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Just because you live that upper apartment life, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice that pupper life! Though a fenced-in yard, easy outside access and maybe even a doggy door sound like the ideal setup, an apartment perched several floors up can still be just as much a home for your pup as something more first-floor situated.
With a little lifehacking and a little pet parenting, you can make having a dog on an upper floor as easy as possible.
1. Establish a Relationship With Local Dog Walkers
If you and your pup are moving on up (and up and up), one of the first and most important things you can do is to not only find a good and consistent walker or walking company, but to establish a routine and a relationship with them.
Your sky-high pup is going to need exercise and enough bathroom breaks, and it’s often impossible to run home yourself on a lunch break with time enough to get to your apartment, spend time taking your pup down and outside and then getting back to work. Thankfully, there are modern solutions.
You can always opt for a local dog walker. They’re often entrenched in the community and have a good reputation with pet parents and building managers alike.
On the downside, though, because they’re only one person and demand’s likely high, securing a regular slot (or, if you have a younger or older dog, multiple slots a day) with them can be close to impossible.
Thanks to technology, though, that doesn’t have to be a major issue. You can check out a variety of dog walking apps such as Wag or Rover, to upload your pet’s profile and your building’s pertinent information, and schedule regular walks with a smaller rotating group of walkers.
I use Rover.com for my dog, Hurley. With this link you’ll get $50 off your first booking!
Though there isn’t the same one face always and forever, it’s actually a better option: in the event of someone getting sick, getting stuck with an emergency, etc., you always have a backup available.
The apps are usually sophisticated, allowing not only for long term regular walks booked, but also last-minute scheduling. Plus, they’ll usually send you reports of how your pup’s walk was, GPS tracked routes, pictures of your dog and more. Walkers with these verified apps are all trained, licensed, bonded and insured, too.
2. Go All in on Pet Tech
Better living through technology. The digital age is a boon to dogs, thanks to some pretty snazzy interactive inventions that can help keep an upstairs apartment pet occupied and feeling connected to you.
You can find yourself in a pretty deep (but fun!) online shopping wormhole searching through all the cool gadgets available. There are devices that are programmed to alert you when your dog is barking and allow you to then talk directly to them.
You can invest in a home camera and watch live video feeds of your dogs. Some cool gadgets even let you dispense treats electronically!
I personally have an Amazon camera (like these on Amazon.com) and I love the two-way talk feature. While, of course, my dog can’t talk back, I can hear what he is doing and talk to him if I need to.
Dog activity trackers, too, are a real thing. These small electronic devices can be fitted onto collars to measure your dog’s steps and activity levels, just like a canine version of a Fitbit.
After Hurley got lost about a year ago, he wears his Whistle tracker all the time now. I love the weekly emails I get about him!
This information can be especially handy in figuring out just how restless your pup is during the day and using that information to gauge daily exercise plans for them.
The dreaded complaint is a noise complaint when you have a pup. Being up on an upper apartment floor means your dog may feel more cooped up and more separated from the outside world going by.
When that isolation turns to boredom and frustration, that is often expressed in the form of barking. Even if your pup isn’t feeling any anxiety or stress, they could still be prone to barking at strange noises, other dogs – or even just for the heck of it.
Try and reduce the amount of bark triggers for your dog before leaving for the day. Closing blinds to obstruct any outside movement catching their eye is a good starter.
Leave out hidden treats or puzzles to keep them occupied Also consider an increase in carpet and/or plush furniture, as fabric and soft surfaces will help absorb soundwaves more than an empty room full or hard planes.
4. Get Creative With Potty Training
One of the biggest complaints of pet care on an upstairs floor? Potty training. Getting a new puppy (or older dog) on a regular bathroom schedule – and often enough that they’re not peeing in the house – is hard enough on a ground floor. But factoring in the added distance to the ground, and it can become quite a headache.
Instead of lamenting the lack of a backyard or easy outside ground access, get a little creative. Balconies can be excellent substitutions for sidewalks or grassy areas.
Putting a potty patch on your balcony helps let your dog know where to go and will get them used to having a smaller space in which to do their business. And dogs are smart enough to catch on that these are “potty safe” places.
Keep in mind balcony safety, though, and always keep an eye on your pet out there. Some railings can be too low, and larger or especially springy dogs can jump over.
