Recently I received an email from a reader who asked me:
Can German Shepherds live in an apartment?
Here you’ll find out the surprising answer.
You’ll also learn:
- Preparations 101 for living with a German Shepherd in your apartment.
- Tips based on the specific age of your German Shepherd (from puppy to adult).
- Why you should ‘train’ your kids first if you want to live with a German Shepherd in your apartment.
- And more…
Table of contents
- Can German Shepherds live in an apartment?
- 17 tips to live in an apartment with your German Shepherd
- For German Shepherd aged 8 – 16 weeks
- For German Shepherds aged 3 – 9 months
- For German Shepherds of all ages
Can German Shepherds live in an apartment?
German Shepherds can live in an apartment as long as you meet their needs. They need at least 2 hours of exercise each day. That’s beside the 30 minutes or more for training and mental stimulation. Teach them housebreaking and obedience training to keep them well-behaved and well-adjusted.
17 tips to live in an apartment with your German Shepherd
For German Shepherd aged 8 – 16 weeks
#1: Ready your apartment
German Shepherds can adapt to living anywhere. Even in an apartment.
Make the necessary preparations before they arrive home.
Prepare their dog food, stainless steel bowls and water dishes. Get them a comfortable bed and place it in the corner where they will stay.
And don’t forget their toys, leashes and a collar. Get an expandable nylon collar because this is safer than metal ones.
These things will help ease the transition from breeder/shelter to their new home.
#2: Get a collapsible crate
A crate is perhaps your biggest splurge for your German Shepherd puppy. But why need one?
Your puppy will soon learn crate training. It’s actually pretty beneficial when used correctly.
- The crate becomes their safe place.
- It teaches your dog not to soil their crate.
- They learn to be comfortable in an enclosed space.
It’s also helpful if you will be gone for a long period of time. Leave them in the crate so they don’t chew anything.
Since your dog grows, an expandable or big collapsible crate is the best choice.
#3: Prep your kids
If you have kids, this tip is for you. It’s mandatory to brief your kids first about having a German Shepherd puppy.
It’s easy to assume that kids and dogs can get along pretty well. But kids don’t know how to treat a German Shepherd puppy right.
Conversely, the puppy is untrained. So kids can get hurt if, for example, they pull the dog’s tail.
That’s why it’s critical to teach your kids the following:
- How to be gentle.
- How to treat the puppy well.
- How to treat the puppy with respect.
Caution: Always watch over your kids and your puppy until the puppy is used to them and they know how to treat it right.
#4: Train ‘em young
Be one step ahead of your puppy’s development.
By training them young. Remember: as soon as they arrive home, they start learning.
Teach them what you want and expect from them. Instill in them the good habits that will carry into adulthood.
You’re in luck because German Shepherds are easily trainable. So they will be able to learn how to socialize and follow commands quickly.
Here is a suggested timeline for training your puppy:
- 3 – 16 weeks: Socialization, crate training, housebreaking.
- 3 – 9 months: Obedience training, recall, impulse control.
- 9 – 24 months: Continue and improve on obedience training, recall and impulse control.
#5: Housebreak your puppy
Nobody wants a house to smell of dog poop and urine. Thankfully, housebreaking can prevent that.
Housebreaking is similar to potty training. It will teach them the following:
- Where you want them to pee or poop.
- Where you don’t want them to pee or poop.
- How to ‘hold it’ if there are no appropriate areas.
- How to give an indication that they want to pee or poop.
Find an area where you can walk your puppy for outdoor training. If this is where you want them to go potty, then take them there consistently. You may teach a word for it such as ‘outside’ or ‘go potty.’
If you choose an indoor potty area, better prepare dog litter or lots of wee-wee pads. Use the word ‘inside’ or ‘go potty.’
Give them a treat five seconds after they finished with their business.
#6: Teach them to love their crate
Crate training is not just for leaving your dog when you need to be gone. It’s so much more than that.
Through crate training, your dog learns that a crate is not an enemy. So never use the crate as punishment. You want them to learn that it is their safe place in the house.
Also, it teaches them to be comfortable being confined. They won’t go berserk in their crate when you leave for work.
And you can easily clean the house when your puppy is in the crate.
Eventually, your German Shepherd will be acclimated going in the crate and having some alone time. This is a huge step toward preventing them from having separation anxiety.
You can use treats to begin crate training your puppy. Take it slow and have patience.
