Dogs that live in the city need just as much exercise as dogs that live in suburban areas or even in the country. Since most downtown dogs live in apartments or homes with smaller yards, owners are going to have to be more responsible for daily walks, exercise times and finding room for the dog to run and play. Before considering a dog if you do live in the city, it is important to make a commitment to providing the exercise the dog needs on a routine, multiple times a day basis. With this commitment you can rest assured that your dog will be content, calm and well-behaved, provided of course you also provide socialization and training on a regular basis.
Finding a place to exercise your dog in the city can be difficult. In some areas this is made even more challenging because all of the beautiful, grassy and landscaped city parks are off limits to dogs, even if they are well-behaved and kept on a leash. Unfortunately the actions of irresponsible dog owners are often to blame for these restrictions, punishing those responsible dog owners that would clean up after their dogs and keep them on their leashes.
Thankfully there are many different groups and organizations within most cities that maintain dog parks and dog off-leash areas. These places can be a great place to allow your dog to run about and just be a dog, playing with other dogs and exploring to his or her heart's content. These facilities are typically safety fenced with either wooden or chain linked fences, although as an owner you do need to understand these parks are "use at your own risk". Walking around the area where your dog will be playing is a good idea to check the fence for any signs of breaks or potential areas where dogs can get out.
Off-leash areas may or may not have anyone patrolling or monitoring the parks. It is important to realize that even if rules are not posted there are always expectations for individuals using these facilities. The first is that all dog owners will clean up after their own dogs and deposit the waste material within the trash bins located within the dog off-leash area or the dog park area. Usually there are bags provided for this, however each owner should also bring their own to allow the area to stay clean. Fecal material can carry many different types of viruses, bacteria and parasites so clean up really is a very real safety concern.
It is also important to make sure that your dog is well socialized and is not dog aggressive before turning them off the leash to play with the other dogs. If your dog is not fully socialized or you are not sure they won't become aggressive consider using a retractable leash and just interacting with one other calm dog. Once your dog is comfortable with this, bring in a couple more calmer dogs or try using the park when there is only a very few dogs off leash. This is a great way to provide socialization training that is safe for both your dog as well as other canines.
Dogs interacting with dogs is really one of the best forms of play and exercise. The mental stimulation of the socialization combines with the rough and tumble play to really give your dog a full body and mind workout. Dogs that routinely play and socialize with other dogs tend to be calmer and more relaxed, even when away from the other dogs. Of course training is also important, but this is certainly a key component. This is particularly true for breeds that tend to be dominant by nature, which actually includes many of the toy and small breeds.
You can also walk your dog on city streets and sidewalks, however you do need to choose your route carefully. For dogs that are nervous or timid find low traffic areas with few pedestrians or vehicles, then as their comfort level grows gradually start walking in more heavily used areas and streets. It may also be a good idea to find a walking friend that also has a dog, ideally one that is calm and relaxed around people and cars. Your dog will take cues from the other dog as to how to react.
Leash training a dog in the city is a must and should be started within the first few weeks of bringing the puppy home. Obedience classes will focus on leash training since this is really the only way to keep your dog safe and secure while exercising and walking in the city. Never allow a dog to walk with you in the city or in a heavy traffic area off-leash, no matter how well trained at heeling they may be. All it takes is one sudden movement and your dog can be in the middle of traffic, often with very tragic results.
Retractable leashes are very popular for walking dogs since they give owners the option to allow long leads or short, depending on the area where they are. Retractable leashes are great for fully trained dogs but can be very confusing for puppies and young dogs just learning how to walk at your side. If you are using a retractable leash be sure to use command to allow your dog to understand that he or she can move away from you without getting into trouble, even though they are still on the leash. Keep in mind that a retractable leash still is not the same as having a wide open space to run and most dog's won't fully engage in running and playing while on the leash.
A day out of the city can provide a wonderful opportunity for you and your dog to just get away. Look for state or federal parks, quiet rural roads, beaches or open areas that you can use to take your dog out for a bit of a break. You may even find that a local farmer is willing to provide space for you to walk and run your dog provided that you clean up any mess. It is always worthwhile asking around as finding a great spot to allow your dog to run is a real asset to your pet's health.