There’s a reason why people love their German Shepherds so much – they’re truly people dogs!
But this close relationship can also present challenges since GSDs cherish being close to their humans.
If you need to be away for whatever reason during the day, you’re going to need to leave your German Shepherd home alone.
Of course, you don’t want to leave your GSD alone. But until we live in a world where dogs can go everywhere people can go, we don’t have many choices.
In order to help your dog cope with the separation, you’ll need to find ways to keep them happy and busy.
In this article, find out exactly what to do with German Shepherds while at work. Learn tips to keep your dog content, and even discover creative ways you can interact remotely!
Leaving Your German Shepherd Dog Home Alone: The GSD Is a Sensitive Breed
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), German Shepherd dogs are the second most popular companion canine in the country. That is out of nearly 200 registered purebred breeds!
These popular dogs will quickly form strong bonds with their owners.
When you bring your new German Shepherd puppy or rescue dog home, you can expect them to want to be where you are, doing whatever you’re doing.
This is also the nature of choosing a dog breed with a strong innate drive to guard, herd, and protect.
German Shepherds aren’t happy until they know everyone in the “herd” (even if that is just you) is safe and accounted for.
This means that a big part of the German Shepherd dog’s appeal is their sensitivity and awareness. This breed is extremely attuned to people!
It’s best to know beforehand that your dog won’t do well if left alone, or even in the company of other dogs, for hours at a time.
How Long Can You Safely Leave Your German Shepherd Alone?
The amount of time you can safely leave your GSD alone is going to depend on these key factors:
- Prior history
- Presence of other pets
- Home safety
German Shepherd puppies, like all puppies, have limited bladder capacity. Puppies also have the greatest capacity to develop anxiety because they’re coping with many changes.
Therefore, you shouldn’t leave a GSD puppy alone for more than two hours at a time.
The exception is if it’s nighttime and they’ve already had their potty break for the night.
As your dog gets older (12 months or older) its bladder/bowel capacity will no longer be an issue.
At this time, a properly trained and socialized German Shepherd will be able to safely tolerate periods of up to four to six hours of alone time.
In order to stop your GSD from developing separation anxiety, It will be up to you as the owner to put systems in place.
If your German Shepherd comes to you in puppyhood right from the litter, you’ll know everything about your dog’s history.
This may not be the case if you rescue a German Shepherd as an adult. It’ll be tough to know what that dog has gone through before they came to you.
Prior history, therefore, trumps age as the determining factor in how long your dog can be safely left alone.
Presence of other pets
Having other household pets shouldn’t be an issue, as long as your German Shepherd gets along well with them.
In their company, it may be possible to leave your dog alone for longer periods of time.
While nothing can replace your presence, other friendly animals can be a nice stand-in when you must be away for extended amounts of time.
However, there are instances when leaving your GSD alone in their company isn’t a good idea.
Examples would include:
- Your German Shepherd is new to the family.
- It doesn’t get along with other pets.
- If any of your pets are more vulnerable “prey type” animals who can’t defend themselves.
Finally, you need to consider whether your home is safe for your German Shepherd. GSDs are extraordinarily strong!
Anxious GSDs are known to have pulled down curtains, torn apart couches, ripped off crown molding, and even dug under fencing to escape.
Not only is this super stressful and potentially dangerous for your dog – but the repairs can end up being quite expensive as well!
Hopefully this little checklist can help you evaluate how long your German Shepherd can be safely left alone.
Is Separation Anxiety a Problem in German Shepherds?
As previously mentioned, the German Shepherd dog breed is one of the more sensitive breeds.
These dogs are so attuned to their people because they’ve been bred to be this way!
This also means that GSDs are more prone to separation anxiety.
This is a condition where they become so anxious about being left alone that they act out in destructive and aggressive ways.
The bad news: your German Shepherd may develop this condition even if you do your best to create a welcoming and comfortable home environment.
The good news: you can train your smart, attentive GSD to not go into “separation anxiety mode” when you have to be away.
This video shows how easy it can be to help a GSD with separation anxiety feel calmer.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to a local dog trainer if you need help in this area. Behavioral problems develop when these issues aren’t directly addressed.
