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How Long Can German Shepherds Be Left Alone? Guilt-Free Guide

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German Shepherds can become very attached to their owners. They are a very loyal and affectionate breed and will form an intense bond with you. However, you can still leave your German Shepherd alone without worrying about him – as long as you do it correctly! So, how long can German Shepherds be left alone?

German Shepherds can be left alone for a maximum of 4 hours although puppies shouldn’t be left alone for longer than one hour for each month of age – up to the maximum 4 hours.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn solutions for keeping your German Shepherd entertained while they’re alone, problems that might arise if you leave your dog alone for too long, the pros and cons of leaving your dog either indoors or outdoors, and loads more!

Four German Shepherd Puppies Laying Down

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Welcome to my guilt-free guide to leaving your German Shepherd alone!

How Long Can You Leave German Shepherds Alone by Age?

Leaving a newborn German Shepherd puppy alone for too long is not only dangerous but immoral and cruel. If you’re worried about being away for several hours per day, you should definitely find someone who can come and watch them. Their natural curiosity can lead to all sorts of hazardous problems, especially if their mother isn’t around to protect them.

On the other hand, it’s not so bad with older well trained and socialized German Shepherds (unless they have a health condition). Senior GSDs shouldn’t be left alone for too long as they may need more toilet breaks or if they suddenly become sick as serious problems can develop very quickly without the help of anyone around.

Let’s review how long you can leave German Shepherds alone during their different life stages.

Young Puppies

German Shepherd puppies are very active and inquisitive. They can sleep between 18 to 20 hours per day, but the short time when they’re awake is filled with energy, fun, and constant hunger.

Puppies can’t hold their bladder for very long and they will nibble at anything they can get their teeth on, especially if you don’t watch them! You mustn’t leave puppies alone for too long. Here’s a table showing how long German Shepherd puppies can be left alone during their first five months.

Age of PuppyTime Left Alone
8 – 10 weeksMaximum 1 hour
2 – 3 monthsMaximum 2 hours
3 – 4 monthsMaximum 3 hours
5 months +Maximum 4 hours

Adolescent Dogs 6 – 18 Months

Once their bladders have developed and they’ve matured a bit, it’s okay to leave your German Shepherd alone for longer however this should be a gradual build-up. That being said, the limit should still never exceed four hours per day. German Shepherds do not respond well to being left alone for long periods. They are high-energy dogs that thrive on companionship and affection.

Adults

Adult German Shepherds are very self-reliant when they need to be, but they’re also very social dogs that love the company of others. Dogs are, after all, derived from wolves who are pack animals. They see you as their pack and need to be part of the family.

Even though they will choose one master, a German Shepherd will bond with each member of the family in different ways. You can learn more about this in my article Can a German Shepherd Have Two Masters?

Some dogs may have a higher tolerance level but if you want to feel guilt-free about it and stick to the professional advice, don’t leave them for more than the recommended four hours.

So, how long can German Shepherds be left alone, legally?

Legally, no law specifies exactly how long German Shepherds, and all dog breeds, can be left alone. The Animal Welfare Act is a federal law that regulates the treatment of animals but this only applies to dogs bred for commercial sale and those being transported or imported.

There are also various animal neglect and cruelty laws that vary by state but the general rule in North America is that you should not leave dogs alone for more than four hours at a time.

Factors to take into account when deciding how long to leave your dog in addition to age are training, breed, housing and lifestyle conditions, and whether they have any previous experience of being left alone.

There is often widespread debate in the US as to how long you can leave a dog alone and some owners will say it’s okay to leave them for up to six hours, or even longer in some situations. Of course, I totally disagree with this and can’t understand why anyone would want to go against expert advice as recommended by veterinarians and scientists!

There are similar guidelines in the UK where veterinary experts also recommend four hours as the maximum period for all dogs to be left alone. This is detailed in a Codes of Practice guidance document which has been devised to help dog owners comply with the UK’s Animal Welfare Act which sets out how all animals should be cared for.

Seniors

Older dogs above 8 or 9 years old shouldn’t be left alone for too long, especially if they have health problems. German Shepherds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia which may cause them pain or discomfort.

Ensure they have an orthopedic bed such as the Big Barker that is clinically proven to reduce joint pain and stiffness. This bed is a real bed made for big dogs and is suitable for any age of large breed, and can help prevent arthritis, joint pain, and other mobility issues. It’s the bed my dog uses, and you can check out my review of the Big Barker here.

