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As German Shepherd owners, most of us would love nothing more than to be able to spend every waking minute with our beloved four-legged companions. Unfortunately, with the way life works, that’s not always a possibility.
There will be moments where you will have to leave your German Shepherd home alone while you go to work or to the store. But do German Shepherds do well alone?
German Shepherds can be left home alone, provided they are well-trained, have no underlying health or behavioral issues, and are out of the puppy stage. Making sure their environment is safe is the most important thing to consider before leaving your German Shepherd home alone.
While we would love to have our pups with us at all times, there are a few things to think about before you leave your German Shepherd home alone.
Below we’ll look at the things you should consider before leaving your German Shepherd home alone, how to determine if it’s safe to leave your German Shepherd home alone, and how to train your German Shepherd to safely be alone in your home.
We’ll also look at what you can do to help make your German Shepherd feel more comfortable while home alone, whether it’s better to leave your German Shepherd in a crate while he is home alone, and how long you can safely leave your German Shepherd home alone.
5 Things To Consider Before Leaving Your German Shepherd Alone
As much as we love spending time with our German Shepherds, there will come a time where you will have to leave your pup alone. Before doing so, make sure you take into consideration the following to make the experience as least stressful as possible for your dog:
1. Is It Safe?
Whether you are leaving your German Shepherd alone for 5 minutes or 5 hours, it’s important to make sure the area where you are leaving them is safe for them to be in without supervision. This is especially true if you have a German Shepherd puppy or a German Shepherd who has any kind of health issue.
Keeping your pup safe should be the first priority before you leave, so make sure to remove any objects, foods, chemicals, or anything else that your German Shepherd might be curious about.
If you have a German Shepherd who loves to chew or consume things, it’s also important to remove or prevent access to anything your pup could get into their mouths. This includes electrical cords, plants, and even furniture.
If you cannot guarantee that your pup will not get into something while you are gone, then it’s best to restrict their access to a closed off area where you know they will be safe.
Crate training your German Shepherd is an excellent and easy way to ensure the safety of your pup if you must leave them alone for a bit, and also allows them a place where they can be comfortable and relax while you are gone.
If you have a German Shepherd who suffers from separation anxiety or is prone to escape attempts, you might also have additional safety considerations to keep in mind such as your anxious pup chewing through a door or wall or breaking through a window.
If you have any electrical or heating elements that can be accidentally turned on by your dog, such as a gas stove, an electrical outlet, or an space heater, you should also remove access to those or purchase safety equipment such as outlet covers that can prevent a dog from accidentally turning them on or electrocuting themselves on the object or outlet.
2. Are You In The Middle Of Training?
If your German Shepherd is not yet considered fully house-trained, then you will want to take extra precautions before leaving them alone to prevent any delays or setbacks in the potty-training process.
Sticking to a good potty-training schedule is a great way to help with this, as is crate training your German Shepherd puppy and knowing when it’s appropriate to take your puppy outside to potty. To avoid any accidents within the house, even with a fully house-trained German Shepherd, you should take your pup outside to potty immediately before you leave.
Food can be picked up, but water should be left down unless you will only be gone for a short period of time. Most dogs can hold their bladders for an extended period of time, but if you have a dog who struggles with that you might consider crate training them, providing them with pee pads or a potty patch, or by hiring a dog walker who can take them out while you are gone. Holding their urine for too long can also lead to infections.
Along with potty training, if your German Shepherd is currently participating in a training program related to separation anxiety (or another behavioral issue), you might have to adjust how long or where you leave your pup alone.
Speak with your dog trainer about what to do if you must leave your German Shepherd alone while still going through a training process, or talk with your veterinarian about additional options, such as calming medication, that might help if you have to leave your dog alone.
3. Does Your German Shepherd Have Any Medical Issues?
Medical issues, which include both illness and injury, may also impact your decision to leave your German Shepherd alone.
If your pup is suffering from a medical issue that could impact the safety of your German Shepherd if they are left alone, such as epilepsy or diabetes, then it might be better to hire a dog sitter or place them in a daycare where they can be monitored and treated if they have a medical episode.
If the illness (or a medication to treat an illness) is causing gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or vomiting, you might also consider limiting how long and where you leave your German Shepherd alone.
If your pup is recovering from an injury, you may be able to leave them alone but in a much more restricted environment, such as a crate, so that they can complete the recovery process.
When in doubt about whether you can leave your ill or injured German Shepherd alone, consult your veterinarian who will be able to guide you on the most appropriate ways to do that without causing further stress to your pup.
