Can German Shepherds Live in Apartments? A Complete Guide

I would love to own a German Shepherd someday, but I may have to live in an apartment for a while. I decided to research if German Shepherds can live in apartments so that I could know if that’s possible for me.

Can German Shepherds live in apartments?

German Shepherds can live in apartments if they are trained and socialized well, and if they get enough mental and physical stimulation. People should consider their time commitment to decide if a German Shepherd is right for them.

What makes a German Shepherd a good or bad apartment dog? And what do owners need to be aware of before deciding whether or not a German Shepherd is right for their situation? This guide will give you all of those answers!

Training German Shepherds is Vital

Before you decide to get a German Shepherd, think about how much time you have to spend on training a new dog.

If you get them as a puppy, it’s easier to train and help it develop good habits that will carry on into adulthood. However, puppies require more time and careful attention, so if you have to be gone for long stretches, this may not be a good idea, unless you have someone else available that can come over and spend time with the dog.

If you do have someone else willing to come and help out, however, make sure that person doesn’t accidentally replace you as the “top dog” or else your German Shepherd may be less likely to listen to you

Training an adult German Shepherd can be more difficult because they may have already developed some habits that you didn’t teach them. However, they don’t need as much constant attention as puppies. They still need a fair amount, though, because they are very energetic and social dogs.

If you’ve decided you have the time and desire to train a dog, at whatever age, there are a few things you should do. Crate training is very important because if you ever will need to be gone for longer periods of time, you can but your dog in a spacious crate so that it doesn’t chew stuff up in boredom.

There are collapsible crates available that you could buy so they don’t take up as much space, which can be nice.

German Shepherds can also be trained not to bark, via positive reinforcement. I’m not going to go into all of the training methods right here, but there are other articles on this site that go more in-depth on training German Shepherds if you’re interested!

It’s good to train a German Shepherd not to bark if you’re going to live in an apartment because a GSD has a loud bark, and walls can be thin. You don’t want to be keeping your neighbors up at 3 a.m. with your dog, that’s just rude!

Luckily, German Shepherds are intelligent dogs that can be trained fairly easily given enough time and attention, and so this can be done with enough effort.

Make sure you potty train them well as well! Having a set schedule is beneficial because, for many apartments, it’s not as easy as opening the door and letting them run outside. You will likely have to leash your dog and walk a bit until there’s a spot where it can go!

Always clean up after your dog, because other people will be walking around the area as well.

If you have a set schedule, your dog will be able to adapt to that and so there won’t be any surprises!

German Shepherds also need to be socialized, so that they don’t become aggressive to strangers and other dogs. Luckily, an apartment is a perfect place for your dog to get to meet new people and animals.

You may pass people on daily walks, or out and about, which will give your dog experience around new people. Still take it out to new places, however, so it can get used to all sorts of situations and people and behave better.

Once you’ve spent time training your German Shepherd, and you believe it will behave well in your apartment based on that, there are still other things to consider.

Physical Activity is a Must

There are some breeds of dogs that are perfectly fine lazing around the house or apartment and hardly going out. German Shepherds are not this breed.

German Shepherds are extremely energetic and athletic dogs, as they used to run through fields herding flocks. They are used as police and fire dogs nowadays because of this energy as well.

If you want to live in an apartment with your German Shepherd, make sure you have time to take them out to exercise. On average, German Shepherds require about 2 hours of exercise a day. It’s good for some of this to be off of a leash as well so that it’s movement is not limited and it can run a bit more freely.

A good idea is to live in an apartment near a park. That way you can take it there for a few hours and allow it to play and have fun in a nice open field.

Some people choose to run with their dog, so if there are running trails near the complex, that may be a good option as well. Just make sure there’s soft ground for your dog to run on so that its paws don’t hurt. And keep it leashed especially for the first few months it starts running with you.

If these aren’t options, it may be able to make do with several longer walks around the complex.

German Shepherds need to spend time outside. Being cooped up in an apartment all day, regardless of size, will not be good for it. It’s not enough space to run around and play and to expend some of its boundless energy. Make sure you’re able to spend time outside with your dog each day before deciding if a GSD is right for you.

Stimulate the Mind

In addition to needing a lot of physical activity, German Shepherds also need plenty of mental stimulation. These dogs love to please, and they love to work out their brains. Boredom can lead to behavioral problems, and it’s easy for a dog to get bored when left alone in an apartment all day.

While a bigger apartment is better for a German Shepherd, no matter how much space there is, a German Shepherd can still get bored and start to chew on furniture and other household items.

At least 30 minutes a day of training with treats and various mental exercises can help with this. Also, giving your dog plenty of toys and dog puzzles can be helpful while you’re away, and if your dog is spending this time in its crate.

As an extrovert, I myself get bored when alone too long. German Shepherds are similar, although unlike with humans, they can react in poor ways to this. They may be prone to barking, chewing, or scratching.

As stated earlier, this can be overcome with proper training, but always keep your dog as mentally stimulated as you can to avoid this as well.

German “Shedders”

Even if you are able to spend a lot of time training and exercising your dog, and making sure it is mentally stimulated, there are other reasons owners may not want to get a German Shepherd for their apartment.

