Dog-gonit

Jonathan posted on Metroblogging Vancouver yesterday regarding his opinion on having a dog in an apartment building.

Vancouver’s no-pets-in-the-building policy is probably a good thing. If people want a dog, they should at least have a house with a yard or public park across the street.

It’s an opinion I hear a lot from people who feel “sorry” for my dog, because she lives in an apartment.

That’s bullshit.

I’ve lived in both apartments and houses with dogs of all sizes, and I can say that it absolutely DOES NOT MATTER what kind of home you inhabit with a dog, you have to exercise them. Putting a dog out in the yard does not guarantee they’re exercising.

I’d actually argue that dogs who live in homes with yards don’t get as much exercise as they should. I know that personally I was FAR more likely to just let the dog out the back door to do its business rather than actually go play outside with it, or take it for a walk around the neighbourhood or to the park every day as I do now.

And I can’t vouch for Mt. Pleasant, but there are a LOT of parks in areas of Vancouver that I’m familiar with. No, there isn’t one immediately across the street from me. But there is one across the street and two blocks west, one a block behind me, and another park across the street from that. Every neighbourhood I’ve explored has at least a public grassy patch every 5 blocks or so. It’s probably better for the dog, and the owner, to have to walk an extra block or two to get to it.

My dog’s trainer actually recommends AGAINST yards for dogs. Sure, a yard is great if you go out there with the animal, but putting them outside alone is a horrible idea. That’s where the poor dog is antagonized by any amount of neighborhood cats and wildlife, and feels he/she must defend the yard as part of his/her territory. If a person is going to be a good dog owner, it doesn’t matter if the grassy patch is attached to the house or a 6 block hike away – the person must accompany the dog, especially if there is a dog bark collar in use.

Having a dog is far more like having a toddler than having an animal. They’re about as smart as a 3-year old, and need stimulation and interaction in order to flourish and not become destructive and start yelling (barking) and pooping in corners just for the hell of it. The day someone agrees that it’s cruel to have a child in an apartment because they don’t have a yard to play in is the day I’ll agree with the same argument for dogs.

I think his other points are relevant – non-dog people have just as much right to live in a non-dog building as dog-people do to live in a dog-friendly building. I wouldn’t move into a condo complex knowing that strata bylaws state “no dogs” if I wanted a dog to be in my future. If it were that important to me, I’d be putting “dog-friendly” on my list of must-haves right next to 2 full bathrooms and garburator. I’m not about to be a strata-council rabble-rouser to try and bring dogs where none have gone before. People have as much right to live dog-free as those who live in “adult only” complexes have to live child-free.

But the type of house someone lives in is NOT a valid qualifier to determine whether or not they’re a good dog owner (or parent), and is not a valid argument for banning dogs from apartment buildings.

Were I to be a Strata Council renegate, I’d far rather get on the council at the new place, and try to put in a clause that bans judgemental ignorami (not that Jonathan’s necessarily one – I don’t know him from Adam – he just planted the seed to ignite my wrath) from living there.

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11 thoughts on “Dog-gonit

  1. gillian

    Yeah, maybe you should ban people-who-can’t-take-care-of-their-dogs from your strata, and not the dogs themselves. My stepdad hasn’t trained any of the dogs he’s had, and they bark at everything and anything and made me hate dogs growing up. But I’ve seen dogs of the same breeds be well-behaved and quiet, and it’s made me realize that it’s not the dog, it’s the owner.

    I’m still pissed off that my building manager wouldn’t let me get a second cat (as plaything/lunch for my cat) because it was 3 months old. He assumed that a kitten younger than 8 months would “pee everywhere”. Right…

  2. Darren

    This debate emerged on my site a couple of years ago, and I went searching for some scientific research on the subject. I couldn’t find any. Most of what I found were opinions written by those who had a stake in the conversation (pet stores, breeders, strata councils and the like). I’d like to read something definitive and unbiased (bonus points for peer-reviewed).

  3. -j.

    I think many of you know whom I work for, and I have a dog and an apartment.

    It’s not the apartment itself so much as its size relative to the size of the dog. Great Danes can run out of space and stimulation in tiny bachelor suites, for instance.

