As a devoted German Shepherd owner, I understand the pressing question you face: “How long can German Shepherds be left alone?”
Whether you’re a new pet parent or have been with your furry companion through their journey from a playful pup to a dignified senior, this concern resonates deeply.
Your busy life often requires you to leave your pet unattended, but the well-being of your loyal German Shepherds is always your priority.
German Shepherds can be left alone for up to 4 hours maximum, depending on their socialization, training, background, previous experience, health, and age. Puppies should not be left alone for more than one hour per month of age, which should never exceed the maximum of 4 hours.
With years of experience in canine behavior and a deep understanding of German Shepherd’s unique needs, I’ve explored various aspects of their care, from separation anxiety to the ideal amount of time they should spend alone.
Whether you’re dealing with a high-energy puppy or a more sedate senior dog, I’ll give you the insights here to address your specific situation.
Age-Specific Guidelines for Leaving German Shepherds Home Alone
Leaving a newborn German Shepherd puppy alone for too long is dangerous, immoral, and cruel. If you’re worried about being away for several hours daily, you should 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.
German Shepherd puppies are very active and inquisitive. They can sleep between 18 to 20 hours per day, but the short time 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 GSD Puppy
|Time Left Alone
|8 – 10 weeks
|Maximum 1 hour
|2 – 3 months
|Maximum 2 hours
|3 – 4 months
|Maximum 3 hours
|5 months +
|Maximum 4 hours
Adolescent Dogs 6 – 18 Months
Once their bladders have developed and matured a little, leaving your German Shepherd alone for longer is okay. However, this should be a gradual build-up.
That being said, the limit should never exceed four hours daily. German Shepherds do not respond well to being left alone for long periods. They are high-energy dogs that thrive on companionship and affection.
Adult German Shepherds are self-reliant when needed, 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 must be part of the family.
Even though they will choose one master, a German Shepherd will bond with each family member differently. 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 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 regulating animal treatment, but this only applies to dogs bred for commercial sale and those being transported or imported.
Various animal neglect and cruelty laws 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 consider 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 about 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’m afraid I disagree with this and can’t understand why anyone would go against expert advice 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 the Codes of Practice guidance document devised to help dog owners comply with the UK’s Animal Welfare Act, which specifies how all animals should be cared for.
Older dogs above 8 or 9 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 pain or discomfort.
Ensure they have an orthopedic bed. Willow has the Big Barker Orthopedic Bed, which is clinically proven to reduce joint pain and stiffness.
This bed is a real bed specifically made for big dogs and can help prevent arthritis, joint pain, and other mobility issues. You can check out my review of the sofa bed 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 Your Dog Alone
Ensure you stay confident and show consistency and patience when leaving 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 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 Video On How To Leave Your Puppy Alone…
Stress-Free Strategies for Leaving Your Dog Home 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 your dog’s loneliness. It doesn’t even have to be every day, as you can try to mix things up where possible.
Here are five stress-free solutions for your German Shepherd while you’re gone:
- 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 to visit your home and take your dog for a long walk.
- Walk your dog before and after you go to work. Even a 30-minute walk before you leave the house is enough to expend a little energy whilst maintaining your close bond with them. As soon as you get home, take your German Shepherd for a long walk or, even better, some off-leash running, and play some games such as fetch.
- If you can work near home, visit your dog on your lunch break. Some people have an hour of free time during 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 early, avoiding rush-hour traffic and being home quicker in the afternoon.
- Another possible solution is to work at home. With thousands of jobs switching to mobile workplaces, it’s a great idea to combine working from home a couple of days a week 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 pay a friend every day.
- Get a dog camera for peace of mind. Doggie cams can be set up near the edge of your dog’s crate, 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 from your phone! They offer a perfect solution to interact with your German Shepherd without being there. They’re 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.
Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
How to Keep Your German Shepherd Happy When Alone
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 need to be present for these suggestions to work.
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 quickly bored. 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 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 your pup’s interest. 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 entertain your dog. It would be better if they could take your dog on a long walk, but a quick game of fetch will be 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. Getting a second dog is a massive commitment you must consider thoroughly.
- 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; they will quickly get used to being left and easily settle.
How Long is Too Long? The Effects of Isolation
We have learned that German Shepherds shouldn’t be left alone for too long. If they are left for extended periods, they can develop various emotional and physical health issues.
Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t understand the level of commitment required to care for a German Shepherd properly. 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, even if that just means interacting with you. This energetic, loyal, and protective breed needs regular activity and exercise.
Leaving your dog alone for longer than four hours per day will most definitely cause poor results.
After all, there are reasons for the recommended guidelines! Some GSDs don’t do well with anything longer than three hours, even when 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, uncontrollable barking, whining, or howling. Check out this recent study from the University of Lincoln in the UK, which states that separation-related problems in dogs should be seen as a symptom of underlying frustrations rather than a diagnosis.
- They may also display destructive behavior. Examples are excessive chewing on the carpet, shoes, or anything lying around that they shouldn’t chew! Digging, urinating, or even worse, eliminating can occur. You will need to address these extra signs of separation anxiety or distress.
- They could become extremely restless during the evening. It might not sound like a big problem, but restlessness causes your German Shepherd to have difficulty sleeping. They will often have random bursts of energy throughout the day and night, ruining their sleep cycle and yours!
As you can see, all sorts of negative outcomes result from not properly caring for your German Shepherd and failing to keep him happy and entertained.
You might also notice that they become 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:
- Blood pressure and heart disease due to stress.
- Gastrointestinal problems.
- Bladder infections due to the dog being unable to relieve themselves for hours.
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 my article for more info on German Shepherd Separation Anxiety.
Should You Leave Your German Shepherd Inside or Outside?
Leaving your dog outside when you go to work can provide them with tons of space to run around and 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.
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. Ensure you train your GSD properly so this is not an issue or prevent him from accessing 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 with bears, mountain lions, and other predators.
- Since German Shepherds have so much energy and due to their 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 soon appear like 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. Ensure you leave him enough chew toys to play with, but it will sometimes be inevitable. GSDs become upset and bored but also get stressed because they don’t know where you are, especially if you leave them for too long.
- Leaving your German Shepherd alone is not a good idea if you live in an apartment. Although GSDs can live in apartments, they must be exercised frequently throughout the day. Large, energetic dogs need an appropriate amount of space 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 outside for too long and 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 to “LEAVE IT” command, focus on their toys, and leave anything else they shouldn’t have. You don’t want them to eat poisonous plants or get into the garbage, where there can be all kinds of leftover foods that are toxic to GSDs.
How to Leave Your Dog When You’re Away
If you cannot let your dog go outside when you’re at work or elsewhere, you can still contain them in 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:
- Leave them in a dog crate. GSDs 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, they need a good crate pad to protect their joints, such as an orthopedic one. Check out my favorite crates here. My GSD loved her crate and often went to her special place to rest or chew her favorite toys.
- 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 as it’s extra tall and ideal for when your pup grows.
- 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.
Do German Shepherds Get Sad When You Leave?
German Shepherds are social animals and can experience separation anxiety when left alone for extended periods. It’s important to prepare your German Shepherd for being left alone and to provide them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation to help alleviate any anxiety or sadness they may experience.
Do GSDs Have Separation Anxiety?
German Shepherds are known to be loyal and social dogs that can become very attached to their owners. When left alone for extended periods, they can experience anxiety, stress, and even depression.
Is it safe to leave a German Shepherd alone overnight?
Leaving a German Shepherd alone overnight is generally not recommended if they suffer from separation anxiety. Their size and strength mean destructive behaviors could be dangerous.
However, well-trained adult GSDs may be fine if left for 8-10 hours with access to food, water, and a comfortable space. Introduce short solo periods first to assess their ability to self-soothe.
Are there any training techniques to help a German Shepherd feel more comfortable when left alone?
Start by practicing short absences from the house during fun activities like feeding meals or chewing toys. Slowly increase time away while arriving home to a calm dog. Crate training provides security, as does leaving articles of your worn clothing.
Consider anti-anxiety supplements or pheromone diffusers, too, with the vet’s guidance.
German Shepherds are affectionate and sensitive dogs and need your presence. They should not be left alone for extended periods.
When leaving a German Shepherd alone, limit their alone time to a maximum of four hours, ensuring they have enough space, entertainment, food, and water.
Puppies and senior dogs require even more attention, with alone time not exceeding 1-3 hours. To prevent separation anxiety and distress, consider engaging a dog sitter, walker, or friend to care for your German Shepherd if your schedule demands longer absences.