Having a Pet in an Apartment

What’s better than having a pet to greet you at the end of the day? Not much. For a serious reality check, read this post from my colleague Alex. A bit negative for my opinion, but go read it and come back to me.

Still interested in a furry companion? Awesome. So was I. We decided early that we wanted to get a dog. Both my roommate and I grew up with dogs, so living in an apartment without one felt strange and lonely. Sure, pets do bring added responsibility, added expenses and added time. For us, it was worth it. We headed down to our local shelter and came home with the sweetest dog ever. We didn’t do everything perfectly, so here are some tips so you don’t make the same mistakes.


Dog 2

Make sure your building is pet-friendly.

And be warned that even pet-friendly apartment complexes apply a pet fee to your first month’s rent. The worst thing would be hearing from your landlord that pets aren’t allowed after adopting one–so make sure to do your research!

Check with your roommate.

This is a pretty obvious one. Before you do anything, find out if your roommate has allergies that would make your pet a health hazard to your roomie. And even if you claim to take 100% responsibility for your new pet, your roommate will undoubtedly end up taking care of it from time to time, so make sure it’s cool to bring a pet in your shared apartment.

Think through a budget.

Having a pet means additional costs. Food, toys, vet visits, grooming fees…the list goes on. Make sure you have extra income to spend on your pet. For us, we spend about $20 each month. We buy  economy-sized bags of dog food that last a few months (and are only about $20 at Walmart). We buy one durable Nylabone (our dog is a HUGE chewer and shreds any other toy) that keeps her occupied. After a few months–once it has shrunk from 8″ in length to 3″–we buy another one ($15-$20). Vet visits can be really expensive, but many vets offer discounted services to young people OR discounts for pets adopted from shelters. Call around in your community and don’t be afraid to ask about discounts. We spend about $150 on our dog’s annual vet visit,including shots and heartworm medicine.

All good? My advice? Head to a shelter and save a pet’s life. Plus, shelter pets are generally very inexpensive and are usually spayed/neutered and given a health exam, so you avoid other costs too.

Choose a dog that’s 1-2 years old.

Once dogs hit two years old, they generally stop growing, or won’t grow much more. Buying a puppy means a crapshoot on how big it will be. In most first apartments, there’s not room for any huge animal, so be fair to yourself and your future dog. Plus, older dogs tend to be calmer, thus requiring a little bit less attention from you. Walk away from the adorable puppies and to the dogs that are a bit older.

Plan time to spend with your pet.

Animals do require some special attention. Especially dogs. Especially a dog in a small apartment all day. For us, that meant dividing the week and taking our dog on long walks almost every day. That way she got some entertainment and exercise (as did we). This could be something to talk to your roommate about if he or she is a pet lover!

Stick up for yourself.

Many people told us (TO OUR FACES) that they felt bad that our dog is locked up in the apartment all day. Which, to be fair, is a valid concern if we were otherwise bad pet parents. Since we planned out having a dog and budget money for toys and time for walks, she is actually pretty spoiled. This is another reason I endorse adopting from a shelter. Even a small apartment is a million times better for our dog than a shelter!

Our dog has brought my roommate/BF Matt and I SO much joy. If you’re thinking about adopting a pet and have the means to do so, I highly recommend it. Having a pet helps you learn responsibility for another being and a bit of unconditional love! If you’ve found these tips helpful, let me know in the comments!

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Author My First Apartment

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Sarah is a dog lover and advocate for conversation & laughing at your own jokes. Since finishing her college career in communications, she began working (and living) in Atlanta. After living in a few different apartments over the last few years, she's ready to share experiences. Stay tuned for adventures, tips and advice!

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Comments (15)

  1. Avatar Patricia

    It’s nice that you found a pet friendly apartment. Having a puppy is really hard because you have to train them so that they won’t be noisy and all, but even older dogs can be troublesome too. But, you wanted the dog, you gotta bear the responsibilities. There are some types of breeds that are really not good to keep indoors. Those that are so energetic and really need to go outside and run free, but there are also dogs that can just be lazy and lay around the house the whole day. Like a pug, just laying there, watching you do your stuff.

    • Sarah Sarah

      Great point, Patricia! Some breeds of dogs are definitely better suited for apartments. I would recommend small or medium dogs, and again, in any case you absolutely HAVE to commit to taking time to train them. Training isn’t always fun, but it’s so necessary! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Avatar Fabby

    I currently am moving into a 1 bedroom apartment. It’ll be my first place by myself, completely on my own!!… with my baby pup Aries. According to my landlord, due to pet damage from past tenants, the pest deposit is pretty incredulous, and the monthly pet fee is $50 more than what I had originally planned for. Now this will break my heart, but I’ve kind of had the thought of giving my dog away because of the financial strain. What do you think would be wise to do?

