Big Dogs In Small Spaces: Apartment Life With Large Breeds

Big Dogs In Small Spaces: Apartment Life With Large Breeds

Living in an apartment alongside a big dog breed can be pretty challenging. In addition to the physical space your pooch takes up, you’ll have to figure out a way to ensure he gets to get outside and stretch his legs a bit.

Dealing With Size Restrictions

In many cases, it can be difficult to find an apartment that is willing to rent to owners of large dogs. While many apartments welcome small dogs with open arms, it is getting more and more difficult to find a place willing to accept a large breed.

Most apartment complexes set weight limits for dogs in the 20- to 40-pound range, and hardly any will accept really big dogs, weighing more than 75 pounds or so. However, they do exist, you’ll just have to look harder and sacrifice in other areas.

For example, you may be able to find a place willing to take your Saint Bernard, but it may not be as affordable as you’d like or in an ideal location. Some apartment complexes even embrace big-dog owners, but such places rarely exist outside of large urban centers.

Trying to Measure a Dog

Don’t forget that you can negotiate with some apartment managers. This isn’t often possible when dealing with nation-wide apartment chains, as they often implement hard-and-fast rules forbidding such dogs.

On the other hand, smaller management firms are often willing to accept your pet if you offer to put down a second deposit or agree to pay slightly more money – essentially, you’ll be paying “pet rent.”

It's also worth seeing if you can introduce your pup to your potential landlord, so that you can show him or her how well trained and sweet your pooch is. But you’ll need to be positive your dog will be on his best behavior before doing so, otherwise you may find your attempts to allay the apartment manager’s fears will backfire.

Breed Restrictions

Unfortunately, a lot of apartment complexes have started implementing breed restrictions. As anyone familiar with dogs knows, breed-specific restrictions are usually ill-conceived and based on reputation and myth, rather than science or fact.

But this doesn’t change the fact that it may be difficult for you to find an apartment willing to take in your Doberman, Rottweiler or pit bull. Some complexes even extend their breed restrictions to include everything from Cane Corsos to Shar-Peis.

If you don’t yet have a dog, it is probably wise to avoid selecting one of those breeds that frequently appear on these restricted lists; but if you’ve already introduced one of these “scary” dogs to your family, you’ll just have to look harder to find an apartment that accepts them.

Sad puppy next to a pair of slippers

This brings up an important point: Be careful when identifying your dog on paperwork as belonging to any breed unless you know for sure what he or she is. For example, if you roll down to the local shelter and pick up a 60-pound dog that looks somewhat like a pit bull, you’re probably better off identifying it as a mixed breed dog, and leaving out your assumptions.

It's largely impossible to determine the breeds that combined to make most shelter dogs, and most have family trees populated by a variety of different breeds and mixtures thereof. Accordingly, by simply calling your dog a mutt or mixed breed, you may be able to avoid some difficulties down the line.

Adapting To Apartment Life

Living in an apartment with a dog – particularly a large dog – will often require you and your pooch to adjust your lifestyle to cope with life in a tiny place. Some of the things you’ll need to keep in mind while making the transition include:


If you live in a home with a large yard, you can usually just open up the door to let your pup go in and out throughout the day (you could even install a doggie door to free yourself of this responsibility). However, you’ll need to start walking your dog three to four times each day when you move into a multi-family unit.


Repetitive barking will not only irritate you, it will irritate your neighbors as well. This can lead to complaints and general ill-will among the residents of your unit. Some dogs are more prone to barking than others, so it makes sense to select a dog that is not a notoriously vocal breed.

However, you can also use a bark-control collar to help quiet your dog; there are several styles available, including those that deliver a mild shock when your dog barks and those that spray a mist of citronella to distract your dog during a barking frenzy.


Even the best trained dogs have the occasional accident. While this isn’t necessarily a problem if you can clean up the mess quickly, urine can soak into a carpet or wood floor if it occurs while you are away at work. This is problematic in your own home, but it is even worse in an apartment. Not only can these problems lead to lingering odors, they may cause you to lose your security deposit.