German Shepherds are also prone to sensitive stomachs and digestive issues, and older dogs, like humans, need to pee more. Keep an eye on them, and don’t leave them alone for more than two to three hours, especially if you notice any of these symptoms.

How to Leave a Dog Alone

Make sure you stay confident and show consistency and patience when you first start to leave your German Shepherd puppy home alone. Once you have made sure the area where you are leaving them is safe from any hazards, here are some important points to follow:

  • Start off slowly, a few minutes here and there, and build-up
  • Exercise the dog first to get them tired
  • Mental stimulation is just as important
  • Allow them to take their potty break
  • Make sure they won’t be hungry
  • Use a crate or put up dog gates to confine them
  • Allow them access to clean fresh water
  • Leave interactive or chew toys for them
  • Play calming music if they are prone to separation anxiety
  • Make the departure and return low key – don’t over fuss them

Check out this fun 3-minute video from “Chewy” showing you exactly how to leave your puppy home alone:

How to Leave Your Puppy Home Alone

Guilt-Free Solutions if You Leave Your GSD Alone

If you’re worried about feeling bad about your German Shepherd being left alone whilst you go out to work, there are quite a few solutions for you. The good news is that you can hire someone or ask a friend to relieve the loneliness of your dog. It doesn’t even have to be every day as you can try to mix things up where possible.

Here are five guilt-free solutions for your German Shepherd while you’re gone:

  1. Hire a dog sitter or dog walker when you’re not home. Dog sitters aren’t too expensive, and they can visit for 2-3 hours rather than the whole workday to save you some money. The best part about hiring a dog sitter is that they’ll help give your German Shepherd some much-needed exercise, companionship, and interaction. Another option is to hire a trusted dog-walker that will visit your home and take your dog out for a long walk or two.
  2. Walk your dog before and after you go to work. Even a short 30-minute walk before you leave the house is enough to expend a little bit of energy whilst maintaining your close bond with them. As soon as you get home, take your German Shepherd out for either a long walk or, even better, some off-leash running, and play some games such as fetch.
  3. If you’re fortunate enough to work near home, visit your dog on your lunch break. Some people have an hour of free time in the middle of the workday. You can go home and play fetch to prevent your German Shepherd from feeling lonely and provide some fun exercise for them. Flexible working is also a great solution, especially if you can start really early, meaning you will avoid rush-hour traffic and be home quicker in the afternoon.
  4. Another possible solution is to work at home. With thousands of jobs switching to mobile workplaces, it’s a great idea if you can combine a couple of days a week working from home so that you can play with your dog randomly throughout the day. Not only that, but it will save you money from having to hire a dog sitter or paying a friend every day.
  5. Get a dog camera for peace of mind. Doggie cams can be set up near the edge of your dog’s crate or gated area or somewhere safe out of reach if you allow them free reign of the house. You can talk to them and even shoot out treats all from your phone! They offer a perfect solution to interact with your German Shepherd without being there. I think they’re really cool, and I just love the Furbo from Amazon. There is an optional monthly subscription to some features such as a bark alert; however, I don’t bother with it, but they offer a free trial if you want to try it.

How to Entertain Your German Shepherd While You’re Gone

Aside from the doggie cam from the previous section, there are several ways that you can keep your German Shepherd entertained while you’re away. The good news is that you don’t have to spend too much money, nor will you have to be present for these suggestions to work.

Young German Shepherd, How Long Can German Shepherds Be Left Alone? Guilt-Free Guide

Check out the options below to see which is best for you and your dog:

  • Give them enough toys to play with. One or two toys might not be sufficient, especially if your dog is easily distracted or gets bored quickly. Try to leave four or five of their favorite toys in their crate or wherever you leave your dog during the day. KONG toys such as the KONG Classic from Amazon are ideal as you can do so much more with them such as stuffing treats inside for them to work out how to get out.
  • Leave calming music on the TV or stereo for your dog while you’re gone. They’ll be able to listen to it without being stuck in silence. You can also try turning the channel into a dog station, many of which are designed to keep the interest of your pup. Just make sure that they don’t want to attack the TV!
  • Ask visitors to stop by to play with your dog. Even if someone can come over for 15 minutes, it may be enough to keep your dog happy and entertained. It would be better if they could take your dog on a long walk, but a quick game of fetch will be more than enough to burn off some energy and curb their loneliness. When you leave them again, they will be tired and will no doubt go back to sleep.
  • Getting another dog might seem extreme, but a buddy might be exactly what your German Shepherd needs to feel more comfortable and less stressed. German Shepherds tend to be a bit possessive of their owners due to their loyalty, so if you decide to get another dog, do it before they’re too old to accept a friend but they should be at least one year old. In general, dogs of opposite sex pairings get along better than dogs of the same sex. Obviously, getting a second dog is a massive commitment that you will need to thoroughly think through.
  • Consider leaving your dog in the hands of a doggie daycare center near your home. With plenty of other dogs to play with, your German Shepherd will have no shortage of fun while you’re away. Remember to introduce them to the daycare group as young as possible as they will quickly get used to being left and will easily settle.