4. Is Your German Shepherd Dealing With A Behavioral Issue?
Along with medical issues, you will also have to think about how leaving your German Shepherd alone might affect any behavioral issues they may have.
To determine if your German Shepherd has a behavioral issue, such as separation anxiety, reach out to a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist in your area to get a diagnosis and treatment plan for the behavior issue. Your trainer and vet can work with you to help address the behavioral issue so that your German Shepherd can be safely left alone.
If you are in the process of working to help your German Shepherd overcome a behavioral issue, you might be unable to leave them alone at all or else you will face delays or setbacks with the overall training process. This is especially true in the beginning stages of the training process if you wish to see any progress.
If you must leave your pup alone, consult with your trainer or behaviorist to see what possible options there are, or you may look at hiring a dog walker, pet sitter, or placing your German Shepherd in doggy daycare.
5. Does Your German Shepherd Get Bored Easily?
German Shepherds are known to be a high energy, intelligent breed of dog and they tend to require a large amount of physical and mental exercise or else they may start engaging in destructive habits or unwanted behaviors.
If you leave your German Shepherd alone for long periods of time without making sure they are tired first, you are probably going to find quite the scene of destruction when you return home!
Exercising your German Shepherd heavily before you leave and providing them with mental exercise, such as puzzle toys or treat toys, will help ensure they do not become bored while you are gone and find something else to occupy their time.
If you need to leave your German Shepherd alone for a longer period of time and you are worried they may become bored, you can leave them with an extended-release puzzle or treat toy such as a frozen stuffed Kong toy to give them something to do while you are gone. Any toy that you’d bring on a road trip is usually a good idea here.
Just make sure the treat or puzzle you leave them with is safe and does not pose a choking hazard. Bones, rawhide chews, and any toys where your pup could bite off and swallow pieces should never be left out while your dog is unsupervised.
Another thing to consider before leaving your German Shepherd home alone is if he is a barker or if he whines a lot. Bored dogs or dogs suffering from separation anxiety may begin barking and crying incessantly which can be incredibly frustrating for your neighbors.
If you live in an apartment complex or a neighborhood with noise ordinances, you may find animal control knocking at your door if your pup decides to sing the song of his people while home alone!
Is it Safe To Leave My German Shepherd Alone?
It is safe to leave your German Shepherd alone, however you must make sure the environment you are leaving them alone in is safe for them. How much work you have to do to make the area safe is largely dependent on the age and health of your German Shepherd.
If you are leaving a German Shepherd puppy alone, or an older dog who is still having issues with destructive chewing, has an underlying health condition, or is still within the potty-training process, then you will most likely have to do additional things before leaving them alone.
This includes removing any choking hazards, any objects they could chew up, anything toxic or poisonous, or anything that your dog could get into that could damage to either the dog or the house.
Ensuring your dog has nowhere to escape from, too, is also important. In a panic, some dogs will push through window screens or even chew through doors to escape.
If you are leaving your German Shepherd alone for an extended period of time (more than an hour or two), you should also make sure they have access to water, especially in warmer weather.
The easiest way to make sure your German Shepherd is safe while home alone is to restrict their access in the house, which can include limiting them to a certain room in the house or by crate training them.
German Shepherds, like their relative the Rottweiler, can be left alone for quite a while, but it is better if they get bathroom breaks throughout the day.
How Long Can I Leave My German Shepherd Alone?
The length of time you can leave your German Shepherd alone depends on his age, his health condition, and what’s located in his environment.
Puppies, adolescents, seniors, and German Shepherds with health conditions may only be able to be left alone for shorter periods of time, whereas your average health, adult German Shepherd can be left alone for a longer period of time provided their needs are met.
The younger the dog, the more frequently they will need to be let outside to potty. An adult German Shepherd can technically hold their bladder for up to 12 hours, but it is better to let them out periodically to avoid the risk of an infection or an accident within the house.
If your German Shepherd is not receiving enough physical or mental activity, then they can probably only be left alone for a shorter period of time before they become bored and start seeking out other, often more destructive ways to entertain themselves.
German Shepherds also tend to bond with one person more than others, and if their “special person” leaves them alone for too long, they may become upset. This can happen even if there are other people around your German Shepherd, and they may still feel alone.
While your German Shepherd should learn that it’s OK if you leave them because you will return, it’s always nice to try and limit the time you are away from them, both for their benefit and for yours!
Is It Better To Leave My German Shepherd In A Crate When He Is Alone?
