As a German Shepherd owner living in an apartment, I know firsthand the challenges of fitting a large, energetic dog into a small space. But with the right preparation and training, German Shepherds can absolutely thrive in apartments.
In this complete guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about having a German Shepherd in an apartment. After reading this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to decide if a German Shepherd is the right dog for your apartment living situation. Let’s get started!
Here’s a quick answer: Yes, German Shepherds can live happily in apartments with the proper care and training. Providing at least 2 hours of daily exercise, mental stimulation, early obedience and socialization training, and crate training are key to setting up your German Shepherd for success in apartment living. While challenging at times, German Shepherds are highly adaptable dogs.
The Basic Requirements
For a German Shepherd to adapt well to apartment living, they require the right care and training from their owner. Despite their large size and need for plenty of exercise, German Shepherds can thrive with the proper preparation.
First and foremost, a German Shepherd must receive at least 2 hours of vigorous exercise per day. This includes walks around the neighborhood as well as active playtime like fetching balls or frisbees. Maintaining good physical health through daily activity is crucial for any cooped up apartment dog, but especially energetic breeds like the German Shepherd.
Mental stimulation is another requirement, as German Shepherds have brilliant minds bred for work. Their owner must provide puzzle toys, training sessions, and other brain-engaging activities to prevent boredom and frustration.
Additionally, proper crate training enables effective housetraining for apartment living. The crate should allow enough room for the German Shepherd to stand, lie down, and turnaround comfortably. Starting obedience training early and reinforcing commands like sit, stay and quiet develops their minds while also improving manners essential for apartment etiquette.
Lastly, extensive socialization from a young age is key. Getting German Shepherds used to people, other dogs, places and noises prevents fearfulness and reactivity issues later on. Fulfilling these needs properly sets up any German Shepherd for success, allowing them to adapt to limited space apartment living.
Tips for Exercising Your German Shepherd
German Shepherds were bred to work all day long, so they have high exercise needs. As an apartment dweller, you’ll have to be creative with exercise. Here are some great options:
- Walks: Whether long or just quick potty walks, aim for at least three 30+ minute walks per day. This gets your dog out exploring new sights and smells.
- Hiking: Look for nature trails and state parks within driving distance for a change of scenery. Being off-leash hiking is ideal.
- Fetch: Find a dog park or open field to play fetch until your arm gets tired. Chase and tug games are also great active play.
- Swimming: If there’s a dog-friendly body of water nearby, swimming is an excellent zero-impact workout for your dog.
- Doggy Daycare: Take advantage of doggy daycares a few days a week to let your German Shepherd play and socialize all day while you’re at work.
- Agility Training: Sign up for a weekend agility class to teach your dog to confidently and safely maneuver obstacles. This is very mentally and physically stimulating.
Get creative and mix up activities to prevent your German Shepherd from getting bored. Know that meeting their high exercise needs is paramount for preventing problem behaviors in your apartment.
Keeping Your German Shepherd Mentally Stimulated
In addition to physical exercise, German Shepherds need daily mental stimulation. Left without mental challenges, these intelligent dogs will find their own “jobs” to do, often destructive ones!
Here are excellent ways to engage your German Shepherd’s brilliant mind each day:
- Training Sessions: Practice obedience or fun trick training for 5-10 minutes, 3 times per day. German Shepherds excel at training and love the mental workout.
- Food Puzzles: Feed meals in food puzzles that require manipulation to earn the kibble. This taps into your dog’s natural foraging instincts.
- Snuffle Mats: These mats you hide treats in are another great nosework challenge. Your dog has to use his powerful sniffer to hunt down the goodies.
- Chews: Give long-lasting chews like frozen Kongs stuffed with food or bully sticks to provide mental stimulation plus keep teeth clean.
- Hide & Seek: Have your dog stay while you hide, then release to go find you. Increase the challenge by hiding treats instead of yourself.
Mental exercise will tire out your German Shepherd as much as physical exercise. Work their minds daily to prevent boredom and inappropriate chewing/digging behaviors from developing.
Crate Training for Apartment Living
Crate training is an essential component of raising a well-behaved German Shepherd in an apartment setting. Confinement in a crate helps tremendously with housetraining and prevents destructive chewing behaviors when the dog can’t be directly supervised.
Choosing a durable crate that allows the dog to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably is key. Get one with a divider panel to adjust sizing as the puppy grows. The crate should be placed in a corner of the living space so the German Shepherd feels part of the action even while confined. Making the crate a positive place is important – tossing treats inside and feeding meals in the crate will help the dog associate it with good things happening.
When first starting crate training, use a command like “kennel up” when putting the dog inside. Always provide a food-stuffed toy for entertainment. Crating durations should start short, then gradually increase over time. Puppies should never be crated longer than 2-3 hours. It’s important to ignore any whining and wait for the dog to settle into quiet calmness before opening the crate, to prevent reinforcing attention-seeking behaviors.
