Top dogs – the very best pooches for apartments


Last week, on James Valentine’s afternoon show on ABC radio, I said we had an article on this website telling people what the best dogs for apartments are.  I kind of assumed we had something like that … turns out we don’t.

Or we didn’t until I did a little research, dug around various websites and collated what is this very rough guide to the best dogs with which to share your limited living space.

If you don’t see some of the most popular breeds here, it may be because they came with provisos, such as “you can train barking out of them”.

I also didn’t particularly favour small dogs – size isn’t everything — but many professional websites assumed small dogs would work better in small spaces. For me, if your apartment is so small that you need a tiny dog that doesn’t bark, get a cat.

I excluded most dogs that were described as “great watchdogs” because that could mean they’ll bark every time they hear someone in the lift lobby. And I was also cautious about any mutts that required a lot of time, training and attention because these can be in short supply among apartment owners. 

Finally, I did not consider cuteness as a major deciding factor (which is a criterion I also apply to humans.)

I rejected one dog that came up in a lot of lists: the Basenji.  This is a medium sized intelligent dog requiring a lot of training, stimulation and control when outside.  So why does it make it on to other lists? Because it is almost physically incapable of barking.  Sorry, that’s just not enough to overcome some drawbacks.

If your favourite dog isn’t on this list, I apologise.  If it’s any consolation, neither is mine.  I’d love to have a Border Collie but I just don’t have room in my unit for the sheep.

Finally, these are all pure breeds or miniaturised versions.  There are also some very popular cross-breeds, like the cavoodle (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle).  You can only hope they carry all the good genes, and not all the bad ones.

So here, in no particular order, is my distillation of other people’s lists of the best apartment dogs. You’ll find links to the original lists that I plundered for this piece at the end of this article.

All the pictures were pinched from Pinterest and by all means log into the Forum to tell us if we got it right or wrong with breeds we chose and others we left out.


The Havanese has been nicknamed the ‘velcro dog’ because of its tendency to cling to its owners. Very affectionate towards dogs, strangers, cats and children, the Havanese is low on barking and shedding and only moderately high on energy. They don’t take up much space, they’re not yappy, they are highly trainable, being eager to please, and they thrive on encouragement. They are energetic but one daily walk should do the trick. In all, this Cuban cutie is a great apartment dog, especially if someone is around most of the day.

Shih Tzu

Another inner-city favourite, the Shih Tzu lists high among the best dog breeds for apartments. The Shih Tzu loves companionship, whether it’s you, your kids or other pets and it’s not prone to barking too much. One review says they were practically bred to be the perfect apartment companion.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel likes to make friends with everyone and is always up for a good cuddle. Weighing between 5-8kg, they are a great apartment breed that’s happy to remain indoors most of the time. Cavaliers love being close to their owners, so the smaller the space the better as far as they’re concerned.

They are intelligent and trainable, and you can work with them to avoid accidents, chewing and scratching, while as little as 20 minutes of exercise each day will keep these pups happy. However, like Havanese, Cavaliers love people and want to be around you as much as possible.


Pugs are very social animals and you might want to think about providing them with a buddy, especially if you are out a lot. Playful and loyal, their ideal home would involve another dog, or even a cat, as they hate to be left alone. Otherwise, the pug is content to watch the day go by from the comfort of their own bed. They are generally not yappy, which, along with their size, makes them perfect for apartments.

Coton De Tulear

One review said this dog was bred to be a human companion, and is best suited to retirees, empty nesters or home workers. Always up for a bit of fun, the Coton De Tulear is adaptable and loves a walk but is quiet and calm when at home.


Remember when everyone and their brother was rescuing retired greyhounds that would otherwise have met a grizzly end? Then, to most people’s surprise, the greyhound turned out to be the perfect apartment dog because they don’t bark much and, once they’ve have their daily walk, they just want to chill out.

Bichon Frise

Very high on the cuteness count, the Bichon Frise (pronounced BeeShawn Freezay) is a ubiquitous fashion accessory pet in some quarters. They shed relatively little and they are highly energetic which means they love to play and require daily exercise. No larger than a decent-sized cat, the lack of shedding makes them ideal for being around people with allergies.

English Bulldog

Another dog known for its laziness is the English Bulldog which is more than happy to spend its days napping on the couch. They rarely bark, and are great with children in spite of their stocky build. A short walk is all they need and tend to be calm and friendly, belying their “angry” features.


Among the smartest of all dogs – which brings challenges as well as delights – the standard Poodle may be a bit too big for apartment living, but the Toy or Miniature Poodle are both perfect for flats. Easy to train and only requiring the occasional walk poodles have great people skills – including not barking too much. Poodles suit active owners best as they need good training and  stimulation to remind them who’s boss.

Basset Fauve de Bretagne

This particular Basset is a good apartment dog if none of your family members or roomies are prone to allergies. Friendly and active, easy on the eye and ear, take them for a good walk every day with some extra games in the mix to burn up some of their plentiful energy. Their small size makes them ideal for apartments.

French Bulldog

French Bulldogs or Frenchies,  were originally bred in England to be miniature Bulldogs. Their compact size and low activity needs made them good apartment dogs that love to play as much as relaxing on the sofa. They thrive on human contact but owners need to be consistent, firm and patient with a creative flair in training to avoid them getting bored. They also make great watchdogs in apartments, because they rarely bark without reason.

Great Dane

A discussion on the relevant merits of Great Danes and Kelpies in apartments led to a spiky exchange between Labor MP Julia Finn (pro Great Dane) and NSW Better Regulations Minister Kevin Anderson (predictably pro Kelpie) during the debate over the pet amendment. And it’s hard to believe, but Great Danes make great apartment dogs, much more so than any working dogs, despite their huge size. They are extremely quiet, calm, patient and friendly dogs that love nothing better than lazing around (preferably on their own couch).

Toy Fox Terrier

The Toy Fox Terrier is a loyal and loving dog breed that trains very well and is always ready for fun with family. A devoted companion, they’re extremely protective of their humans and will happily accept extended cuddles as you binge-watch you favourite TV shows. Some Toy Fox Terriers will require more exercise than others.

Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin has a cat-like agility and a similar urge to climb up to high places. The Chin can adapt to any living situation and despite their long coats, the Chin needs just a weekly brushing. Their size, character, and low-exercise demands make them great for apartment dwellers with less active lifestyles.

Some other sources

Here are some of the websites I plundered for information about the dogs listed above. Some of them have a lot more breeds listed, but many of them come with cautions about behaviour and/or the need to train them, especially out of barking excessively.

One Reply to “Top dogs – the very best pooches for apartments”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    If you want to start a discussion or ask a question about this, log into the Flat Chat Forum (using the Forum link on the menu at the very top of your screen). More people will read it there and you can more easily keep track of responses.

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