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Are you wondering if it is safe for you to leave your German Shepherd home alone for a period of time?
Can German Shepherds be left alone? Yes, they can! However, how long each individual dog may be left alone depends on a number of factors including your dog’s age and their level of training.
The rest of this article is going to go into detail about when and how you may leave your German Shepherd home alone, how long you are able to do so, how to do so safely, and what to do if your dog develops bad behaviors from being left alone.
Can German Shepherds be left alone and for how long?
Although in a perfect world, we would be able to take our dogs everywhere that we go in a day, that is sadly not possible in reality. You may need to leave your German Shepherd home alone each day, and it is perfectly safe to do so. However, you must not leave your German Shepherd alone for too long, or they may develop separation anxiety or destructive, attention-seeking behaviors.
How long each dog may be left alone depends on the individual dog. If your dog is an adult, they should be totally comfortable being left home alone during your typical eight-hour workday. If your dog is a puppy, they should not be left alone for more than an hour at a time.
As you train your German Shepherd puppy to become comfortable with being left home alone, you can gradually increase the amount of time that they are left alone.
Keep in mind that you should never leave your German Shepherd home alone for longer than around eight hours. If you need to go out of town or something else that will require you to be away from home for a few days, you must find someone willing and capable to watch your dog.
Even if you leave out food and water, it is not safe to leave your German Shepherd home alone for that long.
How can I safely leave my German Shepherd home alone?
The most important factor when it comes to leaving your German Shepherd home alone is to make sure that they are in a safe space. This might mean leaving them in a specific room of the house with food, water, and toys, or it may mean crate training your pup.
If you give your German Shepherd free reign of the whole house when you are gone, it is more likely that they will get into something that they shouldn’t, leading to the risk of illness or injury—or even simply destruction of things that you care about!
If your dog is very well trained and used to being left alone, it is possible that they can be left to roam the whole house. Wherever you leave your dog, make sure that they have water, toys, and a comfy dog bed. If they have a comfortable spot where they feel safe and happy, they are much less likely to become anxious when left alone.
Is crate training cruel for dogs?
No, crate training is not cruel for dogs! If you were to leave your dog crated 24/7, that would be a problem. However, using the crate when you are not home can actually provide a safe, cozy den for your German Shepherd to relax in while you are gone.
If you properly crate train your dog, they will associate the crate with positive things: rest and relaxation! You should never use the crate as punishment, as your dog will then develop a negative association with it and will not enjoy staying there while home alone. If your dog hates the crate, it can actually make them more likely to get anxious when left alone.
How can I crate train, my German Shepherd?
If you are looking to crate train your German Shepherd, you should first make sure you have a properly sized crate. If your dog is still a puppy, you should choose a smaller crate and buy a bigger one later rather than starting with a big one to let your pup grow into. This way, the crate will be small enough to feel cozy and den-like.
Provide your pup with positive reinforcement when they are left in the crate. This can come in the form of treats, praise, toys, or even special treats such as Kong toys which they can eat while in the crate. You want to slowly build up the amount of time that your dog spends in the crate.
It is also helpful to constantly leave the crate open when you are home. This way, your pup can go in and out of the crate as they please, leading even further to a positive association. If they can go in whenever they want, they will not view the crate as something that only happens when you leave.
How do I make sure my German Shepherd is getting enough exercise?
Making sure that your German Shepherd gets enough exercise is crucial to ensuring that they are comfortable when left home alone. If they have not had the opportunity to get out their energy before being left alone, they are more likely to take out that energy by becoming hyperactive or anxious. Here are some ideas of things you might do to exercise your dog:
- Training sessions
Most German Shepherds need at least an hour and a half of exercise per day. You can break this up into multiple walks or play sessions. You should always make sure that your dog has had the chance to exercise and to go potty before you leave them home alone, especially in a crate.
How do I make sure my German Shepherd is getting enough mental stimulation?
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for your dog. If they are not getting the chance to work out their brains just as much as their bodies, they are likely to become bored—and boredom does not bode well when it comes to leaving your dog home alone! To mentally stimulate your dog, here are some things you can try:
- Puzzle toys
- Training sessions
Puzzle toys are especially good for mental stimulation because they force your dog to think to figure out how to get the treat out from the center of the toy.
What if my German Shepherd misbehaves when I leave?
If your German Shepherd misbehaves when you leave the house, chances are that something is wrong.
The first thing you should do is make sure that you have checked out all of the above categories. Is your dog getting enough exercise? Could they be bored and simply need more mental stimulation? Do they need to go to the bathroom, and when they cannot, it results in going potty in the house?
Once you have considered all of the above options, you can move on to questioning whether your German Shepherd may have another underlying issue, such as separation anxiety.
What are some signs that my German Shepherd has separation anxiety?
One major sign of separation anxiety is destructive behavior. Here are some other things which may be signs of separation anxiety in your dog:
- Excessive barking, howling, and whining
- Destroying furniture, clothing, or other non-toy items
- Damaging the door or walls of the house
- Potty accidents
These can all be signs that your dog may have separation anxiety. They can all also be signs of other issues, however, so you should pay attention to when the behavior is occurring. Do they only happen while you are gone or when you are getting ready to leave? If so, chances are, the behavior is related to separation anxiety.
How can I get rid of my German Shepherd’s separation anxiety?
There are a number of things you may do to help get rid of your German Shepherd’s separation anxiety. The major three tactics to try are exercise, training, and desensitization.
Even if your dog is getting some exercise every day, if you are regularly leaving them alone for hours at a time, they may well need more exercise. Try adding an extra walk into your pup’s routine, or perhaps a more vigorous play session just before you get them settled in their crate.
Training and desensitization go hand in hand. Just like with crate training, you want to give your dog positive associations with being left home alone.
Start with small increments of time where you step out of the room or house and reward your German Shepherd for coping while you are gone. Slowly increase the increments of time until your dog is able to be left alone for the full amount of time.
Should I punish my German Shepherd for bad behavior?
No, you should absolutely never punish your dog for bad behavior. Instead, you should use positive reinforcement to reward whenever your dog exhibits the desired behavior. Whenever they are behaving poorly, do not give them the attention they are seeking.
Can German Shepherds be left alone? The answer is yes, but only for limited amounts of time. You should make sure that your dog is thoroughly exercised and left in a safe, comfortable area when you leave. If they do not behave well while you are gone, look into whether your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety.