February 18, 2015

How to Care for a Dog in the City? A Seasoned Puppy Parent Spills.

This is the second in our “Dear Zipcar” series, where we take members’ questions, then tap into our employee knowledge base to share expertise. Got a city-living question of your own? Ask us in the comments below, and you just may see it in a future post.

Dear Zipcar,
I’m happily settled in an apartment in the city and would love to have a dog to take on walks, snuggle with at night, and bring on hikes. However, I don’t understand how so many people are able to care for a dog while being active urbanites. What advice do you have about owning a dog in the big city?

In a Puppy Pickle

Dear Puppy Pickle,

For the past six years I’ve lived in downtown Boston with my bulldog, Bowser, and have learned a thing or two about navigating doggy parenthood in a big city.

Caring for a pup in any environment is definitely time-consuming, but also extremely rewarding. I love coming home to a tail-wagging, body-shaking bully overjoyed to see me. There are thousands of animals in need of a happy home, so please consider adopting at your local shelter or through a great organization such as Best Friends.  

How you care for your pooch in a small city apartment will definitely vary based on breed, size, and age. Bowser loves long walks on the beach, but needs plenty of nap time after. A larger, more active dog may need a bit more exercise than my bulky bulldog. Regardless of your pooch’s playtime preferences, I’ve amassed many tricks, but have selected my top six for new dog owners, especially those who live in the city.

With puppy love,
Lindsay Wester (and Bowser)
Zipcar Public Relations Specialist

1. Designate a special space just for your pup.

No matter the size of your apartment or your pooch, make sure that he or she has a special space to call all his or her own. Dog trainers often refer to this area as the dog’s “place” and use “place” as a command to tell your pup it’s time to relax. Structure is important for puppies, and an important piece of that structure is a comfortable spot with a nice bed, toys, and easy access to water.

Your dog = the perfect companion, in your apartment and out. (Especially at tasty local eatery Bee's Knees.)Your dog = the perfect companion, in your apartment and out. (Especially at tasty local eatery Bee's Knees.)

2. Find a good dog-walking and sitting service.

Whether you work from home or in an office, you will need to have a good, reputable dog-walker or sitter to step in when needed. If you work in an office all day and have an active dog, you will need a dog-walker to come at least once during the day. This service will cost from $15-$20 per walk, which can add up to nearly $300 per month.

If you are fortunate to have a flexible schedule or work from home and do not need daily doggy care, you will still need a good sitter lined up for when you have to go away. Keeping your dog’s routine as consistent as possible is always ideal. Dog-walkers will often agree to stay in your home or visit four times per day to provide food, exercise, and human attention while you are gone. There are also some great services such as rover.com where dog-lovers, who have gone through background checks, will come and stay in your home and watch your pup while you are gone. Or you can spring for DogVacay.

3. Scope out the local dog park hotspots.

Nearly every city neighborhood has local dog parks where people and pups congregate after work. Be sure to scope out the hotspots post-work before bringing home Fido. Once you’ve scouted out your favorite, it will be a great place for your new pup to socialize and meet an array of doggy personalities, as well as for you to meet some new people in your area. Cooing over a cute guy or gal’s dog also acts as a super easy icebreaker. ;)  

Finding an urban park that you and your doggie love? Priceless.Finding an urban park that you and your doggie love? Priceless.

4. Suggest walks in the park instead of drinks after work with friends.

Forget about post-work drinks or dinner. With a new pup at home, he or she will need to be walked and fed before you head out on the town. If heading home and then going back out seems a bit too daunting for a weekday, suggest meeting your friends at a local park, urban walk, or just stroll the streets with Fido together. Your pup will love the extra company, and it’s a great way for you and your buds to catch up while getting a little exercise.

5. Don’t drive without a pet carrier.

Taking your pup to the vet or picking up a 40-pound bag of dog food with your favorite Zipcar? Remember, transporting pets in a carrier is safer for both pet and driver (and one of our rules of the road). (Check out our 6 simple rules here.) Pet carriers are pretty easy to find online or at pet supply stores. Some pups actually like crates because they mimic a dog's den. Cats may require a little more coaxing.

You also mentioned taking hikes. There are some wonderful hikes in and outside of cities across the country. Your pup would love to come along, too, so be sure to put him or her in the crate before you head for the great outdoors together.

When you’ve got a handy crate, communing with nature (or just stopping by the V-E-T — I mean, going for a romp in the park) is a snap.When you’ve got a handy crate, communing with nature (or just stopping by the V-E-T — I mean, going for a romp in the park) is a snap.

6. Love.

In addition to food, walks, and comfortable shelter, all you really need is love. And I promise the more you give, the more you will get. That’s why dogs really are man’s and woman’s best friend.

Coming home to this face is the best reward.Coming home to this face is the best reward.

Got great tips of your own? Share your city-pets know-how in the comments below.