Can a German Shepherd Live in an Apartment?


While there is a dog for every type of person, some people simply prefer German Shepherds. And, as one of those people (since you are reading this article), you may be considering moving into an apartment, and you may be wondering – can a German Shepherd live in an apartment?

The answer is yes. A German Shepherd can live in an apartment as long as it is well socialized and is provided with adequate physical and mental stimulation.

While it is completely possible to have a German Shepherd live in an apartment, there is a question that you must ask yourself before this – is it a good idea to have a German Shepherd live in an apartment?

This question is more important than the first one. While keeping a German Sheperd in an apartment can no question be done, whether or not it is a good idea is completely dependent on you, the dog owner.

In order to have a German Shepherd thrive and not just exist in an apartment, there are several important considerations that the owner must not overlook.

Let’s now take a look at these considerations.

Select a Location Based on Your German Shepherd’s Needs

When looking for an apartment to accommodate a German Shepherd, do not begin your search with just looking for an apartment that will accept the breed. This is a mistake that people often make.

Instead, first, narrow down the area where you are looking based on the needs of your German Shepherd.

While walking your GSD daily is necessary, it is very important that you also have access to an outside area where your dog is able to run freely.

One of your foremost considerations should be looking in an area that has dog-friendly parks or other outside recreation within a practical distance for you and your GSD to travel to.

And if you live in a city, “practical” and “close” are not always synonymous. Depending on where you live, even a destination located a short distance away can take hours to reach.

Your city may have the greatest dog park, but that dog park may just be on the other side of town and an hour away with traffic. So unless you have a lot of free time, this is not really a practical choice. 

In this instance, make sure that the dog-friendly area is one that you are able to visit regularity and with relative ease.

Finding the Right Apartment

Once you have figured out where the best area of town for your German Shepherd to live is located, it’s time to find the right apartment. And with a German Shepherd, this may take some extra effort on your part.

While many apartments and apartment complexes allow you to have a dog, provided that you put down a pet deposit, you should assume that this will apply to your German Shepherd.

In fact, this policy will very likely not apply to your German Shepherd. This is because German Shepherds are a fixture on restricted breed” lists.

What Is a Breed Restriction?

A breed restriction is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a rule set in place that prevents tenants from possessing certain types of dogs deemed to be aggressive.

These restrictions were put in place to protect people from aggressive dogs, as well as to prevent landlords and owners from incurring liability arising from an aggressive dog’s behavior.

Although there is no definitive list of restricted breeds, there are certain dogs common to every list. And German Shepherds almost without exception find themselves right at the heart of these lists.

While people may argue that breed restrictions are unfair, this argument is most often defeated in the name of public safety.

Breed restriction does not evaluate an animal on an individual basis, because that would be far too costly and time-consuming to implement. So instead, blanket restrictions are used. This can make it more difficult to find an apartment for your German Shepherd.

Is There Anything That You Can Do About Breed Restrictions?

If you are dealing with an apartment that restricts tenants owning certain breeds, but you are confident that anybody who meets your dog would agree that it presents no danger to anyone at all, you may have options.

If you are applying to rent from an individual owner, it may well be worth your while to ask the owner to meet your German Shepherd.

If your GSD is very well-tempered and well-behaved, it’s quite possible that the owner may take a liking to it and permit an exception to this broad and generalized restriction.

However, if you are dealing with a larger corporation that owns a number of units and a number of properties, it’s less likely that they will consider you on an individual basis.

So it may be wise to begin your search with owner rented buildings. Most apartment rental listing sites will allow you to filter your search in this way. 

But whatever you do, it’s important that you don’t try and find a way around a breed restriction by being dishonest.

It’s not a good idea to misrepresent either the breed or size of your dog on an application and think that it will go unnoticed.

The chances are that it will be noticed, may it be from a concerned neighbor or the landlord themselves. And you will not get a warning, you will get evicted, and it is completely within the landlord or owner’s right to do so because of your breaching the lease.

Select the Right Apartment Floor Plan for Your German Shepherd

Just because an apartment lease may permit you to have a German Shepherd, it still does not mean that the apartments in that building are suitable for one. So once you have found a location, you will now need to assess the apartment itself.

Floor plans differ, and you should now focus on the right floor plan for a German Shepherd.

Hallways

I have personally lived in two apartments which I selected specifically because of my GSD. They were large apartments, and both of them had long hallways.

Long hallways are a lifesaver if you live in an apartment with a German Shepherd, especially on a rainy day. Though on any day, one of my dog’s favorite pastimes was chasing a bouncing ball up and down the hallway.

