Canines in Close Quarters: Life with Dogs in the Urban Jungle

Lately no matter what part of the city through which I am traveling, I see new housing construction going up- high rise and condo living has definitely taken over New Orleans, as it has most of the urban areas of the country. With these types of living arrangements comes a fresh set of challenges for dog owners that includes sharing hallways and sidewalk spaces, elevator and stairwell etiquette, and even facing the reality of life with a dog who might not be super friendly to all other dogs and people, but who has to navigate crowds on a regular basis.

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Elevators can be intimidating places for pooches. Work on combating that fear or over-excitement with positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning

A client this week asked me specifically about training her dog to be polite entering, riding in and exiting an elevator. This is a unique situation for any dog, but especially if the elevator is the main conveyance for getting outside for those all-important potty breaks and exercise routines!

 As with any training, the best way to start is when the situation is not critical and distractions are low. If you are new to the building, consider using the stairs for a time if your dog is afraid of the elevator or too excited in a small space with other people and dogs. Teach your dog a solid sit/stay and to watch (give you eye contact) on cue. Practice the sit/stay when people that the dog knows approach him and come through doors.  Another good skill to have is “Wait” at doorways. Then, at times when the elevator is not so busy, carry some high value treats and work on these skills riding up and down in the elevator.  If your dog is scared to enter the elevator, do not force him. If he is small enough to be carried, please do so, but consider hiring a trainer for help if he puts on the brakes or obviously freaks out when the elevator doors open.

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What’s wrong with this picture? The dog is urinating next to a doorway and the owner has him on a retractable leash. That’s no way to be neighborly!

Things all city-dwelling dog owners should think about are leash manners and common courtesy. One of the easiest pieces of helpful equipment is a front-attaching harness, as they require little to no conditioning and make walks much more enjoyable. Avoid retractable leashes (especially in an elevator scenario!) as they are dangerous in crowded areas, and realize that not all dogs and people want to be greeted physically by another dog.  Also, don’t forget to “curb your dog”, which simply means move your dog close to the street out of foot traffic to do his business, and of course clean up the mess every time.