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Weighty Matters: Finding a Pooch To Pass the Apartment Weigh-In*
by David Frei, Westminster Kennel Club

Your lifestyle is a product of many factors, including your personality and temperament, your activity level and your physical living situation. Finding a dog to match all these facets of your lifestyle, and the time and willingness you have to devote to "enrichment activities" with your dog, is the single-most important principle of dog ownership.

That said, there are, of course, special challenges in New York City, where high rises, taxis and subways are the norm. Another consideration in New York City is whether a building allows dogs, and if so, what breed and size limits there may be.

Sometimes the size limits some buildings place on dogs can prevent you from considering a number of larger breeds that would do well in an apartment with the right owner. Great Danes, Greyhounds and Mastiffs are usually moderate energy dogs. They may take up a lot of space on your living room floor or on your only couch, but they will be wonderful companions. While most dogs were originally bred for a specific purpose - hunting, herding, pulling carts, protection, etc. - most dogs today, no matter the breed, are bred for companionship, not work.

I happen to believe that with the right owner and with the right amounts of patience, training and "enrichment activities" any breed can live well in an apartment. But certain breeds are less suitable for apartment life, especially for busy city people who may not have the patience and time for the consistent training and nurturing some breeds require.

Weighing Your Options

I'm always ready to debate some landlord's rule limiting the size of the dog they will allow in their building. In my opinion, building owners should worry more about the tenants, not the dog! Even so, most of us living in the city are probably better off choosing a dog that is under 30 pounds anyway (hoping that the landlord with the 25-pound rule won't have a scale at the front door). Dogs that are 30 pounds and under have a few inherent advantages for life in New York: you can carry them in your arms or in Sherpa bags (the smaller dogs) in the elevator, into stores, or in taxis; you can quickly lift them up and out of trouble around aggressive dogs; and you might just be able to let them run up and down your hallway for a little exercise.

Here are the breeds that are currently recognized by the American Kennel Club that are under 30 pounds. They have been bred through the ages to be companions for people. Companionship is now their only job and they do it well. These individual breeds can be quite different in personality and activity level, so do your homework.

Sporting dogs: Cocker spaniels

Hounds: Basenjis, Beagles, Dachshunds

Working: There are no Working breeds under 30 pounds

Terrier: Australian, Bedlington, Border, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Fox (Wire and Smooth), Irish, Lakeland, Manchester (Standard), Miniature Bull, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk, Norwich, Parson Russell (formerly Jack Russell), Scottish, Sealyham, Skye, Welsh, West Highland

Toy Dogs: I think I see more Shih Tzus walking the streets of New York than any other breed. And why not? They are happy, intelligent, self-sure little dogs, easy to live with. Other Toys that seem to be popular - and with good reason - in this city are Pugs, Italian Greyhounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, Papillons, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas.

Non-Sporting Dogs: American Eskimo Bichon Frises, Boston Terriers, French Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, Lowchen, Miniature Poodle, Schipperke, Shiba Inu, Tibetan Spaniel, Tibetan Terrier

Herding Dogs: Puli, Welsh Corgi (Cardigan), Welsh Corgi (Pembroke)

In future pieces, we will discuss some of these dogs in more detail. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about any of these breeds, go to the Westminster Kennel Club web site at, click on "Dogs and Dog Shows" and then "Breed Information." You will find descriptions of each breed and a link to the parent club web site for extensive information.

David Frei is the co-host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on USA Network and of the National Dog Show on NBC. You may e-mail him with your questions and comments at

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Most recent update: 11/10/04
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