On the subject of high-maintenance dogs, the German Shepherd might not be among the first breeds…
Although we all wish we could take our dogs everywhere with us, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t always possible. We have work, school, and other activities where German Shepherds can’t accompany us. If you are thinking about getting a GSD you may be wondering, can German Shepherds be left alone, and for how long?
This article will dive into those questions and give you helpful tips for leaving your German Shepherd alone.
Can German Shepherds Be Left Alone?
Yes, German Shepherds can be left alone! However, the time a GSD can be left alone will depend on their age. Generally, if your German Shepherd is a puppy, they can be left alone for one hour per every month of age.
Ways To Make Your GSD Calmer Before You Leave
German Shepherds are active high-energy dogs, so you will need to take steps to set them up for success before leaving them home alone if you don’t want them to destroy everything in the house.
Here are some things you should do before leaving your dog alone:
Tire your dog out
That saying a tired dog is a happy dog is very true when it comes to German Shepherds. Also, a tired dog is one that is less likely to get into trouble.
Establishing a routine where you talk your dog on a walk, play fetch, go to the dog park, or some other form of exercise before you leave the house makes a big difference. After a fun activity, your dog will likely relax and nap so they will be less concerned with you leaving.
Just make sure the activity is something that makes your dog exhausted, so if you know your dog still has a lot of energy after walks, you want to find an activity that tires them out more before you leave the house.
Get your GSD used to spending time alone early
If you get your dog as a puppy, make sure to get them used to being alone immediately. German Shepherds that become overly clingy and used to their humans being around 24-7 are more prone to separation anxiety.
The best way to do this is to start off leaving even young puppies sometimes for very short amounts of time. Crate training is also key for a potty-training German Shepherd because you want them to be safe and not have accidents for the short time you are away.
Start by leaving your pup in a safe location and just go into another room for 10-15 minutes at first. Never come back in the room if your German Shepherd is whining, barking, howling, groaning, or crying because they will learn that doing those things gets you to come back.
When your dog is quiet and calm go back. Keep doing this gradually extending the time by 5-minute increments and start going further than just another room (maybe go outside and do some yard work for 20 minutes).
Doing this over and over will both teach your dog how to be comfortable alone, but also that when you leave you’ll come back!
Be calm about leaving
Lastly, never make a big deal about your coming and going. Acting like your leaving is no big deal will help you GSD think the same.
Our dogs feed off our energy, so if we get all hyped up and make a big fuss every time we leave the house, our German Shepherds will think our leaving is a bigger deal than they should. Remain calm!
Tips For Leaving Your GSD Alone
Here are some helpful tips of things to before leaving your German Shepherds alone to make the process smoother:
Make sure they are empty before leaving
First, and most obviously, take your dog potty immediately before leaving. Also, try and make sure your pup pees and poops before your leave the house, not just one or the other.
Leave enough time before having to leave to walk your dog around a little so they can do both if your German Shepherd takes a little longer to do their business.
Pick a safe location
Location is important not only for your dog’s safety but also for their comfort while you are away. A crate is a great safe place to leave your German Shepherd when out of the house, especially for younger more mischievous pups.
Also, leaving your GSD confined to a single room, the garage (if not too cold or hot), or a playpen are other options if your dog isn’t ready for free range of the entire house or apartment.
The key is to pick a place where your dog is limited in what they can stick their noses into, at a nice temperature, and provide someplace comfortable for them to lay like a good dog bed. Giving them a homey spot to call their own will make them want to go there and be more comfortable while they are alone.
Don’t leave your dog longer than their bladder can handle
Another key is not to leave your dog for longer than their bladder can handle. This is especially important for puppies but also a factor for adult and senior dogs. If you know your dog can only hold their bladder for 3 hours, you should make sure you can get back in two and a half hours to be on the safe side.
If your dog has to struggle to hold themselves every time you leave, they will be more likely to not want to be left alone.
Don’t leave free access to water
Along the same lines as above, you should not leave your dog with water when you leave. Doing so will greatly decrease the time they will be able to hold their bladder while you are gone.
For example, a dog that can usually hold themselves for four hours may only be able to hold themselves for three if they drank a lot of water while you were out.
Leave them with a stuffed Kong to keep them occupied
A stuffed Kong is a great tool every GSD parent should have in their bag of tricks. Giving your German Shepherd with a tasty treat helps them to really not care about your leaving.
When my girl was a puppy I would stuff a Kong with peanut butter, plain yogurt, or some other Kong filler and she would happily lick away without even noticing my departure.
This also contributes to tiring your dog out, because not only will they be exhausted from the activity you did, they will also be tired from trying to get all the yumminess out of the treat.
Consider a dog walker or pet sitter
Sometimes things come up where we have to leave our dogs for a longer time period, whether it is for work, or some other appointment. While your dog is younger and unable to hold themselves all day, consider other options such as a dog walker, pet sitter, doggie daycare, or a family/friend who has extra time.
These options will allow you to leave your dog longer without having to rush home for a potty break.
How Long Can German Shepherds Be Left Alone?
As a general rule, German Shepherds can be left alone for one hour for every month of age up to about nine months old. So, a three-month-old puppy can be left alone for three hours. Whereas a nine-month-old puppy can be left alone for a full 8-hour workday.
It is important to remember that these are basic guidelines, some dogs maybe can stay home for slightly more or less time depending on how well they can hold themselves.
Also, even though by the time a GSD is 9 months old they should be able to stay home for 8 hours at a time, that doesn’t always mean they should. You want to make sure your dog has enough mental stimulation, physical stimulation, and attention and affection on a daily basis.
German Shepherds are social animals, and you want to make sure you aren’t always gone for excessive amounts of time before selecting a German Shepherd to bring home.
German Shepherds can definitely be left alone, but the time that each individual GSD can be left alone will vary. Some of these factors include their age, health conditions, and how long they can hold themselves.
Although German Shepherds will become capable of holding themselves for an eight-hour day around nine months of age, you should strive to make sure they are getting enough attention, exercise, and engagement from you when you are home to keep your GSD happy and healthy.