Dog Breeds Dog Training

Can a German Shepherd Live in an Apartment? – Here’s 5 Things They Need First

Despite their size, can German Shepherds live in apartments?
Written by Richard Jeng

You live in an apartment and you’re considering bringing home a German Shepherd. As active and large as these dogs are, you may be wondering if they’re capable of living a happy life in your humble abode.

So, can German Shepherds live in apartments? Yes, German Shepherds can live in apartments as long as the owner is responsible and provides the dog with it’s basic needs. Many German Shepherds all over the world thrive in apartments. However, keeping these dogs in an apartment without meeting these 5 necessities can lead to destructive behavior.

With that said, there are things to consider when deciding whether to bring a German Shepherd to an apartment. Keeping big energetic dogs in small spaces boils down to management by the owner.

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German Shepherds in Apartments

German Shepherds can live in apartments if you meet these five basic needs of the dog.

The first thing you must consider is the apartment complex. Not every apartment building allows dogs, especially dogs of this size. Though an apartment may be “dog-friendly,” they may have have weight limits and age requirements.

For example, my Grandpa’s apartment complex only allows dogs under 30 pounds. Similarly, my sister’s apartment only allows dogs at least one year old.

Even though your GSD may be a small puppy, they’ll eventually grow to its adult size (in roughly one year). So, make sure to consult with your landlord or apartment company before bringing home a German Shepherd.

Don’t be surprised if you find apartments that request other requirements, such as the neutering or spaying of your German Shepherd:

My apartment is requiring me to have my dog neutered and I don’t want to do it…I have a letter from my doc saying I have PTSD. I’m against him being neutered. It’s not going to “calm him down.” I’m pretty upset they’re requiring it.

– Thesupersoap33 (Reddit)

As ridiculous as it sounds, some apartment complexes will outright ban specific breeds that they deem dangerous and aggressive. These dogs include Pit Bulls, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Dobermanns and German Shepherds.

Often times this ban is city-wide, according to the Breed-Specific Legislation. In this case, there’s very little you can do about it.

I personally think this is absurd because not all dogs are the same. The environment along with training, play a huge role in a dog’s aggressive tendencies.

Regardless of what I think, this is the reality of apartment complexes and is something you need to consider. Telling them, “but my German Shepherd isn’t aggressive like the others” probably won’t work well.

Be Honest About Your GSD

A common mistake that many owners make is being dishonest with the landlord. For example, the breed of a puppy isn’t always as obvious, especially to those who aren’t often exposed to dogs.

Some dishonest owners may claim that their German Shepherd is a Labrador Retriever or a Husky to get past a breed-specific ban.

In the end, this can create a lot of trouble for you – both legally and financially. Just take a moment and think about it. You’ll need to take your German Shepherd out all the time while living in an apartment.

That being said, there’s almost no way of deceiving your neighbors and landlord when they’ve reached physical maturity. It’s better to be honest than to live a lie.

Apartment Living: German Shepherd Basic Needs

The five basic needs for apartment living are: physical activity, mental stimulation, a dog crate, socialization and obedience training.

As mentioned, German Shepherds have a lot of basic needs that need to be met if they’re going to be living in an apartment.

Don’t expect to leave your dog at home all day and think that’s okay. By doing so, you’re probably going to cause more trouble in the end.

1. Physical Exercise

German Shepherds are herding dogs with the mentality of a working dog. As such, they have a ton of excess energy that needs to be depleted on a daily basis.

The problem with apartments is the the lack of a large enclosed backyard. Without it, it’s going to be very difficult for them to exercise themselves.

If you live in an apartment and you’re busy with work or other activities, then a German Shepherd is not right for you.

Daily activity not only keeps them physically healthy, but also mentally stable. In other words, the last thing you want is a German Shepherd that’s bored out of his or her mind.

A bored German Shepherd will likely show destructive behavior in the apartment while you’re out at work.

According to the American Kennel Club, these dogs need around 2 hours of exercise a day. Sounds like a lot to you? Then you’re probably better off with another breed.

GSD Activities, Outside Apartments

There are a lot of activities that would be perfect for when it’s time to take your German Shepherd outside the small, cramped apartment.

