Close this search box.

Exactly How Much Space Do German Shepherds Need?

Last Updated: January 30, 2024

When I first considered adopting a German Shepherd, my biggest concern was, ‘How much space do German Shepherds need?’ Living in a modest-sized apartment, I worried if it was suitable for such an energetic breed.

German Shepherds need at least 4000 square feet of yard space, which allows them enough room to play. Although they are large-sized, high-energy dogs, with lots of planning and hard work, they can still live in smaller homes or apartments as long as their daily needs are met.

In this article, I’ll share personal insights on how to meet a German Shepherd’s needs in limited spaces.

From daily exercise routines to mental stimulation strategies and crate training tips, you’ll learn how to create a fulfilling environment for your German Shepherd, no matter the size of your home.

Join me in exploring how to ensure the well-being of these incredible dogs in any living space.”

German Shepherd in an apartment peering out the window

Can German Shepherds Live in Apartments?

If you live in a small house or apartment, it’s important to know that you could get a German Shepherd. However, this comes with a caveat!

German Shepherds can live in apartments if their physical and mental needs are met. Regular exercise, mental stimulation, and sufficient daily walks are crucial.

Proper training and socialization also help them adapt to apartment living despite their size and energy levels.

If your dog is not exercised enough throughout the day, he will display behavior problems such as destructive chewing, excessive barking, or aggression.

Many new dog owners do not realize the amount of work, socialization, care, and training that a German Shepherd needs, which sadly ends up with the dog having to be re-homed, and I, for one, do not wish to see this happen.

In the United States, the smallest yard size is just over 4000 square feet (Nevada). Average yard sizes vary greatly from state to state, but even this smallest yard is easily enough space for a German Shepherd, especially if you raise him to live outside.

Taking the average smallest yard is a great way to conclude exactly how much space a German Shepherd needs. For example, 4000 square feet is an area sized 50ft x 80ft, with plenty of space for your dog to run and play.

But what if your German Shepherd is an inside dog? Most German Shepherds live inside their homes as they are a very affectionate breed and like to be with their families. So, how much space do inside dogs really need?

To answer this question, we must consider how much exercise and care German Shepherds need. You can see exactly what will be required and if this fits your lifestyle before deciding on this wonderful breed.

Learn More About The German Shepherd In This Video…

Physical Exercise Requirements

The noble German Shepherd was bred as a herding dog and typically assisted with watching sheep and other livestock. German Shepherds, therefore, need a lot of physical activity.

Without meeting their need for physical and mental stimulation, they grow bored, display destructive behavior such as chewing or digging, and act out through barking or whining.

It is generally accepted that German Shepherds need at least two hours of physical activity daily, which doesn’t mean just leash walking! 

Check out this video on keeping a dog happy and healthy in an apartment or smaller space. Number one on the list is ensuring your dog gets lots of exercise!

Physical Activity Recommendations

  • Jogging and walking. The first and most well-known exercise for dogs are daily walks and jogs. German Shepherds are intelligent, strong, and athletic. Just going places together is a great way to bond with your dog.
  • Hiking. More strenuous than walking and with newer scents that aren’t on their daily route, hiking will offer plenty of physical activity for your German Shepherd. Hikes typically take more planning and are not always suitable for a quick afternoon or daily jaunt. 
  • Dog park. Consider taking your German Shepherd to a dog park! Some parks may require a muzzle or harness for larger breeds, but depending on your dog’s training and socialization, it may be worth considering wearing one anyway.
  • Classic fetch. Playing fetch in your yard or at the park will stimulate your dog’s mind and work his muscles. It’s always fun to play fetch with an intelligent and agile German Shepherd.
  • Dogstacle’ course. If you have even a small yard, you could consider setting up an obstacle course for your German Shepherd out of boxes, boards, and household items. Walk your dog through on a leash and turn it into a training tool. Here are some ideas on how to make a DIY dog obstacle course. 
  • Dog-friendly events. Check your community news or forums for dog-friendly events where you can take your German Shepherd to meet other dogs. These events are great for socialization. Outdoor games, 5k runs, and lake events are often organized for dogs and owners.
  • Barn hunt. Barn hunts are organized specialty activities where your German Shepherd can run through activities in a barn. They are typically searching for something, like pet rats protected in tubes, and it’s a great sport for working their mind and body. (More on barn hunts later in the article)!
German Shepherd jumping a fence.

