WELLBEING: Owning a Dog in the City – What You Need to Know

Owning a dog in the city isn’t all sidewalk espressos and pawdicures. Cities are full of busy streets, funny smells and distractions galore. All of this can wreak havoc with a dog. StyleTails talks to Nicole Scott from City Dog – experts in training dogs for urban living, to give us the facts on owning a dog in the city. 

Can dogs really live happily in the city? 

Of course dogs can live happily in the city – thousands of them do so every day! – but it is easier to meet the needs of some dogs in the countryside particularly herding, hauling, and guarding breeds. That’s not to say these breeds don’t “belong” in the city, just that it might take more work to keep them in balance.

Before getting a dog in a city like London, what would you say are the most important things people should consider?

TEMPERAMENT TEMPERAMENT and TEMPERAMENT! The most important thing to consider when getting a dog as a pet is its TEMPERAMENT. Are you looking for Mr. Sensitive? Mr. cheeky mischief-maker? Mr. jog and hike and swim and camp? Quiet and strong? Yippie and licky? Lazy and cuddly? Being honest about the attitude and behavior you want in your pet will help guide you to the right breed and more importantly, the right individual dog.

Is lack of space an issue for people who own dogs in the city?

The size of the owners home is largely irrelevant when selecting a dog. A dog should not be exercised or allowed to get too excited inside anyway (indeed I usually tell clients that if a dog is inside it might as well be asleep) so as long as a dog is being properly trained and exercised outdoors the size of the dwelling is completely irrelevant.

Can almost any breed be adapted to city life? 

Yes, but some will take a lot more work than others. If you’ve absolutely got your heart set on a breed that you know may not be well suited to city life then it is extra important to get professional help in selecting a dog. A professional will at least make sure you buy from a good bloodline of dogs with sound temperament, and may also be able to help you choose a dog whose drive and emotional reactivity make him a good candidate for city life.

‘Rabbit’ – A Dog in the City

What are some of the most common behavioural issues you encounter while training dogs in urban environments and how easy are they to treat?

We see the full spectrum of behavioral disorders from the various types of anxiety (separation anxiety – dogs who can’t be left on their own, generalized anxiety – where dogs are frightened of the environment as a whole, specific anxiety – where dogs get frightened of a specific thing like people wearing hats or traffic or skateboards) to fear and aggression.

Dogs are individuals, that’s what makes the job so much fun. Every dog we meet teaches us something new. Some dogs will give up behavioural issues very quickly, others will require months of work, and some will never fully recover and the owner will have to use a management strategy and adapt to life with a behaviourally disordered dog.

What is the biggest mistake people make when choosing a dog for the city?

Not realizing that a dog’s temperament is heavily influenced by his genetics. Behavioural disorders like anxiety and aggression run in bloodlines – learn how to properly evaluate the breeding stock before you agree to buy a dog.

What is the best piece of advice you would give owners who live in the city?

Get professional advice. Most trainers will have a phone conversation for free. Call a professional, be honest about your lifestyle and what you want to do with your pet, and let them help you select a breed, bloodline, and individual dog that will suit you. If more of my clients did this I’d be out of a job!

For more information on owning and training a dog for city life contact City Dog:  www.city-dog.co.uk


Sara is the Founder & Editor of StyleTails. A writer, design-lover and long-time animal-hugger, Sara launched StyleTails in 2012 to inspire people live a more beautiful life with their four-legged friends. Along with her canine sidekick George, a rescue Yorkie with a big attitude, Sara regularly commentates on luxury pet product and lifestyle trends and has been featured in Elle Decoration, BBC Radio, and is also an expert contributor to WGSN, the leading design trend forecaster.

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