For example, hiking is a favorite among those with active lifestyles. Not only does this keep your German Shepherd’s exercise needs in check, but it can also help the owner too (yeah, we’re talking about you!).

If your apartment complex has a pool and allows dogs, then swimming is another fantastic opportunity to work out your dog. If not, look for a nearby lake or large pond.

I tend to play fetch for 15 minutes before I leave for work. Then after work we spend 45 minutes playing fetch/chase in the yard. After dinner, he gets a good 30 minute walk. We go out in the back frequently, and we work on mental things inside and out.

– Submarinepirate (Reddit)

Swimming is especially great because it can potentially work out your dog much more than it does you. German Shepherds that love swimming will easily get a great workout in an hour of dog paddling.

Playing catch with a ball or frisbee is a favorite among dog owners with all types of dogs. German Shepherds will love this and it requires a lot less effort on your part.

If you can train your dog to bring back the ball/frisbee every time, then all you need to do is throw! There are a ton of other great ideas for exercise, you just need to put in the effort and time.

2. Mental Stimulation

This is another important factor to consider if you plan to bring a German Shepherd into the apartment.

German Shepherds are some of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. And, they should be treated as such. Smart dogs need a lot of mental stimulation and German Shepherds are no exception.

In addition to a couple hours of physical exercise, I would highly suggest daily obedience training or puzzles to stimulate their minds. Obedience training is great, as these dogs are fantastic workers.

In fact, they thrive best when they have a “job” to do. Whether it’s herding or obedience training, they’ll take on the challenge. But make sure to bring plenty of dog treats!

One of the best ways to provide mental stimulation is with dog puzzles. If you provide interactive and interesting puzzles for German Shepherds, they’ll be mentally occupied for a good amount of time.

Here are some of my favorites that we bought for our dogs.

Best German Shepherd Dog Puzzles

  1. Outward Hound Ottosson Dog Puzzle – Sturdy and durable puzzle that requires your GSD to unlock the puzzle in order to access his or her favorite treats!
  2. PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat – A mat with several dog-safe scents to train your GSD’s sense of smell. Place treats in the mat and let them search for snacks!
  3. CHLEBEM Interactive Dog Toy Boy – A tricky ball where you hide treats. It’s fun, interactive and keeps your GSD from boredom. Plus, it’s 100% dog safe with non-toxic rubber.

The best part about puzzles is that it takes a lot less time than physical exercise but is nearly just as important. A little puzzle can go a long with with your German Shepherd.

3. Proper Dog Crate

While in the apartment, there are a few things that you absolutely need. One of the most important and arguably your biggest one-time purchase is a dog crate. But why do you need one?

Because you don’t have a large backyard, we’re assuming your dog is living indoors (and hopefully not on your apartment balcony). So for indoor dogs, you need to housebreak them.

Dogs, by nature, don’t want to soil the place they sleep (your apartment). So, you’ll need to teach them how to control their bladder and bowel.

Crate training is not cruel for your German Shepherd. Rather, there’s a ton of great benefits that come from crate training. For example, it can teach your dog how to be comfortable in an enclosed space.

Now I’m not telling you to leave your dog in a crate and go to work for 8 hours. That would cause more anxiety and stress than necessary.

Make sure you don’t leave your German Shepherd in the crate for more than 6 hours at a time, especially if they’re puppies.

Best Dog Crates for German Shepherds

There are a lot of fantastic dog crates on the market. But after reviewing and trying dozens, we’ve narrowed it down to a few that’ll work best with German Shepherds – both in apartments and houses.

  1. Midwest Homes iCrate – This is the best dog crate, hands down. It has all the features you need and want, plus more! There’s a reason why thousand of happy customers have given it such a high rating.
  2. AmazonBasics Dog Crate – If Amazon puts their name on it, you can bet this is an excellent dog crate. It’s very similar to the Midwest Homes and is our second pick for GSD dog crates.
  3. New World Metal Dog Crate – Though it lacks some minor features of the first two, it’s a well-crafted dog crate at a very reasonable price. Perfect, if you want to save a little.

