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Big dogs can survive – and even thrive – in a urban environments and apartments. What’s essential to your dog's well-being is an understanding of the differing needs of  large dogs and a strong commitment to meeting them.

“Big dogs can actually be an asset in the city,” said Laurie Bleier, Director of the Brooklyn Animal Friends Network. “Big dogs offer protection and safety when you’re out walking.” And while excessive barking might cause a problem with neighbors, the occasional bark or woof may well deter potential robbers; most have no desire to tangle with a dog. Moreover, living in a small apartment does not necessarily preclude owning a big dog. “Even if you have a 36-room mansion, a big dog is still likely to always be underfoot. The dog wants to be near you,” Bleier said. “You just have to be ready and willing to take the dog to a dog run.”

A willingness to assume the added costs – and the added attention – of a big dog is also essential. A Great Dane might eat $30-$50 worth of food a week. And the unsolicited comments from passersby – “Is that a horse or a dog?” – can be annoying. But big dog lovers learn to cope. Often, people who own them feel that a big dog is more of a roommate or friend than a pet. A big dog can be a welcome companion, ally and pal.

Breed matters

“Perhaps the only real challenge is finding rental housing that will allow a dog over 25 pounds...and finding affordable housing where you can have big dogs is even tougher,” said Scott Burgess of Brooklyn, N.Y. Burgess and his girlfriend, Rose, own two greyhounds—Nike, who is 65 pounds, and Parker, who weighs in at 72. The apartment the four of them share is small by most standards – around 500 square feet. Yet Nike and Parker don’t suffer because their owners understand the particular needs of their breed.

Greyhounds are bred to be sprinters and not endurance runners,” Burgess said. “One short walk (20 minutes) and one medium-length walk (45 minutes) are about all they really need per day to stay sane. Whenever we have a little extra time, we extend those walks much longer, but as long as they have consistent medium-length walks, they stay happy and healthy.”

Dogs about town

Surprisingly, big dogs are welcome at many urban establishments. They are frequently spotted at banks, dry cleaners and clothing stores. Big dogs are generally not permitted in restaurants or food stores; this is an instance in which small dogs have the advantage, as many food store or restaurants owners will allow dogs who are carried or in a tote. In Europe, dogs great and small are made to feel welcome in cafes, bars and restaurants. Big dog owners have to accept that taxis may zoom on by and public transportation may be out of the question – dogs must be in carriers to travel on city buses and subways.

But for urban-dwelling big dog lovers, these are challenges, not deterrents. “Big dogs equal big love,” Bleier said. And who can argue with that?

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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