To give you an idea how this goes, check out this video:
You can take it up a notch by using the crate for feeding times. I suggest having them eat in the crate for 5 to 15 minutes.
Caution: Don’t leave your dog in the crate longer than 6 hours. Have a friend or a relative look after your pet. Or hire a pet sitter.
#7: Socialize early
Socialization should begin as early as 7 weeks old.
This article says that this is the ideal age when puppies are more accepting of people and pets. This socialization window closes at 12 to 16 weeks.
How friendly they become depends on their socialization training. So introduce your pup to as many people and other pets as possible.
Teach your pup what friendly people look like. Begin with your relatives and friends who visit you often. As such, your dog is safe around non-threatening strangers.
So when you have visitors, your dog doesn’t bark or lunge at them.
It’s advantageous if at this point your dog is crate training. You can command your dog to stay in the crate while your visitor is around.
And should they meet bad people? Dogs are excellent at picking up on the bad person’s intentions right away.
- Caution: Protect your puppy by making sure that they have fun and positive experiences. Take them away from fear-evoking situations.
For German Shepherds aged 3 – 9 months
#8: Teach them to be obedient
Your pup is among the smartest in the ‘dogkind.’
The American Kennel Club lists German Shepherds as the 3rd most intelligent breed. So intelligent that it only takes them a few tries to learn a trick.
Thanks to their smart brains, they are easily trainable. They can begin obedience training at 3 months of age.
When training pups this young, don’t force them. Be patient and gentle.
Obedience training is beneficial because it:
- Teaches your dog the commands that will keep them safe.
- Instills ‘manners’ into your dog.
- Establishes you as the alpha of the pack.
- Provides mental stimulation, which a smart dog like yours needs.
Enrolling your puppy in obedience training is an excellent idea. But you can teach them basic commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘down’ and ‘stay.’
These simple commands keep your dog well-behaved in certain situations.
For instance, a person they like comes through the door. You can command them to sit so they don’t jump on the visitor.
‘Stop’ is also an excellent command to prevent bad behavior. If you see them chewing on your furniture, say ‘Stop.’ Or when they’re about to eat some grass, tell them to stop.
Not only this. Imagine having your energetic dog running and thumping on the floor. You’ll give your neighbors living below your unit a major headache. ‘Stop’ is handy in these situations.
Caution: Do not yell at your dog during training. It will make them aggressive and unpredictable.
Instead, try out these wonderful ideas:
- Reward their good behavior.
- Correct them firmly and lovingly.
- Give them plenty of praise and attention.
These will help them become well-adjusted dogs.
Aside from basic commands, teach them leash training. Teach them to respond to your movements and not the other way around.
Otherwise, your dog will end up pulling you in every direction. Correct this behavior now that they are young. Just imagine how difficult it will be when your dog is already 80 pounds.
#9: Teach them to be ‘quiet’
When you live in an apartment, be considerate of your neighbors. A loud dog isn’t going to make your life easier.
Living in an apartment means you hear sounds from every direction. An untrained German Shepherd will bark at the slightest sound.
Just because your neighbors love dogs doesn’t mean they won’t be annoyed. What’s worse? When your dog starts a barking chain reaction in the middle of the night! You’ll have pissed off neighbors in the morning.
So teach your German Shepherd the command ‘quiet.’
To start, don’t reward their vocalizations. For example, your dog barks because they want you to pet them. Wait for them to quiet down before petting them.
Now this is of utmost importance:
When they are barking, do not yell at them. It will only excite them and encourage them to bark some more. So now you’re both ‘yelling’ and annoying your neighbors.
Here’s a way to teach them the ‘quiet’ command:
- Tell them to bark (if they can by command).
- Quickly tell them ‘quiet’ and hold a treat in front of them.
- Let them have the treat and give praises such as ‘good dog’.
Repeat until your German Shepherd mastered this trick. Try practicing it in other rooms of the apartment and outside as well.
For German Shepherds of all ages
#10: Keep their brains working
When bored, German Shepherds turn into these little evils that are nothing like your sweet dog.
That happens when your dog is home alone for hours.
Caution: Don’t leave your German Shepherd alone longer than 4 hours. Hire a pet sitter or leave them at a doggie day care.
Sometimes, even a well-trained dog can display bad behavior when bored. German Shepherds will chew anything or scratch at things. They will eliminate in the house or bark excessively. If they keep on barking, it’s going to bother your neighbors.
