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How to be a friend in a pet-friendly community

The essentials

  • Knowledge is power — If you’re not a fur parent, ask questions and research pet policies before choosing an apartment complex.
  • Friends make life better — Take the time to get to know the person behind the leash. Any potential issues will be much easier to address.
  • It’s okay not to be a pet person — If you decide pets aren’t your thing, finding an apartment complex with a strict no-pet policy is perfectly acceptable.

For those who think of furry friends as family members, finding a pet-friendly community that accommodates and celebrates them can make a huge difference in the quality of life for you and your pet. 

While numerous apartment complexes may allow pets, finding a place where pets are loved and surrounded by fellow animal lovers can create that sense of community.

Even if you don’t have a pet of your own, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the animal-loving community. And there are many things you can do to be a friend and start on the right foot. Here’s what to know about how to make friends in a pet-friendly community.

3 benefits of living in a pet-friendly community

Living amidst other pet lovers can help you connect, serving as a common ground for creating relationships. While you may not have your own pet, being surrounded by other pet enthusiasts cultivates a sense of companionship and appreciation for animals.

There are many benefits of living in a pet-friendly community, but here are a few:

  1. Exposure to adorable pets. Even if you don’t have pets but love animals, moving into a pet-friendly community allows you to connect with fellow animal lovers. You’re likely to interact with pet owners or people who don’t mind pets rather than people who’d prefer not to have them.
  2. Added security. Dogs can deter robbers. Pet-friendly apartment communities with things suggesting dogs live there are less likely to target the community due to the chance they’d encounter a dog.
  3. Convenient once you have a pet. If you decide to get a pet, you’ll usually have access to a dog park right outside your door. Some apartment complexes offer washing stations or walking paths, so you have even more access to amenities for your pet. This saves pet owners time and money from traveling to do these things.

Pet etiquette goes both ways

If you’ve signed on to live in a pet-friendly community, you’re probably prepared for dogs. Maybe you even have plans to adopt a pup yourself at some point. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re thrilled about late-night barking or side-stepping poop on the way to the parking lot. 

When it comes to coexisting with other renters’ pets, two things are within your control as a non-pet owner. First, whether you decide to live in a pet-friendly community, and second, how you manage your relationship with pets and their owners.

👉 Most places are pet-friendly these days, so you may want to review pet policies to find one you agree with.

There are certain things non-pet owners expect of pet owners, like leashing and cleaning up after their pets. Pet etiquette goes both ways. Non-pet owners can show mutual respect by giving grace and understanding for the first offense or two and communicating if a problem arises.

Some apartment management companies prefer to know about any issues, regardless of whether it’s the first offense or not. Others only want to know when issues cannot be resolved between tenants. You can be proactive and find out ahead of time what your management company prefers.

Prep for living alongside pets

As you get ready to move into an apartment complex, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. If you’re a non-pet owner, you likely fall into one of three categories. Maybe you’re an animal person who doesn’t currently own one, or perhaps you’re mostly apathetic about pets. Lastly, you could be pet-adverse because of allergies or personal preference.

Wherever you land, you’ll want to know the rules regardless of your preferences. Additionally, knowing how loose or rigid pet policies are upfront will help you determine if it’s something you can live with.

👉 Whether you love pets or not, it’s important to be aware of any pets or visiting pets that do not belong. Unauthorized pets can be a danger to others and a liability for your rental company.

Here are a few things you may want to know

Many apartment complexes have a few general rules for pet parents. Certain things like accepted breeds, leashing your dog, and barking are some common things you can find outlined. What’s important for non-pet owners here is the full scope of what to expect before committing to a pet-friendly apartment complex.

  • Breed. Often, people have an opinion about the safety of certain breeds. If you’re uncomfortable with certain breeds,  it’s a good idea to find out if your complex has policies about the breed or size of a pet.
  • Leashing. Find out if the apartment complex has specific areas where dogs can be off-leash. You’ll know which areas to avoid if you don’t feel safe around unleashed dogs. And, if avoiding an area altogether won’t work for you, you’ll know that complex isn’t a fit.
  • Barking. Apartment rules generally include quiet hours. Ask how the leasing office would handle incessant barking at night and what they might do for a dog constantly barking during the day. If it’s a complex with a high pet population, the rules may not be strict enough for your comfort.

Be neighborly

If you live beside another person for any length of time, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to address something, ask permission, or work something out at some point. In an ideal world, the neighbor’s dog or cat would be pleasant, well-mannered, and positively add to your life. That doesn’t always happen.

Show understanding

Barking, pet waste, unexpected visits from a furry friend, property damage, and aggression are all potential problems when you live beside an animal. Being neighborly and showing some understanding can go a long way.

Put yourself in their shoes

For non-pet owners, it’s helpful to put yourself in the pet owner’s shoes before deciding if and how to address a concern. For example, if your neighbor has a new puppy, you can show some grace as the owner works with their pup to make it a law-abiding citizen.

