Dogs | Cats | November 15, 2016

Adjusting Pets to City Life

woman with dog

In 1997, I moved from our sprawling 5 acre hobby farm to a much smaller home in a subdivision. At the time I had 3 golden retrievers and I worried so much about how they would adapt to suburban life with much less room to roam and run. They weren’t used to having neighbours. Would they become nuisance barkers? Would the new sounds and smells be too stressful for them? It turns out I shouldn’t have worried, they were amazingly easy to transition. It still amazes me to this day how adaptable our four-legged family members can be.

But, not everyone is as lucky as I was, especially if the move is into an apartment from a house or acreage. What do you need to consider when adjusting pets to city life? Here are a few things you should take into account before the big move.

Establish a new routine

Living in the city will dictate that your pet’s life becomes more structured. Unless you are in a single family home or a townhome with a yard, there will be no more opening the door and letting your dog out to relieve and exercise himself. Before you move, establish a new routine for meals and walks. Dogs thrive on routine and it makes them feel more secure. Bonus points, if you do this before you move, your pet will feel much more settled and secure when the time comes.

Location, location, location

The transition to city life will be easier if you can locate your new city digs within barking distance of a local dog-friendly park. (Make sure to check park rules before you sign the final papers for your new place. Not all parks welcome even leashed pets.) Moving downtown to the concrete jungle may present problems for pups who are used to lots of exercise and eliminating on grass. The transition to having to ‘go’ on concrete can be particularly difficult and unnatural for a country dog.

Close proximity to a dog-friendly park is also a great way for your dog to meet some new playmates. As long as he/she is well socialized with other dogs, this can be a great outlet to burn off some energy. Dogs who have led a solitary country life may need to get used to the idea of sharing their play space with other dogs, so proceed with caution when there are other pups in close proximity. Remember that even if your dog is well socialized, the hustle and bustle, loud noises and all around city life are pressures in and of themselves, so introducing your pup to a bunch of new pals on their first day probably isn’t a good idea.

Home Alone

If you live alone and are going to be at work all day and unable to take your pet with you, consider either a doggy day care or hiring someone to come and take your dog out for a walk once or twice a day. Think about the boredom that will overtake your buddy while you are away at work for eight or more hours. (Not to mention the strain on the bladder while rover crosses his legs waiting for your arrival home).

Boredom can lead to unwanted behaviours which can wreak havoc on your home, so it is important to try and avoid it at all costs. Good doggy daycares provide exercise and playtime and interaction with other dogs. Alternatively a dog walker will help interrupt the monotony of the day and burn off some of that excess energy. A tired dog is a good dog!

If you can’t afford doggy daycare or a dog walker you can try to leave your dog something to occupy his brain. Your local pet supply store is chock full of toys and puzzles that will help pass the time while you are gone, and anything that involves the nose is great engagement for the brain and surprisingly tiring for them as well. Even a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter will occupy Buster for quite a while.

Consider Your Neighbours

In the country, you can make all the noise you want. When you are in the city, it’s essential for you to ensure your pet isn’t causing your neighbours any distress. This can come in many forms, from dogs who bark, yip or howl when they are left alone, to outdoor cats who do their business in the neighbour’s prized flower garden. In apartments, everything is amplified so think before you play fetch with your pup in the middle of the night. And do some testing before you move in to see if barking and howling when you aren’t there is going to be a problem. There are many online resources to help you put a stop to unwanted barking. Even cats can project a very loud mournful yowl when distressed. Introduce yourself and your pets to your neighbours and give them your phone number so if there is a problem while your pets are alone at home, they can reach you.

All in all, moving to the city isn’t a bad thing. Most pets will adapt well given time to adjust. Often city life actually means that you and your pet get to spend more time together, and that can only be a good thing!