You adore German Shepherds and wanted one since forever, right? So you’re finally ready to raise one in your apartment– and suddenly all your family and friends seem to have an opinion about it. Sound familiar?
So, can German Shepherds live in an apartment? If you’re wondering who to believe, believe us.
The short answer is, Yes! All dogs can live in an apartment. GSDs have high energy, so as long as you can tend to its physical and mental exercise needs, your GSD couldn’t care less where it lives.
Now, before you run off and bring home a German Shepherd, we urge you to consider these 5 factors. This article will break down each of these points, as well as offer you helpful tips and valuable insight that will set you up for success.
5 Big Things to Consider Before Bringing a GSD to an Apartment
- Your apartment may have restrictions – on dog size/breed.
- Future challenges finding an apartment without restrictions.
- Where will you exercise your dog? Can you commit to the high levels of physical and mental needs of your GSD?
- You are aware of the consequences of an under-stimulated German Shepherd – this will only be amplified if you’re living in an apartment.
- Your commitment to obedience training, early socialization, and crate training to avoid behavior issues.
If after reading this article, you can honestly say, “yes, I can commit to all this” – then we say, go for it.
Your apartment may have restrictions – on dog size/breed
Although we don’t agree with this, the reality of apartment-living is that we face dog restrictions- a lot. At least in the Unites States and Canada, there are very few apartments that allow German Shepherds. Even among apartments that allow dogs, there are often size and breed restrictions that make it incredibly difficult to own a medium to large size dog in that residence.
Unfortunately, GSDs have a completely undeserved stigma and are commonly placed on the “disallowed breeds” list, among Pitbull’s, Rottweilers, and other large breeds. Frustrating, I know.
TIP! Make sure to check your apartments breed/size restrictions. Although it may be hard to come by, it’s certainly not impossible. Check out Facebook groups of local dog parks. This is a great place to learn from other owners where they had success.
TIP! Avoid stairs for the first 3 months! GSDs go through a major growth spurt during their first 5-8 months. According to the Institute of Canine Biology, pups should avoid use of stairs until they’re 3 months old or even longer if possible. GSDs are already highly prone to hip dysplasia and other joint issues, so this gives their body a chance to healthily grow into their bodies during a delicate growing period for them.
Apartment stairs can be daunting to your German Shepherd at first, and it will take a little big of time for it to figure out how to traverse them. Be patient with your pup as it learns to navigate those steps! You may find yourself carrying your GSD puppy quite a bit at the beginning.
Future challenges finding an apartment
If the apartment you’re moving into allows GSDs, be aware that if you plan to move in the future, you will continue to deal with pet breed and size restrictions. As such, you will have a very limited selection of apartments to choose from. We have personally heard stories of people giving their dogs away due to the constant rejection and lack of options.
Tip! If your current landlord allows you to have a GSD in the apartment and your pup is well-trained, be sure to request a written reference letter if you need to move! This will make things much easier if your future landlord knows your GSD is a well-mannered pup.
Where will you exercise your dog? Can you commit to the high physical and mental needs of your GSD?
Consider what is in your neighborhood:
- Fenced in off-leash dog park
- Walking paths
- Trail runs
- Hiking area
- River or small lakes
German Shepherds are high energy dogs and require 1.5-2 hours of intense exercise a day. And by intense exercise, we don’t mean a brisk walk down the street. We mean actual running– playing frisbee, going to the dog park, playing fetch, swimming, or a good hike. This is why it’s so important to consider what’s around you, and where you can take your dog to exhaust their energy.
In addition to physical exercise daily, your GSD also need mental stimulation– they are incredibly intelligent dogs after all. Examples of mental training include obedience training, learning tricks, and nose work.
Remember, GSDs were specifically bred to be working dogs– they want to work for you! This means you will have to find physical and mental activities to keep your pup stimulated and happy. We have included a few extra tips below.
As for bathroom breaks— this is self-explanatory. You’ll want to create a schedule for potty breaks and stick to it. Dogs acclimatize to schedules pretty quickly. Your pup should be taken out for a potty break, or exercise at the following times: Morning, mid-day/after work, after dinner, and before bed.
Good-To-Know! When you first get your pup, you may not be able to take it to the park until its fully vaccinated, and then once again if he or she gets sprayed or neutered. This will be difficult at first, because you will have to find alternative ways to tire out your pup! Don’t worry though, you can make it work.
There are consequences of not exercising and stimulating your German Shepherd, which will only be amplified if you’re living in an apartment. We talk about this more in the next section.
