On Being a First-Time Dog Owner in a Small NYC Apartment

Google advice about dogs. Go ahead.

Most of that advice will assume:

  1. That you have (or have access to) a backyard

  2. That you have (or have access to) a lot of money

  3. That you can modify your living space significantly

So, while we do have enough cash on hand, most of that isn’t really true of NYC renters. Frankly, dog owning advice is really written with suburban home-owners (or -dwellers) in mind, and I mostly find it off-putting. But regardless of my personal antipathy for the white flight that led to the expansion of suburbs and therefore my admitted lifelong bias, the point is it doesn’t actually help us raise this puppy, and that’s the important part.

You can specifically search for how to raise dogs in apartments, yes. But that also assumes people live in more permissive buildings, where dogs can roam free in common areas and the like. We live in a new shiny building that is very dog-friendly, but we can’t bring him into the lounge (which I understand, people could be allergic) or onto the roof, which he’d enjoy but, well, it’s probably not safe - he likes to jump.

So there’s also the fact that I, Justin, have never had a dog. I’ve never even really had a pet. We got cats in 2001 but I was only two years from college - and I don’t like cats - so that wasn’t much of my life. (Also, we mistakenly traumatized one of those poor cats by losing him for two weeks inside the house. After that he was skittish for the remaining ten years of his life.)

Alissa grew up with dogs, and that sure is a dog family. I have mostly experienced dogs barking at me or chasing me (particularly on beach vacations). I was nervous. But I did want the experience, and I think it could ultimately be good for our family, which will presumably grow in the next two years or so.

But I don’t know what I’m doing. We have a ton of books, literally all of which I find unpleasant to read because of their perspective and tone, so I mostly read dog sites and forums to seek experiences. And there just isn’t a lot that represents our lives.

We can’t create a doggy door - that would just put him in the hallway.

We can’t take him to a backyard. Even without considering that he doesn’t have all his shots yet, we don’t really live near a large park. There’s a tiny park across the street that our neighbors with dogs mostly use as a dog toilet, though.

Walking outside is fun for him, in the limited way we can. But it’s loud and there’s a lot to watch out for. Frankly I have to spend way too much time keeping cigarette butts out of his mouth.

“So why get a dog in NYC?” you might ask. Because we wanted a companion, and a friend, and he is becoming that to us. Neptune is happy and healthy (thus far), and though he barks whenever he’s impatient or confused, that’s mostly because he’s still only three months old. It requires a lot of moving our lives around, at least until month four when he can be alone for longer and longer stretches.

I just wish the dog internet wasn’t mostly Suburban Couples in Sweaters. Because, frankly, a lot of dogs in the city are raised poorly (or not raised at all), and the advice out there is much less applicable, especially if, like me, you’re new to the entire process.

This month we’ve had him has been hard, on us more than on him (he’s fine, really), but we’re figuring it out. We’re smart folks, and we’re lucky enough to indeed have the money to get the things he needs. Soon we’ll send him to classes, and he’ll be old enough to do everything he needs to do without us having to move everything around to make sure he’s okay.

But considering how common dogs are here, and how many are simply being raised poorly, the advice out there could stand to be diversified. All I knew about dogs growing up was the scary ones my neighbors had, and I thought that’s what all dogs were. That was incorrect, but so is the image presented by the information available at present.

We can do better, people!

But, well, I’ll write more about it as I learn more. And maybe someone will find what I have to say to be useful.


Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality