The German Shepherd is one of the most popular breeds of dogs throughout the world. They are well-known for their intelligence, trainability, and athleticism. However, this popular breed of dog also faces a lot of barriers when it comes to housing regulations, breed-specific legislation, and general size restrictions.
So why are German Shepherds banned in some places?
German Shepherds tend to be banned in places where there are size and weight restrictions, as most German Shepherds exceed that limit. Areas with breed specific legislation may also ban German Shepherds due to the breed being considered a guard dog breed, which can be seen as the breed being more prone to aggressive behaviors.
There is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about why German Shepherds and similar breeds face bans in apartments, rental housing, urban cities, and even entire countries.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the usual reasons as to why a German Shepherd may be banned, what areas within the world the breed is banned completely, and why this popular breed is almost always banned in apartments and rental housing.
We’ll also discuss how breed bans affect German Shepherds who are legitimate Service Animals, and what you can do as a German Shepherd owner and lover to help educate others on the breed and resources to help eliminate breed-specific legislation that bans German Shepherds.
5 Reasons German Shepherds Are Frequently Added To Banned Breeds Lists
It’s a complex issue but let’s try to boil it down with 5 reasons why GSD face so many restrictions.
1) They are a large breed dog.
German Shepherds are considered a large breed dog. Depending on their breeding, they can range in weight from 50 pounds to well over 100 pounds.
Due to this large size and weight, many apartments, housing complexes, and rental units will not allow them.
Some places do not allow large breed dogs due to their insurance not covering damage done by a dog over a certain size, and there is a big misconception that larger dogs cause more damage than smaller dogs, which is untrue.
Other housing units will not allow German Shepherds because the units are not really large enough to comfortably house such a large breed of dog, or they are in a location that is not dog-friendly and there is no place to easily exercise a German Shepherd.
While German Shepherds can do well in apartment settings, being such a large and active breed means they require more frequent and intensive exercise such as long walks or even a long hike, and in many urban environments this can be difficult to achieve unless the owner has the time and willingness to make sure their German Shepherd is receiving adequate exercise and mental stimulation.
2) GSDs can be very vocal.
Many first-time German Shepherd owners would be surprised to hear that the German Shepherd is considered a fairly vocal dog breed.
German Shepherds do tend to bark quite a bit more than some other similar-sized breeds, and thus can be banned due to the level of noise they can create.
While dogs will naturally bark as it is one of the ways they communicate, German Shepherds can do it excessively if not taught otherwise.
This is especially true if you live in an apartment or housing complex with very close neighbors and lots of movements.
Because German Shepherds can be protective of their households, if they hear noises or see lots of different people and things outside of their home, they can begin barking to alert you to a potential “threat” and scare off whoever or whatever came too close for their liking.
German Shepherds can also be prone to whining excessively when they want something or if they are in an excited or stressed state, and this noise can also be bothersome to your neighbors.
3) They have a reputation for being guard dogs.
German Shepherds are banned from many apartments and housing complexes due to their history of being utilized as a guard and protection dog.
While their protective instincts and high intelligence make the German Shepherd one of the top breed choices for police and military work, these same instincts in your pet German Shepherd can be difficult to deal with if left unchecked.
Training and early socialization using positive reinforcement can help German Shepherd owners find positive outlets for those natural protective instincts and instill good manners in their pup.
Avoiding purchasing a German Shepherd from a breeder who knowingly breeds aggressive dogs can also help limit the chances of winding up with a potentially dangerous German Shepherd.
4) German Shepherds can cause damage if left alone.
Aside from their natural protective instincts, German Shepherds also tend to be prone to anxiety disorders, often stemming from their intense loyalty to and affection for their owners.
This separation anxiety can lead to destructive habits that many landlords and housing complexes do not want to risk, such as chewing on pieces of furniture or even the walls and doors themselves. Separation anxiety in a German Shepherd can also cause escape attempts, which can result in broken windows, doors, fences, and holes within the backyard.
