If you talk to 20 different dog owners, breeders or just dog lovers you are sure to find at least 20 different opinions on which dog breeds are best suited to living the big city life. Regardless of what breed you eventually choose there are some traits that owners need to consider very carefully before this selection is finalized. Perhaps the most important consideration that any responsible owner has to consider is how well the dog will be able to adapt. Even if raised in the city from puppies some breeds are simply not going to adjust to confined spaces, lots of close living with others, and a lack of ability to simply get out and run and hunt. Bringing these types of dogs into the city is actually an exercise in futility and disappointment for the owner plus it most definitely poses a form of emotional and behavioral cruelty to the dog.
Since there are so may purebred, hybrid and good old mutts that do adjust well to city living, it is essential to know what these traits are before making the decision as to which canine is the best for you. By considering several traits and rating the dog as either high or low on the scale of tolerating or accepting these situations you can make the best possible breed choice. Hybrids and mixed breeds are a bit more challenging, however if one parent breed would be intolerant or unacceptable for city living it is always best to consider that the puppy may inherit these traits.
Size is very important in selecting a dog that is suitable for city life. It is, however, equally important to keep in mind that some of the smaller dog breeds have a very high activity and energy level, meaning they will be much more active than some of the larger breeds. This can be both good and bad, depending on how much indoor space the dog has access to during the times you are away from home.
Smaller dogs still need to have routine exercise and also need routine training as well. Some can be more difficult to housetrain because of their small size and this, coupled with apartment living and no place to get outside quickly, can really pose a challenge for the owner. Many owners of small or toy-sized dogs that live in apartments choose to litter box or paper-train their dogs to avoid this problem. Obviously this won't work for a large breed of dog unless you have a patio area or other space that could be designated.
Large and giant breeds in the city may also be more problematic to license and keep within specific areas. Some Home Owner Associations and managed housing areas restrict the size of dog that can be owned while others are much more lenient. Be sure to check any city ordinances or regulations within your specific building or area to check for restrictions that may be in place.
Energy and Activity Levels
As mentioned above, how active the dog is cannot be judged just on the dog's size. Often the larger dogs are much calmer and more sedate, requiring less intensive and shorter exercise periods per day than some of the smaller, very hyperactive breeds.
It is important to note that all dogs are going to need routine, longer walks, jogs or hikes every day to stay healthy. This is true even if the dog self-exercises in the house. This is because self-exercising is done in very short bursts, followed by longer periods of relaxation. A dog's body needs to have prolonged periods of activity, even just walking, to aid in digestion, respiration, metabolism and circulation.
High activity and energy dogs in the city are going to be a challenge unless the owner is committed to two or more longer, intensive walks or jogs coupled with exercise times and training per day. Some owners that have access to fenced off-leash areas can provide free run and play time, something that can provide the space and exercise even moderately high activity dogs require. If this cannot be done on a daily basis then the breed really should not be considered.
Socialization and Trainability
First and foremost it is essential for owners of dogs, particularly those in the city, to train and socialize their dogs from puppies to seniors. This is because these dogs are in closer proximity to other animals, dogs, people and children and there is greater risk of dog aggression or dog bites if they aren't socialized and trained. Owners of even the most friendly breeds have to be hyper vigilant in this respect, particularly when they live within the confines of a city or urban area.
Breeds of dogs that are difficult to train or socialize, usually those that are very dominant or independent in temperament, are not recommended as city dogs. This is not because these aren't good animals rather it is just that they are not comfortable in these types of environments. Laws and regulations within city boundaries often ban breeds that are known as aggressive dogs. This is often a direct result of irresponsible owners, not the dogs themselves. Any dog can become aggressive and vicious if abused, incorrectly trained or not trained at all.
Socialization to ensure the dog is not aggressive towards other dogs and pets is also going to be essential. Even if your dog is not aggressive to people if it is dominant or hostile towards other dogs this will restrict how much exercise space you can provide. Decreasing exercise may lead to other problem behaviors and a dog that is very rambunctious and difficult to work with. Dogs that aren't socialized cannot be let off-leash in parks and doggy areas, again further limiting your options for exercise and interaction with other dogs.
The Best Traits
Ideally the dog that you choose as a city companion pet should be a manageable size for your living space, of moderate to low energy or activity levels and have a high degree of socialization and trainability. They also should be dogs that are not prone to barking, digging or chewing since these destructive behaviors are very challenging to correct for most owners.
Start by talking to different breeders, dog owners and even your vet to find out what breeds they recommend. There are also great resources on the internet that provide information on how the particular dog breed will adjust to city living or even living in apartments and homes with small yards. Making the best match based on characteristics, temperament and traits rather than on emotion or physical appearance will ensure you have a positive, happy life together, regardless of where you live.