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Breed Restrictions: What They Are + 10 Tips for Dog Owners

October 11, 2023
Discover the most common breed restrictions in apartments, what to expect when you're renting with dogs, and how to get around them.

If you're a pet lover, you probably know about breed restrictions or rules prohibiting specific aggressive dogs from a property. In some cases, apartments also restrict dogs of all breeds over a certain weight.

With nearly 69 million American households owning at least one dog, it's essential to brush up on restricted dog breeds. You may need to rethink your strategy and find a pet-friendly apartment without breed restrictions.

Here's what to know and how to plan your next steps.

A Guide to Breed Restrictions

Common Breed Restrictions for Apartments

Restricted dog breeds for apartments can vary from place to place. Landlords can also ban your pup if they're a mix of an aggressive breed.

Here's a common round-up of dogs that could prevent you from signing a lease:

  • Pit bulls (American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, and American Bulldog)
  • German Shepherds
  • Akitas
  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Mastiff Breed
  • Malamutes
  • Cane Corso
  • Husky
  • Chow Chow
  • Any Wolf Hybrid
  • Great Danes

The above isn't necessarily a comprehensive list of breeds considered aggressive. Also, remember that some dogs are banned for their large size, not their behavior.

Dog laying in apartment

How Do Breed Restrictions Work?

Breed restrictions reflect a property manager's concerns about dogs that are potentially harmful to tenants, other dogs, or to the property itself. Landlords generally work within local laws as well as with their insurance agency to determine breed restrictions. By offering a blanket restriction on breeds, landlords hope to avoid incidents with aggresive dogs.

However, many animal groups have challenged the logic of breed restrictions, arguing that ownership style is a more important factor in aggression.

How Do You Get Around Breed Restrictions in an Apartment?

There are some ways renters can get around the breed restrictions list and enjoy their furry friends.

1. Don't Hide Your Dog

Don't try to hide your dog in order to get around breed restrictions. Instead, offer to show a picture of your dog to the property manager prior to any in depth discussions about leasing. Property managers will often use photographs to judge whether a dog can be accepted onto the property, and if they can, you don't need to go into any additional detail about breed unless asked directly.

2. Show Training Certifications

The most common breed restrictions for apartments are considered aggressive, but your landlord may be open-minded if you show training certifications. If you haven't undergone certified training, look for dog trainers specializing in aggressive breeds.

3. Provide References

Provide references for your pet from previous landlords, trainers, and veterinarians whenever possible. They can speak to your dog's behavior and ability to co-exist peacefully around people. The reference should also mention that you are a responsible pet owner who always follows best practices and caution with your pup.

4. Create a Dog Resume

A dog resume gives you the opportunity that speaks to your pet's best qualities and your responsibility as a pet owner.

Include their age, breed, weight, vaccination status, disclosure of past incidents, photo, and link to a video if possible. This way, your landlord can see your dog and get to know them before declining your apartment application.

5. Get Your Dog an Emotional Support License

Depending on your situation, you might convince your landlord to make an exception if your restricted breed is an emotional support animal.

Research local regulations on emotional support animals to see if there is a certification you can go through to make your dog more official. Some states require a certified letter from a qualified mental health professional.

6. Offer a Pet Deposit

If your landlord doesn't charge for pet deposits, suggest one. You can offer more than the standard amount to show confidence in your dog's peaceful behavior.

7. Get Pet Insurance

Landlords often mandate restricted dog breeds for apartments because they don't want to assume financial responsibility if something goes wrong.

Offering to get pet insurance may help alleviate their concerns, but make sure the policy covers your breeds. Some pet insurers also have their own breed restrictions lists.

8. Get a Complete DNA Test

If your landlord is skittish because your dog looks like an aggressive breed, prove them wrong. Offer a complete DNA test providing a breed breakdown and information going back several generations.

9. Rent from Private Property Owners

You can simplify renting with dogs by going directly to private property owners. Look for apartment or condo owners, single-family homes for rent, and townhouses that are more likely to waive these restrictions.

10. Look Into Service Animal Certifications

The Fair Housing Act states that service animals of any breed cannot be banned simply because of potential behavioral issues, but only issues that have already happened. You may be able to file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

How Do You Find an Apartment without Breed Restrictions?

Finding an apartment without breed restrictions can be tricky, but it's not impossible.

  • Take Apartment List's quiz to get matched with your ideal apartment, and make sure you select both "small" and "large" dogs in your options.
  • Choosing "large" dogs will give you the best chance of finding apartments without breed restrictions.
  • Read the apartment description. Most apartments offer extra information about their pet policy, including breed and weight limits.
  • Visit their website. When you've found an apartment that accepts large dogs, check their website for more details about their pet policy. Most apartments that don't have breed restrictions will let you know on their website.
  • Call if in doubt. Some websites will say "contact us for more information about our pet policy." In that case, reach out via phone or email, and offer to send a picture of your dog to speed the process.

Final Thoughts on Breed Restrictions

There are ways to get around breed restrictions in apartments. You may also need to combine efforts, like providing a dog resume and offering a DNA test and deposit, to change their mind about renting with a pet.

The more organized and proactive you are during the process, the more likely the landlord will see you are a responsible dog owner and say yes.

Dog Breed Restriction FAQs

What is Considered a Large Dog for Apartments?

Landlord's make individual determinations about what constitutes a large or small dog. However, most landlords set a limit of 20 to 50 pounds, which also coincides with the weight of many restricted breeds.

What is Considered a Small Dog for Apartments?

Most small dogs are 20 pounds or less, but restricted dog breeds are more about the weight limit. Your landlord may not care if you have a 50-pound dog, provided it's not on a restricted breed list.

How Do Apartments Verify Dog Breeds?

Pet medical records are usually required to verify your dog's breed. Depending on your landlord, they may also need a DNA test.

Why Do Apartments Have Weight Limits for Dogs?

Weight restrictions are often in place to prevent property damage, noise complaints from other tenants, and unforeseen issues. For example, a large dog is likelier to intimidate tenants than a smaller one.

What States Have Breed Restrictions?

Some cities and counties ban entire dog breeds, particularly pit bulls. To date, there are no state-specific bans. Some states prohibit breed-specific local ordinances, including:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Remember, there's a difference between state-specific bans and apartment bans. Your city may not ban pit bulls, but your landlord can still restrict the breed from the building.

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Dr. Katherine Blake
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Davina Ward
Davina G. Ward is an esteemed journalist and expert on the apartment rental market. Read More
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