Your search for an apartment has landed you in a tiny space and you have to make do with it. And while most of your belongings fit in, you also have a furry friend, who often feels the need to hop around. Between the constant barking and the random stream of pee every so often, your living situation will be a mountain to climb, the pebble in your shoe being your dog. Here is how you can navigate this tricky situation and still keep your pet.
Pick a pet-friendly area and apartment
First, make sure that your area code and apartment have pet-friendly policies, as well as an enabling environment. Find out if bylaws in that area allow for keeping pets and animals. Nairobi City bylaws for instance stipulate that, keeping a dog older than four months without a license is illegal and attracts a Sh2,000 fine. Tom Agumbi, director of Tom & Company, further explains that the law is clear that if you are sharing a compound or apartment with other people, you should not keep a pet dog.
Additionally, a balcony the size of your palm will only complicate your living situation, as your dog will spend a considerable amount of time there. It would also be extremely helpful if your apartment came with a green backyard. Similarly, you will want to pick a house on the first or ground floor. This makes it easier for your dog, every time you need to take a walk or bathroom break outside your apartment.
Puppy-proof your apartment
Unless you have a very calm breed, dogs are generally curious. Dr Paul Kangethe, FarmKenya Initiative resident veterinarian advises that you install proper latches on cabinets, closets and doors around your place. This will spare you the despair of spilled produce, torn clothes and chewed shoes.
More importantly, you have to accept that not many people especially those with families are comfortable with animals in their living spaces. So, the last thing you need is to be everyone’s least favourite neighbor just days after moving in.
Property lawyer Harold Ayodo clarifies that it is the responsibility of pet owners to prevent their animals from injuring people. For instance, if you must take a walk with it, do it late evenings when there are few people around.
“According to Chapter 23 of the Penal Code, it amounts to criminal recklessness and negligence for a person to endanger human life by omitting to take precautions against probable danger from any animal in his or her possession,” says Ayodo.
It is important to get the barking under control so that the pet is not a nuisance and you do not cause any stress to your neighbours. How do you achieve that?
Pick a breed that is calm and ensure that the animal remains happy and well fed and there are no triggers that stress it. Dr Kangethe explains that you can learn how to desensitise your dog to most stimuli, as sounds from around your apartment may cause unnecessary barking.
One of the tricks is to learn to put your dog on a schedule. Routines to establish your day-to-day activities will help control barking. Establishing poop time, when you leave for work as well as feeding time and this will minimise the stress triggers.
Take a lot of walks and exercise breaks
Dogs enjoy large spaces. They like to run around and play as much as they can.
It is critical that you understand that having your paw-pal live in your tiny space might take a toll on them. To counter that, take at least two long walks daily. This long walks and breaks are also great for your mental well being.
Regardless of how well behaved your dog is, it is almost certain that they are going to destroy something in your house. They might scratch the floors, break your cabinet doors or stain the walls somehow. If that happens, chances are high that your landlord (in case it is a rental) may withhold a larger chunk of your deposit for maintanace costs.
Mental health benefits of owning dog
Psychologist Harold Herzog, a pet-loving professor at Western Carolina University who has long studied the human-animal connection says there are 10 health benefits studies have shown pet owners have.
"Higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, less loneliness, better blood pressure, better psychological well-being, lower rates of depression and stress levels, fewer doctor visits, increased self esteem, better sleep and more physical activity," are just some of the recorded benefits of pet ownership, Herzog said.
If you cannot meet all these tight rules, and still want to keep a pet, I propose one of those small fish species in jars.