What Happens if You Leave a German Shepherd Alone for Too Long?

We have learned that German Shepherds shouldn’t be left alone for too long. If they are left for extended periods they can develop a variety of both emotional and physical health issues.

Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t understand the level of commitment required to properly care for a German Shepherd and this is one of the sad reasons why they are often abandoned, re-homed, or even worse, euthanized.

German Shepherds are very social dogs and need a job to do, even if that just means interacting with you. Regular activity and exercise is a must for this energetic, loyal, and protective breed.

If you leave your dog alone for longer than four hours per day, it will most definitely cause poor results. After all, there are reasons for the recommended guidelines! Some GSDs don’t even do well with anything longer than three hours, even when they’re fully grown.

The best way to find out is to start with trial periods and increase in small increments. You can also invest in a dog camera, as mentioned above, where you can watch and interact with your dog, all from your smartphone. 

Here are a few things to be aware of if you regularly leave your German Shepherd alone for more than four hours:

  • Separation anxiety. This is a major concern for German Shepherds who’ve been left alone for too long. Symptoms could include an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, excessive drooling, pacing, and uncontrollable barking, whining, or howling. Check out this recent study from the University of Lincoln, in the UK which states that separation anxiety in dogs should be seen as a symptom of underlying frustrations rather than a diagnosis.
  • They may also display destructive behavior. Examples of this are chewing on your wooden furniture, the carpet, shoes, or any other things lying around that they shouldn’t chew! Digging, urinating, or even worse, eliminating can occur. These are all extra signs of separation anxiety or distress which you will need to address. If your German Shepherd has unfortunately developed a problem with excessive chewing, here are 8 steps on how to stop it.
  • They could become extremely restless during the evening. It might not sound like a big problem, but restlessness causes your German Shepherd to have a hard time sleeping. They will often have random bursts of energy throughout the day and night, ruining their sleep cycle and yours in the process!

As you can see, there are all sorts of negative outcomes that result from not properly caring for your German Shepherd and failing to keep him happy and entertained. You might also notice that they become extra clingy and try to spend too much time with you when you’re home.

Long-term neglect can also lead to these other physical and mental health problems:

  • Depression.
  • Blood pressure and heart disease caused by stress.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Bladder infections due to the dog being unable to relieve themselves for hours on end.

You must never punish your German Shepherd for showing distressing signs of separation anxiety.

Your dog is not doing these things out of disobedience or spite, but because he is trying to cope with being extremely stressed. Check out this article for more info on German Shepherd Separation Anxiety: Training, Help & Treatment.

Should You Leave Your German Shepherd Inside or Outside?

If you have the option of leaving your dog outside when you go to work, it can provide them with tons of space to run around and get some exercise. It’s also beneficial for their mental health to not feel stuck inside, especially if they don’t yet have free reign of the house.

How Long Can German Shepherds Be Left Alone? Barking German Shepherd

Let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages of leaving your GSD inside vs. outside:

Pros of Inside

  • When German Shepherds stay inside, they’re much less likely to bark at birds, people, dogs, and other distractions. Your neighbors won’t complain about noise, and you’ll be just as stress-free as your dog. Some dogs bark at people walking by, especially German Shepherds who are very protective dogs. Make sure to properly train your GSD so this is not an issue or prevent him access to those areas of the house.
  • If you live in a place where wild cats and other animals might cause harm to your German Shepherd, it’s probably a good idea to leave them inside. They’ll be safe and protected while you’re away. This is especially important in places that have bears, mountain lions, and other predators.
  • Since German Shepherds have so much energy and due to their natural instinct, it’s not uncommon for them to dig, whether it be to dig tree roots that resemble sticks, or to bury bones or toys. Unfortunately, your yard will pay the price and will soon have the appearance of a moon crater! The good news is that they can’t do this if they’re staying inside while you’re out at work.

