Best dogs for a small house or apartment

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Make sure there is enough room for you and your dog
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The best dogs for a small house do the job of making it feel like a real home

Having a smaller home doesn't have to mean giving up your dream of having a dog. There are lots of pups who thrive in smaller dwellings, from country cottages to city high-rises. The trick is to match your pet to your place. 

And because I often hear this question, I created this checklist to help you know what to look for when you're trying to find the best dogs for a small house, condo, yurt, boat, dorm, apartment or whatever compact space you call home.   

And surprisingly, the size of the dog is not the number one factor! 

1) Exercise

There are small dogs who thrive in compact homes, and small dogs who become holy terrors. Usually the difference is their energy level. 

Some breeds and breed combinations love nothing more than to cuddle on the couch with you or lay at your feet while you work at your computer. These dogs are happy with a couple of walks a day, and maybe some playtime on the weekend. But size isn't really a good predictor for this trait. 

Dogs (or mutts with these breeds dominant) who were traditionally bred as companion dogs or guard dogs can do well even with limited or no free yard space, as long you invest in a good leash and take them on daily walks. Some of the breeds that do well without a lot of exercise include Pomeranians, Japanese Chin, Bulldog, Greyhound and Bull Mastiff.  

Avoid Jack Russell terriers, labs, and any of the Northern breeds like Siberian Huskies and Malamutes. All of those have high exercise needs, and can become destructive when they get bored. 

2) Noise

Small spaces often involve close neighbors, so people living in apartments, condos, dorms or other high-density homes need to pay attention to the noise level of any pet they select. 

Nervous breeds like Chihuahuas or miniature poodles can become yappy and noisy, so if you select one of these breeds, make sure you have space around your home, or you invest in good dog training as soon as you bring your new pet home. 

One way to gauge potential noisiness is to head to the shelter and see how the various pups react to people walking around and other dogs making noise. A dog who is barking or howling non-stop probably won't be any quieter at home, so look for the less noisy ones as your best options. 

3) Age

Of course, puppies are cute. But puppies are also typically much higher in energy than grown dogs. That means more walks and more of a need for a yard or dog park time daily. 

Puppies also come with more needs in terms of housebreaking, crate training, and chew training, and are less likely to do well if left alone for long periods during the day. 

Older dogs, particularly dogs over 6 or 7, tend to be much more sedate and content to stretch out on the couch or curl up by your feet. As a bonus, there are many more dogs of this age available in shelters, but they are less often adopted because people are enchanted by the puppies. By adopting an older dog, you'll not only get a companion who is content with less space, you may well save a life. 

4) Access

Some apartments and condos require residents to carry dogs through public areas like lobbies and elevators. If that's the case where you live, make sure the dog you select is a weight you can carry, and that he or she is comfortable being carried. 

5) Size

And finally, that leads to size. While a small apartment could be home to a person and a larger dog, a very large breed like an Irish Wolfhound or a St Bernard might mean you have to step around or over the dog constantly. Consider floor space for the dog, as well as for his or her dog bed, food bowls and other supplies

While size doesn't make the final choice for the best small space pets, it is a factor you need to consider. 

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