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Dogs sat on steps of apartment building

The essentials

  • Knowledge is power. Most things seem more manageable when we know what to expect. If you’re not a fur parent, it’s best to ask questions and research pet policies before choosing an apartment complex.
  • Friends make life better. You don’t have to have a pet to befriend one. Enjoy the enthusiastic greetings and fluffy snuggles without the responsibility of ownership. Take the time to get to know the person behind the leash; any potential issues will be much easier to address.
  • It’s okay to not be a pet person. If you decide wet noses and wagging tails bring you more irritation than joy, finding an apartment complex with a strict no-pet policy is perfectly acceptable. Don’t knowingly go into something that will be a source of stress.

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 co-existing with other renter’s pets, two things are within your control as a non-pet owner. First is whether you decide to live in a pet-friendly community in the first place, and second is how you manage your relationship with pets and their owners.

👉 Most places are pet-friendly these days, so it may be wise to review pet policies to find one that you’re agreeable 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 if it’s the first offense or not. Others only want to know when it cannot be resolved between tenants. You can be proactive and find out ahead of time what your management company prefers.

At the end of the day, choosing to own a pet (or not) is a matter of preference and capacity and a morally neutral decision. For that reason, pup parents and non-pup parents alike can learn to get along.

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 that 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. Regardless of where you land, knowing the pet policies at the apartment is important.

Find out what’s expected from owners to be responsible pet parents. We hope a problem never arises between you and your neighborhood pet parents, but if it does, you’ll want to know the rules regardless of your own 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

Breed. Often, people have an opinion about the safety of certain breeds. If you’re uncomfortable with pit bulls, for example,  it’s a good idea to find out if your complex has policies about the breed or size of a pet. You can also learn more about breeds and inherited traits through this study.

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 specifically how the leasing office would deal with 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.

What’s important for non-pet owners here is the full scope of what to expect before committing to a pet-friendly apartment complex.

Be neighborly

If you live beside another person for any length of time, the chance is good that you’ll need to address something, ask permission, or work something out. Throw in a four-legged tenant, and those chances can become a bit higher. Showing some understanding is helpful.

In an ideal world, the neighbor’s dog or cat would be pleasant and well-mannered and add to your life in a positive way. That doesn’t always happen. Barking, pet waste, unexpected visits from a furry friend, property damage, and aggression are all things that can potentially occur when you live beside an animal. Being neighborly and showing some understanding can go a long way.

For non-pet owners, putting yourself in the pet owner’s shoes before deciding if and how to address an irritation or concern is helpful. For example, if your neighbor has a new puppy you can give some grace as the owner works with their pup to make them a law-abiding citizen. Pup parents will appreciate that you allow for learning in those early days and hopefully respond by being responsible owners as their dog grows.

If daytime barking is a problem, consider that the owner is unaware of the problem 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!

If you like pets and don’t own one, you might even consider offering to walk your neighbor’s dog or spend some time with them in their owner’s absence. Regardless of how much or little you’re involved with the complex’s pets, being neighborly will help build trust and relationships that will be beneficial.

Decide for yourself

When it’s all said and done, some of us aren’t pet people. The extra cleaning, noise, and mouth-to-feed offer no appeal. There’s nothing wrong with not being a pet person. The problem arises when non-pet owners take up a cause unnecessarily 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, hair, 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 snuggle, or excitedly greet a neighboring pet after a long day of work. What both parties can expect from each other is creating their own boundaries and showing 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 problematic during the day, as much as they can be at night. Noise-canceling headphones may help you tune out your four-legged neighbor and get your work done (or catch some z’s) without the drama.
  • Allergy medications. Those who suffer from pet allergies know that there’s just 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 really tough. Sometimes just accepting the reality of the situation can be helpful. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up buying a box of milk bones and becoming the most popular pup-auntie (or uncle) on the block.

What pet owners wish non-pet owners knew

Understanding a pet owner may help you co-exist with one with more ease. There 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 wrap your brain around this. For many pet owners, their animal is a member of the family. Some may refer to their pet as their “fur child” and treat the animal like their own offspring. Even if you find it a bit off-putting, it’s helpful to accept that most pet owners truly love their pets and value them as a companion (and would like to show you ten pictures of their pup’s recent birthday).

Pet ownership can be tough. Pet parents often rush straight home from work to relieve their pets. They may be foregoing 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. True 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 decreased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression due to owning a pet. For that reason, some pet owners consider their animal a necessary part of their lives and certainly a positive contribution.

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. If all else fails, asking for advice from the police or animal control may be helpful.

Are pet owners required to pick up after their pets?

Yes. Most states have laws requiring 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? Make sure to get general liability insurance first, and speak with the leasing office before opening a dog walking biz.

Are service dogs allowed anywhere?

Service animals are permitted wherever the public is allowed. Even in a complex with a no-pet policy, it’s possible that a tenant will 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. 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 Spot to come around.