Other Physical Considerations

Since some German Shepherds are prone to having hip and joint issues, such as hip dysplasia, it’s important to consider their health before setting up a physical activity plan.

Although not all German Shepherds have bad hips, adjustments may be needed for your dog’s age and skeletal condition. 

Puppies should not be strenuously exercised, even though they are full of energy! They should also avoid stairs until they are at least three months old, and you should help your German Shepherd puppy get in and out of vehicles.

Because puppies’ skeletal systems are still developing and they are prone to hip and joint issues, it’s important to protect them while they grow to avoid long, painful conditions later.

Puppies need short bursts of exercise rather than long, hard play. 

Another consideration is that if you are feeding your puppy a diet of dry kibble, it’s important to choose a brand suitable for large-breed dogs.

This ensures the food contains balanced nutrition specifically designed for large breeds, such as more protein and less calcium and phosphorous.

Older German Shepherds, too, may have already developed hip dysplasia or other conditions that can limit their physical activity levels.

Gentle walks with your senior German Shepherd should suffice, but follow their cues if they show signs of pain or weakness. 

A German Shepherd dog looking out of the window of his apartment

Mental Stimulation Requirements

German Shepherds need daily mental stimulation. They are very bright and inquisitive, and proper mental stimulation is as important to their overall well-being as physical exercise.

If this is lacking, boredom sets in, and your GSD will resort to poor behavior such as barking, whining, digging, biting, or chewing.

Luckily for you, there are endless possibilities to keep your dog entertained.

You should start taking your German Shepherd to a training school when it is young. This helps with socialization and boredom. GSDs will excel in all types of classes, from agility to obedience. 

Toys will be your next benefit, and you can buy specialty toys for larger dogs. Some ideas are puzzle toys, interactive toys, or treat-dispensing toys.

There are even automatic ball launchers, which are great if your dog loves to play fetch, and these also keep him guessing when you will launch the ball.

I like the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher. This model is great for large breeds. You can also use it indoors and limit the launch to 10 feet. It’s also rechargeable.

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.

Additionally, healthy, long-lasting dog chews are a good choice. Ensure they are made for large breeds, as you don’t want your German Shepherd to damage their throat or, even worse, choke.

Consistent and thoughtful mental activities for your German Shepherd will keep them happy and fulfilled in any sized home, from a yard-less apartment to a large farm.

Apartment life requires other considerations, however, that we’ll get into later in the article.

How Do You Mentally Stimulate a German Shepherd?

There are many ways to mentally stimulate a German Shepherd, from obedience classes, learning new tricks, agility, obstacle courses, fetch, tug-of-war, hide ‘n’ seek, dog sports, puzzle or interactive toys, automatic ball launchers, chew toys, long-lasting healthy chew treats, and bones.

Below are some examples of these:

  • Learn a new trick. German Shepherds love to learn, so why not put that knowledge to use? These dogs are very capable of learning all the tricks. 
  • Learn the names of their toys. This is a fun activity that German Shepherds can master. Name each toy and slowly teach them each name, one at a time. Once you’ve said a toy’s name several times, hide it and ask them to find it. Make sure to reward them when they bring it back.
  • Work for meals. There are plenty of ways to add training and fun to the small moments every day, such as mealtimes or providing treats. There are fillable wobble balls that need to be rolled around to dispense food, such as the KONG Wobbler, or you could get your German Shepherd to go through his tricks before putting out their dinner.  
  • Puzzle toys. Puzzle toys allow your dog to use and develop problem-solving skills. There are frozen, flat, round, treat dispensing and snuffling toys. Not all dogs will love all of the toys, so you may have a trial-and-error phase before finding the perfect one. 
  • School. School is good for humans, and it is also good for your German Shepherd! Types of classes include puppy and adult obedience, agility, good canine citizenship, and protection training. Protection training will require a German Shepherd owner to have dedication and consistency and is a serious commitment. 
  • Service training. German Shepherds naturally want to be a part of your everyday life and live by your side. A good way to do that is to have them service-trained, such as a guide or a hearing dog. This is obviously very specialized training, and there are some private trainers or agencies that offer this.
  • Therapy training. If you are dedicated to your German Shepherd training, consider getting them therapy certified. Again, this is quite specialized, but it offers many perks, as far as taking your dog places, as it opens up schools and hospitals to their list of accepted locations to visit. 
  • Chew Toys. Dogs love to chew toys such as the large variety offered by KONG. These range from the Classic KONG toy to tires, bone-shaped toys, sticks, and balls, to name but a few. Some toys are designed to be stuffed with tasty treats or even peanut butter, which will keep them busy for even longer. My German Shepherd loves this tough range, and they keep her entertained for hours.
German Shepherd with KONG Chew Toys.
My German Shepherd Willow with some of her KONG chew toys

