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Having A Dog In the City

50 Cent holding his dog
Artist 50 Cent & his pup

Urban and city-dwelling dogs face several challenges due to their living environment. Many people ask about having a dog in the city, training dogs in New York City and other urban areas. For dogs living in the city, it is a whole other world than it is for dogs living in the country. It is a big commitment to have a dog in the city and it is important that you realize how much work is involved. It isn't just as simple as opening the door and letting them go outside to play or do their business. Dogs can lead happy and fulfilling lives in urban areas, provided that they are environmentally desensitized as puppies and that you are dedicated to their happiness and success by offering proper training, and a lot of exercise and are prepared to help your city dog overcome challenges.


Some of the challenges that dogs living in the city will encounter include:


small dog in winter gear
Protecting a small dog for winter walking
  1. Lack of space: Urban areas may have limited space for dogs to run and play, leading to decreased exercise opportunities which can impact their physical and psychological health. Dogs that are cooped up in an apartment all day may become restless, bored and even destructive.

  2. Noise and pollution: City streets can be noisy and polluted, which can be stressful for dogs and potentially have negative effects on their respiratory system. It is important not to allow your dog to pick things up off of the ground such as crack vials, hypodermic syringes, other dogs feces, salt, etc. When walking your dog on city streets, if he or she puts their head down to sniff around, you should pop the leash and vocally communicate to your dog to heel, bringing your dog back into obedience and being a pack/team member.

  3. Lack of socialization: Dogs in the city may not have as many opportunities to socialize with other dogs compared to those living in more rural areas, which can lead to behavioral issues. Dog parks should be considered gladiator rings/arenas. They are not conducive to proper dog socialization and many times going to a dog park with your dog results in your dog being traumatized by one or more of the dogs. If your dog is bitten by another dog during its puppyhood, it could traumatize the dog for life creating a reactive dog, a fear barker and/or a fear biter. You should socialize your puppy/dog with dogs that you know are safe.

  4. Safety concerns: Cities and urban environments can pose safety risks such as traffic, crowded streets, and encounters with potentially aggressive dogs or people. In order to live in an urban environment, a dog must have genetically sound nerves, and not have experienced trauma in its early life in order to be able to coexist in such a busy environment.

  5. Lack of access to green spaces: Dogs may have limited access to parks (for walking on leash) or green spaces for exercise and mental stimulation, which are important for their overall well-being.


Dog trainer Jim Stiles in New York City with German Shepherd
Dog trainer Jim Stiles in New York City with his German Shepherd

Overall, urban and city-dwelling dogs may require extra attention and care to ensure they are happy, healthy, and safe. It takes a lot of desensitization and neutralizing a dog to the external stimulus is of an urban environment. Not all dogs can do it and it can be torturous to them. An interesting scenario that I experienced in New York City was with my female German Shepherd during the holiday season on 6th Avenue and 51st Street. She encountered pigeons and went ballistic. When she was a puppy, at about 8 weeks old, a hawk attempted to take her and my male German Shepherd who was 20 months old saved her. Since then she has been vigilant about anything that flies, super vigilant. She was good with the traffic and all the people which was very very busy. But when she saw pigeons she went nuts trying to attack them. If you have a dog in the city, it is very important that they are trained correctly by a professional dog trainer, desensitized to many scenarios such as the above mentioned, and that you are prepared to react accordingly to any potential situation that you and your dog may encounter.

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