Consequences of an under-stimulated German Shepherd
If you can commit to the daily physical and mental needs of your GSD, they couldn’t care less where they live. They will just be tired, laying next to you on the couch, happy as can be!
But if you can’t, your sweet GSD can quickly turn into a hellhound, destroying your apartment and tearing up all your favorite things.
When GSDs are not stimulated or under-exercised, they become bored or frustrated. This leads to pent-up energy expressed in the form undesirable behavior, like barking or chewing. You may find your GSD on constant “high alert” any time you get up from the couch. Some GSDs will whine and circle before resorting to scratching at your apartment door. If the problem persists, your GSD will chew up your apartment, and bark at all the noises outside of it.
If you notice your pup appearing to be bored and frustrated, consider increasing the amount of exercise. Some German Shepherds have a lot more energy to burn than others.
Your commitment to obedience training, early socialization, and crate training
Early socialization and obedience training is something we stress to all GSD owners. The more you expose a young GSD to different dogs, people, sights and smells, the more you can prevent over-protective behavior and develop a well-rounded dog.
This is especially true when you’re living in an apartment. Your dog will be exposed to other dogs, outside noises, and people constantly.
For starters, we suggest introducing your pup to the neighbors very early on, and continuously. This way your puppy will become well-adjusted to other people being around, and your neighbors will understand if they hear some puppy cries at night or while you’re away. This will help avoid aggressive and over-protective behaviors, while also showing the neighbors respect. Plus, who doesn’t want to meet a cute German Shepherd puppy?
You can start obedient training with your GSD as young as 8 weeks. This is great way for your puppy to get mental exercise, to learn proper behaviors, and also develop social skills around other dogs.
Barking or Excessive Noise
Barking can be a major issue when you’re living in an apartment. You will want to address barking right away to avoid this becoming a habit. Next time your puppy is barking, follow these steps:
- Ignore the barking – do not yell, or “join in”, just completely ignore it
- Once the barking has stopped, calmly and firmly say to your dog, “Quiet”
- Reward your pup with a treat
The point here, is that we want to reward the quiet behavior. Be careful not to reward your pup while its barking. Once again, this takes time and a bit of patience. Lucky for you, German Shepherds are very smart and learn quick. So long as you’re consistent with training, and your pup is properly socialized to the neighbors and other noises, this won’t last forever.
Crate training is a must. Dogs are “den” animals. A crate offers your pup a safe and quiet “den” to stay in at night, when you’re away from home, or unable to supervise. Additionally, its a great tool to use to for house-training.
We suggest learning the proper way to crate train, so you can make it as homey as possible for your GSD while you’re away. It will definitely help out a lot to avoid your pup crying and barking when you’re away from the apartment. This will take a bit of work, but it will absolutely help to reduce behavior issues and ensure you maintain a pleasant relationship with your neighbors and landlord.
There are many benefits to crate training:
- It gives your pup a safe safe little sanctuary to be in while you’re away
- It will help with house-training, as dogs do not like to soil in the area they lie in.
- It prevents any damage to your apartment (especially while they are teething, up to 5 months old)
- It helps them adjust to their new home after being adopted.
When you first bring your pup home, you will likely experience crying and whimpering at night. This can become a nuisance to neighbors if its not addressed quick. This is why we’re such big proponents for crate training, especially in an apartment. Place your pups crate in your bedroom so he or she can see and hear you at night. This way the crying will stay to a minimum, as long as you don’t indulge it.
What Crate to Use
We personally used a large collapsible crate for our GSD puppies, which would suit apartment living quite nicely. We used the crate to train him while he was a puppy, during the nights and when we were away at work. When it wasn’t in use, we could easily tuck it away to free us some space.
When To Stop Crate Training
This is entirely up to you. Some people crate train their dogs for their whole lives, while others stop using the crate once the dog understands proper behavior. We felt comfortable after 2-5 months with each of our German Shepherds. This was based on their temperament at night and while we were away, if they were potty-trained, and if we trusted them to behave in the house while we were gone.
The moral of the story is, yes, German Shepherds can certainly live in apartments– You just have to put in the work! Behavior issues in a German Shepherd will be more stressful if you’re living in an apartment, so it’s important to be well-researched in order to prevent it.
If you’re up for the challenge though, you will find your German Shepherd the most affectionate, loyal, intelligent and amazing dog you’ll ever own. Don’t let any one tell you otherwise!