German Shepherds are notorious for being one of the worst breeds for shedding. These dogs have a double-coat of fur, and when the seasons change from winter to summer, it sheds a ton in preparation. It sheds a lot naturally as well.

You will likely have to clean and vacuum often. And while many homes are able to have “dog-free” rooms to keep the hair out, this can be much more difficult in a smaller space.

If you don’t have allergies and aren’t averse to fur everywhere, this may not be a big deal. However, if you ever have friends over that have allergies, this can be a struggle for them. It may be near impossible to get the fur completely cleaned. This can also be a drawback for some landlords as well, as they don’t want to spend time getting dog fur out of everything after you leave.

Also, if you have to go to work and dress nice, it’s possible many of your clothes could end up with dog fur on them. It may be a good idea to keep these clothes out of reach of your dog and have “home clothes” that you change into for when you’re there and when you spend time with your dog.

“You’ll be sweeping and vacuuming at least twice a week, lint rolling your clothes everyday, and finding tumble-weeds of hair blowing through your home like the old west.”

-Play Bark Run

A way to reduce this is to make sure it is brushed and groomed often. When you brush it, you’re able to keep the fur in a controlled location, which can make it easier to gather and to get rid of. You can brush it every day with a nice pet brush if you have the time for that, but at least once a week is a must. It also depends on how messy it may get after being outside.

Baths can help loosen the fur and make it more manageable. You don’t need to bathe a German Shepherd every week, as bathing it too often can irritate and dry up its skin, but remember to keep on top of it if you notice its coat isn’t looking healthy and if it’s shedding even more than usual. Once a month is typically good, unless it gets really dirty and needs a clean.

Don’t shave a German Shepherd. That will not stop the shedding and it can harm them in harsh weather. They need the double-coat in the winter because it insulates them and keeps them warm. It also helps them in the summer, as both coats still perform different but important functions.

It may take a long time for a German Shepherd’s fur to grow properly, and it can affect their health, so just don’t do it.

Make sure you’re ready and able to take care of your German Shepherd’s fur and coat before getting one for an apartment. It will be a lot to handle, so if you like a neat and clean living space, a German Shepherd may not be the right dog for you.

Weather and German Shepherds

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Another thing to consider is the weather where you live. German Shepherds can usually handle the cold pretty well, but you have to be willing to endure it as you take it out for walks and exercise.

It can be harder for an owner in the winter to want to come home after a long day of work and take their dog outside for a while, especially if there is snow and it’s dark. This is necessary, however, so that it doesn’t get bored and act out.

In the summer, a German Shepherd has a harder time. It’s typically fine outside for a little while so long as it has plenty of water and shade. If you don’t like the heat, you’ll still have to spend time in it to allow your dog to play.

Mornings and evenings may be good times in the summer to exercise and walk a German Shepherd, so it’s not too unbearable. But you also need to consider the temperature in your apartment.

Last summer, I visited my sister in New York City. She doesn’t have any pets, which was a good thing in this case. It was an incredibly hot and humid summer, with temperatures upward of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Her AC unit was also old and didn’t work very well, so inside of her apartment was also extremely hot and humid- at moments it felt worse than outside because at least outside had some wind.

This could be dangerous for a German Shepherd. If you’re gone for a long time and it is stuck inside a very hot apartment, it could suffer. It may not be as bad as being stuck in hot cars, but it’s still something to watch out for.

Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water and food, and that your AC is able to work well so that your dog doesn’t overheat while you’re away.

Is a German Shepherd Right for Your Apartment Life?

After all of these considerations, the decision is up to you. Keep in mind, some complexes don’t allow bigger dogs, or certain breeds, or any pets, and it’s not good to try to bend the rules and sneak yours in. That will lessen your freedom to run around and go outside with your dog, which it needs.

You also need to think about neighbors. If your dog barks, it could be annoying. Conversely, if your neighbors that are loud, that can be hard on your German Shepherd’s more sensitive ears.

If you have people below you, will your dog thump when it scratches or will it run and move loudly? Be aware of these things so that you don’t run into problems.

If your complex is dog-friendly, then think about your lifestyle and if it can truly fit a German Shepherd. Do you have the time to train it? To exercise it? Will it get too bored, or will it have enough mental stimulation? Can you handle the shedding? Will the weather be a factor? What about the noise factor and your neighbors?

If you are confident about all of these factors, and you know you will be a dedicated dog owner, then a German Shepherd may be a good companion and loyal friend for you and your lifestyle.

If not, there are plenty of other breeds that may be more apartment-friendly that would be a better fit for you and your life.

Related Questions

Can German Shepherds be inside dogs?

German Shepherds cannot be inside-only dogs. They require a lot of exercise and stimulation and are likely to develop behavioral issues if they are inside for too long. They also shouldn’t be solely outside dogs, as they are social animals. Spending time both in and outdoors is best.

How long can German Shepherds be left alone?

German Shepherds should spend no more than eight hours alone. Otherwise, they will develop behavioral issues such as barking and chewing due to boredom. They need attention, exercise, and socialization in order to be happy.