From time to time, even the calmest dogs feel the need to run around the apartment at full speed. This can lead to broken belongings and scratched floors, which will cost you money, and it can also irritate the residents living below you. To help limit this phenomenon, be sure to get your pup plenty of exercise and stimulation throughout the day.

5 Great Big Breeds For Apartments

If you love big dogs, but live in the confined spaces of an apartment, you’ll want to ensure you pick a breed that can thrive in such a setting. Although this list is far from exhaustive, the following five make excellent choices.


Hailing from China, Shar-Peis have been bred to perform a variety of tasks throughout the history of the breed, from protection work to herding duties. Modern Shar-Peis are pretty laid back, and they have relatively little space or exercise. These wrinkled pups are often a bit bristly with strangers and other dogs, so they require proper training and socialization from an early age.

Shar-Pei running on grass

Irish Wolfhound

Wolfhounds will require a pretty lengthy walk or three to obtain their exercise needs, but they are usually well-mannered indoors and unlikely to bark very often. Plus, while their size can make them intimidating to many people, their playful expression helps soften their otherwise imposing impression.

English Bulldog

English bulldogs (or simply bulldogs, as they are now officially named) may not be very tall, but they often reach 50 pounds, which certainly qualifies as a moderately large dog. Bulldogs are one of the very best breeds for apartment life, as they require very little exercise and spend most of their time lounging about.


Despite their gargantuan size, mastiffs are some of the best big dogs for apartment life, as they’re essentially couch potatoes. Of course, they’ll still need to get out and get some exercise on a regular basis, but you won’t have to take them running or biking every day to keep them healthy.

Great Dane

Great Danes are gigantic, but they have relatively low energy levels and are content to hang out with you on the couch for lengthy periods of time. While Danes are generally gentle, they take up a lot of space and will likely crash into stuff from time to time, so they’ll fare better in apartments decorated with a minimalist approach.

Great Dane sitting on a sofa

5 Terrible Big Breeds For Apartments

On the other side of the coin, some dogs are absolutely terrible choices for apartment life, and cohabiting with them inside a tiny apartment will quickly drive you crazy.

German Shorthair Pointers

As their name implies, German shorthairs were bred to sniff out concealed game birds and point out their location. Accordingly, they have the energy and stamina to walk all day. It is hard to get them sufficient exercise while living in an apartment unless you go running every day, and they’re also a bit rambunctious, which can lead to additional headaches.

Great Pyrenees

A sheep-guarding breed, Great Pyrenees are not built to live inside an apartment all day – they have a lot of energy, they need a lot of exercise and the want to be outside, hanging out with their family or flock.

Additionally, while they do reach large sizes, they look even bigger than they really are, thanks to their long coat. This coat also sheds by the fistful, and hair will coat everything you own within a few weeks.

Siberian Husky

Pity the poor apartment-dwelling husky, who is unable to travel widely and wander at will. Huskies are undeniably beautiful and their luxurious coats are matched by only a few other breeds, but they are simply poorly suited for life in an apartment.


Goofy, loving and full of energy, Weimaraners are one of the worst breeds to confine to an apartment. Weimaraners were bred to be hunting dogs, that would chase large game for miles at a time. Obviously, life in an apartment will leave them feeling cramped.


Rottweilers need plenty of territory to patrol and you’ll need to wear them out on a daily basis to avoid behavioral problems. Additionally, while they are extremely loving and gentle with their families, Rotties can be quite territorial, which will lead to a lot of barking at people and pets passing by the window.

Rottweiler puppy looking sad

Final Word

It can be challenging to live alongside a big dog in a relatively small apartment, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Just try to select a breed that is well-suited for this type of lifestyle, and get your pup enough exercise to make up for his lack of space.

What kinds of things have you done to make puppy parenting easier in an apartment? We’d love to hear the strategies that have worked and which ones haven’t. Let us know all about them in the comments below.

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