The Best Large Breed Dogs for Apartment Living

Cute Italian Greyhound dog on yellow background

Apartment living presents a handful of difficulties for dog owners. There’s limited space inside and likely less green space outside as well. The last thing you want to do is trap your beloved big dog inside a small space.

Fortunately, some large dog breeds do just fine living in an apartment. Depending on how big the space is, how much time you have in your schedule to devote to your dog, and the location of your apartment complex, keeping a large dog happy could be pretty easy.

Read on to find out which dog breeds are the best behaved and have the right fitness requirements for apartment living!

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Common Restrictions of Apartment Life

Some of the limitations apartment dogs face are obvious. Large dog breeds in particular feel cramped in small spaces, have more potentially destructive playtime, and may need a lot of exercise. If you live in a big house with your own yard, large dogs can be left alone and still get some fresh air and sunshine on a nice day.

That’s not the case in an apartment. Even when you can give your pooch a daily walk, there may not be any suitably natural spaces to use for the excursion. Some cities are lucky enough to have lots of dog parks while others are sprawling stretches of steel, glass, and concrete. 

Giant mongrel dog sleeping on a sofa

Getting a large dog to get used to living in an apartment can be quite challenging!

That’s not to say that your dog won’t still love heading outside to gather all the bizarre smells of an urban environment, but there’s no denying that letting your doggo stretch their legs on a long walk in a field of grass or hiking with them along a forest trail is much more enjoyable.

Certain breeds have instincts that apartment living won’t allow them to indulge. The Siberian Husky, for example, not only grows to be very large but also has tons of energy, loves games and tasks, and sheds a lot. You might be able to put off vacuuming if a dog sheds in a large dwelling, but you’re going to notice Husky fur immediately in a small apartment.

One thing many prospective dog owners don’t think about is the construction of the apartment building. Building owners in the United States tend to maximize rentable space by putting rooms on both sides of a hallway. A drawback to this setup is that each unit can have windows on one side only, assuming they all have windows. 

Living with a big dog in a small apartment with few windows and no natural cross breeze means you’re going to smell that dog and smell like them too. Besides that, the dog won’t get nearly as much fresh air, especially if you work long hours outside the home.

What Dogs Are Banned From Apartments?

Landlords are basically free to ban whatever breeds they feel like from their properties. The most common restricted breeds for apartments are the kinds that insurance companies won’t cover:

While some complexes might allow one or more of these breeds on the premises, it’s highly unlikely given their supposed predilection for biting. The landlord might even be a dog lover like you, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to share liability for injuries.

Other times, the landlord might be completely against large dog breeds. While it’s the worst situation for owners of these breeds, it makes sense that the landlord wouldn’t want to risk having a large dog locked up in their small apartment wrecking the floors and walls. 

Many complexes require some kind of pet deposit, insurance, and even separate rent for furry friends. Be prepared to be turned away but remember it’s all for the sake of your loyal companion.

Adjusting to Apartment Living With a Large Dog

Even if you have a particularly easygoing pet, they’re going to need plenty of activities to hold their interest and enough exercise to prevent them from going berserk inside the apartment. Many toys are great for large dogs living in small apartments.

Chewable toys and plush puzzle-type toys are the best for breeds that have herding instincts and need mental stimulation throughout the day. The last thing you want is for your trusted behemoth to start howling and crying during the day when you’ve left them alone.

Hire a dog walker or ask a neighbor to take them on a short walk in the middle of the day to break up the monotony and help them burn off a bit of their extra energy. Some breeds also have a watchdog mentality and they’ll bark at anyone who passes by on the street outside.

Leaving them chained up or locked in a kennel is too mean, especially for larger dog breeds. If you give them a perch to look out, they may wind up barking all day. Training might help keep them quiet so the neighbors don’t complain.

If your doggy friend tends to shed a lot, you might need to include regular groomer appointments into your budget. Be ready to clean if they drool a lot or forget they’re house trained from time to time. If your furry best friend has a high activity level, find some way to get them out of the house as often as possible. 

The Best Large Dogs for Apartments

Small dog breeds like the standard poodle might seem like great apartment dogs because they fit the small space better, but large dogs may be better-behaved and bark less. Some breeds are gentle giants who don’t realize they aren’t lap dogs.

They simply sit and wait until you get home so they can slobber all over you, go for a walk, cuddle, and eat their dinner. Here are some of the best large dogs for apartment dwellers:

1. Bulldogs

Perhaps the best dog for a small living space is the bulldog. Whether it’s an English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Spanish, American, or what have you, these pups are one of the best dog breeds for apartments because they have low exercise needs.

In fact, they’re usually total couch potatoes. Bulldogs are a favorite family dog because they’re never mean, they’re loyal, and they’re low maintenance. For apartment dwellers, bulldogs are particularly suitable because they don’t shed much and their fur is short anyway.

2. Greyhounds

This might surprise you if you thought greyhounds were full of explosive racing energy, but they’re actually pretty lazy dogs. They’re commonly referred to as ‘couch potato greys’ because they can sleep anywhere from 16 to over 20 hours per day. 

