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German Shepherds are considered a large breed of dog, and they also have a reputation for being high energy and athletic. While many people might assume that such a breed needs lots of space to thrive and be happy, is there any truth in that thought? Do German Shepherds need a big yard?
German Shepherds do not require a big yard in order to be happy and healthy. While certain individual dogs may do better with a larger space, if their owner is providing them with additional physical activity and mental stimulation a German Shepherd can do just as well with a smaller yard or even no yard at all.
In the article below we’ll look at the facts surrounding yard space for German Shepherds, and why they can do well no matter what size yard you have.
We’ll also discuss situations in which a bigger yard might be better for your German Shepherd, what might affect your German Shepherd’s health and happiness while out in their yard, and what you can do if you have a small yard or no yard at all to make sure your German Shepherd’s needs are being met.
Do German Shepherds Need a Big Yard?
One of the best things about the German Shepherd is that they are an incredibly adaptable breed, which also makes them a great choice for first time dog owners, and so will do well in a variety of homes and environments.
German Shepherds do not necessarily need a big yard in order to be happy as long as their needs are met, they can do well in homes with small yards or even no yards at all.
While many German Shepherds can quickly adapt to a smaller (or bigger) yard, there are a few things to be aware of that can affect a German Shepherd’s health and happiness in their yard.
Puppies and senior German Shepherds generally require less physical exercise than an adolescent or adult German Shepherd, thus a smaller yard or daily walks will probably meet their exercise requirements.
For younger puppies, a smaller yard means it will be easier for you to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t get into any trouble, but as they age they will begin to explore more and the small yard may not be enough for them anymore.
If you do have a growing German Shepherd puppy and a small yard (or no yard at all), supplementing with plenty of other enrichment activities such as playtime, puzzle toys, walks, and even daycare are great ways to make sure your growing pup gets the physical and mental stimulation that they need.
Adolescent and adult German Shepherds tend to be quite active and athletic, and certain dogs may be considered extremely high energy and need additional space in their yard to get that energy out.
German Shepherds who are considered high energy need to have their physical and mental needs met on a daily basis or else they risk developing destructive behaviors such as chewing or digging.
A larger yard for these types of German Shepherds will help alleviate some of that excess energy and allows them to have a bigger space to explore and run around in.
If you have a high energy German Shepherd but a small yard or do not have access to a yard at all, you’ll probably need to supplement your German Shepherd’s day with additional strenuous physical activity such as longer walks or runs, hikes, or other athletic activities.
Playtime is good too, but may not be enough to completely deplete their energy. Doggy daycares and playdates with other dogs are another good option to help make sure your German Shepherd is having their needs met.
Security of Yard
Some German Shepherds can be quite the escape artists, and if left to their own devices may choose to leave your yard completely if it’s not providing them with what they need!
Whether you have a smaller yard or a larger yard, you want to ensure that it is completely secure and of an adequate height to deter your pup from leaving it. Electronic fences are generally not the best option for most German Shepherds, and can result in unintended physical and psychological side effects.
If you have a smaller yard, providing your German Shepherd with additional activities such as interactive toys, play equipment, or other things to keep them occupied will help encourage them to stay in their own yard.
As German Shepherds are very loyal to their owners, many of them do not do well when left outside alone for long periods of time, so monitoring their outside time is also important or else they may just leave to seek you out!
If you find yourself with an escape artist Shepherd, reach out to a local, reputable trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement training for possible solutions.
Tethering and chaining your German Shepherd is not a good solution, and in many places it is illegal. No matter your yard size, making sure your pup is safe and secure while out there should be your number one priority.
If you live in an urban or suburban environment and you have a smaller yard, another thing you must keep in mind is the proximity of your neighbors.
With a smaller yard, it’s more likely your German Shepherd will have more opportunities to potentially agitate your neighbors, especially if they have dogs or children and your pup wants to interact with them.
German Shepherds are known as great guard dogs, and their loud barks can be quite obtrusive in a quiet neighborhood environment if they feel the need to protect their yard and home.
They can also be quite the whiners, and if they are anxious about being left outside or being unable to get to something that interests them, that whining behavior can get annoying for your neighbors.