While any size of dog is capable of having separation anxiety and causing such significant damage in a home, the frequency in which German Shepherds can experience separation anxiety (or even boredom from being left alone for long periods) can make them a target for landlords and housing complexes to just outright ban the breed and avoid the risk of damage to their property investments.
5) GSDs can be considered a liability risk.
Falling in line with their reputation as being utilized as a guard dog, many insurance companies will not cover the liability risk that a German Shepherd poses.
In most areas the landlord and housing complexes are responsible for homeowner’s insurance, but if their insurance company has stipulations about what size or breed of dog is covered by that homeowner’s insurance, then the landlord or housing authority may have to ban German Shepherds in order to get the insurance policy they are required to have for their properties.
In rare instances, the German Shepherd may be allowed on the property but only if the owner purchases additional insurance coverage that is specific to their dog.
What U.S. States Are German Shepherds Banned In?
As of July 2022, there are currently no U.S. states which ban the German Shepherd outright. However, there are several counties, cities, and districts within almost every state which ban or have restrictions on the ownership of a German Shepherd.
In some locations, such as Louisiana, Florida, and New York, the bans are much more common and situated mainly in urban areas rather than suburban and rural environments.
Other locations do not have outright bans but do require that German Shepherd owners have additional insurance on their dog, or they restrict the public access the dog has and require that all German Shepherds be muzzled when in a public setting. In other areas, German Shepherds must pass a temperament and training test and owners must purchase a yearly permit or license in order to have their German Shepherd.
If you are considering getting a German Shepherd and/or moving to a different city, county, or state, it’s important to research any animal-related ordinances and requirements.
You don’t want to complete your move only to find out you aren’t allowed to have your German Shepherd within city limits! The best place to find the most up-to-date information on breed restrictions is with your local city or county council offices, which can provide you access to all animal control ordinances.
What Countries Are German Shepherds Banned In?
Outside of the United States, as of July 2022, the German Shepherd faces bans and restrictions in several other countries, including Ireland, Iceland, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Similar to the United States, there may be areas where the German Shepherd is not banned as a whole, but the breed is heavily restricted. There may also be various districts within each country that do not have a ban on the breed.
If you are considering traveling with your German Shepherd outside of the United States, make sure you research any restrictions you and your German Shepherd may face upon entering the country. At best you may be required to leave your German Shepherd at a veterinary or boarding kennel for the duration of your stay, and at worst you may have your pup confiscated by the government.
Why Are German Shepherds Frequently Banned From Apartments And Rental Housing?
German Shepherds are more commonly banned from apartments, housing complexes, and rental homes than they are banned from entire counties, states, or even countries.
This is largely due in part to their size, as many rental units have restrictions on the size or weight of a dog in their housing units. The breed itself might not be outright listed as banned, but generally a weight limit is given and most German Shepherds exceed that weight limit.
Other reasons the German Shepherd is banned in a lot of rental housing is due to liability and insurance reasons. Many insurance companies, which landlords and rental units are often required to have, have restrictions on what types of breeds their insurance will cover if something were to happen.
Many large breed dogs, including German Shepherds, have been given a reputation of being more prone to aggression and damage (both physical and property-wise) over other, smaller breeds. Breed labeling often comes from skewed data on dog bites, or from biased or misinformed news sources.
Reports relating to this type of perceived aggression and destruction are mixed (and most have little merit to being a good depiction of the breed as a whole). The ASPCA and many other nationally recognized veterinary, behavioral, and dog-related organizations agree that laws targeting specific breeds are not a long-term solution to fixing the issue of irresponsible pet ownership.
Why Are German Shepherds Banned On U.S. Military Bases?
German Shepherds can be banned not from the military base itself, but rather from the military housing units. Most military housing is privatized and requires specific insurance policies that ban certain breeds or sizes of dogs (similar to a non-military apartment or rental housing unit).
