, particularly in older dogs, in which the habitual strain of waiting to go out can cause kidney disorders.

Many homeowners who once led a pet out the door, on a signal, may not want to walk the dog before getting dressed and fixing themselves up now that they live in an apartment complex with the constant traffic of people coming and going. But constantly putting off your pet when he asks to go potty can result in nephritis.

The experts suggest that your pet must be walked often enough so he is never uncomfortable when he is indoors.

It may be easier to let your dog take care of his needs alone, but walking your pet has its advantages too. In a high-density apartment complex, any infection can become a canine epidemic. When you walk with your dog you can observe his habits for early signs of illness. You will also have some control over avoiding infection from unhealthy animals or conditions.

Of course, in any situation, your dog’s best guarantee against infection is his good health. Pride in the care you give your dog is not vanity. A glossy, clean coat is natural armor against mites, and trimmed nails don’t become open wounds, while a fresh flea collar may be the difference between ten dollars and a case of heartworms.

Is it cruel to keep a dog locked up inside a small apartment all day long, without any human interaction or potty breaks?

Some people maintain that the dog originated in the wilderness, and his natural habitat is the outdoors. If we follow this line of reasoning, we must admit that man’s natural habitat is also outdoors, right? Yet nobody can deny the contribution made by modern heat and air conditioning, pure water, and uncontaminated food toward lengthening man’s lifespan.

Newsflash: Comfort & Sanitation Benefits Our Pets Too!

Leaving a pet in an air-conditioned apartment is not harmful, provided that the animal has sufficient opportunity to relieve himself outside. Of course, restricting your pet to a patio or balcony is not in itself an act of cruelty.  There can be valid reasons for leaving your dog outdoors, however, your concern for the human residence should not be without good sense regarding your pet’s quarters, even if they are only temporary.

Whether your dog spends his day relaxing on the cushion of the best chair in the living room, or in a corner of the balcony, the same standards of health apply. If you must put him outdoors, pamper him with shelter from the weather.  Indulge him with an oversized water dish.  Baby him with a soft, clean pad where he can rest, and walk him often enough so he will never be forced to soil his own floor. (And don’t forget that a small balcony may not provide enough room for the exercise that your pet needs in order to stay healthy.)

A Word About Bugs & Worms…

The mites that cause mange will bounce happily from one dog’s back to another’s, but your pampered pet won’t have to worry about them. As far as worms are concerned, if you live in the South, and your dog has not had worms, it’s because no other dogs have tracked eggs across your yard.

In northern climates, worms are controlled by cold winters. In warm areas, worms are all too common.  A pet isolated in a fenced yard may be protected, but where many dogs use the same general area for defecation, worms are readily passed to any pet tracing the same path.

Hookworms and roundworms are two outstanding examples of transmission through infected feces. Larvae are most easily passed in contaminated food and water, and you must be careful that your dog eats only what is provided in his own dish.

Apartment living totally minimizes these dangers. However, other dog infections can be spread by insects. Flea infestation must also be tended to, regardless if you live in a small apartment complex.

As a pet owner living in an apartment community, it is your responsibility to keep your dog healthy and safe from worms and parasites, and your duties will go beyond booster shots and checkups.  You will not only have to consider your pet’s health from your own viewpoint but from the viewpoint of your neighbors in the complex.

Any animal can become temporarily ill.  In the close situation of an apartment complex, your dog’s affliction can readily spread to other pets in the area.  Thus you must not only be concerned with curing your animal’s infection, but also with preventing an epidemic among the canine tenants.

The reverse is also true: Where the health or behavior of one animal can affect so many other pets, the way your neighbors treat their pets is very much your business.

Nor is the danger to be regarded as a problem of the animal population exclusively.  Most canine infections do not afflict humans, but there are a few exceptions.  Rabies, of course, is an obvious example, but it is not the only one.

Two other exceptions that are worthy of notice are hookworm and roundworm. The hookworm larvae survive just long enough to produce a ‘creeping eruption’ with its torturous itching. Roundworms, on the other hand, can survive in humans. The larvae travel by way of the circulatory system, finding their way even into the spinal cord and brain of the human host.

Roundworms are a serious affliction and a prominent reason why every apartment dweller must take an interest in the way other tenants care for their pets. Fortunately, most pet owners want to keep their pets healthy.  If they are neglectful, chances are the neglect comes out of a lack of experience in caring for animals, and a friendly word of advice will be effective enough.

There are, naturally, exceptions. However, as the problems of proximity increase in an area, regulations to control these problems emerge, and you may find there are legal procedures to prevent a responsible pet owner from endangering other members of the apartment community.

As less land is available for home building, more ‘upright’ cities will appear. Families increasingly will leave the single-family residence for high-density living arrangements. Hopefully, someday sanitary practice will eliminate contagion among our pets, and inoculation of all pets will be as routine as vaccination of children. Until then, every family that gives up the privacy of a house should be fully aware of what the move involves.