German Shepherds – loyal, intelligent, confident – the perfect choice for dog lovers and families alike. But with all these great characteristics comes great responsibility as well : German Shepherds are also known to be energetic and very active, therefore requiring lots of exercise and activities to keep them busy. A dog who doesn’t get enough exercise is likely to become frustrated and develop undesirable behaviors.
How do you keep this from happening? Here are some tips to keep your German Shepherd busy.
• Lots and lots of exercise.
Make sure that your dog gets lots of exercise daily to keep him occupied. After all, German Shepherds were bred to do intensive tasks and that’s (almost) exactly what you should give your dog. Don’t be surprised, though – it might take more than your expected amount of exercise to wear your German Shepherd out.
How much exercise does a German Shepherd actually need? This extremely active and high-energy dog requires at least one hour of energy-burning activity per day, but more is recommended. If they have no outlet to release all that pent-up energy, German Shepherds can become destructive and develop behavioral problems.
There are three types of exercise you can provide your dog –
Take your dog on daily walks. Aside from allowing your dog to release some pent-up energy, walks also stimulate his mind with the different sights and sounds he comes across. The distance of the walk is limited only by your time and energy as the German Shepherd can go at it all day long.
If your schedule allows, two walks a day lasting 30 to 45 minutes each would be perfect. All dogs like routine, so schedule the walk at around the same time each day. As a rule of thumb, daily walks are better than one big walk during the weekend.
For added work, you can use a weighted vest or dog backpack for mor resistance. Just make sure that only 10% or less of your dog’s body weight is added. This amount is more than enough to both tire and strengthen his muscles without overworking him. You can also take walks uphill.
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• Doing purposeful, high-intensity activities.
All your German Shepherd’s stamina has to be burned in high-intensity and short activities. Games and other strength training activities keep their muscles in peak condition, too, and this helps prevent injury.
Similar to a cat tickler, the flirt pole consists of a long handle and a bungy-type rope with a toy attached to the end. Just lure it around in circles or in different directions as your dog chases it around. Make sure you have a ‘Stop’ command in place so your dog doesn’t destroy the toy. You can check online for other flirt pole exercises.
This activity will definitely tire out your dog as it involves a lot of sprinting without much rest in between. You can use either a ball, toy, or even a frisbee for longer distances. If you have extra cash, you can even spend on an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play fetch by himself. A frisbee also requires more agility, coordination, and timing. Aside from tiring him out, playing frisbee will help develop your dog’s acrobatic skill.
Swimming is not only good exercise for humans, but dogs as well.
This will wear out your dog as it uses all muscle groups, and help him keep cool especially in the summer months. Swimming is also a good exercise for dogs recovering from injury.
Puppy play dates can actually be particularly tiring for your German Shepherd. If you have a fenced-in yard, you can have some doggy friends over for a playdate. They can interact off leash, too.
• Mental stimulation.
German Shepherds don’t only need an outlet for physical energy, but also mental energy. If you are unable to give him enough opportunities to challenge his mind, your dog might resort to bad behavior.
Puzzle Toys. These toys are ideal for German Shepherds in order to challenge their minds and hone their problem-solving skills. Try to find toys that are more challenging than usual, like activity mats.
Kongs are also great for training and even resolving behavior issues. This nontoxic rubber toy comes with a hollow center which you can stuff with food, serving as an outlet for your dog’s desire to chew and lick. There are recipes available online for Kong stuffing.
Teaching new commands and tricks is another way to provide mental stimulation. Apart from the three basic commands (‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, ‘Come’), there are a lot of other tricks you can teach your dog to keep him busy. This will also keep your dog well-behaved and improve your relationship with him.
However, keep in mind that just like any other dog, German Shepherds can suffer from “overexercise” as well. While the amount of activity and exercise that a dog needs depends on his breed, age, and overall health, ultimately, it depends on your judgment.
Watch out for certain signs and symptoms of overexercise including: excessive panting after activity/exertion, extreme thirst, reluctance to exercise, confusion, and sleeping more than usual.
If you find your dog showing any of these symptoms, reduce the amount of exercise for a few days. You can also do some range of motion exercises to loosen up any stiff muscles or joints.
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German Shepherds can require more effort than you hoped for, so make sure to think carefully before getting one. You will need to devote a significant portion of your time to walking your dog, training him, and caring for him (unless you can hire a dog walker to do all that for you).
If you think that this is a bit too much, then you might need to go with a breed that’s more low maintenance. Remember, a German Shepherd has a lot of energy and with nowhere to direct that energy, he might develop some destructive behaviors.