How to Keep a Dog Stimulated That Live in Small Spaces

The biggest problem for keeping a German Shepherd in a small home or apartment is stimulation, whether physical or mental. There is no doubt you will have to do extra work to make it work. Luckily, I have some new ideas for you to try…

To keep German Shepherds stimulated that live in small spaces or apartments, there are other useful events, such as barn hunts and Schutzhund, that are gaining in popularity.

These allow your dog to explore more of the outdoors after being indoors for a while and are great for both mental and physical stimulation.

Barn hunts are an organized sport that utilizes a dog’s natural abilities and turns them into a fun game. First, a maze and obstacle course is built out of hay bales.

Aerated tubes are hidden through the maze, and pet rats are placed in the tubes. By all accounts, the rats are safe from the dogs, and the aim is for the dogs to find the rats.

There are timed events with different divisions, and even special needs dogs can often find an event to compete in.

This is a wonderful activity that will stimulate your German Shepherd, no matter how little space he lives in. The Barn Hunt Association has details of upcoming events and states the following:

Barn Hunt is also open to any dog of any breed or mix who wishes to play the game and can fit through an 18″ wide by bale-height tall tunnel.” – The Barn Hunt Association

Schutzhund was developed specifically for German Shepherds in the early 1900s as a breed suitability test. It was a set of difficult and demanding tests and trials to see if the dog could show the necessary traits of a working German Shepherd.

Nowadays, it is a sport, and its aim is to ensure the breed retains the genetic traits for tracking, obedience, and protection.

If you’re looking for a fun way to use your German Shepherd’s natural energy, consider looking into Schutzhund.

A good place to start is The United Schutzhund Clubs of America, which is an organization dedicated to the GSD by hosting shows, Schutzhund trials, and breed surveys. You can search for clubs and trainers in your area.

Do German Shepherds Need A Lot of Space?

German Shepherds need a lot of space due to their large size and high exercise needs. As an example, an ideal yard size would be 50ft x 80ft, which gives them enough space to run around comfortably.

However, as long as you work hard and are prepared to care for a GSD, they can be just as happy in a small space.

Having said that, apartments offer unique challenges in addition to the extra work required by you. Here are some other factors to think about:

  • Some apartments do not allow large dog breeds. Buying or adopting a large dog like a German Shepherd may end in heartbreak for you both if you haven’t checked your apartment complex rules first. 
  • Additionally, since German Shepherds are so large, they will, no doubt, make thumping noises on the floor when they play, jump, or run. Unless you are on the ground floor, your downstairs neighbor may not take it kindly to live below a German Shepherd! It would be considerate to talk with your neighbors beforehand.
  • Ideally, the apartment should be next to a park or other green space where you can take your dog to relieve himself regularly throughout the day and before he settles for the night.
  • Boredom and barking are the other big factors. If you don’t have several hours a day to dedicate to your German Shepherd’s physical and mental needs, there is an easy solution – do not bring one to an apartment! Bored German Shepherds will bark, howl, and display poor behavior, such as chewing your wooden furniture for a start.
  • If you need to leave your German Shepherd for more than a few hours daily, you must arrange to have a friend, relative, or experienced dog walker/trainer stop by. Require that the visitor understands and complies with the training you’ve started to maintain consistency. Here’s my guilt-free guide on how long German Shepherds can be left alone.
  • Keeping interesting toys and a routine will help your German Shepherd thrive even in an apartment, although it’s not an easy responsibility to have as many new dog owners have underestimated the amount of work required.

Create a Routine to Work in Any Sized Space

Because German Shepherds are so intelligent, full of energy, and strongly desire to please, keeping them to a schedule will help to keep them content.

A happy German Shepherd can be well-behaved and calm yet naturally inquisitive.

“A routine will, therefore, allow them to know what to expect and when, meaning they are more likely to patiently look forward to the next activity.” – World of Dogz

This will be the same no matter the size of the space your German Shepherd has.

If you work away from home, you must start the day with a brisk walk or jog for at least 45 minutes for adult dogs, less for a puppy, depending on their age.

Incorporate training into breakfast, either with a dispenser or puzzle toy or by having them practice their tricks before food. Keep interesting toys and bones available at all times. 

