Thinking of moving to an urban location? Well, you're not alone. People are moving to urban areas in record numbers, causing growth in U.S. cities to exceed growth in suburbs for the first time in decades. By 2050, 70% of the world population will live in an urban area–that's 6 billion people. But does higher density mean you'll have to sacrifice pet ownership for the sake of city living?
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Moving to the city doesn't require pets to be left behind. In the U.S., there is approximately one dog for every 4 humans– that's more than 80 million pups, and rising! And many will live in an city neighborhood, so their owners need to make these urban environments inviting for them and their four-legged friends. Here are a few things you should know to keep your pets stay safe, healthy, and happy.
Socialize Your Pets–They Are Going to Meet Your Neighbors!
Taking frequent walks with your pet is critical. Just going out to public area and walking around will help him (or her?) grow more comfortable with the world and people around him. From cars and bikes on city streets, to the mailman and deliveries, the world becomes a lot less scary or overwhelming when you've seen it a few times.
Keep your buddy on a short leash and get your exercise on—there’s lots to see and plenty to smell. Take different routes, and encourage your pet to meet new friends and experience a wide variety of sights and sounds.
One of the best places to socialize your dog in advance is a pet store or groomer. Not only are there other dogs and humans to meet, but there are a LOT of foreign smells and toys for your dog to experience.
Schedule ample alone time too. This may sound counterproductive when trying to socialize a pet, but she may get a little too used to being around other people and dogs. Making certain she's comfortable on her own will help to prevent separation anxiety.
Acclimate Your Pet to Noise
This is a big deal. Many of us have trouble with unexpectedly loud noises – especially the constant interruptions caused by traffic, horns, and voices from the street. City living can require quite an adjustment for you and your pets. Loud sounds may be especially alarming to dogs, due to their sensitive hearing. It can cause trembling, shaking, hiding, or even destructive behavior if these noises make your pet anxious.
So, it’s important to condition your cat or dog to loud noises before your move to the city. According to experts, cuddling or consoling your dog when a noise startles them is not helpful. In effect, you're communicating that there is something to be afraid of, reinforcing their fear response.
Instead, you may help your dog acclimate with the following steps:
- Play recordings of the sounds that cause your dog to become the most anxious, such as the sound of fireworks or thunderstorms
- Keep your dog in a closed room with the recording playing at a low volume
- Feed your pet small treats to reduce any negative association with the noise
- Increase the volume slightly every few minutes
- Keep the recording at the greater volume until your dog calms down on his or her own
- Reward your dog with treats when he or she settles down after each noise increase
The key is to raise the level of noise very slowly so your pet doesn’t have an extreme reaction and reach a point where he can’t calm down on their own. You simply want help them adjust from being nervous so they can overcome their fear before your big move.
Consider Getting Your Pet Microchipped
In a busy urban area, you may want to take extra steps to ensure the safety of your pet. An easy way to do this is by microchipping your pet to significantly increase your chances of recovery should you become separated.
Both cats and dogs can be be chipped, which is especially beneficial for cats that often don’t wear collars with a means of identification. A recent study showed that lost cats that didn’t have microchips were returned less than 2% of the time. If your cat is microchipped, however, you’re 20 times more likely to be reunited.
If your pet goes missing and ends up in a shelter or vet clinic, they will be scanned for the microchip. The number will be called into the pet recovery service and your furry friend will be back home in no time. Be certain to register your pet’s microchip beforehand in a national pet recovery database, such as HomeAgain. Also, remember to keep your contact information up to date whenever you move or change phone numbers.
Train Them to Walk on a Leash
Many people think that dogs should just innately know how to walk politely on a leash, but this skill that needs to be trained. Fortunately, this is one of the easier skills to teach a dog and his owner.
Get them used to wearing a collar and leash by letting them walk around the house while wearing one, while playing with them and giving them treats. They will get excited when the leash comes out!
Practice inside and around the yard. Now that your dog enjoys wearing the leash, walk around for a few steps in a room with little distraction. Feeling and seeing the leash in your hand may take some getting used to. Focus on walking around the yard, where the dog is familiar with his surroundings.
Once your dog is used to some distractions on the leash, it's time to take a test run. Start off small, just up and down the same street a few times, and keep him on a short leash when there are obvious distractions coming. Other dogs or walkers will be hard to resist for the first few encounters, just be sure to keep them under your control by rewarding him with treats when he stays calm.
Enjoy Living in Walkable Neighborhoods
Most urban areas offer extensive opportunities to walk. You and your dog can equally enjoy the benefits of pedestrian-friendly features.
Before you move, look up which restaurants, coffee shops and parks near you are pet-friendly. Believe it or not, your cat can benefit from a nearby dog park as well, but not how you might think; when you take your dog to the park, your cat is free to explore your entire home without being disturbed by the presence of your dog!
Before you venture to a dog park, make sure you brush up on the proper etiquette. Your dog should be fully immunized before attending the park, and this may take up to four months to complete.
Only friendly, well-trained dogs will be welcome at the park. The last thing you want is for your pet get into a fight, so make sure you’re supervising your dog at all times. Make sure you clean up after your dog, too. Lastly, be sure to bring water for your pet so you don’t have to rely on the park to have water available.
Hopefully with these tips and some firsthand experience, you and your pet will enjoy a seamless move to your new neighborhood. Living in an urban environment offers big health and entertainment benefits for both humans and their four-legged friends. With nearby parks, pedestrian-focused design, and pet-friendly businesses, these neighborhoods are happily called home.