    And you’re absolutely right, the home itself is still secondary to the time and effort invested in the dog by the guardian.

  4. peechie Post author

    Darren: I couldn’t find anything peer-reviewed on the explicit harm in housing dogs in apartments. The closest thing I found was a brochure from the Canadian Veterenary Medicine Association (similar to any put out by the SPCA or any humane society) which stated that any dog needs exercise and stimulation, and a backyard alone is inadequate (link: http://www.animalhealthcare.ca/pdfs/english.pdf)

    Admittedly the brochure was funded by the pet food evaluation wing of the CMVA – and of course it’s in the interest of both pet food manufacturers and vets for people to own pets – but I think in this day and age everything has a certain amount of bias. It’s advantageous to doctors for people to get sick (so they can bill more), but you’ll rarely find them advocating smoking etc. They’d rather see people be well. I believe it’s the same with vets. They’d rather see animals be well.

    That said, the main point of my post was that the type of home someone lives in is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to determine their suitability for being a pet owner. There is the possiblity for a loose corrolary between the two at best.

    If one wants to say that many people who live in apartments by virtue of the typical lifestyle of apartment dwellers generally makes them less-than-ideal dog owners, fine. But people shouldn’t hide behind the allegation that just adding a yard or a park will make the situation better. Neither should they get on their high horses and insist that this sweeping generalization applies to ALL dogs in apartments.

    I see these same arguements on mommy blogs on issues such as Ferberizing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. Insisting that doing or not doing this or that will result in raising a serial killer. The arguements are no less ridiculous there than insisting that all apartment dogs are miserable anywhere else.

  5. layman

    Jen, you are absolutely right. It’s no good if a dog is left in a large yard with no human contact. What is important for our four legged member of our family is our love and that means closeness. Dogs left in no-kill shelters can stay in the runs for months and some of them develop anxiety not because of lack of space but the lack of human cuddles. What type of dog do you have?

  6. bree

    I came across the same sentiments in the dog training books I read when we brought our puppy home. The general opinion seemed to align with what you’ve said here: a yard is nice, but is not the crucial ingredient for a happy dog. What matters is that your dog gets exercise and stimulation. And everyone agrees that simply leaving your dog alone in the yard doesn’t cut it.

  7. peechie Post author

    layman: we’ve got a german shepherd/golden retriever cross. She’s an SPCA dog, and very small for both those breeds (70lbs, tall and skinny) so she may have another breed in her mix as well. And lest anyone think she’s living in a shoebox, our apartment is 1000 sq/ft. We’ve tried encouraging her to run around and play inside, but she generally prefers to lay about and gnaw on a bone instead. Seems running isn’t worth it, unless there is a squirrel involved.

  8. layman

    I think being a dog lover is not defined by the amount of space you can provide for it. The SPCA took away many aninmals from farms due to the owner’s negligence. If you love and take good care of your dog, it does not matter how much space you live in with your dog. Even today, in modern Japan, the average household lives in less than 600 sq ft of space.

  9. Darren

    Yeah, I agree that the yard argument is a red herring. I guess my feeling on apartments and dogs goes like this: on average, there are fewer owners per dog in an apartment than a house. Additionally, those owners are less likely to be home during the day (or some portion thereof).

    Thus, your average apartment-dwelling dog gets less human hours than your average house-dwelling dog.

    Anecdotally, I know a number of apartment-dwelling dogs who get left alone by their owners between 8:30am and 5:00pm. I don’t know many house dwellers, and none of them have dogs, so I have no anecdotal comparison to make.

  10. WCG

    My parents had two teeny weeny little dogs in a HUGE house, and they were left alone all day long too. So there’s an anecdotal evidence 🙂 Also, they were holy terrors. The dogs, that is. Inconsistent discipline and not enough exercise. One of them barked herself into a heart attack. Which is sort of really funny, in a tragic way.

  11. skyec

    I might be tempted to take you up on that cruelty to children theory. After almost 13 years of raising boys I’m quite convinced that having a yard is essential for everyone’s sanity! 🙂

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