Sniffing out Manhattan’s dog-friendly buildings

It’s a landlord’s attitude that really counts

TRD New York /
Aug.August 03, 2013 10:00 AM

From Luxury Listings NYC: Pity the pooches in these dog days of summer—unless, of course, they belong to the canine Upper Class. Those pedigreed few have masters who are truly affluent. No expense is too great, no matter how barking mad it might seem; they think the “lap” in lap dog refers to the lap of luxury.

And a big hunk of the high (hound) life is the home. Nix the wire kennel and even the cute little cedar chalet. No, the abodes of choice are definitely condos and co-ops.

Stroll down Park Avenue with FiFi, in her jewel-encrusted collar, or get dragged through the Bowery by Bowser, and you will see plenty of fluffs of fur coming out of skyscrapers. They don’t even bother to sniff when they walk past the doorman and into the Great Outdoors.

These days, lots of buildings, especially the new towers, tout themselves as “dog-friendly,” though they still have plenty of rules to make it ruff (sic) going for even the best behaved of man’s best friends.

There are pet references and personality interviews—not to mention weight and breed restrictions, and the obligatory obedience training, according to Andrea Arden, a New York City dog trainer who wrote “Baron’s Dog Training Bible” and has popped up on the Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet.”

“Although some higher-end apartment buildings are now offering such amenities as indoor dog play areas and washrooms, many of our clients say it has become harder than ever to find a pet-friendly apartment,” Arden said. “This may be due in part to the fact that the market has heated up a bit and so landlords and co-ops can be choosier.”

Perception, too, is a problem. What a landlord might think is dog-friendly, an owner might not—and vice versa. Plus, there is no standard definition of dog-friendly: “The term varies greatly from building to building, and is ever changing,” Arden said.

A perfect example of wire(hair)s getting crossed involved Shelby Semel and her two four-legged girls: Xena, an 8-year-old Chihuahua, and 5-year-old Taz, a Pomeranian.

Semel, a dog trainer who uses praise and treats to reinforce her students’ good behavior, had her hopes set on living in a Sutton Place building. It seemed like the perfect fit—grooming services, even doggie day care. The building’s owner, though, didn’t think so. She got the thumbs-down without even the courtesy of a meeting so she could introduce Xena and Taz.

“My landlord … probably thought [my] clients and their dogs would be coming in and out all the time,” Semel said. “I had to beg them to just meet us and give us a chance.”

After the face-to-face, the landlord threw Semel a bone: The apartment was hers—but only if she promised, in writing, not to train any dogs at home.

“I’ve been here four months and no complaints yet, so hopefully it stays that way!” Semel added.

The biggest challenges, though, are for the owners of big and/or aggressive breeds. A Bichon Frise is a powderpuff that might top out at 20 pounds. An Old English Sheepdog is a marshmallow, too—a 60-plus-pound one. And a Yorkie and a pit bull are both terriers, but it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out why one is welcomed in buildings and the other is not.

Still, despite all the trials that dog lovers can face, bow-wow bliss can be found—and in nearly every Manhattan neighborhood, no less.

The trick is looking beyond the amenities and locating landlords who treat dogs like they do their human tenants, according to Michael Rosenblatt of Spot Experience, a cage-free dog concierge service.

Rosenblatt uses a real-life situation to make his point: If you are stuck late at the office, and live in a truly dog-friendly building, the landlord has someone on site who will pop into your apartment to make sure that Rover is all right.

“The Upper East and Upper West Side, Tribeca, Chelsea, they all have access to great parks, but what makes an area truly dog-friendly is the people running your building,” said Rosenblatt. “You need to live in a place where the safety and happiness of the dog is paramount and a place that will give back to the animal the way the animal gives back to you.”

School’s in: Before even thinking about new digs, enroll Doggie in obedience class.

Write Rover a resume: Along with your application, submit a one-page sheet that details your hound’s history (pedigree or pound, etc.) and accomplishments (behavioral training, for example).

Lie (a little) about weight: Only a handful of building owners will put Bowser on a scale, so if the limit is 50 pounds and the needle hovers at 60, go ahead and fudge.

Tell the truth about breed and barking: If you own a pit bull or a yapper, ‘fess up. One can be a liability; the other is simply a nuisance.

Calculate your odds: The best way to figure out whether you stand a chance at getting into a building is to find out how the owner feels about pets. If she doesn’t like them, move on.

Be prepared to pony up: Most landlords require a security deposit for a canine tenant. It’s generally hefty—from the low thousands for a rental to upwards of $50K for a co-op or condo purchase. – Christopher Cameron


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