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Posted at 05:26 AM ET, 03/05/2012

Apartment Hunt: 100-pound dogs need not apply

If you’re a dog owner, apartment-hunting in Washington can be downright impossible. Add a large dog to the mix and be prepared for rejection. Yoga breathing helps — a little.


This is my dog, Stella, a 95-pound bullmastiff. She is a Washington dog, as seen here rooting for the Nationals. (Coleen O’Lear)
I was under no false illusions that my 95-pound bullmastiff, Stella, could pass for small, or even medium-sized for that matter, but I was hopeful that her size wouldn’t be a problem when it came to finding a new apartment for me, my boyfriend and our dog. But in Washington, I quickly learned that size matters.

When my boyfriend and I started our search, we knew Stella’s size would make things difficult, especially in a big building with one-size-fits-all rules. Then we learned that her size also helps lands her on many buildings’ restricted-breed lists.

So what classifies as a large dog? In my experience, anything over 75 pounds makes your dog a giant.

I came across multiple apartment listings touting dog-friendly buildings. “Large dogs welcome” the ad said, but it also noted that the welcome mat only applied to dogs weighing less than 75 pounds. Really? Even some Labradors are excluded under those guidelines, and they’re America’s most popular dog 21 years running.
How could anyone say “no” to this face? Here’s a close-up of Stella, enjoying the ballgame. (Coleen O’Lear)

Who knows why 75 pounds seems to be a magic number, but I have been told that owners worry that large dogs will do more damage than small dogs. An 80-pound dog playing on hardwood floors, for example, has the potential to do more damage than a 30-pound dog.

We were lucky to find a diamond in the rough when we moved to the area last year, a building with no weight limit and a short restricted-breed list. But I say diamond because it’s pricey, and not even in the District.

With our lease coming up for renewal, we thought surely we could find a one-bedroom in the city, closer to work and friends, that would allow Stella and cost close to what we pay in Arlington. We targeted Logan Circle, Dupont and Navy Yard.

We quickly learned, however, that we would need to expand the search. When you have a large dog, the name of the game is sacrifice. We’d give up garage parking to live in a safe neighborhood or close to our offices. For a fenced yard, we’d take a smaller living space. Proximity to a Metro was a plus but a washer and dryer was a must.

Exchanging e-mails with owners and calling leasing agents has become a second job, but it’s important to gather all the facts before you fall in love with a place. The first thing I do when I find a listing that sounds promising is call or e-mail and pointedly ask about weight and breed restrictions. That way, there are no surprises.

Weight restrictions ruled out most big buildings, but we were surprised to find a couple of ads for privately owned apartments in large buildings that would allow Stella.

One of the apartments was in a 13-story building in an up-and-coming part of Navy Yard. It was close to the Metro and there was a grocery store being built nearby. As we waited outside for the owner, we saw lots of dogs go in and out. This was a good sign.

The building seemed great — there were lots of young professionals like us, and we could probably put up with the slow, cramped elevator in exchange for the benefit of enjoying the building’s indoor lap pool. The apartment was about 700 square feet with lovely wood floors but very little closet space. Ultimately, the owner was a bit too pushy, the price a bit too high and Canal Park construction definitely too close for us to sign a lease.

We felt lucky to have found a place that would take Stella, but she couldn’t be the only factor we considered. Ultimately, the apartment was overpriced and undersized for the three of us. What we took away from the experience was that for big-dog owners, privately owned apartments are the way to go. So we shifted our focus toward rowhouses and condominiums.

Coleen O’Lear is a web producer at The Washington Post.

Next installment: Narrowing down the apartment search — one rowhouse at a time.

Previous installment: Starting a search with a 100-pound dog.

Do you have an apartment hunt story to share? E-mail us at realestate@washpost.com.


Here’s Stella enjoying a visit to the Washington Monument. (Coleen O’Lear)

By Coleen O’Lear  |  05:26 AM ET, 03/05/2012

 
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