Big Dogs in Small Spaces

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It’s commonly believed that you can’t keep big dogs in small apartments, but the truth is, when it comes to housing for your big boy (or girl), size doesn’t always matter.

Let’s face it the cost of living means we often have to sacrifice square meterage for a simple roof. You might have to let go of your three-seater sofa or the dream of a grassy backyard, but there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to sacrifice – your dog.

It’s commonly believed that you can’t keep big dogs in small apartments, but the truth is, when it comes to housing for your big boy (or girl), size doesn’t always matter.

So, what does matter? Sydney Dogs & Cats Home Team Leader Hannah Turner tells us there are a number of other factors you need to consider when deciding on a dog’s living arrangements. These include:

  • the dog’s temperament
  • opportunities for exercise
  • your ability to maintain a routine
  • the landlord or apartment rules.


The specific needs of your dog are often dependent his/her temperament. A puppy full of energy and a belly full of barks isn’t going to fare as well in an apartment as an elderly greyhound who likes to nap. When deciding whether a dog can live in a small apartment, consider:

  • the dog’s tendency to bark. If the barks for long periods of time, consider whether you can train them to minimise barking. Loud dogs tend to irritate neighbours, and may encourage a complaint.
  • the dog’s energy levels. Energy levels vary from dog to dog. This can be impacted by the dog’s age, health, breed and more. In an apartment, you ideally need a dog who is happy to rest or nap quietly when you’re not available. Dog’s high in energy may become destructive when left alone or become unfit and/or stressed in small spaces.
  • the dog’s attitude towards other dogs and people. If you run into a neighbour or another dog in the hall, is your dog going to stay calm? Is it going to be friendly? Your neighbours may have allergies, or may not like interacting with dogs. Similarly, your dog needs to be friendly with other dogs, so everyone in your apartment building feels safe.


Even the laziest of dogs needs exercise to stay happy and healthy. The amount of exercise a dog needs will depend on its age, health and individual preference. We recommend talking to your vet to get advice tailored to your dog. Once you have this information, ask yourself – can I commit to providing enough exercise every day?

Exercise doesn’t always mean you need to take your dog on a set number of walks each day. While your dog should walk regularly, there are other ways to exercise them throughout the day. These include:

  • swimming
  • playing fetch up and down the stairs
  • a home-made obstacle course
  • hide and seek (with treats)
  • tug of war
  • toys such as puzzles and kongs
  • training new skills or tricks such as fetching household objects or tidying up their toys.

If you can’t commit to providing enough exercise, you can consider hiring a dog walker or taking them to a doggie daycare.


Routine can make life a lot easier for a dog, especially in an apartment. If you’re considering keeping a big dog in a small apartment, think about whether you can set regular times for potty breaks, feeding, walking and playing. If you have an unpredictable lifestyle and like to meet up with friends after work, or go on impromptu dinner dates, keeping a dog in your apartment might not be wise.

There are solutions, however, if you can’t always be available at the same times every day. You could hire a dog walker or take your dog to a doggie day care. If you work full time and can’t take your dog outside for potty breaks, you can get a dog litter box.


Some landlords and apartment complexes have restrictions on dog sizes or breeds. Before you house a big dog in an apartment, make sure to get approval from your landlord or complex manager.

With all that said, having a big dog can be a very rewarding experiencing. There’s more to cuddle, they often make great running partners, and if you live in a small apartment, they’ll encourage you to venture outside more often.

Australia CAN Members have many large dogs that are often overlooked because of their size. Before you rule them out, we invite you to have a chat to their knowledgeable staff who can help you to find the ideal dog for your living arrangements and lifestyle. It may just be your apartment is better suited to a large, loveable American Staffy rather than a pint-sized Maltese.

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