Sleeping all the time is normal behavior for predators like greyhounds. Exerting more energy means hunting more often. They evolved to hang around not doing much of anything unless they’re chasing their dinner or eating it. 

Besides their low energy levels, greyhounds also don’t bark as much as some other large dog breeds and have short fur. They do tend to shed a lot, but the good news is that daily brushing will help keep stray fur to a minimum. Plus, they adore the attention during a good brush session. 

3. English Mastiff

One of the largest breeds out there in terms of weight, the English Mastiff is a great apartment dog as long as you don’t live in a tall building with no elevator. Moving all that weight up several flights of stairs may discourage your Mastiff from ever wanting to go out of the apartment at all!

The English Mastiff is definitely a gentle giant once it reaches adulthood, but prepare yourself for a pretty destructive puppyhood if you get them when they’re young. They won’t wreck the whole apartment, but they get into just about everything they can find. 

4. Bullmastiff

Another good apartment dog in the Mastiff family is the bullmastiff. The main difference between them and the English Mastiff is that they’re bred to be guard dogs and might bark at passersby if left inside the house. 

But like most behavior, this can largely be trained out of them by and large, especially if you start discouraging loud barking when they’re puppies. One good method is to let them bark themselves silly and ignore them until they stop. Reward them with a treat when they’re finally quiet for an extended period.

5. Shar-Pei

Sharpies have floppy skin that makes them look drowsy basically all the time. That should give you a good idea of what sharing a small space with a Shar-Pei will be like. They’re just big couch potatoes who love a good snuggle session and don’t need too much exercise. 

The most important thing about becoming a Shar-Pei owner is that they are very independent and tend to attach to one person, so they’re perfect for people who live solo but may not be the best choice for families living in apartments. 

6. Newfoundland

These goofy dogs are surprisingly one of the best dogs for apartments if you have the right floor plan and enough time to dedicate to their fitness each day. If you work long hours and don’t have a dog park or an open space nearby where you can take your Newfoundland, then you should probably go with one of the more docile pups on this list. 

But if you can take your pup out each day or get a dog walker to help you out on days when it’s not possible, then having this gentle giant around the house is wonderful. They won’t even seem to notice the limitations of the small space, although they may wind up getting in your way a bit. 

7. Basset Hound

All you have to worry about with these low-energy dogs is their tendency to bark and even howl. Some apartments might have thick enough walls to hide the sound of your basset hound wailing to bring you back home, but it’s not a guarantee that the majority will. 

Basset hounds also shed a surprising amount but you can stop the worst impacts of this shedding with a weekly brushing. Although they are low-energy dogs, they love food and may develop weight problems if you don’t force them to get some exercise.

Dog parks are one of the basset hound’s favorite places because of all the interesting smells, so if you have one of them nearby then the basset hound could be the perfect apartment dog for you.

8. Saint Bernard

Despite its massive size and ability to traverse snowy mountains in search of people in need of rescue, the Saint Bernard is still a good apartment dog. They may carve out their own territory on the couch or amongst other furniture, but they’re very docile.

Portrait of Saint Bernard puppy in the park

The Saint Bernard breed is known for its rescue abilities, large size, and gentle temperament.

Just watch out for potentially large amounts of drool trailing off them. Bear in mind that these big dogs still need to stretch out, so you have to make sure to take them out every day. Also, if your apartment has a narrow hallway rather than a more open floor plan, the Saint Bernard might not be the best choice for you. 

But you can also invest in a large bed for your Saint Bernard so it has the space it needs to stretch and also a little ‘territory’ of its own. Just remember this big dog is used to cold and won’t like to sweat all day inside an apartment in a warm climate.

9. Golden Retriever

The debate rages on about keeping golden retrievers in small apartments. On the one hand, they are large dogs that have tons of energy and love to work through puzzles and play. That can get tiresome in a small space, especially if your golden retriever is a family pet. 

But on the other hand, they are incredibly disciplined dogs if you give them the right training from a young age. They’re intelligent enough to obey commands and they are naturally infrequent barkers so you probably don’t have to worry about them bothering the neighbors too much.

It depends on how much work you want to put into making your golden retriever happy in an apartment. They’ll love to see you come home and won’t make too much of a mess if you can puppy-proof your living space.

But if you don’t have the time or inclination for training and there’s no way to drop the pup off at an obedience school, the golden retriever might not be the best choice. People with a bit of time to invest and who want a loving and loyal friend should absolutely consider the golden retriever, though.

There’s a reason they’re one of the most popular breeds – you can train them and they’re low-maintenance compared to many other well-known breeds. Just make sure you have somewhere to take your golden to burn off its excess energy most days out of the week and it will make a great apartment companion.


It might not seem like some of the larger dog breeds could live in an apartment without destroying the place, but there are actually a handful of breeds that get by just fine with limited space. 

As long as you take care to pick a dog-friendly apartment and have some outdoor space where your pooch can get some exercise from time to time, any one of the large dogs in this guide will be perfectly happy sharing your apartment with you. 

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.