Can a Golden Retriever Live in a Small Apartment?

Well, can they?

In this article, I will argue that a golden retriever can live in a small apartment.

Yes, I know that isn’t a point of view that you will hear most often but I don’t think that the size is the most important quality of a goldie’s home.

I believe that they can live in almost any kind of home so long as they are part of a loving and caring family.

I just think that it is harder to take care of a larger breed dog in a smaller living space than it is if you have more space.

But with the right motivation and dedication, someone who lives in an apartment can be a fantastic dog parent.

As you give it some serious thought, please take time to read some of my considerations below…

There is an obvious need

Unfortunately there are not any exact figures specifically about golden retrievers but in the U.S., it is thought that 3.3 million dogs are taken into rescue shelters every year

Of these approximately 670,000 are euthanized and 1.6 million are adopted.

In the UK, it is thought that 130,000 dogs come into dog shelters every year and I couldn’t for the life of me get hold of any statistics to show how many of those are adopted. However, in a separate survey it was estimated that in 2018 there were 56,043 stray dogs in the UK. 

So whichever way you look at it, all breeds of dogs, including golden retrievers, need loving owners to adopt and take care of them. 

It is not about the space…

Although you might read otherwise on the Internet, having any breed of dog in an apartment isn’t ideal and to me this isn’t because of the restricted space- it is because of how close your neighbours. 

When you live in a flat or apartment you hear any noise above a certain volume or a certain pitch and that is an unavoidable fact of life.

And dogs can be noisy. 

And the real joke is that all these articles that you read on the Internet recommending the best breed of dogs for apartment dwellers, tend to recommend small breeds of dogs.

And you don’t need to be Einstein to recognise that small breeds of dogs are some of the most highly strung, excitable breeds in existence.

These dogs always make a noise with their yapping.

My mother in law has a small poodle cross that barks from the moment her front doorbell is rung to the moment she can answer the door.

And the noise, the high pitch squealing that goes with it is enough to send anyone’s blood pressure through the roof. 

And the same is true for my Dad’s jack russell but I won’t go on. 

In an apartment that kind of disturbance is very, very intrusive. 

I couldn’t find any details on the loudness or pitch that a small dog breed, such as a jack russell, barks at but the average for a dog is between 80- 90 decibels which is the equivalent of a human shouting.

How much space have you got? 

Looking at the figures, it seems that the average size of apartments that people are living in is shrinking. 

In 2018 across the U.S. it was 941 ft², which is 5% smaller than ten years ago. 

In the UK in 2017, this figure was much smaller as the average flat (apartment) measured just 527 ft², which is a slight increase from three years before.

How much space does a golden retriever need?

The average size of a golden retriever will be about 23” tall and about 40” long and weighing around 68 lbs, so even the smallest apartment has plenty of room for one!

Most of the time an adult golden retriever will be just sleeping or relaxing whilst at home.

Throughout the day, they will tend to roam between two or three places around a home. 

They just need a dedicated place for a comfortable bed and then a couple of other locations where they can lay on the floor. 

Another consideration about the space is how many people live in the space, what ages are they and how tolerant they will be of a golden retriever coming to live?

The question of how many other people live in the small apartment (and their ages) is important because if your apartment is busy, noisy and slightly cramped already, bringing a goldie into this environment will probably not be good for residents of the apartment and definitely not good for the dog.

And the ages of the people who live with you is important. If you have very young children and very old parents who are living with you, then the amount of time that you will have to give to a dog will be minimal and golden retrievers will need a couple of hours of your time everyday.

Young children need lots of care and attention and although at times you can meet the needs of a golden retriever and a child by taking them out for a walk, this isn’t always the case.

Young children tend to have lots of toys all over the place, this means that there is less room for the dog and a greater temptation for them to chew all of these wonderful objects that are on the floor!

A golden retriever can be a fantastic companion for an elderly housebound parent but like young children elderly parents can be very time intensive and they also can have lots of equipment. 

It is not that the dog will chew the equipment but the equipment will take up valuable floor space.

Not to mention the fact that dogs can be trip hazards- especially breeds such as golden retrievers that like to get up close and personal to everyone.

What is the danger of the dog causing an accident because your Mum or Dad have tripped over them?

Exercise

Golden retrievers, like most breeds of dogs of a similar size, need a fair amount of exercise- probably between 1 and 2 hours a day.

Be honest with yourself about the time that you have available and how much you like walking.

If the answer to the first question is “not very much” and the answer to the second question is “I don’t know but I’m sure I will love it” perhaps you should reconsider any decision to get a golden retriever.

On the right day, spending between 1 and 2 hours walking or being outside is easy. The sun is shining, the temperature is great and you don’t have much on.

Hell, this might even spill over into a couple of weeks.

But, a golden retriever will need that level of commitment everyday. No matter what the weather, no matter what your other pressures on your time are. 

And take it from me, someone with two golden retrievers and someone who loves walking- this level of commitment is at times hard and really, really boring. 

Is there any way to spend less time?

With any kind of exercise for a person or a dog, it is not just a question of how long that you exercise for but there is also an issue of quality of exercise.

So for instance, a 15 minute session of throwing the ball or a stick for your goldie over the park is the equivalent of a 30 minute walk, in terms of how hard the heart is having to work.

So, I would say, every so often shortening the duration of an exercise session whilst increasing the intensity, is a good thing.

I have tried a thing or two like this with my dogs.