Note: Always buy a dog crate for the full adult size of your dog breed. In this case, you’ll need a 48 inch dog crate.

Why We Love These Crates

Considering limited space in an apartment, you can probably get away with a 42 inch for a female or smaller German Shepherd.

We picked these dog crates for a number of reasons. The first is that they all come with a divider panel as an option or standard.

Divider panels are necessary because your a German Shepherd grows very quickly. When they’re puppies, it doesn’t make sense to have so much space in a crate.

So with a divider, you’re able to adjust the living space of the crate according to his or her growth.

Another reason why we love these crates is because of they’re foldable. Since most apartments are relatively small, you want to be able to collapse these large crates into a compact carrier for storage or transportation.

4. Proper Obedience Training

We already know obedience training is great for mental stimulation, which is absolutely necessary for big dogs living in small apartments. However, obedience training is crucial for another reason.

German Shepherds are not quiet dogs. As a matter of fact, they will bark if they perceive danger. When you’re so close to your neighbors, you can expect sounds coming from all directions at all hours of the day.

An untrained German Shepherd will most likely bark at these sounds, causing problems with those around you. For this reason, it’s very important you teach your German Shepherd how to have “manners.”

If you’re lucky enough to find a dog-friendly apartment for your GSD, there’s a decent chance your apartment neighbors have dogs as well.

I’ve been in a situation where another dog barks and essentially sets off a barking chain reaction of all the dogs in the complex. Plus, my Corgi goes into a barking frenzy. Sound familiar?

The best way of avoiding a “bark-off” is through obedience training. Keep them in check by teaching them “quiet” is good! Always use positive reinforcement with your German Shepherd. If you can, try not to yell at them.

If they start barking, you should ignore them. The second they stop, give them high praise and even reward them with a treat. It takes a lot of patience, but it’s well worth the effort in the long run.

5. Socialization

Living in a dog-friendly apartment means that there will be other dogs around – probably all the time. When it’s time to take your German Shepherd out for a walk, you may even come across a few other dogs.

For this reason, it’s important that your GSD gets a ton of socialization early on. They need to be frequently exposed to other dogs and people to learn that they’re “good” and not threats.

I think its best to heavily socialize German Shepherds with everyone and everything. They’ll be less afraid of the world and bark less at the “unknown” in my opinion.

– Tony L. (GSD owner)

German Shepherds are large dogs and without proper socialization, they can seriously hurt and injure a smaller dog. You’ll want to avoid this at all cost.

Socialization can come in many forms. While they’re still small, make every opportunity for dog playdates. If you don’t have friends with dogs, no problem!

You can bring them to dog parks on the weekends to play with other dogs. Socializing at an early age makes them less intimidating to others dogs and people.

If you have some money to spare, it’s not a bad idea to take them to a doggy day care, especially when you’re at work.

This provides them with more opportunities for exercise, but also helps with socializing. At doggy day cares, your dog will be exposed to all kinds of dogs and people – it’s perfect!

Problems with GSD in Apartments

Without meeting the basic needs of German Shepherds, they can cause a lot of problems while living in apartments.

If you don’t provide your German Shepherd with these 5 basic needs while living at an apartment, you may be in for a rollercoaster ride. And, I’m not talking about the fun kind.

A lack of mental and physical stimulation means that your German Shepherd will take it into their own hands to receive these basic needs. Destructive behavior may occur without these key necessities.

This means that your favorite pair of shoe may be torn apart by the time you come home. Or, it could mean that your couch will be ripped open after a long exhausting day of work.

None of these scenarios is something you’d want, but it happens a lot with many neglectful apartment dwellers.

Apartment living with German Shepherds is no easy task. However, they’re highly capable of thriving in such a living environment. It’s really up to you to provide them with a way to make the best out of the situation.

Some owners even say they’re some of the best apartment dogs despite their energetic temperaments and size.

However, not all German Shepherds are the same. Some will take a little more work while others fit right in. It’s up to you (the owner) to create the best space and life for them.

Are there other tips you have to making apartment life work with a German Shepherd? Leave a tip in the comment section below to let us know! Also, if you have any questions, feel free to ask away.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd.

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