Cons of Inside

  • If your German Shepherd puppy is impatient and super inquisitive, he might start chewing on furniture, the carpet, or other items. Make sure you leave him enough chew toys to play with, but it will be inevitable sometimes. GSD’s become upset and bored, but they also get stressed because they don’t know where you are, especially if you leave them for too long.
  • If you live in an apartment, leaving your German Shepherd alone is not a good idea. Although German Shepherds can live in apartments they need to be exercised frequently throughout the day. As they are large energetic dogs they need an appropriate amount of room to feel comfortable. They could excessively bark or howl if they become distressed or separation anxiety sets in. This could not only lead to noise complaints but can have serious health implications for your dog.

Pros of Outside

  • If you’re worried about your dog being stuck indoors, then a decent-sized backyard will be more than enough for them to stay entertained. Training them to behave indoors and outdoors is also beneficial as this helps to keep them socialized and ready to be friendly when you introduce them to other people or dogs.
  • A bark now and then from your backyard is actually a good thing. Unless your German Shepherd is constantly barking up a storm, one or two here and there will be perfect for warding off strangers or intruders. A German Shepherd trained to stay outside is like a wall of security for your home when you’re away at work.
  • You can invest in a dog agility course so that your German Shepherd can sprint up and down and enjoy himself without messing up your garden! They come in all shapes and sizes. Find the best one that suits your German Shepherd and the shape of your backyard, and they’ll be having fun all day. If you’re creative, you can even have a go at making your own!

Cons of Outside

  • If you’re going to leave your dog outside, they need to have a big enough area to play otherwise they’ll become restless and start to bark or howl. A small yard will not be good enough. Neglect is just one word to describe leaving your dog outside alone for longer than four hours. Remember, not all German Shepherds are the same, which means that even four hours might be too long.
  • You and I now know that German Shepherds may become anxious or restless if left for too long outside and will start to chew on tree roots, destroy flowers or plants and engage in other destructive behavior. This will inevitably cost you time and money to replace. It’s important to train your dog the “leave it” command and to focus on their toys and leave anything else that they shouldn’t have. You don’t want them to eat any poisonous plants or get into the garbage where there can be all kinds of leftover foods that are toxic to dogs.

How to Leave Your Dog Inside When You’re Away

If you’re not able to let your dog go outside when you’re at work or elsewhere, you can still contain them to a certain area of the house. Before you make any decisions, remember that your German Shepherd will need an adequate amount of room.

Here are a few suggestions to contain your dog inside:

  1. Leave them in a dog crate. German Shepherds need a crate that’s no smaller than 48 inches. This large size will be enough for them to move around and stretch out comfortably. You mustn’t purchase too small of a crate; otherwise they could develop joint and muscle problems from being cramped. Plus, you need a good crate pad to protect their joints, such as an orthopedic one. Check out this page to see my favorite crates. My German Shepherd loved her crate and often went to her own special place to rest or chew her favorite toys.
  2. Gate off an area inside your house. You can use dog gates to fence off an area to keep them contained. Dog gates allow you to section off various off-limit areas of the house, leaving you to decide how much space your puppy can have to roam around. If you don’t like the idea of leaving them in a crate, it’s a great choice. There are loads to choose from, but I recommend the Carlson Pet Gate on Amazon as it’s extra tall and ideal for when your pup grows.
  3. Consider letting them roam free throughout the house. Most owners of indoor German Shepherds eventually try this route. It provides them with enough space, and they are already familiarized with their surroundings – my GSD Willow was two years old before she was allowed to roam freely around the house.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are wonderful dogs to own. They do require lots of attention since they are so loyal and protective. Everyone who’s experienced their affection, sensitivity, and companionship knows that they are worth the hours and hours spent with them.

If you’re considering leaving your German Shepherd at home while you’re away, provide them with space, entertainment, and no more than four hours of away time.

Here are a few takeaways from the article:

  • German Shepherds shouldn’t be left alone for longer than 4 hours.
  • Young puppies and seniors shouldn’t be left alone for longer than 1-3 hours.
  • Provide them with enough food and water before you leave and give them plenty of exercise.
  • You can leave your German Shepherd with toys, music, or the TV to keep them entertained.
  • If you leave your GSD alone for too long, they could suffer from separation anxiety and distress.
  • Consider hiring a dog sitter, dog-walker, or asking a friend to watch your German Shepherd while you’re out at work.
  • German Shepherds form a strong bond with their owners, so you should only adopt one if you know you can be there for them.

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