And while a dog will never be able to run full speed in any size hallway outside of a mansion, it can provide a great deal of extra freedom for exercise with your German Shepherd.

Because of this, I strongly encourage anyone looking for an apartment with a German Shepherd to make sure that it has a hallway long enough for play.

Make Sure the Apartment Has Big Windows and a Balcony

German Shepherds are curious, they like to see what’s going on and they do not like to feel cooped up.

An apartment that has a lot of windows is beneficial for your German Shepherd. It will enjoy seeing what’s happening outside, as it makes it feel in touch and a “part of.”

Also be on the lookout for an apartment with a balcony, even a small one. Just as some fresh air and sitting outside is calming and relaxing for you, it does the same thing for your dog.

A little bit of sitting outside does wonders for a dog that is kept inside all day. You should be able to filter your search for a balcony on most apartment rental listing websites as well.

Make Sure That the Apartment Has an Extra Room

While a smaller breed of dog can thrive in the smallest of apartments, a German Shepherd needs room. Literally.

This is not to suggest that you must have an extra bedroom for your German Shepherd. But it is to suggest that it is to both you and your dog’s benefit if there is a small room or a den that is devoted primarily to your dog.

Within this room is a great place for your dog’s crate, its toys, and a dog bed. Your dog should never be isolated in this room, and the door should always be open. Your German Shepherd will appreciate the space of its own, and will likely spend the majority of its time in this room while you are away.

What Will the Neighbors Think?

This is an important consideration when thinking of having a German Shepherd in an apartment.

While you may not care what other people think, per se, you should get a good idea of how you think your neighbors may respond to a large dog.

Unfortunately, and understandably, many people who are not familiar with dogs are frightened of them.

This can be especially true with large breed dogs that are considered an aggressive breed. The prospect of even being near one can be very frightening to some people.

So if your new neighbors have been going about their lives without any other dogs around, and especially if they have small children, a German Shepherd showing up on the scene may be a very unwelcome surprise.

While you may not technically be breaching any lease provision, there is something to be said about the social environment that you live in. An apartment is your home, and you want it to be a pleasant home.

Often times neighbors may complain to a landlord about a large dog and even exaggerate or seemingly fabricate their claims. I have personally experienced this.

But this is often not their personal fault, but instead a result of their fear, which creates a bias against a certain type of dog. They may not mean to exaggerate or make anything up, but they actually sometimes perceive a harmless situation as the opposite.

So it’s important to get a sense of the types of neighbors that live near you and in your building. Perhaps even go out of your way to introduce yourself and your dog.

This will help to prevent assumptions about your dog being aggressive, and it will also make a person more likely to approach you with any concerns rather than just going straight to the landlord to lodge a complaint.

It’s also a good idea to speak with the landlord and get an idea of how many dogs are in the building, and if there are any other large breed dogs.

Dog owners have dog ownership as their common denominator, and therefore they tend to be more understanding of each other when it comes to dog-related issues.

They are more likely to see a dog’s behavior for what it is and to not read too far into it. So by speaking with the landlord about this, you can be better informed as to how dog-friendly the apartment tenants actually are.

Be Aware of Noise Concerns

And adult German Shepherd makes noise. Even if they’re not barking, they are as heavy as a 10-year-old child and run around twice as much. So it’s important to consider how well your apartment absorbs noise.

If you live in a building that has thin floors, you can be sure that neighbors living below you will hear your German Shepherd just being itself – running around and jumping, and even just walking can get very loud.

It’s understandable that a neighbor living below thin flooring and a German Shepherd may feel intruded upon by all of the noise created.

So out of respect for your fellow person, and to save yourself the hassle of dealing with noise complaints against your dog, it’s important that you have an accurate picture of how well noise insulated a potential apartment is.

Select an Apartment on the Ground Floor

Even if a building is not well insulated against noise and has thin floors, you can always remedy this problem by seeking an apartment on the ground floor. A ground floor apartment will also be a convenience to you in terms of bringing home 30 lb bags of dog food.

But if you do take this route, just hope that your upstairs neighbors don’t have a German Shepherd!

Basic needs of a German Shepherd

Now that we have covered what you should be looking for in a geographical and physical space for your German Shepherd, it’s time to take a closer look at what the primary needs for your dog are within that space.

So in addition to making sure that you are in close proximity to a dog park or other outside area, and that you have the proper floorplan, it’s time to look at a few other basic needs that your German Shepherd has and how you can make sure that they are taken care of.

Exercise Exercise Exercise!

