Thinking of moving to an urban location? Or do you live in the city and are considering getting a pet? In the U.S., over 90 million families have a pet. And many live in a 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 safe, healthy, and happy.
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Socialize Your Pets–They Are Going to Meet Your Neighbors!
Taking frequent walks with your pet is critical. Just going out to public areas and walking around will help him or her grow more comfortable with the world and people around. 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. Look up which cafes, outdoor restaurants, parks, shops and more are pet-friendly and take your pup on your daily outings.
Keep in mind, not all people like dogs and not all dogs are friendly. So be sure to ask if it's ok for your dog to approach a person or another dog you meet on a walk instead of assuming it is.
If you want to socialize your pup with other dogs, some of the best places to do so are trips to a pet store, doggie daycare and dog parks. Take your friend for an outing to a pet store (for a few snacks or favorite new toy) and you are likely to run into other dogs to say hello. If you want to give your pup some off leash play time but aren't comfortable going to a dog park, a doggie daycare could be a good option. Not only are the play sessions supervised by professionals but it can give your pup a fun day while you are otherwise occupied.
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.
Once you know your dog is friendly and won't be overwhelmed by a group of dogs, get to know local dog parks. They are a great way to make friends (both dog and human) and you can set up play dates with the dogs your pup likes best.
Socializing is good, but we all need our downtime as well. Schedule ample alone time too. This may sound counterproductive when trying to socialize a pet, but he/she may get a little too used to being around other people and dogs. Making certain the dog is comfortable on its own will help to prevent separation anxiety.
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 is a 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 your pup under your control by rewarding him with treats when he stays calm.
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 they can’t calm down on their own. You simply want to help them adjust from being nervous so they can overcome their fear before your big move.
Get Your Pet Microchipped
You may want to take extra steps to ensure the safety of your pet by microchipping 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. 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.
Consider Your Space & Dog Breed
If you are living in the city and are considering getting a dog, below are some websites that list the best breeds for apartment living—and the lists may surprise you! While there are a number of small dogs, great danes also make the list as they tend to be lower energy dogs. It's not just about size but personality. And another thing to keep in mind is your neighbors would surely appreciate a dog that doesn't do excessive barking.
- Reader's Digest: These 13 Breeds Make the Best Apartment Dogs
- DailyPaws: The 11 Best Dogs for Apartment Dwellers
- American Kennel Club: Best Dogs for Apartments
What about if you already have a pooch (who may not be on the list) and you are moving to the city? Larger, high energy dogs can still enjoy city life when given enough exercise and stimulation. Daily trips to a dog park, weekend hikes and occasional days at daycare can go a long way with keeping a dog exercised, socialized and happy.
Keep Your Cat Engaged & Happy
While our city feline friends may not get out and about as much as our pups, they need plenty of entertainment and love to keep them happy and well adjusted. Here are a few tips for providing a great living space and entertainment for apartment cats.
- Give them a big window/perch to watch life go by
- Buy a tall cat tree so they can climb and sit up high
- Provide a scratching post
- Play games with hiding treats or treat puzzles
- Spend quality time playing with and loving them
Enjoy Living in a Walkable Neighborhood
Urban neighborhoods offer a lot of opportunities to exercise and social your pet. 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 can offer lots of 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 by many humans, felines and canine companions.
Take our quiz to see which DC area neighborhood may be right for you and your pets.