Project Puppy: Size and activity level

One of the great joys of sharing your life with a dog is the fact that they have the potential to act as ambassadors for making new friends and acquaintances. People are far more likely to strike up a conversation with you when you are with a dog. On the down side, people are also likely to make comments and offer advice without solicitation.

I recently had a third lesson with a lovely woman who had adopted a five-month-old Newfoundland puppy from a rescue group. A few minutes into the lesson, I realized that her eyes were welling up with tears. She explained that she was feeling terrible guilt about her puppy. It seems that someone had stopped her on the street to let her know how horrible they thought it was that she had such a large dog in the city. I assured her that her puppy was lucky to have been adopted by her. Not only was she being diligent about his education and socialization but, she had carefully chosen a pup with a low-key nature whose activity level was relatively low, especially compared to many smaller dogs. It seemed this pup was superbly suited to apartment and city life.

She had also chosen to adopt a special needs puppy that, due to a medical condition, would need to have a carefully controlled and somewhat limited exercise routine for the next 6-12 months. The rescue group was surely thrilled to have found a woman who was a stay-at-home writer, with loads of time to provide for this dog’s special needs care. They also rightly assumed that this dog would do well in a city environment. I assured her that she had nothing to feel guilty about.

Contrary to what some people suggest, large dogs can be superb apartment dwellers. In fact, in many cases, more so than some smaller dogs who may be highly active and vocal. While the size of your living quarters is of some concern, it is far more important to be sure you can provide a particular dog with the exercise, training and socialization required. With that said, spending time (ideally over the course of a number of visits on different days) with an individual dog will give you some idea of their activity level.

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Andrea Arden is an animal behavior counselor, rescuer, author, speaker, and a resident pet expert on the Today Show. For more information, check out her website,