Best Apartment Dogs Australia - Breeds Better Suited To Small Spaces
Can you adopt a puppy if you live in a small space? Yes! You only need to find the right fit. To help you make up your mind and chose a dog adapted to your lifestyle, our experts found the best apartment dogs.
These furry pups can live in close quarters and without a lot of space, but will still enjoy your company brighten up your day and ask for cuddles!
Can Dogs Live In Apartments?
Of course! However, choosing the right breed is key to ensure your pup stays healthy and happy even if they don’t have a lot of space to run around.
The main issue with apartment dogs is the lack of backyard space. A backyard will offer your dog the opportunity to entertain themselves in-between actual walks, so they are less likely to get bored and develop unwanted behaviours. Keep in mind that some breeds need the extra space, and not all dogs are fit for apartment living!
Traits Of Apartment-friendly Dogs. What To Look Out For Before Adopting
While this is a very flexible category, the best apartment dogs share a few common traits. Regardless of the breed, look out for these characteristics if you want to find the right fit for your smaller space:
Look for patient breeds
Good apartment dogs tend to not react to common noises like keys, strangers going in and out, and general neighbour noises. This constant contact with new experiences can be good: it can make it easier to socialise and your pup will probably make a lot of new friends! However, if you don’t provide guidance and positive training, it can also be very difficult. Have you ever heard of dogs that will bark all day long, even after years of listening to the same neighbours, keys and noises? Well, you don’t want to be their owner.
These highly reactive dogs act like that because their owners didn’t take the time to train them, and these behaviours aren’t something that will go away on its own. With this, we mean that choosing a naturally patient dog will make apartment living easier, but you also need to put in the work to desensitise your pup and get them used to the hustle and bustle of apartment living.
It’s important to remember that barking is a key part of your dog’s communications strategies, and vocalisations are the most normal thing in the world. As an owner, you can somewhat prevent excessive barking through consistent positive reinforcement training, proper physical and mental exercise.
PRO TIP: Use a clicker to help apartment-train your dog. Through the clicker, you’ll be reinforcing ‘good behaviour’ i.e., staying calm in front of strange noises, and helping them overcome excessive sensitivity to noise and new experiences.
A friendly personality
Apartment dogs will need to be friendly even towards strangers, since running into new people and pets is common when living in an apartment. In general, it’s important to choose a dog that will enjoy, or at least be neutral about meeting new people.
The dogs that do best in apartment environments are those that love constant interaction. Remember that even waiting for the lift or taking the stairs will involve other people. In this case, early socialisation is key to guarantee peace with your neighbours and their pets.
Remember that, as their owner, it’s your responsibility to guarantee everyone’s safety when it comes to your dog interacting with others. This means making sure your pup isn’t anxious about meeting new people, and ensuring they are not a threat in any way to your neighbours as well.
Small doesn’t mean apartment friendly
The size of the best dog breeds for apartments doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. In fact, we wouldn’t put it as the first thing to consider when choosing a pup!
We recommend focusing on their exercise and activity needs. Don’t be fooled by a dog’s size! Their activity level and daily exercise needs aren’t necessarily correlated to their adult size: some large dogs do best with shorter spurts of activity, while smaller dogs like terriers have never-ending energy that will be hard to burn inside an apartment. Of course, choosing a specific breed doesn’t guarantee anything: puppies take up to 2 years to fully develop into adults. Unfortunately, it will only be at that point that their personality will truly come out. This means that a pup can start out mellow and become very active, or the other way around.
PRO TIP: Ask for your pup’s parents and get a feel of their behaviour. In general, this can be a good way to understand how your puppy might behave down the road.
If you’re unsure, look into fostering and adopting a dog from a rescue group. Fostering will give you the chance to really experience what it is to live with that particular dog, and adult pups tend to have a more established character. The volunteers at your local RSPCA will be able to help and recommend the best match for your needs.
Consider your dog’s grooming and shedding needs
When people think about which dog to choose for an apartment, most of them think about the lack of a backyard and the dog’s energy level. However, there are more things to consider beyond a pup’s activity needs before bringing them into an apartment. Their natural shedding and grooming schedule can also be more difficult in close quarters. Just think about it like this: the smaller the space, the more dog hair you’ll have to deal with. In fact, we’d argue that since apartment dogs will stay inside all day long, it’s impossible to completely get rid of all the dog hair. This is very different to larger homes where dogs will spend a majority of their time outside!
