German Shepherds are very physically active and energetic dogs. They don’t like to feel confined in one place for too long, and they need to have a proper amount of exercise for health purposes. When you leave home, and you are leaving them in a crate, it’s important to know the basic guidelines. So, how long can you leave a German Shepherd in a crate?
The amount of time you can leave a German Shepherd in a crate depends on the age of the dog. A rough guideline for German Shepherd puppies to be left alone in a crate is one hour for each month of age, up to a maximum of four hours. Here’s a handy table showing the age of the dog and the maximum recommended time:
|Age of German Shepherd||Maximum Time in Crate|
|8-10 weeks||Up to 1 hour|
|11-14 weeks||1 – 3 hours|
|15-16 weeks||3 – 4 hours|
|17 weeks +||4 hours|
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn what kind of crate you should use and some alternative solutions for your dog. Let’s dive into exactly how long you can leave your German Shepherd in a crate.
How Long is Too Long to Leave a German Shepherd in a Crate?
German Shepherds shouldn’t be left in a crate for several hours per day whilst you go out to work. This is never acceptable. Unfortunately, this can make it fairly challenging for owners and families who don’t have anyone at home during the working day, however, don’t worry as there are plenty of alternative solutions which we will discuss later.
My German Shepherd was never left for more than three hours in her crate during the day. She was crate trained as soon as we brought her home at eight weeks old as recommended by her breeder.
If you check out this amazing video below from celebrity dog trainer Zak George on how to crate train a puppy, around halfway through the video he confirms that dogs should never be left for more than four hours in a crate, and less for younger puppies.
I’m a huge fan of this guy due to his ethical training techniques. He is also an advocate of positive reinforcement. It’s almost 8-minutes long but it does give a great overview of crate training:
German Shepherds that have been crate trained love their crates and see it as somewhere comfortable where they can go to feel safe and secure. They see it as their special den where no-one else is allowed where they can either eat, rest, or play with their favorite chew toys.
One of the reasons why German Shepherd puppies shouldn’t be left for more than 4 hours in a crate is that they can’t control their bladders or bowels for that length of time. Plus puppies need loads of attention, playtime, and socialization.
The same goes for house-trained adult dogs who should be allowed outside to pee at least 3-5 times during the day. In any case, it’s just not the right thing to do to keep your dog in a crate for more than four hours during the day, in fact, it’s downright cruel.
You must always exercise your German Shepherd and allow him to go to the toilet before leaving him in a crate for a few hours.
You can always invest in a pet camera such as a Furbo from Amazon to keep an eye on them from time to time and to make sure they are okay. You can get cheaper dog cameras but I just love how these can toss treats out to your dog which you control remotely from your smartphone! They’re crazy!
Extended periods longer than four hours can lead to all sorts of mental and physical health issues for your dog. Here are a few noteworthy side effects of leaving a German Shepherd in a crate for longer than four hours a day:
- Restlessness during the evening is a common issue when owners leave their dogs in a crate for too many hours each day. Pacing, whining, and excessive amounts of energy might occur when a German Shepherd is supposed to be tired or winding down for the night.
- Separation anxiety is an unfortunate issue that German Shepherds have to deal with sometimes. When they’re left unattended for several hours, especially in a crate, they begin to get worried or distressed about when you’ll return. Even if they don’t suffer from a case of full-blown separation anxiety they may feel quite distressed if they’re left for more than 3-4 hours in a crate.
- If they need to pee or poop while they’re stuck in the crate for hours on end, they could develop rashes or infections. Remember, one of the reasons crates are used is to help puppies with toilet training as dogs typically don’t like to relieve themselves where they sleep, after all, would you? This problem may occur with young puppies who haven’t yet been potty trained and in any case, their bladders are far too small to hold urine for more than 3-4 hours.
- Joint issues such as hip or elbow dysplasia is a disease prevalent in older German Shepherds. If your adult dog is crated for hours and hours during the day then they’re not able to stretch out and move around sufficiently. The lack of space and cramped conditions, without exercise for hours on end can cause additional pain and discomfort due to your dog’s hip or elbow dysplasia.
- German Shepherds left in their cage for too long can develop heart conditions or other health issues. Perhaps this is the most crucial reason that you shouldn’t leave your dog in a crate for longer than 3-4 hours. Without enough exercise throughout the day, German Shepherds can become ill very quickly. Remember, they were initially bred as herding dogs and are still used as working dogs today due to their fitness, strength, and stamina. They should have open running space and they need two periods of at least 30-60 minutes of exercise per day, including mental stimulation and lots of playtimes.
Never uses a crate as a way of punishment for your German Shepherd. It should be used as a happy place where they associate positive experiences.
What Kind of Crate Should You Use?
German Shepherds are much bigger than most other dog breeds, so it should come as no surprise that they’ll need a larger crate. If you have a puppy, remember that they shouldn’t be left in a crate for too many hours, the recommendation is one hour for each month of age, up to a maximum of four hours.
When it comes to the size of a crate, German Shepherds should have an extra-large one, no smaller than 48 inches. This allows for enough space for your dog to move around and stretch out without being too confined to a small area.
You need a metal or wire crate and preferably a heavy-duty one that will be impossible to break as German Shepherds are strong dogs. Most metal crates will fold down making them easily transportable and you can opt for either single or double door, or both, depending on how you wish to position the crate.
I like the Midwest Homes for Pets dog crate from Amazon as it comes with the option of double doors, has a divider panel, and is easy to set up. You can read more about why I like this crate in this article, Best Dog Crate for German Shepherds: My Pick!