About 10 years ago when we only had Bumps, I used to take her over the park and instead of walking, I would ride my bike. 

I was very chuffed with myself because the intensity of the exercise for Bumps and me increased and we could spend less time doing it. 

It was a win, win or so I thought. 

Bumps loved the park and she loved her walks but she hated this and although she might tolerate it for the first few minutes she quickly learned to cheat.

If I was going to take her over the park and make her run constantly, then she would cut corners.

Bumps quickly worked out that whilst I rode a circuit round the perimeter of the park, she could just run a much smaller circuit and always keeping me in her sight.

We soon stopped that because she had made it crystal clear that she hated it.

But, just like us, dogs don’t just benefit physically from exercise they benefit mentally from it as well. 

And this is why you need to keep to that commitment of spending between 1 to 2 hours everyday exercising your golden retriever. 

Whilst dogs are walking, they are also exploring and this exploration is a stimulation in itself. 

Much of this is done with their nose, of course. But this sniffing helps their understanding and keeps them stimulated. 

And another important aspect of this, is the ability to socialise with other dogs, which is a key skill because it will help your dog to become better at meeting other dogs and importantly for us, more accepting of other dogs at home. 

A longer walk also means that your dog gets to spend more time with you which will help to develop a much closer relationship and it will help to build trust all of which will have benefits to how the dog behaves when they are back in the apartment. 

Work Commitments

Now we need to discuss another crucial aspect of dog ownership, which is your work commitments. 

How long are you going to leave your dog during the day?

And although the focus of this article is about the suitability of homing golden retrievers in small apartments, this is a question that has important ramifications for all dog owners.

It perhaps is more important for apartment dwellers because, as was mentioned earlier, of how close neighbours are. 

A recent survey in the UK found that a staggering 20% of dog owners thought that it was OK to leave dogs alone for 24 hours.  As a British dog owner, I’m very embarrassed about that figure…

A survey focused on the U.K. in 2013 revealed that whilst 24% of dog owners never left their dogs alone (never?!) 25% of people left their dogs alone for 5 hours or more

Looking around at the advice given by some of the biggest dog charities, the recommended limit is four hours maximum. 

What are the main dangers with leaving a dog alone for too long (if you live in an apartment)?

[1] Howling or barking- a classic sign of separation anxiety and the behaviour which is most likely to inconvenience your neighbours. 

Golden retrievers are often listed as having one of the loudest barks. One of ours, Mia, had a bark that could be heard from about 30 metres away. Fortunately she would only bark like this when she heard our car approaching. 

[2] Pacing- stressed out dogs spend lots of their time pacing. Will this disturb your neighbours? Golden retrievers are fairly big dogs. Carpets are better at soaking up the noise than solid floors

Three Big Access Issues

There are three big access issues that I would like to discuss in this section and they are key differences between owning a golden retriever and living in a house and owning a golden retriever and living in a small apartment.

And these three issues are: garden, stairs and hosepipe.

[1] Gardens

Houses usually have gardens whereas apartments don’t usually have a garden.

And gardens are great for loads of reasons with dogs, but they are particularly handy for the “first thing in the morning” and “last thing at night” toilet trip.

And the reason that they are so convenient is because you can just open the back door and let the dog out.

You don’t have to put your shoes and coat or even be dressed. 

If you haven’t got access to a garden, where is the nearest patch of grass that you can use at these times?

It will be bloody inconvenient as it is to have to get dressed and put some shoes on to have to toilet your dog but if the nearest patch of grass isn’t that near, this could get old very quickly!

[2] Stairs

The second issue is about stairs. If your apartment is on the ground floor then this will not be an issue but if your apartment is on the second floor or higher then stairs might be an issue.

Firstly, stairs make accessing a toileting area much more inconvenient. Secondly, stairs are a bad idea for a young pup and a veteran dog.

Finally, stairs might make things more difficult because the stairs are used by more people than just you and so you need to make sure that you and your dog are clean and dry before you use them. Otherwise, this might be another reason for the neighbours to complain. 

[3] Hosepipe

If you live in an apartment, do you have access to a hosepipe? I use a hosepipe nearly everyday to clean off Bumps and Sylvie after a walk.

Golden retrievers love playing in water and if they are swimming in a river they might need to be washed off because river water can stink when it dries on your dog.

My dogs also love rolling- in mud and foxes poop mostly and these two activities result in a wash down with a hosepipe.

Finally the ever present threat of Alabama foot rot is another reason that I hose my dog’s feet regularly. 

And yes, all of this can be done with a bucket, sponge and water but it just takes so much more time. 

Vacuuming

My final consideration for you small apartment dwellers who are on the lookout for a golden retriever is to think about vacuuming.

Apart from their soft and playful personalities, another key characteristic of this special breed of dogs are their coats. 

Which are things of beauty. But they also shed quite a lot of hair on a daily basis and in the Autumn and Spring (when they grow a new coat)  the amount of shed hair is truly staggering.

Vacuuming is a consideration for two reasons.

It is important to realise that to keep on top of all of this goldie “debris”, you will need to be vacuuming at least once a day.

It isn’t a quick process because if you have carpet you might need to run the vacuum over it a few times to collect all the hair and you need to pay special attention to the edges and corners because, in my experience, that is where the majority of the hair ends up when you have solid floors. 

Secondly, vacuum cleaners are noisy machines and something that your neighbours will definitely hear. Will they mind you vacuuming more?