Taking crate training slowly, making it a happy place, and providing stuffed toys will ensure it becomes a safe den-like space the German Shepherd can enjoy during apartment living. Proper crate training is a crucial component of apartment life for any German Shepherd puppy.
Obedience Training a Must
Formal obedience training is absolutely essential for any German Shepherd, but becomes even more important for those living in apartments. Through obedience training, dogs learn critical commands like sit, stay, down, come, leave it, and quiet. Having mastered these skills gives the owner necessary control over their large, powerful dog.
Obedience classes also provide much needed mental stimulation as dogs learn new skills and behaviors. The training environment helps socialize German Shepherds to be calm and behaved around other people and dogs. Additionally, working their brains through training exercises can tire out a German Shepherd just as much as physical activity.
Starting group obedience classes when the German Shepherd reaches 3-4 months old lays the training groundwork. But the training can’t stop there – continuing daily practice of commands and tricks at home for 5-10 minutes solidifies the learning.
A well-trained German Shepherd is a pleasure to own, so all the hard work invested early on pays off for the next decade of companionship. The commitment to proper obedience training results in a wonderfully behaved German Shepherd suited for apartment life.
Early Socialization is Key
Socialization is the process of exposing your German Shepherd to new sights, sounds, people, animals, and experiences starting in puppyhood. Since apartments mean living in closer quarters with more potential for running into neighbors, socialization is critical.
Here’s how to properly socialize your German Shepherd puppy:
- Enroll in a puppy kindergarten class as early as 8 weeks old. This gets your pup interacting with new puppies and people.
- Invite friends over regularly so your pup meets people of all ages, appearances, and backgrounds. Have guests offer treats.
- Arrange play sessions with friend’s vaccinated puppies or gentle adult dogs.
- Bring your puppy on car rides, to outdoor restaurants, shopping, and on walks downtown. They should experience the whole world.
- Introduce handling exercises like touching paws, ears, and mouth so future vet exams and grooming are easier.
- Play CDs and TV with city sounds, vehicles, sirens, thunderstorms to desensitize your pup to loud noises.
Proper socialization prevents fear, anxiety, and reactivity issues with your adult German Shepherd. Put in the effort while your puppy is under 16 weeks old for best results.
Potential Problems and Solutions
German Shepherds come with their own set of potential issues, some of which may be amplified by apartment living. Here are some common problems and how to avoid them:
Barking: German Shepherds tend to be vocal dogs. Apartment walls mean your neighbors will hear the barking clearly. Reduce this by providing exercise, training “quiet”, and addressing root causes like anxiety.
Chewing Destruction: Puppies and under-exercised German Shepherds are prone to chewing everything in sight. Prevent destruction by managing the environment, providing chew toys, and exercising adequately.
Housetraining Difficulties: Space limitations make accidents more problematic. Stick to a strict schedule, praise and reward potty success, and use enzymatic cleaners to tackle any mistakes.
Reactivity to Other Dogs: German Shepherds can sometimes become overly reactive and aggressive to other dogs without proper socialization. Make socialization a priority starting early on.
Separation Anxiety: Spending long workdays away from home can trigger anxiety. Ease separation through crate training, exercise beforehand, and keeping greetings/goodbyes low key.
While challenging at times, none of these issues mean a German Shepherd can’t live happily in an apartment. With preparation, patience and training, you can avoid or overcome any problems that pop up.
FAQs about German Shepherds in Apartments
What size crate should I get for a German Shepherd in an apartment?
For an adult German Shepherd, a crate around 42″ long x 28″ wide x 31″ high is ideal. Look for crates with divider panels so you can adjust sizing as your dog grows.
How can I keep my German Shepherd calm and quiet in an apartment?
Focus on providing adequate physical and mental exercise. Obedience train a reliable “quiet” command. Ignore attention-seeking whining and barking completely. Reward your dog for calm behavior.
Is it cruel to leave my German Shepherd alone all day in an apartment while I’m at work?
Leaving your German Shepherd alone for 8+ hours daily in an apartment is not recommended or fair to the dog. Consider hiring a dog walker midday or take advantage of doggy daycare a few days a week.
My apartment doesn’t allow German Shepherds. What should I do?
Never try to sneak in a banned breed, or lie about your dog being a German Shepherd mix. Look for dog-friendly apartments without breed restrictions, get an ESA letter, or consider a different breed.
How can I exercise my German Shepherd if I don’t have a yard or dog park nearby?
Go on frequent walks, play fetch in outdoor spaces, go hiking on weekends, enroll your dog in a sports class like agility or nosework, and invest in food puzzles and chews to supplement exercise. Get creative!
While challenging at times, sharing your apartment with an energetic German Shepherd is very doable and rewarding. The keys are providing adequate physical and mental exercise, starting training early, sticking to a routine, and getting your dog well-socialized to prevent problems down the road.
With proper care, training and management, your German Shepherd can thrive in apartment living just as well as a house. Just be honest with yourself about whether you can provide the time, energy and commitment your active dog will require. If so, go for it and get ready for an adventurous life with your apartment German Shepherd!