Give the owner a chance

If daytime barking is a problem, consider that the owner is unaware of the situation before reacting. Write a friendly note or speak to your neighbor in person to let them know their dog is barking in their absence, and give the dog owner a chance to correct the behavior. Sometimes, barking results from insufficient exercise, under-stimulation, or separation anxiety. 

Dog owners can address the problem with more activity and visits from a dog walker, but not if they don’t know about it. Regardless of how much or little you’re involved with the complex’s pets, being neighborly will help build trust and beneficial relationships.

Decide for yourself

Some of us aren’t pet people when it’s all said and done. The extra cleaning, noise, and mouth-to-feed offer no appeal, and some may be dealing with the past trauma of being bitten. There’s nothing wrong with not being a pet person. The problem arises when non-pet owners unnecessarily advocate against pet owners.

While there are certain guidelines for being a responsible, law-abiding pet owner, other things just come with the territory. 

Even the best pet owner can’t prevent occasional barking, outdoor bathroom requirements, excitable and super friendly pets, fur, panting, or wet dog smell. Those things are just part of being a four-legged fluff,  and it isn’t fair to ask a pet owner to eliminate all signs of their pet’s existence.

At the same time, pet people can’t ask non-pet owners to be enchanted by a wet nose, relish the opportunity for a dog to snuggle, or excitedly greet a neighboring pet after a long day of work. What both parties can expect from each other is to create boundaries and show mutual respect.

If pets really aren’t your thing, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline living next to one and seek out an apartment complex with a no-pet policy. In fact, that decision would likely save you and others a lot of unnecessary strife.

Tips for living in a pet-friendly community

Whether it’s due to inflation or simply availability, sometimes a pet-friendly apartment complex is the only option. Here are some tips to make living around four-legged neighbors easier:

  • Noise-canceling headphones. With so many people working from home, noisy pets can be as problematic during the day as at night. Noise-canceling headphones may help you tune out your four-legged neighbor, get your work done, or take a nap without drama.
  • Allergy medications. Those who suffer from pet allergies know there’s no avoiding pet dander altogether. Talk with your doctor about options for allergy medication that can help you co-exist.
  • Acceptance. Finding pet-free living can be tough. Sometimes, just accepting the reality of the situation can be helpful. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up buying a bag of treats and become the most popular pup friend on the block.

What pet owners wish non-pet owners knew

Understanding a pet owner may help you co-exist more easily. Here are a few things that devoted pet parents wish non-pet owners knew.

  • Pets are family. As a non-pet owner, it can be hard to understand this. Many pet owners consider their animals to be members of the family. Even if you find this a bit off-putting, it’s helpful to accept that most pet owners truly love their pets and value them as companions.
  • Pet ownership can be challenging. Pet parents often rush straight home from work to relieve their pets. They may decline social opportunities to cater to their pet’s needs or schedule. Sometimes, they’ll have to take off work to get their animal to the veterinarian and likely spend a fair amount of time and money on their pet. Even if it’s not immediately apparent, your neighbor may do their best to balance the demands of life and pet ownership.
  • Boundaries. Set appropriate boundaries for yourself and others. It’s okay to let your neighbors know in a non-confrontational way that you’re not much of a pet person but happy to be their new neighbor nonetheless.
  • Emotional support is real. Emotional support animals are ordered by a doctor, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor for various reasons. However, an animal doesn’t have to be certified to provide emotional support. Many pet owners report improved mental health , like decreased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression due to owning a pet.

Being a friend in a pet-friendly community requires empathy and understanding. If you’re an animal lover who prefers to stay at an arms-length distance, perhaps a pet-friendly community isn’t the ideal fit. On the other hand, if you’re an animal enthusiast who wants your own pet but can’t have one yet, being surrounded by furry companions and other animal lovers may make you feel right at home. Wherever you fall on the animal-lover spectrum, choose what feels best to you.

Frequently asked questions

What can I do if my neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking?

Talk with your neighbor first to see if you can come to a resolution. If you can’t, go to the leasing office. As a tenant, you have the right to a reasonably quiet environment. 

Are pet owners required to pick up after their pets?

Yes. Most state laws require owners to pick up after their pets, including most apartment pet policies. Speak with your leasing office for specific policies for your area.

Do I need a certification to be a dog walker?

No. Experience with animals and animal care classes are a plus, but generally, anyone can be a dog walker. Thinking of walking the neighborhood pups? Get general liability insurance first, and speak with the leasing office before opening a dog walking business.

Are service dogs allowed anywhere?

Service animals are permitted wherever the public is allowed. Even in a complex with a no-pet policy, a tenant may still have a service animal, which isn’t subject to no-pet policies under the ADA. Service animals and emotional support animals are two different things.

How do I get a dog to like me?

Start with the owner. An established relationship with the dog’s owner will help you earn a dog’s trust. If the owner says it’s okay, bring a pocket full of snacks. Give the dog time and space, and never force your affection. Non-threatening behavior, patience, and a few treats will go a long way in getting a shier dog to come around.