    • Sarah Sarah

      Hi Fabby!

      What a hard situation!!! I obviously understand what a puppy can mean to you, but it’s you paying the bills.
      #1 If you’re not totally SET on this apartment you’ve found, look around and see if you can find other competitive prices for pets in apartments. Maybe you can find a different apartment that doesn’t have as strict of a pet policy. The apartment I’m in, for example, doesn’t have a monthly fee. Maybe there’s one like that near where you’d like to live.
      #2 Take a hard look at your budget. Can you realistically afford the fees? Are there things you can cut from your budget in order to afford them?
      In my opinion, your last resort should be finding a reputable shelter or someone you trust to adopt Aries. Buying a pet, a dog in particular, is a big commitment. However, you don’t want to be under financial strain in your first place. Plus, if you’re struggling with money because of Aries, you may not have the money to get him to the vet (that can get expensive) and even food. I hope you can work something out!! Best of luck with this hard decision!

  3. Avatar Adrienne

    I am looking into adopting a dog with my roomate very soon. I was interested if your dog is the one in the included pictures, and if so what breed it is. Also, what do you know about dogs and cats in a space together?
    Thank you!

    • Sarah Sarah

      Hi Adrienne! Yes, that’s my dog in the pictures. (Adorable, right?!) We got her from the shelter, which I highly recommend. Unfortunately, that means we have basically no idea what breed she is. Our best bet is a labrador mixed with spaniel…she does look strikingly like Kate Middleton’s cocker spaniel.

      As for dogs and cats in the same space, I would say it all depends on temperament and getting them used to each other. They don’t feud like in the movies if they are properly acclimated to each other. Make sure you’ve set aside plenty of time for that process–you’ll need to be home with them often. When you’re looking, look for animals that are calm, rather than rowdy. While the crazy ones are cute in the shelter, they’ll likely be just as crazy in your apartment. Let us know if you need anything else. Good luck!!

    • Sarah Sarah

      Hi Brittany! I would try to keep it in your bathroom or out of the way somewhere. If you have a corner in your bedroom, that may work as well. If you’re cleaning it daily, you shouldn’t have a smelly problem. I would just try to keep it out of the sight of guests!

  4. Mary Mary


    I was definitely thinking about getting a dog. But I do have some hardships with it:
    When I go home for the holidays, I can’t take my dog with me. I do work long hours but can make time for an animal. You make it sound manageable, but there has to be some downsides to having a dog. What are the negatives other than cost?

    • Sarah Sarah

      Hi Mary! It really is manageable, as long as you’re really passionate about your pet. I did feel some guilt when we first got her because she is at home alone while I was working. That was the main downside for me. You do also have to plan around them–it’s like having a baby in some ways! You will have to plan to board your dog or leave her with a friend when you go home for the holidays. That could be expensive or taxing on your friends.

      You do also have to train your dog well, especially to make it manageable in a small space. We were lucky–Hanley is very docile. Not all dogs are like that. If you aren’t patient or have never trained a dog before, those are things to consider (think barking–you’ll have to teach your dog not to bark while you’re away). There’s also risk of damaging your apartment. We do have a few stains on our carpet (from before Hanley was potty-trained) and we will likely be penalized for that by our complex when we move out.

      Overall, if you are passionate about it, you can make it work. If you’re on the fence, though, it may be best to wait a couple of years until you are more settled or in a permanent home. If you really want a pet, maybe consider one that requires less maintenance. I hate to recommend a cat (I’m a serious dog person), but cats make great apartment pets.

      Hope this helps, Mary! Let me know what you decide!

      • Mary Mary

        Sarah, haha I definitely can’t do cats! haha I don’t have carpets so that solves that problem. I think you helped me finally pick a side. I’ll let you know which dog i get =)

  5. Avatar John Donovan

    Take a look around your neighborhood and see what green spaces are available! Most dogs love to play and that means grass. If it’s a mile to the nearest park you have to account for that.

    • Sarah Sarah

      John – That is a great point! Our complex is very pet friendly. It has a fenced dog park and even an outdoor tub to bathe dogs in! If you already have a dog, consider finding apartment complexes that offer amenities like these.