Likewise, the gaps between slats are possibly big enough for a smaller pup to fit through. If your balcony isn’t quite as secure as you would like, you can purchase balcony guards to raise the railing height, and chicken wire to block open areas at the bottom.
On the inside, you can reduce the risk of an accident by preemptively establishing emergency potty areas. Then, if your pup has to go before you can get up to them, they already have a safe area to relieve themselves, rather than on something important. Newspapers and pee pads, set aside in a designated area, can be a lifesaver.
For additional ideas related to housetraining a dog in an upstairs apartment, check out this article: How to Potty Train a Dog in an Upstairs Apartment.
5. Floor Protection
Hardwood and plush carpeting are nothing to sneeze at, so protect them from an accident. Rather than letting your dog have full run of the apartment while you’re away, designate them to certain rooms only (and close doors or set up baby gates).
Supply your dog with plenty of chew toys (so they don’t resort to chewing furniture) and pee pads (so if they can’t hold it, they have a spot).
If they do make a mess, too, it’s easier to pay for floor repairs in just one confined area than all over.
6. Establish Routine
Dogs respond well to routine and crave some sort of structure. They’re smart, too, so you’ll be surprised how quickly they can adapt to a new routine.
Since an upper floor apartment eliminates the ability to have an open door, a back door or even a doggy door, your dog’s days need to become a little more planned out.
Creating a schedule of bathroom break times trains our dog to expect them – and they will soon learn the cycle and be ready for the times as well as holding it in better in between.
It’s important, though, that once you teach your dog this routine you, as much as you can, stick to it. There’s no better way to unlearn a system than being inconsistent.
7. Choose the Right Dog Breed for Apartment Living
Certain dogs are simply more suited for apartment life than others, while some abjectly are not cut out for it. Breeds, such as the Husky, that need extensive running time and to be constantly occupied will not be happy being so far removed from the outdoors. And this can result in both a depressed dog and a “ruined out of boredom and frustration” apartment.
In this case, being breed selective isn’t a vanity project: it’s a kindness for the dog. Too large a dog, or too hyper a dog (such as a terrier), will most likely go nuts being cooped up in a high apartment all day. Smaller dogs and more chilled out dogs, though, (such as a bulldog) will thrive in that apartment life.
8. Make the Setup Designed for Fun and Comfort
Keep your pup in mind when setting things up. Dogs relax more easily in their own space and when they know that a space is theirs.
Set up a corner of your apartment strictly for your dog, with a dog bed, some toys and food, and water bowls – or, if your dog stays in a crate, make that crate as cozy as possible with blankets, toys, and access to food and water.
Having that separate, alone space will help keep your dog Zen and less likely to wild out in an upstairs apartment.
9. Desensitize a Sensitive Doggo
Strange noises, unfamiliar smells and unusual sights or surroundings can stress out a dog and cause them to act out. And, on the upper floor, you can’t get your dog out and away from stressors in an instant.
Be sure to give your pup time to get used to living in a top floor apartment and be sure to allow them to fully explore. Be aware that they’ll probably take a little time to adjust to noises and such, but do make sure they’re exposed (safely, with you there) to new elements so they can desensitize.
If they’re still struggling, enlisting the help of a trainer or obedience expert can help tap into what’s freaking Fido out and how they can be calmer in the apartment.
10. Be an Early Bird
A dog left alone in the apartment all day will have an intense need for morning or evening exercise sessions. And, since they’re going to be alone all throughout the morning and afternoon, it’s better to tire them out ahead of leaving for the day, rather than leaving them to wind up with increasing energy all day.
In order to make sure your dog’s getting their physical and exercise requirements before you leave, you’ll probably have to wake up a little earlier than you’d like. But tiring them out before you leave can make all the difference – and help protect your apartment.
11. Carry Poop Bags and Cleaning Supplies – or Carry Your Dog
Look, the top floor down to the bottom, plus the walk to get outside, can be a lot, especially for younger pups. They simply may not be able to hold it the whole journey. Be prepared for accidents with poop bags and something to sop up pee.
If your puppy (or dog) is small enough, consider carrying them down and out, too – that way they won’t even have a chance to let it all loose on an elevator or a hardwood lobby floor.