German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs, accordingly, they are very active and require regular mental and physical stimulation. Without exercise, they are easily bored, and boredom can quickly turn into mischief. Like other working dogs, GSDs with too much-unexpended energy are more likely to destroy things, bark unnecessarily, and pester you for attention. Having a regular exercise routine for your German Shepherd will help prevent boredom.
German Shepherds should get at least two sessions of exercise each day. For puppies, the general rule for the duration of each session is 5 minutes per month of age.
This means that a 3-month-old pup should only be getting a maximum of two 15-minute sessions of exercise per day while an 8-month-old should be getting a maximum of two 40-minute daily exercise sessions.
At 1 year old and above, The Kennel Club (UK) recommends at least 2 hours of exercise each day. Please note that these are just general guidelines for the breed. As the pet owner, it would be up to you to observe and stick with what your dog can safely handle.
Exercise time offers some of the best bonding moments for you and your dog and there are plenty of activities you can engage in so you don’t get tired of doing the same things repeatedly. Here are a few activities that can be incorporated into your German Shepherd exercise routine:
Visiting the Dog Park
Taking your German Shepherd to the dog park is an easy way to give your dog exercise. The dog park gives your GSD the opportunity not just to be around other dogs but also people that understand dogs and, therefore, know how to behave around them. The dog park is definitely a good place to let your pup learn to socialize and make new friends. Just be sure to supervise!
Participating in an Obedience Class/School
Obedience class is where your German Shepherd should learn manners and the basic skills like behaving properly through life’s everyday situations with you and your family. There are schools that teach you how to train your own dog and there are others that train your dog directly and then pass on the commands to you. After taking an obedience class, make sure to practice the commands with your German Shepherd in different situations to stimulate both mental and physical discipline.
Tricks aren’t limited to the usual sit and stay. Your German Shepherd is a very intelligent dog and one that is eager to please. Therefore, tricks training could be a rewarding activity for both you and your German Shepherd. Whether it’s playing dead or doing a military crawl, make sure you break down complex tricks into small steps and give lots of praises every step of the way.
Walking is one of the most common ways to exercise your German Shepherd. The behavior exhibited during walks will set the foundation of every other activity you engage in.
The first walks with your German Shepherd will probably be difficult. Your GSD may tend to pull and try to lead the way, but with training, walking will become an enjoyable activity that you and your German Shepherd will do on a daily basis.
When your German Shepherd has been trained on how to walk properly, you can graduate to running as another form of exercise. German Shepherds are very energetic and can run long distances so running can be a good way to expel some of that Shepherd energy. Accordingly, if you’re training for your next half-marathon or simply enjoy your daily runs, your GSD can be a great running companion.
Hiking is another enjoyable exercise option for you and your German Shepherd because it offers a change in scenery. If your GSD is like mine, it loves to sniff and explore new places. Hiking provides for a slightly more rigorous form of exercise while changing up the scenery from your daily walking routine. Be sure to bring enough water to both you and your dog to stay hydrated.
Whether you use a ball, a frisbee/flying disc, or any other toy, playing fetch is a fun way to exercise your German Shepherd. If your GSD is like Allie, toss anything and your dog is likely to either catch it or chase after it. What can sometimes require training is getting your GSD to give the item back to you.
Teaching your German Shepherd to play fetch can give both you and your dog endless hours of playtime together and exercise for your GSD. The benefit to fetch is that you can play fetch with your dog almost anywhere; on the beach, at the park, in your yard, or in the house. Remember to praise your dog for playing fetch with you.
Rollerblading with your German Shepherd is a fun way of exercising for both you and your dog. Your German Shepherd can run alongside you as you skate, or if you are bolder, you could purchase a pulling harness and allow your GSD to pull you along. Don’t attempt this until you have complete confidence in your German Shepherd’s outdoor behavior and discipline in following your commands. Start in a smaller controlled area to make sure you feel comfortable before moving onto the street or more public areas. Additionally, make sure you wear proper protective gear just as you should even if you’re rollerblading alone.
Cycling / Bikejoring
Bikejoring involves riding a bike while being pulled by a dog or a couple of dogs. Special pulling equipment should be used in order to engage in this activity safely. Also available are dog scooters you could use instead of a regular bike. In snowy areas, this activity would be called skijoring where you’d be on skis while being pulled by dogs.
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for your German Shepherd because not only is it fun but it is also gentle on his hips and joints. Unlike Labradors and Golden Retrievers, GSDs were not bred to swim. However, they are naturally athletic, playful, curious, and courageous so there’s a good chance your German Shepherd will like to swim.
Allie was a little hesitant when she had her first opportunity to swim. However, after she gradually gained confidence and eased into the water, she was hooked and did not want to get out of the water. If your GSD doesn’t go for it right away, be patient and gradually try and get your dog comfortable with the water. Before you know it, swimming could be your German Shepherd’s new favorite form of exercise.
Once you find that your German Shepherd loves being in the water, you can try some other water sports. Although stand-up paddleboarding will take some training if you live in a warmer climate this form of exercise could be a good one to teach your German Shepherd.
