Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, New Home? Don't forget your dog.

I rented 3 different apartments with this 160lbs Saint Bernard. Anything is possible.

Renting with any animals is somewhat more difficult than renting with no animals. Renting with dogs tends to be more difficult than renting with cats. Renting with multiple dogs is harder than with one dog. Renting with big dogs is harder than renting with small dogs. Renting with pit bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans is probably harder than any of the above.

However, all are possible and the challenge is not insurmountable as long as you are determined and well-equipped for dealing with worried landlords.

I rented with three 100lbs + dogs. It's possible.

Every year, thousands of animals are surrendered to shelters, given away, or even abandoned on the street because their owners were moving and "couldn't" find a place that would allow animals. Remember that dogs are living creatures who rely on their human caretakers entirely. Don't fail your pets by abandoning them rather than putting in the time and effort to find a pet-friendly apartment or house.

In addition to good, old-fashioned hard work and determination, here are some tips for ensuring your new home will be as welcoming for your dog as it is for you:

Plan ahead. It may well take you a bit longer than your dogless friends to find a new place to live. You might have to look longer, explore different neighborhoods, and make some extra phone calls. If possible, give yourself a couple months to complete the process.

Put your best foot forward. What is your most landlord-friendly characteristic, as a person? Probably not the fact that you own a dog. It might be that you are a professional, that you've had the same job for 5 years, that you're a graduate or professional student, or that you are a stable couple in a long term relationship -- whatever it is, mention that to your potential landlord first.... before mentioning your dog at all. Try to get him/her hooked on your great potential as a responsible renter before you break the bad news about the d-o-g.

Make your best first impression. Do you come across really well in person? Ask for a one-on-one meeting. (Again, this is before you talk about the dog issue.) Are you great on the phone? Call. Do you write really well? Try an email. Now, I love individuality and I want everyone to be a free spirit. However, for the purposes of your initial meeting, try to dress decently. It's amazing how much landlords care. They're making snap judgments on the fly -- it's not fair, but it's in your best interest to make sure they don't have anything to hold against you.
Put your (dog's) best paw forward. There will, of course, come a time when you have to mention your dog. A lot of potential renters, fearful of being rejected on the basis of their doggyness, make a horrible error. They say something along the lines of, "I have one enormous dog," or, "I have a big male pit bull." I can't tell you how many times I've heard this. Is your dog sweet, well-behaved, and friendly? Say so! "I have a very friendly dog. He loves everyone." Or, "I have two very well-behaved dogs." That's the way to broach the subject of canine companions. If the landlord goes on to ask if the dogs are big, or if they're pit bulls, you might have to fess up, but at least start it off right.

Keep going with the positives. If the landlord seems skeptical of your best friend -- or if he or she outright rejects you on that basis -- remember that negotiations aren't over. Instead of giving up or becoming defensive, just start explaining why your dogs -- and you -- would be great tenants. Remember that most landlords aren't just dog-haters. Most are worried about three things: liability for injuries on the property, property damage, and keeping good relations with the neighbors.
  • Liability for injuries:
  1. play up your dogs' friendliness. Is your dog good with adults, kids, other dogs, cats? Say so.
  2. Do you always keep your dog leashed in public? Say so. (And I hope you do!)
  3. Suggest a meeting with your dog. Your potential landlord can see first hand how friendly your buddy is.
  4. Have you had your dog a long time? Tell the landlord. It will give credence to your claims that the dog is friendly. (As opposed to, Oh, I just rescued him a month ago, but he's never been mean yet!)
  5. Is your dog spayed/neutered? Say so.
  6. Offer references and other people to vouch for your dog's friendliness. Good references for this include veternarians, trainers/behaviorists, and petsitters/boarding facility staff.
  • Property damage:
  1. First, references. If you have a good relationship with a previous landlord, ask them to vouch for your non-destructive pup.
  2. Is your dog old? Point out that your dog is well past the "puppy" stage and not destructive.
  3. Do you crate your dog when you're not around? Say so. Crated dogs can't chew woodwork, pee on the floor, or eat walls.
  4. Do you have a short haired dog? If your landlord is worried about carpets, point out your non-shedding (or at least, minimally shedding) friend.
  • The neighbors:
  1. Do you have a great relationship with your current or past neighbors? Ask them to be references. They can say how wonderful your canine buddy is.
  2. Is your dog quiet? Point it out. Barking is a major neighborhood nuisance.
  3. Is your dog never outside alone? Say so. Dogs in the yard tend to bark more, possibly escape the yard, and generally cause more trouble for neighbors.
  4. Again, do you always keep your dog leashed in public? Neighbors generally prefer that.
  5. Always pick up after your dog immediately? Say so.
  6. Do the neighbors have pets? Play up your dogs' well-socialized natures, and also offer to produce vet records.
Document things: Landlords (and many people) tend to be very impressed by paperwork. Have print outs of vet records on hand, as well as printed copies of pet references from past landlords, vets, petsitters, etc. Somehow, having a stack of papers to show people generally makes them feel very happy.
Point out the negatives you and your dog don't have: Think of the things landlords do NOT want, and list all of them that do NOT apply to you and your dog, and then also emphasize the opposite quote-unquote "good" attribute that does apply to yall: "The dog is not big, it's very little." "We don't have parties, we're very quiet." "My dog never digs holes, he sleeps all day." "I don't smoke, or burn incense...." (I couldn't think of a positive for that one.)
Make intelligent pet choices when you're renting: If you don't actually have a pet yet, but want one, think hard and make careful choices. Remember that big dogs, pits, Rotties, and young puppies might make renting harder. When adopting a pit, remember that folks seem to be most afraid of brindle, blue, and white dogs, big pits, and pits with cropped ears. This is all very silly, but still worth thinking about: are you up for the additional challenge?
Stay positive. Remember that you WILL find a place for you and your pup to live. It's just a challenge -- but in the end, the reward of having your life enriched by an amazing, happy, loving companion is worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. Yes!! For the past 6 years I have had 1-3 rescued pit bulls at any given time....and I am a renter. My largest is 80 lbs and he has lived in half a dozen apartments with me between Maine and Oregon. It's not easy to be a renter with a dog (and you will certainly be turned down from time-to-time), but if you're a committed dog owner, you will happily put in the time. Personally, I would rather live in my car than surrender my dog(s). I know that my sentiments are perhaps not the sentiments of dog owners, at large, but I love your message of empowerment to those who are discouraged.

    Keep doing what you do!