Justin Silver the star of the reality series Dogs in the City. He was born and raised in New York City, where he also runs his pet care clinic, The Language of Dogs. His new book, also titled The Language Of Dogs, is out now and available wherever books are sold.
Despite what many people think, dogs can not only adjust to urban environments but also thrive in them. As inherently social animals, city dogs have plenty of opportunity to not only meet and greet, nowadays, most urban areas offer a host of enviable canine activities. Agility classes, meet-ups, swimming and even free Doga (yes, that's yoga for dogs) are available in New York City to go with all the dog runs, parks, pack walks and daycare facilities that are commonplace everywhere.
Although most cities can be great places for dogs to live, there are some definite do's and don'ts.
It's Not The Size Of The DogIt is a misconception that only small breeds do well in cities. That said, consider the disposition of the dog and conduct some basic research. For example, the fleet afoot greyhound can do very well in cities because of their ability to expend much of their energy in a single outing and when they're not tearing up the dog track, are apt to be resting.
Size MattersDidn't I just say "it's not the size of the dog?" I did but use common sense. If you're considering a Burmese Mountain dog for a narrow, winding stairwell walk-up, you may want to reconsider. I had a client who lived in a townhouse with a hundred and twenty pound Mastiff who outweighed her. When the Mastiff developed hip problems in her advanced age, getting her in and outdoors was quite challenging.
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Be FirstThis is my biggest tip for dog owners in urban areas. In cities, sidewalks can be narrow and entries and exits are busy. Way too many dog owners let their dogs lead the way. This is not only hazardous for the dog as it may encounter an aggressive dog in its path but it also sends the message that it is the animal's job to navigate the road ahead for potential threats. This causes dogs to become anxious and over reactive. Always keep your dog behind you when getting on and off elevators, entering and exiting buildings, turning corners and crossing streets. While walking your pooch, have your dog either alongside you or slightly behind you. Be sure to lead any dog introduction by saying hello first with your dog behind you. The result will be a calmer, happier dog that will be much more responsive to interacting with you on walks. It is entirely up to an owner to ensure their dog's safety by being first and leading all introductions.
Bottled Or TapOne of the most overlooked aspects of urban canine ownership is hydration. Dogs, like people, can get dehydrated in all kinds of weather. Plan ahead by bringing water and a collapsible bowl for longer walks.
No Shoes, No ShirtWhile raincoats are not really necessary, a jacket for temperatures under forty degrees can be helpful. A dog's paws can burn in the summer when the sidewalks heat up and in the winter, road salt can also burn the pads of a dog's paws, so use shoes when appropriate.
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A Short LeashRetractable leashes have no place in cities. In difficult situations, dogs can react unpredictably and giving them an extended radius of mayhem is asking for trouble. The good news is that leashes six feet and less (I use a four foot nylon lead) are anything but constrictive. In fact, taking a dog for a walk is an interactive experience for both dog and walker, and an ideal opportunity to bond. The leash is the connection and the tool through which communication takes place and once we're in sync, life in the big city gets a whole lot smaller.
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