There are some measures you can put in place to prevent excessive hair on your furniture. First, get into a consistent grooming and brushing routine. This will help get rid of excess hair and keep the fur from getting into your couch in the first place. Then, increase the brushing frequency in spring and autumn, when your dog sheds the most. Finally, choose a dog that sheds less either because they have a curly coat that ‘traps’ the hair or because they don’t have a double coat. We’ve mentioned some of these breeds in our roundup below.
Apartment living doesn’t mean staying alone all day
There is some confusion around dogs that are good for apartments, because unaware owners think that because they do good in small spaces, they can stay alone every day for hours without repercussions.
We firmly believe dogs involve a time commitment that is immoral to ignore. Dogs are social creatures, and it’s not fair to them to be left alone all day and limit their outdoor time on top of it. When pups have a backyard, you can get away with a bit more alone time since your dog will have more stuff to focus on, like wildlife, passing cars and other people. Of course, you’ll also have to provide interaction daily.
However, with dogs that live in apartments, you are their only source of mental stimulation. This means that you need to invest the time to take them out on walks, cuddle, play and just be present with them. Evidently, you can work out of your home, but spending time and effort to interact with your pup after-hours is non-negotiable, even better if it’s outdoors.
If you don’t think you have the mental energy to ensure your pup isn’t abandoned to their own devices for hours on end, maybe reconsider getting a dog altogether. Adopting is a big responsibility!
The Best Dogs For Apartments
Ok, now you know what to look out for and understand what you need from your future pup. It’s time for the fun part! Here are some of our favourite breeds that can be great apartment dogs.
These miniature hounds are great dogs for small apartments. Due to their short coat and gentle nature, many people love them as companions. These are lap dogs through and through, so they love spending time with their family, cuddling on the couch and sneaking the covers.
On the flip side, this beautiful breed is prone to brittle bones and can be difficult to train, especially if you’ve had no experience. They are very active, agile, and can be somewhat escapists, particularly if they see something they’d like to catch. Because of their thin, break-prone legs and strong prey drive, they shouldn’t be in a home with rambunctious kids or large dogs. They do need to go on daily walks and run free in fenced-in spaces.
Italian greyhounds do better in a house with adults that have ample time to dedicate to cuddles, leash-only walks and have a ton of patience to potty train. Look out for rescues! Because this breed lives a long time (up to 18 years) and have a hard time with potty training, abandonment and surrendering are very common. Interested in the breed?
Check out Iggy Rescue, they are a small rescue dedicated to fostering and protecting Italian greyhounds all over Australia.
This is another beloved breed that has been considered one of the best for apartments. They have great personalities, and their size makes them a great choice for small living spaces.
On the flip side, Boston terriers are very active because of their terrier heritage. The same traits that make them goofy and jokesters, also mean they need consistent outdoor exercise and structured playtime. All official sources, including the Boston Terrier Club, consider this breed moderate to highly active, so you’ll have to provide daily walks and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored.
If you have young kids or older adults in your home, a Boston Terrier might be a good choice. These are affectionate pups that shed very little and aren’t great barkers. They are also smart, so training them isn’t too difficult even for first-time dog handlers.
One thing to keep in mind is this is classified as a brachycephalic breed. This means their snout is flat, which makes them prone to breathing issues. Because of their flat nose, they also tend to overheat, and you need to be very careful about overexerting them in heavy workouts or in the summer heat in general. They might also snore a bit, and you might have trouble flying with them because of airline restrictions.
In general, we’d recommend this breed if you love walks in the park and want a fun, loving puppy!
Coton de Tulear
Have you ever heard of this fluffy breed? While they are still rare, their popularity is on the rise. The Coton de Tulear is as soft as cotton, hence its name. Because it was bred to be a lap dog, they are dedicated little guys that love spending time with their people. Luckily, because they barely get to be 20 cm tall, it’s easy to bring them with you every day!
Personality-wise, the Coton is mellow and loving. They are very friendly with people and other pets and enjoy meeting new friends everywhere they go. In general, they are great for people of all ages, from young kids to older adults. They have moderate energy needs, and we should only warn you about their grooming. This is a long-haired breed so brushing at least three times a week is essential, as well as consistent dental care. If you’d rather have less dog hair on your furniture, you might consider getting your dog a ‘puppy cut’, which will involve clipping their hair down to 2-3 cm. on the flip side, if you do choose to go for a puppy cut, you’ll need to take your Coton to the groomer every two weeks to ensure their length stays the same.
Overall, this little dog is great for apartments because of its small size, gentle disposition and moderate activity needs.
Of course, we couldn’t go over the best small apartment dogs without mentioning the popular chihuahua. This well-known breed has been touted to be perfect for small living spaces, but there are a few considerations you need to remember before adopting.