Because German Shepherds were originally bred as herding dogs, they are hardwired for exercise. It’s part of who they are. And it’s your responsibility to make sure that your German Shepherd receives the exercise that it needs.

Without exception, your German Shepherd will need to be walked at a minimum for 30 minutes a day. Ideally, you work close to your apartment so you can walk your dog at lunchtime.

If you are unable to do this by yourself, you may want to consider either a dog walking service or a pet sitter. But both of these options cost money, so make sure that you have the financial resources to allow for this.

Although a pet sitter or a dog walker are not absolute necessities, leaving a German Shepherd alone for 8 or 9 hours most days of the week is not an ideal situation for the dog, and it may begin to develop behavioral problems if you do this.

So just make sure that you have the proper exercise procedures in place if you are living in an apartment with a German Shepherd. It is not the same as living in a house where you can come home and open the back door and just let the dog go run and tire itself out. Now it’s up to you.

Mental Stimulation

German Shepherds are ranked as one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. And intelligence needs stimulation. Because of this, it is crucial to keep your German Shepherd mentally engaged.

You cannot just give a German Shepherd a ball or a toy and leave it alone and expect it to stay mentally stimulated. A puzzle toy is great, but for a very limited amount of time. And it’s highly unlikely that your German Shepherd will pass the time while you are not home enjoying its puzzle toy.

So when you’re not home, outside of the odd distraction, your dog is likely sitting around hoping and waiting for you to come home. Just watch this video to see what a typical German Shepherd does when you’re not home:

As you can see, the German Shepherd does not do too much during the day. It’s sort of investigates where its owners went after they left, and then it sits around most of the day and gets excited when they come back home.

So when you return home, understand that your dog has not been busy entertaining itself with any type of mental stimulation. This part is up to you.

This means that even if you had a long day at work and just want to come home and cuddle with your dog, you need to understand that it’s important to keep its mind stimulated.

Take the time to break out that puzzle toy with your dog just like you would take the time to read to a child.

Now is also a good time to throw a ball around in the apartment, or go over some light obedience training and to practice tricks.

All of these things work to keep your German Shepherd mentally stimulated.

Socialization

Not only are exercise and mental stimulation vital considerations for a German Shepherd when living in an apartment, so is socialization.

If you do not have a well-socialized German Shepherd and intend on moving into an apartment, think twice. This can be a major issue.

Keep in mind that your dog will be coming into contact with people and other dogs just about every day, far more than it would if it were living in a house with a yard.

It only takes one aggressive act by your dog to harm someone and to also potentially expose yourself to legal liability.

Or even worse you may be putting your dog in a position where it may be taken away from you and even euthanized. So making sure that your GSD is well socialized as a puppy growing up in an apartment, or making sure that an adult dog is already well socialized is a very important responsibility.

Be Aware of the Hair – German Shepherds Shed, a Lot!

It’s a fairly well-known piece of information that German Shepherds shed a lot. And by a lot, I mean that the shedding will exceed your every expectation if you’ve never owned one before.

You will have dog hair covering every facet of everything you own. It will be on your clothes, on your floors, and on your sheets.

Even if you don’t allow your German Shepherd on your bed, your dog’s hair will still wind up on the sheets. It will be in every conceivable place that you can and can’t think of.

This requires extra work on your part. Be prepared to always have a lint roller or an adhesive roller handy, and make sure that you have a very good vacuum cleaner that is up to the task.

Hardwood floors or tile are great to have, as they make sweeping and vacuuming much easier. The downside is that they may project more noise if you live above the first floor.

But on any carpeted surface, a good vacuum cleaner really is essential. You will find that a German Shepherd sheds so much that it can easily clog up a vacuum cleaner that is not up to the task.

And not only does your vacuum cleaner have to be up to the task – you have to be up to the task. So if you are the type of person that cleans your apartment once a week, this will not be enough to maintain cleanliness around your apartment in the presence of a German Shepherd.

Vacuuming every second day at the least is a must if you have a large German Shepherd in an apartment. In a house you may not notice the hair so much, as it gets spread throughout the place. But in an apartment, you will notice it, and you will notice it quickly. So be ready to clean, a lot!

Final thoughts

Apartment living for a German Shepherd is not as simple as it is with a small breed of dog. Not only do you need to consider your dog’s needs, but you need to take your neighbors’ well-being into consideration as well.

So unless you are absolutely committed and have the time to take care of the essential needs of a German Shepherd living in an apartment, you may want to consider either getting a different breed of dog, or holding off on getting a German Shepherd all together until you have more suitable space for it to live in.

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 18 years now. I'm originally from Indiana, though I've lived in many different states and traveled extensively. The places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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