Keep Your Pets Happy Without a Yard

updated May 6, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Whether you’re a renter or city dweller, living with a yard can come at a premium. The absence of a yard can also seemingly make life for your pet unpleasant, but after six years I can attest that not only can living without a yard be fine, but even fun!

For the past six years my husband and I have lived in Chicago — a city notorious for its lack of yard space. But for each of those years, we’ve lived with a cat, and most recently added a dog to our family. We keep our cat indoors, so save for a few attempted escapes, it hasn’t been an issue for him. Here are some tips we’d reccommend for other pet owners without a yard:

Consider The Level You’ll Live On: We currently live on the first floor of our building, and have direct access to the outdoors. This makes potty trips quick, easy and hassle-free. If we lived on an upper floor, I’m sure going outside would be more time consuming and a nuisance. I can’t personally vouch for these, but many high-rise dwellers swear by training pads and patches of grass such as PetAPotty to get the job done.

Choose Your Breed With Care: Whether your pet is purebred or mutt, it’s important to choose a dog who is well-suited for apartment living and confined spaces. Some dogs need to have a large space to expend their energy and get sufficient exercise. We specifically chose our dog because he is small, well-suited for apartments, and doesn’t need a huge amount of exercise. If you insist on getting an rambunctious and energetic pet, just be prepared to give them tons of playtime and exercise, which brings me to my next point…

Give Them Plenty of Exercise: This is where the fun part comes in. Too many people probably rely to heavily on their yard for their pet’s exercise. But, having a pet is a great excuse to get outside, explore your surroundings, and meet your neighbors and other dog owners. A good rule of thumb would be at least 2-3 walks a day, and the length of time really depends on your pet’s energy level and needs. Also be sure to have a good variety of toys and treats to keep your pets stimulated while at home. If your dog is being crazy, it probably means they’re not getting enough walks and playtime (and your neighbors probably aren’t too happy either).

Frequent The Dog Park: We walk outside so much more, and LOVE our neighborhood dog parks. We’re lucky to have three parks within a half-mile. Dog parks are a great way to let your dog go loose (responsibly) and socialize them with other dogs. We try to go as often as possible (several times a week), and it’s not only fun for my husband and I, but our dog also has a blast. Just be very attentive to your dog and others’ to prevent any problems and stay safe. Many park systems also require that a dog be registered and have a special dog park tag, so check with their rules and regulations.

Invest in a Dog Walker or Doggie Daycare: If you work full time away from home, hire a dog walker, take them to doggie daycare, or drop them off at a pet sitter. No pet wants to, or should, be left alone for extended periods of time — whether indoors or out — for their mental and physical wellbeing. For us, hiring a dog walker was crucial, particularly when we were house training our dog. We were able to have the walker come for several short walks a day, and now we’ve reduced it to a longer single walk. Doggie daycare and and pet sitters are great options if you don’t want your dog unattended, and if you want to keep them active throughout the day.

Bring the Outside In: If your pet is particularly fond of plants, give them their very own to play with. Cats are notorious for eating plants, but some can be toxic. Check out this list of non-toxic plants, and definitely become familiar with this list of common house plants that are toxic to pets.

PetAPotty: A Portable Piece of Lawn?
• Top 10 Tips for Renting with Pets
• The Truth About Cats and Dogs (As Far As Helpful Tips Go)
6 Plants Your Cats Will Love
Socializing Your Pet: And Meeting Your Neighbors
• A Gallery of Dogs at Home