Dogs in the City: Tips on Having a Happy City Dog

When we envision a happy dog, our minds often picture a large pooch running through a field, tongue out and eyes bright. However, many happy pooches live in cities too, where there are few opportunities to commune with nature. We asked Kathy Palmer, owner of one of our retail partners, The Fish & Bone, located in Boston, MA for advice on how to have a happy city dog.

Dogs in the City

“Having dogs in the city come with some challenges. When our customers walk in looking for advice, we lead them to our tried and true problem solvers. We’ve been in the pet business for 15 years, so we have experience in effective strategies and have seen what our customers tend to prefer. Our focus is on removing the obstacles that get in the way of a dog and human enjoying one another! Settling issues helps prevent dogs being given to shelters. We take a preventative approach when customers come in, offering advice on how to keep problems from occurring in the first place.

Limited Space:

Managing a large dog in a small space can be challenging. However, the solution is not in the size of your space, but how you organize it. When we give them consistent boundaries, dogs can understand where we want them to be. A dog bed is one way to give them their own place. Multiple dog beds, perhaps one in your room and one in the main living area, is another strategy. Dogs know that is their spot, and if it’s comfortable and you keep toys there, that is where they will want to be.

Crates are another space great for organizing your dog. If trained properly, dogs come to love settling inside this cave-like space of their own.

Regardless of having his or her own comfy bed, furniture can be difficult for your dog to stay off of, especially when his humans are not at home! So instead of worrying about your dog getting on the couch, put an easily washable throw over it. You will enjoy a better relationship with your pooch, and you won’t have to spend energy worrying about your furniture.

Food storage can be challenging in city-sized dwellings. One option is to have your dog’s food delivered weekly by a local pet food store. Many times delivery is free, so why not? When storing your food, make sure your containers are not airtight—otherwise mold can grow. Another idea is to feed your pet highly nutritious, dehydrated food.

Housebreaking Issues:

City folks always seem to be competing for time—whether they have to catch a train, leave early for a good parking space or to avoid the traffic rush, time is an elusive resource. This lack of time can lead to housebreaking issues, both for puppies and small dogs. Many urban dwellers do not live on the ground floor, and few have a yard, so potty-training can be quite challenging. Our favorite potty-training tool is PoochieBells. They are fun and easy to train with, and it allows dogs to communicate with their humans. Dogs can ring PoochieBells to communicate their needs, so accidents aren’t just reduced, they are prevented. Crate training is helpful during housebreaking too. Dogs will not tend to potty in a small space, so they will wait until they are released from their crates, which means their humans are around for housetraining.

It is harder to housebreak little dogs in winter because, understandably, they dislike the cold weather. Fortunately, the solution is as easy as playing dress-up. We never thought we would get into the pooch clothing craze, but a warm sweater and paw protection goes a long way! The extra layers keep them warm enough to go outside for a potty break and a little exercise. Also, it’s much easier to take off dirty clothes and booties than bathing your dog and cleaning up muddy, wet tracks after a walk.

Noise Issues:

When you live in close proximity to your neighbors, dog noise can be a big problem. If not brought under control, you could lose your lease! We see dogs given up for adoption because the human had to choose between a place to live and his or her dog. Anxiety is usually the issue with excessive barking, but pinpointing the source can be difficult. We ask our customers a lot of questions to help them figure out the cause. Though it is complicated, we generally recommend tiring out the dog as much as possible. Then they have less energy to put toward being reactive and high-strung. Other options are working with an animal behaviorist, or hiring a dog walker during the day.  Ask neighbors about the times and length at which your dog barks to better understand the issue. If nothing else works, you can use a citronella collar. The collar detects a dog’s vocal chords beginning to tremble, and it sprays citronella into the air. Dogs strongly dislike the smell of citronella, and after a while, they will associate the unpleasant experience with barking. However, it will teach your dog to stop barking altogether, and it is not in their best interest to lose a natural instinct. Try other things first. Ultimately you want your dog to follow their instinct—barking when something bothers them.

Happy City Dog

Other Useful Tools:

Our favorite leashes are non-retractable, flat, about 6 feet, and have a loop at the base allowing you to hold your dog close when needed. Cities are busy, active places, and you need to know where your dog is at all times.

Don’t forget poop bags! You can never have too many. We recommend buying a big, cost-effective roll of 300 earth-rated bags to keep by the door for whenever you go out with your dog. However, we also suggest that you keep a dispenser on your leash for those times you forget your more economical bags.

For those inevitable accidents in the house, the enzymatic, microbial product Anti-Icky-Poo® will help for sterile cleanup.

Toys and chews are what you want your dog to play with and bite into, rather than your shoes and pillows! These items again help organize the dogs, and playing is another way to get out that nervous energy. Find toys that will entertain your dog when he or she is alone, and those that require you as part of the fun. Purchase durable toys that won’t break so your dog does not accidently swallow or choke on parts. Toys are a great investment in your relationship with your dog—good behavior follows fun times.”

Do you have any tried and true advice on living with a happy city dog? Share it with us by leaving a comment below.

About The Fish & Bone:

Originally founded 15 years ago in Portland, Maine, the pet store was rooted in natural diets for dogs and cats, inspiring the name Fish & Bone. Five years ago, they opened a location in Boston, MA. They specialize in pragmatic nutrition and problem solving for pet owners. Supporting people in the animal community is what they do; they look for solutions that are creative and fun, and they make information on pet nutrition accessible. The Fish & Bone strives to find well-designed products both useful and attractive for their customers. Their staff are strong, smart, caring animal lovers, and they tend to stick around, resulting in a great store atmosphere and lots of pet experience. Delivery services are expanding in Boston and are just starting to be offered in Portland; customers love the service! Learn more about them at

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