This checklist from the All Shepherd German Shepherd Rescue Charity can help you figure out if what you’re seeing in your dog is true separation anxiety.
Let’s now go over some options for helping your dog cope during times of separation.
Tip 1: Provide A Safe Haven with A Dog Den or Crate
The use of dog crates is one of the most controversial and hotly debated topics in the world of dog lovers.
When properly introduced, dog crates can be a useful way to help your German Shepherd feel safe and protected while you’re away.
Like their wild wolf cousins, dogs naturally seek out smaller, enclosed spaces to hide, rest, whelp, and care for the young. This is called “dog denning”.
A 2016 research study showed that wild dogs also exhibit denning behavior. They prefer to den near people, but the point is that they do den just like wolves.
By providing a ‘den’ for your German Shepherd, this can help create a sense of calmness and comfort for them when you’re apart.
Tip 2: Tire Your German Shepherd Out Before You Leave
Canine behavior experts offer several recommendations for helping dogs deal with ‘scary’ events like fireworks.
A frequently mentioned tip is to tire them out before the fireworks are scheduled to begin.
As Forbes explains, this strategy treats fireworks like a noise phobia.
Any type of phobia takes energy. The more exhausted your dog is, the less energy they’ll have for any type of phobia.
This same principle can work well with separation anxiety, or a separation phobia.
Try taking your German Shepherd on a long walk (provided it’s old enough to do so safely) before you leave. They’ll be more inclined to nap while you’re gone, instead of destroying the carpet!
Unable to take your GSD for a long walk to tire them out? Try hiring a local dog walker or pet sitter to do this for you!
As an added bonus, this allows your dog to develop another relationship. This can help ease any issues associated with being overly attached to you.
By hiring a dog walker, you’re also helping create jobs in your local community!
If your budget allows for it, another great option is doggie daycare.
This can be a great way to socialize a high energy GSD puppy. This will also help you learn more about your dog’s behavior when you’re not around.
Daycare services can provide detailed notes to owners on a daily basis. Some even provide live video feeds so that owners can check in throughout the day.
Tip 3: Provide High-Value Distractions for Your German Shepherd
Try tapping into your German Shepherd’s high natural energy as a working dog breed. Give your pup a job to do while you’re away!
German Shepherds need significant amounts of daily physical activity.
They were developed to work tirelessly for long hours herding and guarding livestock and, later, people as well.
This ‘job’ may be getting the peanut butter out of a Kong toy, or finding the treats hidden in a sensory snuffle mat.
It can be playing with a sensory ball that emits lights or sounds. You can even record yourself saying common commands with these toys!
Another creative idea to try playing music made specifically to appeal to dogs. For some dogs, this is very calming.
Dog puzzles also exist and have different levels of difficulty.
These puzzles allow you to change how and how often the treats are dispensed once your dog masters the basics.
Tip 4: Interact With Your German Shepherd Remotely Using Technology
For GSD owners who are comfortable with modern technology, consider remote interactive toys designed for owners and their pets. A variety of these toys exist today.
A lot of these toys allow for things like scheduling times to dispense treats, voice recordings, speaking to your dog live, video conferences with your GSD, and more.
Many offer live video feeds of your dog at home so you can check in to see how your GSD is doing during the day.
This type of technology won’t be enough for a German Shepherd dealing with separation anxiety though, and it isn’t a substitute for exercise or face time with you.
Despite this, it can add spice and variety to your dog’s day when they’re home alone.
Leaving Your German Shepherd Home Alone While at Work: You Know Best What Makes Them Happy
In addition to these tips, you can brainstorm a list of your GSD’s favorite things. What toys and treats does your dog love most? Be sure to include these in your dog’s “home alone” activity schedule.
Of course, if you’re like so many German Shepherd owners, YOU are your dog’s favorite thing.
While you can’t always be there, you can leave something that smells like you that your dog can cuddle with while you’re away.
Just be sure your dog won’t eat your dirty socks or old shirt – even safety trumps comfort here!
What has worked well for you to keep your German Shepherd active and occupied while you have to be out of the house?