Due to unfortunate planning and scheduling conflicts, I found myself alone for part of the holiday weekend. My husband and younger son left on a camping trip while I stayed behind with my older son (who had prior school-related commitments) and the dogs. My husband had originally planned to take the dogs then decided against it, leaving them with me. I didn’t realize until I was alone on Friday night how much I would appreciate that decision.
I never really considered my Chihuahua and Pug guard dogs because they’re such little dogs. When I think guard dog, I think Rottweiler or Mastiff. My dogs are six and 23 pounds. But I realized over the weekend that, although small, they are my little alarm bells. If there is a strange car outside (they know all of the neighborhood cars), I’ll know it. If there’s a stranger (they know all of the neighbors), I’ll know it. If there’s a squirrel, bird, chipmunk, lizzard, or leaf surfing the breeze, well, I’ll know that, too.
If you currently live alone and are thinking about getting a dog for the friendship and security, do a little research about breeds. The size of the dog isn’t the issue – my Chihuahua, Pinky, is a six-pound dragon slayer. And although most people are not intimidated by the barking of a dog that barely stands higher than their ankles, she is absolutely fearless. The barking alone is enough to alert my neighbors, passersby, and anyone outdoors in a three-block radius. When I give her the okay, she still stands guard between me and whoever was unwise enough to ring our doorbell.
My Pug, Peanut, will alert me when she sees something or someone out of place. It ends there, however. If the teenager selling magazines, the UPS person, or the guy wanting to clean the gutters happens to ring the bell, she is the welcoming committee. She sniffs, wiggles, and brings toys to the stranger until they pet her. Strangers are friends she hasn’t met yet, and she’s determined to meet and greet them all. She intimidated one person once – a three-year-old child who was afraid of all dogs. She won him over very quickly and the child now wants a dog of his own.
When we first moved to the neighborhood, my neighbor had a Weimaraner. This great dog guarded the entire neighborhood--especially the children. If a stranger pulled up, she would stand in front of the driver’s side door so the person couldn’t get out of the car. She didn’t bark or growl – she just stood quietly and watched them through the window until my neighbor gave her the okay. Then she’d step aside and greet the person. Weimaraners may not be the best choice for an apartment, though, as they are large dogs who require a lot of exercise. If you are a jogger or like taking long walks, then the Weimaraner may be a good choice.
Another ideal dog for joggers is the English Foxhound. This dog will not tire out and enjoys long runs – such as four or five miles long. If you are training for a marathon and would like a running companion – this is the dog for you. Because they need daily exercise, avid runners will appreciate the English Foxhound’s tireless energy.
Perhaps the best-known breed for protection is the German Shepherd. Smart, easily trained, and loyal, if you choose a German Shepherd for apartment life, be prepared to take him out for regular, consistent exercise. This is not a couch potato dog. Take him for regular walks, get him involved in agility training, and perhaps get involved in some type of service activity. German Shepherds enjoy a good challenge – both physical as well as mental – and without it they can become bored and potentially destructive.
I love the look of the Komondor and the Puli. These Hungarian herding dogs are walking mops. They are intelligent, loyal, and have a natural guardian instinct. Their corded coats need a lot of attention. These are not low-maintenance dogs, so don’t choose a Komondor or Puli if you don’t have the time required to maintain a healthy coat. The Puli is a smaller dog with a great sense of humor, while the Komondor is large, dignified, and serious.
Before you venture out to a shelter, breeder, or pet store contact your property manager to learn about your apartment community’s pet policy. Ask about additional deposits and any monthly fees that may be required. Read up on crate training and obedience training. If your dog will be alone most of the day, consider a pet sitter or a doggie daycare. Once you are absolutely sure you have the time, money, and resources to care for a dog, head out with a list of potential breeds and stick with it. If you determine that a smaller dog will fit better into your lifestyle, don’t let the big eyes, droopy ears, and oversized paws of a Bullmastiff sway you (although they are excellent apartment dogs who rarely, if ever, bark). If you enjoy jogging, don’t fall for the charms of the adorable Pug– yes, she’s cute, but this is a dog that prefers a nap on the couch--not a run in the park.
Have fun, feel safer, and enjoy your new roommate!