Tips for Living with a German Shepherd in an Apartment

When it comes to a large dog like the German Shepherds, one of the most commonly asked questions is usually “are they good apartment dogs?” For one, your pup may be bored. Another potential downside? Potty training your German Shepherd in an apartment can be a challenge. If you’re thinking about adding a German Shepherd to your family, don’t forget about these tips for living with them in an apartment!

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Can German Shepherds live in an apartment?

Apartment living with a German Shepherd is doable for many current owners alike. In fact, GSDs are one of the best apartment dogs if you make sure their basic physical and mental needs are met.

In this article, we will go through the preparation for living with a German Shepherd in an apartment setting. If you are wondering what are your best options to make it work as well as keeping your beloved GSD happy, you are in the right place.

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Finding the right Apartment

First off, you’ll have to make sure the apartment you live in accepts a dog as large as a German Shepherd. Many apartment complexes have the size and weight limits for dogs. In addition to that, some dog breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweiler, or Pitbulls are considered as “aggressive” dogs so they are not allowed. Be sure to check with your apartment management company or your landlord.

And there are a few considerations you have to make when it comes to living with a German Shepherd in an apartment.

Space considerations

Adding a large dog like the German Shepherd in an apartment is sometimes challenging but not impossible. You may need to allow at least five feet by five feet of floor space to accommodate your GSD, the crate, and storage for your dog’s food, treats, toys, and supplies.

That said, freeing up approximately the area of a queen-size bed (60×60 inch) would be ideal even when your German Shepherd is fully grown.

Noise considerations

German Shepherds are actually one of the most vocal dog breeds. They will make all sorts of noises like whining, howling, and growling, let alone barking. It’s a good idea to live in a dog-friendly neighborhood where the behavior of your dogs is less prone to complaints. 

Also read:

Why Do German Shepherds Growl? And What Should I Do About It?

How to Stop My Dog From Excessive Barking? 6 Tips That Work

Another thing is that GSDs have super sensitive hearing ability, which allows them to pick up the noises easily in adjacent apartments. “Your neighbor’s music or TV can cause your GSD to bark very easily.

Related: 7 Things You Didn’t Know Your Dog Can Sense

Facilities considerations

An apartment within close walking distance of a park would be ideal. This will make your life easier day in and day out. As you’ll need to aim for at least 1.5 hours of exercise with your German Shepherd, preferably before you leave for the day.

Before getting a German Shepherd

Puppy-proof your house

If your German Shepherd is still a puppy (less than 18 months old), they are little chew machines and love to investigate the environment with their nose and mouth. You should block off any off-limit areas, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or upstairs.

Section off a part of your house

Your GSD should be taught that certain areas of your home are safe and free for her when she’s alone. This can be done with a baby gate, but not shutting the door. It should be a designated area, not too hot or too cold, that allows her to play and stretch out.

After Getting your German Shepherd

Crate train your GSD

Crate training helps dogs learn that the crate is her little den, where they can feel safe.The key is to make the crate a place where your GSD enjoys being in, with comfortable beddings and her favorite toys inside. Never use it as a punishment.

Related resources: German Shepherd Puppy Training for Beginners – PART 1: Crate Training

Leave your GSD alone in a safe zone

Once you have fenced off a designated area for your GSD, leave a new toy with her and some soft beddings, then walk away for 3-5 minutes. 

If you show your dog that it’s safe to stay busy without having you around, She will learn to behave when she is alone. 

Mock your departures

Before you actually go back to the office, you could try to mock your departures in the weeks leading up to their return to work. 

Start leaving the house for five minutes, leave for ten minutes, leave for half an hour, vary it up and down in times. Set up a webcam or video recorder where your GSD is most likely to be or near the exit.

How to keep your German Shepherd Happy in an apartment?

The key to living happily and peacefully with a German Shepherd in any small space is to be able to meet your dog’s daily mental and physical stimulation and activity needs in creative ways.

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Physical stimulation

German Shepherds are herding dogs that require plenty of physical and mental exercises every day. For adult German Shepherds, the American Kennel Club recommends at least two hours of exercise daily.

Exercise requirements may also vary from dog to dog. Some do need 1-3 hours of intensive exercise while others are fine with 2x 30 minutes casual walks around the block and a little fetch.

Since GSD are intelligent dogs, chances are that they might get bored easily with repeated activities. It will be a good idea to keep introducing new tricks, different parks or routes to cater to your GSD’s need.

Mental Stimulation

These dogs are smart, sometimes too smart. And if they’re bored, they will find their ways to entertain themselves – with anything they have access to in your apartment. 

So, in addition to a couple of hours of exercise time, you’re also going to want to include some indoor mental stimulation. For example, interactive toys and dog puzzles may be good for him to play with, especially if you’ll be at work during the day. 

Ideally, an adult German Shepherd should not be left alone for more than 4 hours. But they may do just as well if you work 8 hours if well trained. 

Here are a few tips that may keep your furry friend entertained while you are at work:

Rotation of Toys

To keep your GSD busy while you’re at work, keep her toys refreshed by rotating every day or week. Frequent toy rotations are the easiest, cheapest, and simplest way to keep a GSD busy while you’re gone. 

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, so giving them a durable chew toy can sometimes keep them away from your furniture and shoes.  (e.g. Kong Wobbler, see video below)

Play Soft Music

Music can help your dog feel relaxed when left alone in the house. Certain music genres have been proven to be more soothing for your dog than others. Reggae and soft rock are the most relaxing music for dogs, and classical music also helps calm down dogs in stressful environments. 

Turn on white noise

White noise is a type of noise that is produced when sounds of all different frequencies are combined.

It is a calming white noise for dogs made by combining all the possible tones that a canine’s ear can hear. You can use white noise machines to produce calming effects for your dogs.

Install a dog camera

A pet camera not only helps you keep an eye on your pooch while you’re away, but the audio function allows you to speak to your pet in real-time.

Some allow you to activate the camera and microphone so you can watch or speak to your pup directly from your cell phone. Others beep when it detects your dog barking.

What if apartment living does not work?

If things do not work out or your German Shepherd starts to show destructive behavior like chewing up everything at home, it is not the end of the world. You certainly have options. Here are a few of those you may consider:

Related post: How to Stop a Dog from Chewing on Everything: 5 Simple Solutions

Hire a dog walker/sitter

Even if it’s just for half an hour or so, that human contact may be just what your dog needs to stay happy and entertained until you get back.

Alternatively, you may have your friends or neighbors come over on different days of the week to bring your dog out for a short walk during the day. This will be good enough to keep your dog engaged.

Dog daycare

A good daycare will have trained staff, clean toys, lots of playtimes, and a set schedule so you know what your dog will be doing all through the day.

Whether you do this daily or just as a treat once a month or so, doggy daycare is a great option for keeping active German Shepherds happy with some companies.

Take Your Dog to Work

Many large companies are allowing their employees to bring their dogs into work as it helps increase worker happiness. Talk with your employer to see if this is a possibility.

Work from Home

More and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home for certain days a week. If it is possible, working from home can make things easier for you and your dog.

Bottom line

Do you think it’s better to have a bored German Shepherd in a big house, or a well-trained, busy, physically and mentally stimulated one in a small apartment? You get the idea. At the end of the day, living with a German Shepherd (or two) might not be as bad as you might have thought, provided that their daily needs are well taken care of. 

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