Pets

The 5 best dogs for a small home

By: Valerie Howes

©iStockphoto.com/Matthew Benoit Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Matthew Benoit

Pets

The 5 best dogs for a small home

By: Valerie Howes

Living in a modest space doesn't mean you should not have a pet dog, but it does mean you have to be extra careful which breed you choose. Cindy Hache, a longtime volunteer at the SPCA Monteregie Animal Shelter in Quebec and a groomer by profession, has learned from thousands of dog owners over the years which breeds do best in cosy living quarters. Here are her top picks and her tips for making it work.

1. Shih Tzu
The long-locked Shih Tzu is typically calm and gentle by nature. Its bark is quiet compared to that of other small dogs, such as the terrier or beagle, so neighbours in an apartment building are far less likely to complain. Bred for companionship, this little dog is happiest warming your lap and won't whine for long walks.

2. Pug
"This breed is low energy, not demanding and doesn't have a loud bark," says Hache. The wrinkle-faced pug is the consummate couch potato, and an extremely loyal and devoted pet. It rarely grows taller than 14 inches, so it won't make your home feel crowded. However, Hache warns against related Puggles as an apartment pet: "They're a pug-beagle mix, and while they're small and cute with the adorable face of a pug, they have the high energy levels of a beagle," she says, adding: "We get a lot of them at the shelter."

3. Cocker Spaniel
This is the pick of the medium breeds for apartment dwellers. "They're not very vocal dogs, even though they can be a little insecure when they see a stranger or something that scares them," says Hache. While cocker spaniels are sporting dogs that need to be well exercised, their disposition is exceptionally gentle and you can expect them to act calm at home after a good walk.

4. Labrador or Labrador mix

"You can take them anywhere; they're good with anybody; and once they've been out for their exercise, they just sleep all day," says Hache. These medium to large dogs are great at understanding a routine and adapting to your lifestyle. However, Hache suggests that apartment dwellers only take in a lab that's over two years old. Labs especially appreciate companionship and may become anxious if left at home alone all day as young pups.

5. Mastiff
One of the largest dog breeds, the mastiff can weigh in at 200 pounds. If you don't object to the space this gentle giant takes up in your apartment, you'll find yourself with a charmingly mellow companion. "Often the larger the dog is, the less problems it creates," says Hache. "They tend to be lazier, calmer and more secure."

Great tips for raising a dog in a small home:
• A small dog can have a big voice. Find out how vocal a breed is before bringing it to live in your apartment building.

• To reduce separation anxiety, which tends to result in barking and whining, avoid coddling your dog -- something people tend to do most with small breeds. Also, effective crate training helps make dogs feel secure when left home alone.


• When you're out, keep your curtains closed so your dog is not barking at people it sees walking by, and leave a radio or TV on, so it doesn't react to noise outside or in your building's hallways.

• Avoid taking on hunting breeds, such as the Welsh terrier, fox terrier, pointer, or griffon -- they hate to be cooped up. Another energy bomb: the Jack Russell.

Above all, Hache recommends getting your dog from a shelter, and never a pet store. "Shelter staff witness dogs being abandoned and hear the reasons why," she explains. "They want to make sure a dog goes to the right home, so they'll be truthful about the pros and cons of a breed."




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Pets

The 5 best dogs for a small home