First, chihuahuas aren’t a ‘lazy’ breed and they are pretty active throughout the day. In general, their spunkiness only mellows out after 7 to 8 years, when they’ll gladly nap in the sun over chasing neighbours or birds. Second, they need consistent training and socialisation to ensure they get along with strangers and new people. Chihuahuas tend to be very territorial and don’t mind barking to let everyone know they are displeased. They can also get nippy and bite if they feel attacked or are trying to ‘educate’ a child with grabby hands. It’s on you to correct this behaviour! Of course, you can redirect this behaviour through positive reinforcement techniques, but understand that you’ll have to put in the work and the time.
Chihuahuas are great watchdogs, even if they’ll only alert you to any danger. On the other hand, they live for very long with proper care, so you might be sharing your life for 15+ years with your little chi! In general, you’ll have to offer moderate walks at least every other day, and enough playtime to get tired. This breed would much rather spend their time with you, so they aren’t fit to be left alone for hours on end and are best for retirees or those that work from home.
Unfortunately, the popularity of chihuahuas has also made them one of the most abandoned breeds. We recommend looking into adoption since you’ll probably find pups of all ages looking for a loving home. Plus, adopting through puppy fostering is a great way to understand a dog’s personality and know if they fit with your lifestyle.
If you’re interested, here are some local chihuahua rescue groups around Australia:
Because it was bred to be a lap dog, the Shih Tzu is one of the best dog breeds for apartments. This Chinese dog has a cheerful, loving character and enjoys being around its people. They also have bold personalities, which can make living together lots of fun, but training could be challenging.
With this breed, a bit of bribing and a treat at the right time can make the world of difference, so don’t underestimate the power of a delicious snack! In general, you’ll have to do some convincing but when they decide you are ‘their person’, they’ll try to make you happy.
Shih tzus are great with people and dogs of all ages. Once properly socialised, they can tolerate kids but do better in a home with calm children or just adults. Their grooming needs are significant, especially if you plan to let them grow their hair. Daily brushing is essential to avoid knots, and bath time can be long since it means conditioning, detangling and then drying their coat.
Energy-wise, these little guys only need moderate exercise and do better with a fast walk around the block every day.
The Aussie Terrier is a very high energy working dog that, because of its size and low shedding, could work as a medium sized apartment dog. In general, we don’t recommend working breeds for small spaces, but with the right family, the Australian terrier could be a good fit.
These are active dogs that need consistent activity outside of the home. If you don’t provide that, they might start showing other behaviours like destroying the home, nipping and anxiety. On the flip side, if you love the outdoors and want a companion for your adventures, this might be the right fit. Whether you jog, hike, or just enjoy walking every day, the Australian terrier will be happy to go with you.
This breed is very loyal and will generally get close to one person in the family. They don’t like spending lots of time alone so they are a better fit for people that stay at home or can bring their dog with them
Want a large apartment dog? Then the quiet Basenji might be a good fit. This rare breed has a unique larynx shape that makes it very difficult to bark. On the flip side, they do make a very distinct noise that sounds like a growl, and they are enjoying expressing themselves like that constantly. Either way, it’s more difficult for your neighbours to hear through the wall so it could be a good option for small apartment living. ´
Basenjis are smart and devoted to their owners. Training is straightforward, but you need to use consistency and positive reinforcement because this breed is pretty sensitive towards harsh words or mistreats. Basenjis also shed very little, and their coats are very short and shiny. This means dog hair on the couch will be minimal!
This breed is very active, so don’t choose it if you don’t like spending at least one hour outdoors every day. If they don’t exercise enough, they can become destructive and sometimes aggressive. Basenjis have a bold personality and like to let you know their thoughts on what’s happening. They are very communicative and expressive, so are great for people that love interacting with their animals. If you like independent pets, this might be the right fit. Once properly socialised, Basenjis tend to become rather cat-like and aren’t overly devoted to their people, even if they like spending time in the same room.
What Is The Right Apartment Dog For You?
Hopefully, we’ve made clear that the best apartment dog is the one that fits your current lifestyle. Regardless of their size, if you’re very active yourself having an active dog might not be an issue. On the flip side, if you don’t have time to dedicate to training, it might not be the right move to adopt a pup.
If you’re sure getting a dog is in your future, then we hope this list helped you make up your mind!
Did you find the right pup for you? Let us know!
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- Cross, N.J., et al, 2009. Risk factors for nuisance barking in dogs. Australian veterinary journal, 87(10). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1751-0813.2009.00484.x
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