In other instances, certain breeds of dogs (including the German Shepherd) have been banned from military housing divisions to reduce the risk of dog bites. However, as with any breed specific legislation that targets certain breeds as being more prone to dog bites, this type of ban does not take into account that any dog of any size, breed, age, or gender can bite and potentially cause a severe injury.
German Shepherds are often targeted due to their history of being utilized as a guard dog, thus many military bases and government institutions ban the breed to prevent any issues with liability and potentially having someone sue the government if a German Shepherd happened to injure someone on government-owned property.
If My German Shepherd Is A Service Dog Would The Ban Still Apply To Me?
If your German Shepherd is a legitimate Service Animal and you are following both state and local laws (including federal ADA laws), then the ban in housing complexes would likely not apply to you.
If your German Shepherd is an Emotional Support Animal rather than a Service Animal, you may not have the same protections and would need to research your local laws and what they would allow.
Outside of the United States, the definition and protections for Service Animals can vary, so it’s important to research any information regarding German Shepherd breed bans and how it affects them if they are a Service Animal.
In some countries, even if your German Shepherd is a legitimate Service Animal, they may not allow the dog in due to local laws and there is not much you can do apart from reach out to your local consulate to see what your options are.
If My German Shepherd Is A Mixed Breed Would The Ban Still Apply To Me?
If you have a dog that is mixed with German Shepherd, the ban may or may not apply to you, and is mostly dependent on what the rental units’ regulations are, or what the local laws are regarding how much German Shepherd your dog has in him.
In some places, you may even be required to submit a DNA test proving what types of breeds are in your dog, and what percentage is German Shepherd.
If your dog looks mostly German Shepherd, chances are the breed ban would apply. If your pup is more “generic” looking, you may be asked to submit one of the DNA tests.
What Resources Are Available To Help Me Keep My German Shepherd In An Area Where They Are Usually Banned?
If you are considering moving to an area where the German Shepherd is banned, or if you live in an area where they are considering adopting Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), it is important to research the actual ordinances and laws regarding the breed bans.
Some laws are very specific, whereas others are only relevant in certain parts of the area (for example, the breed may be banned within city limits but not just outside of city limits).
Contact the landlord or property management services for any rental unit you are considering moving into, and make sure your pup is listed somewhere on the lease agreement and terms so that you are not hit with a surprise ban upon moving in, or before your lease term is up.
You can also reach out to local rescues and shelters to find more information on possible breed bans. Some places will actually work with you and offer programs where you can take your German Shepherd through an obedience class or obtain the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen certification before obtaining a permit allowing you to keep your pup in an area where they may otherwise be banned.
If your German Shepherd is a legitimate Service Animal, you can also reach out to local disability services and lawyers who can help you.
It is not advisable to try and “fake” your German Shepherd’s Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal status just to avoid a breed ban, as this can lead to both state and federal legal proceedings that can result in fines or even jail time.
What Can I Do To Help Change Breed Specific Legislation Laws?
The best thing to do to help change Breed Specific Legislation laws is to reach out to your local city, county, and state officials and respectfully discuss how BSL affects you and your German Shepherd.
You can direct them towards evidence-backed research conducted by multiple national organizations on how BSL is not the best option to reduce the incidences of dog attacks, and that any breed, size, gender, and age of dog is capable of attacking or biting a person or animal.
Dog bites and dog attacks are not generally a result of the dog’s breed, but rather a result of uninformed and irresponsible owners.
Despite being one of the world’s most popular dog breeds, the German Shepherd is a target for breed specific legislation.
It is important that you research any breed specific legislation within your area or an area in which you are visiting or moving to, as well as the terms and lease agreements for any apartments, rental housing units, or homeowners’ associations (HOAs) where you may encounter breed bans and restrictions.
As with any breed of dog, it is important for German Shepherd owners to strive to always showcase the best qualities of their dog and help educate the public about the breed and be responsible pet owners.
With more education, there will hopefully be less bans and restrictions placed upon our beloved German Shepherds.