Nonetheless, a crate on its own will not just turn into a safe haven for your dog and keep him entertained. Here’s a list of the items that you should have inside of your German Shepherd’s crate:
- A crate pad or mattress. It can be as big as the whole crate, or you could leave half of it uncovered for them to move around easier and leave some space for them to cool down on the tray if they get too warm. Either way, you need to make it cozy and washable soft bedding is essential to allow them to lay down comfortably. All dogs love to be pampered, especially when they’re home alone. One way of solving all these problems is to go for the Big Barker crate pad. It’s also perfect for large breed dogs who are prone to joint issues such as the German Shepherd. You can read more about my review of the Big Barker crate pad here.
- Plenty of toys. Imagine being stuck in a small room for hours and hours with nothing to do. You’d need something to keep you entertained so you don’t go crazy and German Shepherds are no different! Providing them with a variety of interesting chew and interactive toys, such as KONG toys will prevent them from becoming bored. You can’t go wrong with either the KONG puppy or KONG classic and you can even stuff treats inside them to keep your dog busy. There’s a large selection on Amazon here to choose from.
- Food and water. It can be hard to stop your dog from making a mess with their food and water bowls in a crate, but it’s definitely possible. Purchase clip-on bowls to prevent them from being tipped over. These pet bowls hang onto the side of the crate, holding them firmly in place and stop your dog’s food and water from spilling.
- A blanket to cover the crate is a great addition. Place a blanket or cover over the top of the crate. This makes the crate feel more like a den and can help your dog feel more secure, especially if he is of the clingy. type. I used to cover three-quarters of my German Shepherds crate with a blanket which also helped her from getting distracted from anything that could excite her, such as a cat walking by or the sound of children playing.
Alternative Solutions for German Shepherds
If you are out at work all day, there are still a few options you can consider as you now know that you should not be leaving your dog in a crate for longer than 3-4 hours. Let’s take a look at the alternatives:
- Some owners prefer to leave their German Shepherds outside. As long as you have food, water, and shelter such as a large dog house provided for them, they should be able to adapt fairly quickly. The only problem is when you try to make a dog stay outside when they’ve never done it before. This can be done however it will require lots of training and patience and a gradual transition. My GSD lives in the home, however, if one day she decided she wanted to live outside, I would buy her this log cabin from Amazon! A bit pricey, but it looks really cool.
- Another indoor solution is to get dog gates for your house. These gates allow you to decide how much space your puppy can have to move around in your house by sectioning off various off-limit areas. If you’re worried about them feeling confined in a crate, it’s a great choice, that’s until they get big enough to jump over the gates! You can find a large selection here with all different styles to match your decor.
- You can also purchase indoor or outdoor dog fences or playpens for your puppy. These products are perfect for young German Shepherds who need more room to move around. Some of these can even be connected to a crate to create a fantastic combination of both a cozy resting space and room to roam. If you set one of these up outside, you also won’t need to worry about your dog going to the bathroom! If you have a higher budget or really need a playpen, then you should really take a look at this BestPet Dog Pen available on Amazon. It’s perfect for both indoor and outdoor and can be configured into multiple shapes without having to use any tools.
- You can slowly train your German Shepherd to roam free throughout the house however this process will take some time, from puppyhood and into adulthood. You can start by initially leaving the crate door open when you go out or gradually increasing the size of their gated area until it fits the size of a room. Once they’re used to the freedom, you can open the house up for them. My German Shepherd was 12-months old before I started leaving her crate door open and two years old before she was allowed free reign of the house.
It’s never a good idea to leave your dog alone for any length of time, whether they are crated or not. Here are some other solutions you can consider:
- Doggy daycare
- Hire a dog walker or dog sitter
- Call home at lunchtime
- Arrange for someone to call and let your dog out
- Work from home where possible
- See if you can take your dog to work
You can also check out my guilt-free guide on How Long Can German Shepherds Be Left Alone? that gives you loads more info on this subject.
My 5 Favorite German Shepherd Products to Make Life Easier:
- Walk Your Dog With Love. I love this no-pull harness as there’s just no way your dog can pull. Easy to fit and inexpensive.
- Midwest Homes for Pets iCrate. A crate is a must-have product. This cool all-inclusive one has a ton of features and there’s nothing extra to buy.
- FURminator Undercoat deShedding Tool. This grooming tool is by far the best – it gets right through to the undercoat.
- KONG Classic Dog Toys. I love KONG toys as they’re super tough and made for your German Shepherd’s teeth!
- Big Barker Orthopedic Dog Bed. Scientifically proven to prevent and reduce joint pain in big dogs. The 10-year guarantee is also pretty cool.
My full list of recommendations can be found here.
German Shepherds are prone to feeling anxious if they’re left alone for too long. Remember that you shouldn’t leave them in a crate for longer than four hours per day, and even less for growing puppies up to four months of age.
The crate should be at least 48 inches to accommodate their size as German Shepherds require plenty of space to stretch out and turn around comfortably. Even if they’re a puppy, the additional space will be perfect for them to grow in to and you can always use a crate divider panel whilst they are growing.
Crates are ideal for toilet training and are a super safe place to leave your inquisitive puppy where he can’t come to any harm whilst you need to leave him for a few hours or if you are the kitchen cooking and you need to keep him out the way for a while!
If you’ve decided to crate train your German Shepherd, always provide food, water, and comfy bedding and enough toys for them to enjoy and keep themselves entertained.
My German Shepherd adored her crate. She loved to go and settle in her crate if she wanted to rest and needed some peace and quiet away from me!
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