Small Apartments, Big City Living (with Big Dogs)!

Small Apartments, Big City Living (with Big Dogs)!

If we asked our dogs where their number one choice to live is, we know their first answer would be 'wherever you are'! Well, they would probably prefer living leash-free on BLM land, chasing small animals and pooping wherever they want (but only if we were there, too).

However, us humans live in all different types of places, ranging from small city apartments to big cabins with tons of forestland. And, dogs can thrive anywhere! Some just require a little more planning to make them happy.

Meet Aimee + Bolt, the pitbull rescue living in San Francisco, and making small homes with big dogs work out incredibly well -


Ever since I was a kid, I was fanatical about dogs. Maybe it was the unconditional love a dog provides or the constant state of happiness when saying hello. Regardless, my love for dogs grew, and fast forward fifteen years I realized I wanted one of my own. There was just one problem – my boyfriend Tom and I lived in San Francisco. And like most urban dwellers, we lived in an apartment.

After some researching, we found out that San Francisco is actually the perfect place to have a pup. Whether it’s dog friendly cafes or multiple parks galore, the city really embraces their four legged friends.

A few weeks later, we went to a local adoption event and found this beautiful and oh so friendly 6 month Pitbull Husky named Bolt. We knew he was the perfect dog for us and went back to submit our application. We were approved after a thorough review from the adoption agency and officially Bolt became a member of the family shortly thereafter.

We’ve now had Bolt for almost two years and we want to let Bolt roam as much as he can, city dog parents face a lot of different challenges when out with their dogs that require a lot of awareness.

While some of these may not apply to every owner (or every dog!) here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

For Daily Adventures - Get to Know the Dog Park Scene

This is one of our favorite parts about living in San Francisco – there are parks galore. We encourage everyone who lives in a city and has a dog to get to know their local parks that welcome dogs. It’s a great opportunity to introduce your dog to others, keep them socialized and meet different types of breeds and personalities! We personally love Alamo Square Park (hello Painted Ladies!) where there’s a huge designated area where people bring their dogs from near and far to socialize with other pups.

Our Weekend Adventures

Every weekend we either take Bolt hiking or to the beach. We love to switch it up not only for him, but for ourselves too! Luckily there are so many dog friendly destinations within San Francisco that welcome our four legged friends with open arms. Whether it's rocky terrain and hiking at Corona Heights or digging through the sandy beaches and checking out the ocean views at Fort Funston, you can find these beautiful getaways a mere 20 minutes away by driving. 

Including Dogs in Social Activities

Because it seems there are more dogs than children in San Francisco, many bars and restaurants love having pups stop in. We've found a few favorite breweries and coffee shops where Bolt is welcome and it makes for an overall amazing experience having the entire family together. One of our all-time favorite places to go is Fig & Thistle Market, a snug neighborhood wine bar & market features natural selections, along with sake. The owner Angel is incredible and even has dog treats and a water bowl for all the doggos! When it comes to coffee spots, our favorites include The Mill and Sightglass that have parklets outside where we can sip our coffee, hang with the dog, and soak in the sunshine! 

Keep Your Dog Leashed & With A Collar

While it’s sometimes okay to let your dog off leash (like at a dog park), in many places in the U.S. walking your dog without a leash is against the law. When it comes to city living, there’s a variety of things you can’t control – other dogs, cars, etc. which may pose a safety concern to you and your dog. Keeping your dog on leash ensures your four legged friend stays safe from running into traffic, or getting into an altercation with another dog. And even more so, it’s good pet etiquette! We love Wilderdog’s Islander Reflective Leash that is super durable and features a carabiner that makes it easy to clip your pup anywhere. Along with the leash, we love the Waterproof Collar that has rubber-coated webbing that repels water and dirt making it the perfect collar for all of Bolt’s adventures on land and off. 

Public Transportation Manners

Living in San Francisco, the bus system is usually the best and easiest way to get around (walking, too!). Dogs are not always allowed, but when they are, it’s important that the dog behaves themselves. We always try to ensure Bolt is calm, in between our feet, and close to us so he doesn’t get excited and jump on strangers when they get on. This is a good opportunity to always have treats nearby to reward your pup for good behavior.

Not All Dogs Are Friendly

Being in the city, we pass many dogs on every walk we go on, which can be awesome! But, one of the hardest lessons we’ve learned is that not all dogs you meet are friendly. As a pet parent who’s open to interaction, you may find it strange when an owner pulls their dog away – but that may be for a good reason! After a few mishaps, we’ve realized it’s important to ask, “Is your dog friendly?” before having our dog greet another. This is a good way to level set so you don’t put you, your dog and someone else's dog in an uncomfortable position.

H20 Is Always A Go

Regardless of season, when you’re doing long walks with your dog make sure to carry water and food with you. Even though we’re not camping, we bring Wilderdog’s Backpacking Bowl that works for food or water. We love the bowl’s new cinching feature that keeps any leftover kibble or remaining water droplets contained, keeping your pup happy and hydrated.

Curb Your Dog

Somehow, you'll always find people leaving their dog poop on the sidewalks - don't be that guy! “Curbing” your dog simply means that you should encourage your dog to do his important business at the very edge of the sidewalk. For Bolt, he learned what to do very quickly and now knows to go on the curb or trees. Be sure to always have your poop bag holder stocked with poop bags before every walk as well!

Make a dog routine and stick to it

It’s no surprise that dogs are creatures of habit just like people! We found that what works for our family is setting a scheduling that stays consistent throughout the week and weekend. From morning walks to feeding time, after awhile, your dog catches on and understands the routine set.

Living in a city is fun, hectic, inspiring, and sometimes challenging. Having your four legged best friend by your side to experience adventures and create memories is incredibly special. I love seeing the wonders of San Francisco through Bolt's eyes and being able to go and do a multitude of things not only adds to my moments in San Francisco, but our family's too!


Thank you Aimee, for sharing a glimpse into your life as a city dog owner! Follow along with Aimee and Bolt on their SF adventures at @aimeerancer.