How to find the right home for you and your dog

What to consider when preparing to move with your four-legged friend

For many of us, myself included, “man’s best friend” is more than an affectionate way to refer to one’s pet. It’s a phrase that properly describes a dog’s place in the home, very much a member of the family for those fortunate to have one.

When it’s time to buy a home, factoring in your four-legged friend and his or her needs is an important part of the process. That’s especially true in urban areas, where different types of properties come with different sets of rules.

Before you make a move, consider some of the following topics to ensure you and your pet wind up in a situation that works for all involved.

Know the rules

Growing up in a small town and living in a house with a yard afforded my family’s dogs plenty of room to expend their considerable energy. Now in Chicago’s West Loop, I live in a condo with much smaller quarters. Fortunately, my building, per the rules of its homeowners association (HOA), allows dogs. That’s good news for my Gordon Setter, Eddie, and me.

Whether it’s a townhouse or condo, if you are buying a property that shares walls with another’s home, checking the rules to see if pets are allowed is an essential first step. Familiarizing yourself with relevant city and county ordinances is a good idea as well. Some HOAs may have size restrictions in place, so read the fine print to avoid any surprises.

Find a home that suits both of your needs

Once you’re able to confirm a potential new home is pet-friendly, ask yourself how well it will accommodate you and your dog. Is it big enough? Pugs may be just fine in a 450-square foot studio, while Labrador Retrievers likely will require a bit more space.

Is there any outdoor space, even if it’s just a balcony or patio? Is it a private or public space? If there’s a yard, is it fenced in and secure? Consider as well whether a single floor or multiple level property is best for you and your pet.

The more comfortable pets are in their surroundings, the less likely they’ll cause problems, particularly when you’re away from home. After you’ve moved in, providing your pet with a spot it can call its own—perhaps an open crate or a “bed” for napping—can be very beneficial.

Look for a neighborhood that’s pet-friendly

After finding a property that you feel will provide an adequate home for you and your dog, walk out the front door to immerse yourself into the surrounding area. Do you see other pets as you navigate the neighborhood? If so, talk to a few owners about their experiences.

If you’re in the heart of a city, is there a green space within walking distance, or even better, a dog-friendly area? The Chicago Park District lists 23 such spots in the city with the majority on the North Side. Making sure you have an option nearby could significantly affect your daily routine and improve your pet’s quality of life.

While you’re out and about, take note of local veterinarians, pet stores, groomers, and daycare/boarding facilities. You can also get a feel for which bars and restaurants welcome pooches to the patio—some places will even provide water and treats.

Commit to being a good neighbor

No matter where you live, it’s imperative to be a responsible owner and a respectful neighbor. This means taking care of your pet so it doesn’t unreasonably disrupt the lives of your neighbors, whether they live next door or a block away.

If you can hear your neighbors, they can hear you. Try to minimize the amount of barking your pet does and avoid playing with it late at night or early in the morning if it results in noise. If you’ve got less than ideal space, get your dog out for extended walks or take it to the park. If you work long hours, arrange for a dog walker or get your pet to daycare.

Weighing these factors and being mindful of your pet’s wellbeing will serve you well as you prepare to make a move. Remember, rules aside, it’s on you, the owner, to ultimately make it work. If you do, there’s no reason you and your pet can’t live happily in your new home.

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