If you are unable to remove certain hazards from your German Shepherd’s environment, or if your pup suffers from separation anxiety or is still having accidents in the house, it’s probably better to keep your German Shepherd in a crate while they are alone.
Crating your German Shepherd is usually the best way to ensure their safety, though if you have a dog who tends to panic when you leave you might also have to provide them with something to do while in their crate or give them calming medication prior to leaving.
Following a good crate training schedule and sticking with the crate training process will also help reduce or eliminate any issues your German Shepherd may have with their crate.
If your German Shepherd is fully house-trained and they are unlikely to get into anything while you are gone, then it’s probably fine to leave them loose in the house, or in a smaller area that has been “dog-proofed”.
To restrict access to areas of the house where you do not want your German Shepherd to go while you are not there, use baby gates or pieces of furniture to block openings that are without a door.
How Do I Train My German Shepherd To Be Left Alone?
The easiest and fastest way to train your German Shepherd to be left home alone without incident is to work with a local dog trainer on basic obedience. German Shepherds are incredibly easy to train, and they should learn how to be left alone fairly quickly.
Teaching your pup good impulse control through obedience training, as well as working on learning skills such as Leave It and Stay, are great ways to help make sure they are safe and don’t get into anything when left alone.
Your dog trainer can also help give you ideas on how to keep your German Shepherd physically and mentally active so that they do not become bored while left alone.
Separation Anxiety: What It Is And How To Fix It
True separation anxiety is relatively rare in dogs, and many owners misdiagnose their dogs as having separation anxiety when really the dogs have just not had enough socialization or training.
While German Shepherds are a great choice for first-time dog owners, they are a breed that can be prone to separation anxiety. This has led them to be banned in a lot of apartment complex and rental units, as their larger size is often (usually mistakenly) attributed to an increased risk for damage to a rental unit due to the symptoms associated with separation anxiety.
If you are concerned your German Shepherd has separation anxiety, schedule an appointment with your vet so they can conduct an assessment.
They may give prescribe your pup medication, or they may refer you to a behaviorist or a dog trainer for follow up treatment and training plans. This video does a good job explaining what you can expect from there:
How Will I Know When It’s Safe To Leave My German Shepherd Home Alone?
Knowing when it’s safe to leave your German Shepherd alone, especially while dealing with an issue such as separation anxiety, is largely related to their progress with training and following the advice of your vet and trainer.
Each dog can progress at their own rate, and for some dogs it may take much longer before it will be safe to leave them home alone.
Is It Safe To Leave My German Shepherd Puppy Alone?
In general, it is usually not safe to leave your German Shepherd puppy alone unless they are confined to a crate or a puppy-proofed room.
Since puppies are very curious creatures, they will absolutely get into things they aren’t supposed to if left alone without supervision.
German Shepherd puppies also tend to be a bit mouthier than some other breeds, so your pup will likely use their mouth to explore the world around them.
Teething puppies are also prone to chewing on things that aren’t always appropriate, and your German Shepherd puppy may also accidentally consume something that poses a choking hazard, a blockage hazard, or is generally toxic or unsafe for them to eat.
Crate training your German Shepherd puppy, hiring a dog walker or dog sitter for the day, or taking your puppy to daycare are all alternative options to leaving your German Shepherd puppy alone and make for a much safer experience for your pup (and your peace of mind!).
What Can I Do To Keep My German Shepherd Busy While Home Alone?
Before leaving your German Shepherd home alone, make sure you exercise him thoroughly by taking him for a walk or playing with him for a bit. If your pup is tired, it’s less likely that he’ll get into trouble while you are gone.
When leaving your German Shepherd home alone, you can provide them with treat-dispensing toys or similar types of entertainment that can keep them occupied. Just be sure that the toy is safe for use while unsupervised and doesn’t have any parts that your dog could swallow or chew off.
You can also leave on the TV or play a dog-specific YouTube channel or some calming music. Just make sure your dog isn’t the type to jump at the screen if he sees or hears another animal on the TV!
Calming chews and plugin calming diffusers are good options (but skip the incense) if you have a pup who can sometimes get a little anxious.
Hiring a dog walker, dog sitter, or taking your German Shepherd to doggy daycare (or even to work with you!) are also great alternative options if you feel like it would be better and safer for your pup than leaving them home alone.
For those moments that we have to leave our German Shepherds home alone, there are steps we can take to ensure that they are happy, healthy, and safe.
Sometimes this may mean hiring a dog walker or taking our pups to a doggy daycare. Other times they can be left safely in the comfort of their own home.
They know that soon enough we will return!