Here’s a way to prevent that:
Allot 30 minutes or more a day for their training and mental exercises.
One of which is giving them interactive toys and puzzles. They will be busy unlocking puzzles to get the treats while you’re away. Or if they are in their crate.
Some toys require your German Shepherd to use their nose to locate the treats. There are some that have compartments to be moved around so the dog can find the hidden treats.
Just take a look at this German Shepherd doing shape puzzles:
And by the looks of it, you need to bring a lot of treats!
Aside from puzzles, continue working on obedience training. Give your dog a refresher from time to time.
This is fantastic because German Shepherds love to have a ‘job’ to do. And they love to please their owners.
#11: Deplete their energy
Here’s a fact:
It takes at least 2 hours to deplete an adult German Shepherd’s energy. That’s how tireless they are!
They have been bred to be herding dogs, and their job was to run through fields to herd animals. So they needed lots of energy to do their job.
Conversely, they need lots of exercise to deplete that energy.
You can live in an apartment and still have a happy German Shepherd. Just make sure you tire them out thoroughly.
PDSA suggests giving your dog a minimum of 2 hours of exercise daily. Start with walks or runs first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Spread out the activities throughout the day rather than doing all for 2 hours in one go.
If you have an active lifestyle, then you and your dog are going to love the outdoors. Go hiking if there is nearby woods. Or go running around the neighborhood.
Another great activity is swimming. Find a nearby swimming pool that allows dogs.
A lake or pond will do if there is one near you. Just an hour of paddling will give your German Shepherd a serious workout.
Note: A tired dog is a happy dog.
#12: Stick to a daily structure
Having a routine is good. But it doesn’t always work.
For one, it will stress your dog if there are changes in their routine. So rather than stick to a routine, mix up their routine.
You avoid stressing yourself and your dog in case of a late feeding time or morning walk.
How do you achieve this?
Here’s an example.
Teach your dog that they will always be fed. Just not 6 on the dot every day. It’s important they know you will always come home but not throw a fuss if you’re not home by 5.
A structured routine enables your dog to cope with any unexpected changes.
#13: How to deal with German ‘shedders’
German Shepherds are notorious for being heavy shedders.
They are a double coated breed, meaning they have an undercoat. The undercoat is the dense fur under the top coat.
Not only do they continuously shed, but they also shed a ton of undercoat in the spring and fall. That’s a lot of fur!
That said, vacuum regularly to keep fur from blowing everywhere.
Brush your German Shepherd at least twice a week. Then rake their coats during the shedding season. This prevents skin problems from developing.
#14: Consider the weather
German Shepherds are so versatile they can adapt to any weather.
But can you?
Whether it’s hot or cold outside, your dog still needs their exercise. You must be willing to take them out for exercise even when it’s snowing.
Summer is harder for German Shepherds. Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water. Take your walks early in the morning or late in the evening. Stay out of the sun and in the shade.
In your apartment, make sure your air conditioner works well to keep your dog from overheating.
#15: Apartment-friendly activities
Some days, going out is not permissible. Be creative in thinking of ways to tire your dog out.
Here are some activities you can do inside or outside your apartment:
- Scavenger hunt. Hide treats around the apartment and watch and cheer as your dog finds each one.
- Interactive games. If you are busy, have your kids play tug-of-war or fetch with your German Shepherd. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye on them.
- More puzzle games. Give them puzzle toys with increasing levels of difficulty.
- Fetch on the stairs. Stand at the foot of the stairs and throw a ball over the top. Have your German Shepherd fetch the ball. Running up and down the stairs will help them deplete their energy. Just make sure the staircase is empty.
#16: Enjoy some weekend bonding
Weekends are fun for your dog because you have more time for them.
Improve their quality of life by introducing them to more activities.
- Enroll in canine athletics.
- Join canine agility competitions.
- Organize play dates with other German Shepherds.
- Give your dog a job (visit the elderly or be a therapy dog).
- Go to the jogging track or a stadium, and exercise together.
- Visit a beach, let your dog dig if they feel like it – it’s great for putting that energy into action.
- Go to a nearby lake or pond. Throw a floating toy in the water for your German Shepherd to fetch.
#17: Continue and improve their training
German Shepherds can live up to 10 years, according to American Kennel Club.
It means you have that long to train them. Training is a continuous process so that your dog is well-behaved all their life.
Continue to add tricks to their repertoire. You may also work with a professional trainer.