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How Much Space Does a Dog Need? Backyard and Indoor Space

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Flat coated retriever dog in the garden_kimkuehke_shutterstock

If you’re considering getting a dog but worried about space, you don’t necessarily need to have a big house or a big yard to have a dog. Different dog breeds have different space requirements, both indoors and outdoors.

How much space does a dog need? The answer is not as simple. It really depends on the unique needs of the dog. Learn more about the space requirements for a dog.

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Indoor Space for Dogs

Most adult dogs are fairly quiet and inactive indoors—especially larger breeds. Of course, puppies are more energetic, but that will fade as they age. Some small and toy breeds are active inside, but they don’t require as much space as a large breed.

Dogs are highly adaptable animals and will cram themselves into whatever space works for them. If you want your dog to sleep in bed with you or on the couch, you don’t need a lot of floor space. If you prefer your dog to stay off the furniture, you only need enough space for it to stretch out.

So, for a large breed, the space could be as small as the minimum established, but ideally, your dog would have additional space to enjoy.
According to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) the dog’s minimum space requirements can be calculated as follows:
  1. Measure the length of the dog in inches, from the tip of the nose to the base of its tail.
  2. Add 6 inches
  3. Square the number (multiply the result by itself)
  4. Divide the product by 144 to have the result of the minimum space your dog needs in square feet.
bulldog inside the house
Image: PxHere

Outdoor Space for Dogs

Outdoor space is a little trickier to determine. Dogs use the yard space to play, exercise, run around, and relieve themselves. A small section of the yard can be used as a doggie toilet area, and it need only be large enough for your dog to move comfortably. Of course, this means you may be tasked with more cleanup.

If you don’t have private outdoor space, your dog can be satisfied by regular walks on a leash. Keep in mind that without the convenience of a yard, your dog will need to be walked regularly for toilet breaks and to get out and stretch its legs. Puppies have immature bladders and will need more frequent walks until they develop. Older dogs may need more walks to address incontinence issues that come on with age.

Exercise and playing require more space, but you don’t need a yard for that. Dogs can play in the house or on walks to burn off some energy. You could also bring your dog to the local dog park to play off-leash with other dogs.

old english sheepdog in the field
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Choosing the Right Age and Breed

If space is limited in your home or apartment or your yard, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a dog. You may be better off getting a breed that’s an appropriate size or a dog with lower energy needs, however.

Breeds that work well in apartments or homes with small backyards include lower-energy breeds like the English Bulldog or Poodle. These dogs enjoy lounging around and don’t need a lot of space; regular walks will do.

If you have a mid-sized backyard, small-to-medium breeds like Corgis, Spaniels, and Terriers are ideal. These breeds enjoy playing and will make good use of the space but don’t require tons of running room.

If backyard space isn’t an issue, you have your choice of breeds. Virtually any large breed can thrive in a big backyard, along with small breeds. Keep in mind that your dog may benefit from a fence that allows it to run freely.

Rescues are a great option if you don’t have a lot of space. Shelters have a good understanding of an adult dog’s space requirements and energy levels, ensuring that your home will be the right fit.

Avoid getting a dog that doesn’t suit your current living environment, however. A high-energy breed that doesn’t have its needs met can become frustrated or bored, leading to destructive behaviors like chewing or excessive barking.

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Finding the Right Fit

Space requirements are important when you’re looking to bring a dog into your home. The most important consideration is finding the right breed size, energy level, and personality to suit your available space and avoid issues of boredom or frustration. A small home or apartment without a yard shouldn’t be a barrier to getting a dog, however. Dogs can adapt to playtime on walks in the neighborhood or at the local park.

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Featured Credit: KimKuehke, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is a lover of animals of all sizes but is especially fascinated with the feline variety. She’s the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese, and works every day so he can relax in the sunshine or by the fire. She’s always had a cat in her home and has spent countless days with others, observing behaviors and softening up even the grouchiest of the lot. Nicole wants to share her kitty expertise with you so you and your cat ...Read more

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