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How to Prepare Your Small Dog for Apartment Living

Just because your dog is small doesn’t mean it will enjoy living in a small space. If you have a small dog and will soon be moving from a house with a yard to an apartment, there are several steps you can take to get your pooch ready for apartment living. Even if you have already made the move to an apartment, there are many things you can do to help your dog adjust and remain comfortable in its new home.

Getting Your Dog Ready for Apartment Living

1. Limit outdoor time in the yard during the last two to three weeks before moving. Outdoor space will be limited in the new apartment. Taking your small dog out in the yard less often before moving will help it get used to no longer having a yard for running around.

  • Try not to abruptly stop taking your dog out in the yard. Make the transition gradual. This will give your dog time to adjust.
  • Try shortening outside time a little more every few days. If your dog is used to being outside for two hours total every day, try shortening the time to an hour and 45 minutes. After three to four days of that, cut the time down to an hour and a half. Continue cutting the total time until the move.
  • You can start shortening time outside in the yard each time you take the dog out to use the bathroom. Rather than let the dog run around, bring him back in as soon as he’s done.

2. Walk your dog twice a day during the last week before the move. Small dogs need exercise just like larger ones, but the opportunity to be outside will be limited in the apartment. A walk in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening will give your dog the daily exercise it needs. Plus, starting the walks before the move will help your dog adapt to its new routine after the move.

3. Spend time playing with your dog indoors every day. Once you move, you’ll no longer be able to play with your dog out in the yard whenever you want. Getting your dog used to indoor playtime before the move can help it more easily adjust to the new apartment. After the move, your dog will probably look forward to indoor playtime together.

  • Play fetch with a soft toy that won’t knock over any breakable items in your apartment.
  • Play hide and seek with a bone, ball, or dog toy. Show your dog the item, then hide it somewhere and let your pooch find it.
  • Practice old and new tricks, such as sit or roll over. Let your dog proudly show you he’s still good at tricks he’s already learned. Then challenge him by teaching a new trick.
  • Create a small obstacle course for your dog to navigate. Choose an area with the most open floor space, such as the living room. Then set up a few items for the dog to climb or jump over, or to go around or crawl through. You can use boxes, crates, chairs, baskets, or anything you have on hand.

4. Introduce your dog to training pads. Training pads work great with small dogs. The pads can absorb any accidents your dog might have in the new apartment. You can also choose to train your dog to intentionally go on the training pads all the time since you won’t have a yard for the dog to go in.

  • Place training pads in areas of your home similar to where you plan to have them in the apartment. For instance, keep one in or near the bathroom and do the same once you move. This will help your dog more easily find the pads after moving to the new place.

5. Purchase training pads and other supplies before moving to the apartment. Gathering many of the items you’ll need for your dog in the new apartment ahead of time will make things easier on you after the move. You and your dog will both be better prepared for life in the apartment.

  • Items you might need for your small dog in the apartment include training pads, a leash for walks, and toys for indoor playtime.

Adjusting to the New Apartment

1. Develop a routine in the new apartment right away. Your dog will become comfortable in its new home more quickly when it knows what to expect. Develop a schedule for everything, from feeding and walking the dog to outdoor bathroom breaks and playtime. Try to do everything around the same time each day.

2. Have one person stay home while the other is out, if possible, until the dog adjusts. If you live with a partner, roommate, or family member, your dog will feel less anxious about its new home in the apartment if someone is always there during the first few weeks. When one of you is out, the other can stay with the dog. This isn’t always possible due to work schedules and other commitments, but doing it when you can will be comforting to your dog.

  • It shouldn’t be necessary to continue having someone stay home indefinitely. Once your dog shows signs of feeling at ease in the apartment, try leaving it home alone. You can tell your dog is feeling comfortable when it holds its ears and tail in their natural, relaxed positions when you are getting ready to leave.
  • Skip this step if you live alone.

3. Experiment with leaving the apartment without your dog for short time periods. Your dog might be nervous about being in a new home and feel anxious when you’re not there. Even the smallest dog can become too noisy and annoy the neighbors when barking for its owner. To help your pup get used to being without you in the new apartment, step out briefly. Check your mail, chat with a neighbor down the hall, or run a quick errand. As your dog gets used to you being away for short periods of time, it will also be less anxious when you’re gone longer.

4. Create a comfortable space with things that are familiar to your dog. A space where your dog can get cozy, or take a break when needed, will help your dog feel safe and comfortable in its new home.

  • Make the space comfortable by placing familiar items there, such as a favorite toy or blanket. These should be items your dog had in the old home before the move.
  • You can use your dog’s bed or crate to create a space that is exclusively for your dog.

Keeping Your Dog Happy in the Apartment

1. Keep the dog in a crate while you are out of the apartment. If your dog is extremely nervous every time you leave, it might feel more comfortable in a crate while you are gone. Depending on your dog, you don’t necessarily have to lock it in the crate. It can be comforting just having the crate as a safe place for the dog to take refuge when you’re out.

  • For more details about crate training, read Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy.

2. Take your dog out for daily walks. Even the smallest dogs need daily exercise. Since your pup no longer has its own yard to run and play in every day, you’ll need to schedule daily walks. A walk first thing in the morning and another one late afternoon will keep your dog healthy and happy.

  • Walk your dog for at least 20-30 minutes each time.
  • Getting your dog outdoors daily prevents your pet from being cooped up in the apartment for too long, which can lead to unwanted behaviors such as chewing on furniture.

3. Take your dog outside for regular potty breaks if not using training pads. Your dog will probably need to go to the bathroom at least three times during the day. If you don’t plan to use indoor training pads, take your dog out to use the bathroom once each in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

4. Take your dog to a park at least once a week. In addition to daily walks, your pooch will benefit from more extensive exercise at least one day each week. A walk in any park is great, but parks designated specifically for dogs are excellent places for allowing your pup to stretch its legs and run around freely.

  • Exercising your dog regularly will keep it happy in your new, smaller home, and your dog will look forward to weekly trips to the park.

5. Hire someone to check on your dog during the day. If you are away at work all day, having someone else stop by your apartment can be reassuring to your dog. Family members, friends, or neighbors are all people to ask. If they aren’t able to check on the dog, you can hire a pet sitter to stop in and visit your pup or take it for a walk.

6. Maintain indoor playtime daily. Keep up with the indoor playtime you introduced your dog to before moving. The routine will help your dog remain comfortable in its new home. It’s also a great time for the two of you to bond and the activity will give your dog additional exercise.

7. Schedule a doggie play date for your pooch. Your dog can benefit from playtime with other dogs. Find a neighbor in your apartment building who also has a dog and plan time to let the dogs play together.

  • Since your dog is small, it would be best to find another small dog to play with it. A larger dog can quickly overwhelm your smaller one.
  • Find another dog owner and walk your dogs together.
  • Get to know other small dog owners at your local park or dog park and plan to meet up at the same time each week.


  • Helping your dog adjust to apartment living before moving will make the transition easier for both of you.
  • Give your dog plenty of exercise each week since you no longer have a yard for your dog to run around in.
  • Take time out to play with your dog every day to keep it happy in its new apartment home.


  • These tips work best with small dogs and might not be successful with large dog breeds.
  • Your dog might not use the training pads in the apartment at first, so be ready to clean up doggie accidents.