With a larger yard, you have access to more neighbor-pleasing solutions such as fencing off certain areas that your German Shepherd has issues with, planting trees and shrubs that provide privacy and act as a visual barrier to your dog, and more space to provide toys and activities to keep your dog away from the neighbor’s fence.
Your Dog’s History
Many of us are likely to move homes at least once in our lifetimes. While German Shepherds are a highly adaptable breed of dog, there may still be a significant adjustment period when it comes to their access to space.
This is more difficult if you are moving your German Shepherd from a place with a very large yard to a place with a very tiny yard or no yard at all.
German Shepherds who are still acclimating to their new home with a smaller yard than they are used to may show signs of anxiety, agitation, or destructive behaviors.
Much of the time this is related to a sudden decrease in their physical activity as many owners might not be aware of just how much energy their dogs were burning when allowed to roam around a larger yard.
Owners in these situations will need to adjust accordingly, and this may mean taking frequent walks throughout the day or taking your pup to a daycare for several weeks.
Once your German Shepherd has adjusted to their new routine, those anxious and agitated behaviors will probably diminish, but you must still take care to make sure your pup’s physical and mental needs are being met on a daily basis.
For German Shepherds who move to a larger yard than what they were previously used to, the risks are likely much less provided the yard is secure and safe. In fact, the biggest risk might be that your pup gets a little TOO much physical exercise and they require a lengthy nap!
Can You Have a German Shepherd Without a Yard?
Yes, you can have a German Shepherd without having a yard. As we discussed above, German Shepherds are highly adaptable and they are a great choice for apartment and condo living provided their needs are met on a daily basis.
What To Do If You Have No Yard
If you do have a German Shepherd and do not have access to a yard or space where you can let your German Shepherd run around off leash throughout the day, there are a few things you want to make sure to do to make sure your pup is happy and healthy.
A lot of this depends on your individual German Shepherd and how active they are, but most of these tips can (and should) be applied to all German Shepherds living in apartments or places with no yard access.
Your German Shepherd will likely require more walks than a dog who has access to a yard, and they may need longer or more frequent walks. Hiring a dog walker is a good solution if you are unable to provide walks throughout the day.
A variety of safe toys and chews should be available to your German Shepherd while they are left at home (just make sure that whatever toy or chew you leave them with is one that is safe for unsupervised play, does not have pieces that will break off, and does not pose a choking hazard).
Crate training your pup is another good option if you are concerned they will develop destructive habits if they become bored, but you will still need to address their physical and mental needs or else they risk developing other behavioral issues if left in their crate for long periods of time.
Hiring a pet sitter for the day or taking your German Shepherd to doggy daycare or setting up doggy playdates are other good options to make sure all of their physical and mental needs are being met.
Perhaps having 100 German Shepherds playing together like in the video below might be a bit expensive but you get the gist.
How Do I Make Sure My German Shepherd Is Happy Without a Yard?
There are some additional things you can do to make sure your German Shepherd is happy and healthy if they don’t have access to a yard (or if they only have access to a tiny yard).
The typical walks, daycare, and interactive toys I went over above will also apply here, but you can also do other unique activities with your German Shepherd to prevent them from becoming bored.
Hiking is a good option and provides your pup with not only physical exercise, but mental enrichment since they are likely to sniff new and exciting things, and being in such an environment is very stimulating to a dog’s senses.
Swimming is another good choice for exercise, and is especially good for older dogs or dogs who have orthopedic issues as it is very easy on their joints and good for physical therapy.
Participating in dog sports like agility and nosework are other options, especially if you and your German Shepherd are more social and enjoy a little bit of competition in your exercise regime.
You can also be very creative with the enrichment that you provide to you German Shepherd, and there are plenty of DIY enrichment activities available online that you can use to help make sure your dog is getting the physical and mental activity they require.
Due to their adaptability, intelligence, and high trainability, the German Shepherd does well with a big yard, small yard, or even no yard at all.
While the German Shepherd breed is known as an athletic and high energy breed, they can handle living in apartment and condo environments unless you have more than one German Shepherd dog, and as long as you provide their physical and mental needs are being met.
Additional walks, toys, athletic activities, or sessions at a doggy daycare are all good options for ensuring that your German Shepherd is happy and healthy if they do not have access to a bigger yard.