Start by keeping the board in a place where your dog would be able to interact with it and be comfortable around it. After the initial curiosity has passed, place a treat on the board; the idea is for your GSD to get on the board to take the treat. The next step is to have your dog to sit on the board and then give him/her another treat.
Gradually train your GSD with different commands for on and off the board, and then wean your dog off of treats entirely. Keep practicing until you think you’re both ready for the water. Once you think your duo is ready, practice first on the shoreline and then gradually move the board on the water. Don’t expect to get it perfect right away. Just keep practicing and give your dog a lot of praise. Soon enough, you’ll both be enjoying spending quality time paddling through various waters.
Before engaging in any water sport, though, be sure to get your dog fitted for a personal floatation device (PFD). It doesn’t matter how much your dog loves the water or how well he swims. Having a PFD is critical to making sure your dog is safe no matter what happens.
Dog surfing is a fairly popular water sport. In fact, California hosts at least one competition each year and dogs are judged based on their confidence on the board, the size of the wave, and the length of their ride. However, you don’t need to be at a competitive level to enjoy this sport with your German Shepherd. Similar to stand-up paddleboard training, you can start training your dog at home and gradually move to the open water. You can teach him to surf along with you and later on, to surf alone. Eventually, you might even try windsurfing!
If you find that your German Shepherd loves the water and, more specifically, jumping into the water, your GSD might be perfect for dock diving. Dock diving, also known as dock jumping, is a canine sport wherein dogs jump into a body of water and are judged based on distance from the dock. Whether or not you decide to compete, training for this would be a whole lot of fun and exercise for your dog.
Dog agility is a popular sport where dogs navigate and race through an obstacle course with the guidance of their handlers. Agility training is an incredibly fun and fulfilling activity as well as good exercise for you and your German Shepherd. Check your local area for training classes or try training on your own if you have access to an agility course or have the space to set one up. If your German Shepherd excels at agility training, you can choose to enter competitions. Whether for fun or for sport, agility training is great mental and physical stimulation for your German Shepherd.
Fly ball is a relay race wherein dogs run through hurdles towards a spring-loaded device that releases a tennis ball. Then, they carry the ball back to their handlers on the other side, so the next team member can take his turn. There are typically four dogs in a team and the first team to have all members complete the course and cross the finish line wins the competition.
While Fly ball is typically a competitive sport, many dog owners engage in this activity simply as a way to have fun with other dog owners, teach their dogs to socialize and play in a team.
Treibball, also known as ball herding, is a competitive canine sport wherein dogs drive and gather large exercise balls into one specific area as they would if they were herding sheep. Being shepherds, it’s no surprise that German Shepherds excel in this fun sport that mimics herding.
Schutzhund started as a way to determine optimal breeding lines and whether specific German Shepherds had the right traits to be suitable for work in various fields including search and rescue, odor detection, and protection. It has since evolved into a rigorous sport that’s inclusive to all breeds, but German Shepherds and other working breeds are known at excel at Schutzhund. Currently, Schutzhund is comprised of three parts; tracking, obedience and protection. If you own a working line German Shepherd, Schutzhund is a fun sport to consider doing even if just for fun, and it has the added benefit of being a great form of exercise.
If you’re interested in engaging in this sport, it is best for you to join a reputable Schutzhund club to have access to specialized resources and mentors.
If you’re not into competitive sports or more rigorous training, you can have some fun playing various games. Tracking games are good for your German Shepherd because it exercises his mind and body but also allows your GSD to practice his scenting ability. All you need to do is hide treats or toys for your dog to find. Gradually increase the difficulty to keep it challenging and make sure you give your dog lots of praise for every successful search.
Hide & Seek
If your German Shepherd has already perfected the stay command or there are multiple people in your household, hide and seek is a great game to play for indoor exercise. Hide and seek is similar to treat tracking, except you are the prize at the end of the search. Either have your dog stay or have another family member distract your dog while you hide; then call your dog’s name and ask him to come to find you. This game is one of Allie’s favorites! Hide & seek allows your German Shepherd to practice its tracking ability and the excitement that finding you creates helps to expend excess energy.
Tug of War
Playing tug accommodates your German Shepherd’s natural tendency to grab and pull in a safe and positive manner. Many dog owners’ express concerns about how tug of war can bring out aggression and a tendency to bite and clench. However, it is actually a great game to play with most dogs, and as long as your GSD can play by your rules it is a great form of exercise. Tug of war expends your dog’s excess energy and reduces stress while teaching the important lessons of tugging only with specific toys and listening to you even when overly excited.
Give your dog a job
Since German Shepherds are working dogs another way to exercise your GSD is to give him or her a job. German Shepherds are known to be great police dogs, but they also excel at many other jobs. For example, Allie currently works in search and rescue on the weekends. The training and working helps to provide your dog with of exercise. Other examples of jobs are: therapy dogs, guide dogs, and narcotics detection.
There are plenty of activities you can include in your German Shepherd exercise routine. As you engage in more activities with your GSD, your bond will become stronger. Additionally, and you’ll find that it becomes easier and more enjoyable to train your dog in other tasks. Choose activities that you both will enjoy and then the daily hours spent on exercise will be among some of the most cherished moments you’ll have with your dog.
What is your favorite way to exercise your German Shepherd?