How Much Space Does a Dog Need? Does Your Dog Have Enough?

dog living a large space

The amount of space a dog needs depends on the size and breed. Your dog should have at least six inches of clearance when standing on all four legs, and there needs to be room for them to lie down and stretch out.

There are a variety of opinions on how much space a dog needs. Dogs can be kept in tiny apartments to houses with acres of land to roam on. The amount of space required for dogs varies depending on several factors.

Things to Consider

Space requirements aren’t the same for all dogs or for all situations. There are a few things dog owners should take into consideration when estimating the amount of space a dog needs.

Dog Size and Breed

Different breeds vary not only in their size but also in their energy and temperament.

Small dogs are often very energetic but can get their exercise running around indoors and jumping onto and off furniture. While they should still be walked and played with, a large amount of their exercise can take place inside.

Large dogs are generally less energetic indoors, so although they may not need a large living space, they will need a large yard or plenty of walks every day.

Energetic dogs such as border collies need a lot of exercise, while lower energy dogs like bull mastiffs will tire quickly on a short walk.

Your Time Commitments

When people talk about how much space a dog needs, they usually mean space to play and exercise.

It’s possible to keep a dog happy with minimal space if you’re able to provide multiple walks a day.

Regardless of space, dogs need mental stimulation in addition to exercise, so playtime either with you or with other dogs or interactive toys is a must for a happy, healthy dog.

Your Neighborhood

When deciding whether you have enough space for a dog, one thing to consider is the neighborhood you live in.

Is it pedestrian and dog friendly? Are you and your dog going to feel safe taking long walks? Or is there a ton of traffic and other hazards that may make it a less pleasant experience?

A nearby dog park can be a great addition to your walks, especially if you need to tire the dog out before taking him back home.

The Individual Dog

Breed plays a huge factor in how much space a dog needs, but other things such as age and personality also matter. Older or mellower dogs, for example, may not require as much space as a hyper one-year-old.

Some dogs feel more comfortable in enclosed places, especially if their owner is gone. This is one of the numerous reasons it’s better to leave a dog inside rather than outside when you’re away. Leaving a dog outside alone can make the dog feel exposed and insecure, not to mention frustrated at all the noises outside the fence that he can’t investigate.

Bare Minimum Requirements For a Crate

Some owners kennel-train their dogs and keep them in their kennels while away. For owners who do this, choosing the right size crate is important.

According to the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, a dog’s crate should be large enough for it to comfortably sit and lie in, and there should be a minimum of six inches of clearance over the dog’s head when standing.

Additionally, it’s good practice to provide the dog with something soft to lie on, as well as toys.

The Effects of Understimulation

Keeping a dog in a small space can cause more than obesity from lack of exercise. It can also lead to behavioral problems such as chewing and rough playing, as well as anxiety and depression.

As mentioned above, this is not due to the space itself as much as the effects of under-stimulation.

The importance of regular walks and other forms of exercise, as well as playing and mental training, can not be overemphasized.

What to Do If You Can’t Spend a Lot of Time With Your Dog

The amount of time you’re able to spend with a dog should be considered before acquiring one. However, sometimes things come up and life gets busy. If you’re not able to spend as much time as you’d like with your dog, here are some things you can do instead.

Hire a Dog Walker

If you know you’ll be gone most of the day, consider hiring a dog walker to visit your dog once or twice a day.

Dog walking services usually also provide playtime options, where someone will come to your home and let your dog out or walk her, then spend X amount of time playing.

If you’re uncomfortable hiring a stranger, ask an animal lover in your social circle to stop by as a favor, or hire a friend’s teen who’s looking to earn extra money.

Doggie Daycare

Doggie daycares provide a chance for your dog to get out of the house and make new friends while you’re at work.

They usually offer kennels for dogs who need a break or prefer to be alone, along with supervised playtime with dogs of similar size.

Some even offer webcams, so you can check up on your dog throughout the day. Be sure to read reviews and take a tour beforehand to assess the quality of the place.

Play Dates

If your dog’s not great with strangers or large groups of dogs, play dates at a friend’s house might be a better choice.

You can even alternate depending on who’s got free time, so neither person’s dog has to be left alone.

Interactive Doggie Cams

There are a growing number of “doggie cams” on the market, many of which are interactive. Not only can you watch your dog, but you can speak to her and even press a button to dispense treats.

These aren’t always the best option for dogs who are afraid of new things, so be sure to test it out while you’re at home so the dog gets used to it.

Solo Games

Toys that your dog can play with on her own are great for those times when you have to leave for several hours but don’t have enough time to arrange for doggie care.

Right before leaving the house, give the dog a Kong filled with her favorite food. She might be too busy to realize you’re gone!

Store-bought or DIY snuffle mats also keep dogs entertained as they try to find the treats buried inside.

There are many mentally stimulating food puzzles that require your dog to try different tactics to get to the food inside, which are great for preventing boredom while you’re away.

Get Another Dog

If you’re struggling to find time for one dog, getting a second one may seem counterintuitive. But dogs are pack animals and do best when they’re not kept alone. A second dog can provide your dog with someone to play with and seek comfort from when you’re away.

Space is Only Part of the Equation

Remember, the amount of space a dog has is only a small part of keeping them happy and healthy.

What’s important is that the dog is provided with plenty of opportunities to exercise, explore, and play.

While small spaces can provide extra challenges in keeping your dog exercised and entertained, a large space doesn’t automatically mean a happy dog if they’re kept there alone for most of the day.

Dog ownership is an enormous responsibility. If you’re not able to find time to take your dog on walks and provide fun toys and games, it’s your responsibility to arrange for alternate ways for the dog’s needs to be met.

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