Consider crate training, but never leave your German Shepherd in a crate for more than 3-4 hours per day, depending on his age.

Arrange an experienced sitter, dog walker, or trainer to visit once or twice throughout your workday to entertain and exercise your dog. Alternatively, consider doggy daycare.

In the evening, incorporate more advanced exercise and training for your German Shepherd. Go to a class, obedience or agility, once a week or more.

Add other special events to your roster every fortnight or month. Attend a dog-friendly community event, go hiking, swimming, or to some other special place.

Keeping your German Shepherd to a daily routine will require extra work, and there may be some level of experimentation involved to get a well-functioning system in place.

Still, the benefits will far outweigh any negatives. A routine will help your German Shepherd thrive in any sized living space.

Crate Train Your German Shepherd

German Shepherd Puppy in his Crate

Crate training can work wonders, but you mustn’t leave your German Shepherd in a crate for more than 4 hours a day and even less for puppies.

Ensure you thoroughly research types of crates, sizes, training methods, and recommended best practices before using one. 

Read More: 8 Best Dog Crates for German Shepherds

German Shepherds long to be with their owners and often feel sad, scared, depressed, and bored when left alone.

A crate can help manage these emotions and keep your dog from turning to destructive or unsafe behaviors, especially in homes that don’t have a lot of space or a yard.

Here are some tips when considering crate training:

  • It is best to begin crate training young – as soon as the German Shepherd enters your home. 
  • Begin with a large enough and comfortable crate to ensure your German Shepherd associates the crate with a positive experience. 
  • Keep interesting toys in the crate to keep him entertained. 
  • Keep the crate in one place to help your German Shepherd feel like it is “their space.” 
  • Keep it comfortable and clean. 
  • Let your puppy out of the crate for good behavior, and use treats while training. You want to build positive associations. 
  • The point of a crate is to keep your German Shepherd feeling safe while left alone and to minimize destructive behaviors so they can thrive in any sized living space.
  • Never use the crate as a punishment tool.

Other Considerations if You Live in a Small Home

If you live in a smaller home or apartment, there are other things you should consider. Let’s take a look at these…

German Shepherds are double-coated and are known as heavy shedders as they molt all year round. Twice a year, they will also “blow” their coat in preparation for the season ahead.

Daily grooming and vacuuming will be necessary to control loose hairs. This is in addition to all the work required to keep your GSD happy and healthy.

It’s impossible to stop the shedding. However, there are significant ways to reduce it. Here are my top tips on reducing shedding in German Shepherds that you will find helpful.

We have already mentioned that German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia. Because of this, when they are puppies, you will need to avoid stairs for the first few months.

If you live in an apartment complex, be prepared to carry your puppy up and down the flights of stairs. I suppose this isn’t too bad, though, as it allows you to give your pup more cuddles!

However, aging German Shepherds sometimes require a brace or surgery due to hip dysplasia, which is something to think about.


How Much Outside Time Does A German Shepherd Need?

While an average of two hours of exercise per day is recommended for a German Shepherd, an outside time of at least 30-45 minutes will be required to stimulate them physically and mentally. This can be split into multiple periods, depending on your availability and energy level.

Is a German Shepherd Hard To Train?

A puppy German Shepherd is easier to train than an adult. However, as they understand instructions and respond quickly, this breed is certainly not hard to train. The process needs consistent effort and ample time from your end to get it right.

There are easy ways to train a German Shepherd, but remember to set realistic goals and train accordingly.

Final Thoughts

There are many opinions as to how much space is needed for a German Shepherd, but the main point of this article is to help potential owners who live in small spaces be aware that they will need to put in a lot of extra work to keep their German Shepherd healthy and happy. 

Here are some key takeaways from the article:

  • German Shepherds need at least 4000 square feet of yard space, especially if they live outside.
  • They are large breed dogs that require lots of exercise.
  • Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise.
  • You must ensure you can devote enough time and energy to cater to your German Shepherd’s needs.
  • There are numerous ways to keep German Shepherds stimulated that live in small spaces such as an apartment.
  • Having a daily routine will make things easier.
  • Crate training your German Shepherd is recommended.
  • Some apartments are designed specifically with pets in mind and will have handy dog parks or runs.
Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

Leave a Comment

Image for Newsletter Signup

Rehabilitate. Repeat.

Get the best in dog rescue news, care, and health tips, and be a part of the rescue dog revolution.