Pet Parent's Guide to Adjusting Your New Puppy to City Life
Updated: Feb 28
Congratulations on your new puppy! Now that they’re home it’s time to help your pooch adjust to life as your dog—and for those in Bark Buildings that means learning how to be a city dog.
Though we may not think much of it, city life is a foreign concept to a dog. The entire set up and lifestyle of city dwellers is unnatural to the canine mind. Without a human ability to immediately understand things like speeding traffic and loud throngs of people, the city can be a scary and confusing place. Add to that many puppies (from breeders and rescue) are often born in rural environments, so their exposure to city stimuli before they arrived home may have been none. This is why exposing your puppy to features of the city early on is extremely important to their development and future happiness.
Take the Puppy Out!
The first thing you must do to get your puppy adjusted to urban life is take them outside! Though many vets now recommend people not allow puppies under four months old to walk outdoors before they receive all their vaccinations, this doesn’t mean the puppy shouldn’t be outside. While the American Veterinary Association recommends keeping young puppies out of dog parks or dog-trafficked walking areas, they strongly encourage socialization to the outside world. An unsocialized puppy’s chances of becoming severely fearful if never exposed to city stimuli until 4+ months is rather high.
A frequently forgotten aspect of socializing a puppy to the city is getting them accustomed to the different surfaces they will encounter on their little paw pads. Many puppies may have only ever been indoors or walked on grass. They’ll need to learn the textures and surfaces they’ll be walking on without becoming alarmed—because dogs sometimes become frightened if they step on something that feels unfamiliar and refuse to walk on it. Make sure to walk your puppy on sidewalk, grass, astroturf, asphalt, gravel, dirt, and eventually scarier surfaces like metal cellar doors or manholes. Learning the feel of different textures and what actions are appropriate on each is also an important aspect of house training your dog!
Car horns, trains, traffic, dog barking, people yelling, sirens, cars backfiring, car alarms…these are just a few of the sounds that urbanites have accepted as background noise. But to a new puppy? Those can be terrifying! To get your very young puppy used to these things, play loud recordings of city noises for them in a safe and familiar environment. Then take your puppy outside and give them a small treat anytime a scary noise may occur. But be careful not to go too fast too soon--best take your dog out during a quieter time of the day at first and slowly move up to the loudest and scariest of noises. And always remember to treat after the noise!
It’s never hard to find people who want to help socialize a puppy! But make sure to do it at the puppy’s own pace. Some dogs, either due to individual personality or breed may be shyer or more aloof than others. Make sure to have your puppy around people of different ages, genders, races, and abilities. You can let some people say hello to your puppy, and pet them if the dog seems comfortable, but find a good balance of allowing your puppy to meet new people and say hello, and not overwhelming the dog or letting them get more focused on new people than they are on you. Your puppy can play with some new friends, but don’t let them jump…it may be cute now but won’t always be, especially if you have a large breed!
Along with making sure your pup is friendly and behaves well with new people, you also want to get them used to…ignoring people! Cities are full of thousands or millions of people. We can’t expect to stop and say hello to each one! That means your dog must learn that we say hello to a select few people of your choosing, but they must just move on with the many others.
The best way to socialize your puppy is taking them to puppy classes or playgroups with other dogs their age and a trainer who can monitor the play and educate you on canine behavior. In the early stages try to avoid large dog parks with strange dogs as you not only want to protect your pup from germs, but protect them from unknown adult dogs who may not like puppies. For their protection, only allow your puppy to socialize with other dogs you know to be friendly and healthy/vaccinated. On-leash greetings should also be avoided except with a select few dogs, as you don’t want your pup to think they can say hello to every dog, or get too distracted by them while on their walks. Allowing a puppy to interact with or visually focus on other dogs too much on walks will not only interfere with their leash manners, but may actually create dog-reactivity (barking/lunging) on walks as they mature.
Walking and Walking Gear
The ability to walk down the street with good leash manners is the cornerstone of a well-behaved city dog. Leash walking is often the bulk of their exercise, and walking past a great deal of distraction is a big ask for puppies. So start early! While still indoors, get your puppy used to wearing collars, leashes and harnesses. Practice loose-leash walking in a quiet and less-distracting environment in your building or an obedience school so your pup learns the basics before things get too interesting.
While they get used to their walking gear, your dog should get used to other items they must wear. Small breeds and very short-coated dogs who need sweaters and coats in cold weather should become accustomed to them at an early age. Having your dog get used to paw protection for salty winter streets is also something to expose them to early. Paw balms such as Musher’s Secret or petroleum jelly requires the dog be comfortable with their paws being manipulated. Various types of booties are also popular—but require more conditioning. Typically dogs are not a fan of booties, and take time to get used to them (if they ever do), so getting your puppy accustomed to wearing and walking in them will make for easier outings in icy weather.
When Your Pup Needs Extra Help
Just like people, some dogs may be of a timid nature and need extra help for new challenges. If you find your puppy is fearful of exposure to the city by trying to run or hide on walks, refusing to walk, or showing other problematic behaviors that make being out and about difficult, it’s time to seek out a trainer. A trainer can help you find the proper way to work your dog to build confidence, avoid future behavior issues, and help you give your dog the guidance they need to be a happy cosmopolitan canine.
Live in a Bark Building and looking for a dog trainer or dog walking service that could help work on leash manners with your city pup? Check out the Recommended by Bark Buildings section of your resident dashboard, or reach out to your Pet Concierge for more personalized guidance!