Are you concerned whether you are giving your German Shepherd enough exercise? Or maybe you need to know how much exercise a German Shepherd needs before you adopt one?
While every individual dog is unique even within its own breed, German Shepherds typically need at least 90 minutes of exercise every day, although the activities can be broken up throughout the day.
This article will explain the importance of giving your German Shepherd enough exercise, as well as fun and diverse ways for you and your dog to stay active together.
German Shepherds Need a Whole Lot of Exercise
Because they were originally bred as working dogs and are still used today for active roles ranging from law enforcement and military purposes to herding, German Shepherds are incredibly energetic dogs who need a whole lotta love and play.
In addition to their physical need for activity, German Shepherds also need mental stimulation because they are among the smartest breeds of dogs. While one pro of having a smart dog is that it is more responsive to obedience training, a potential con is that it also requires a fair bit of brain play and mental exercises to keep from becoming bored or restless.
Here are the main activities you should provide your German Shepherd with regularly:
- 1-2 Daily Walks (ex. one in the morning, one in the afternoon or early evening)
- High-Cardio Play (ex. fetch, tug of war)
- Mental Exercise (ex. obedience training, agility training)
Why is Dog Exercise So Important?
There are several reasons that German Shepherds need to receive a lot of exercises, including:
- Physical Fitness
- Socialization Opportunities
- Mental Wellbeing
Fortunately, each of the different types of exercise that you can provide to your German Shepherd offers plenty of opportunities to check off each of these boxes. For example, a walk is obviously essential for a German Shepherd’s cardiovascular health, but it also allows the dog to experience all the mental stimulation offered by the sounds, sights and smells of the outside world.
Every dog needs some level of exercise, but an individual German Shepherd’s general activity level, age, and any potential health complications will determine if it needs a bit more or less daily exercise than the 90-minute standard.
Puppies don’t need as much exercise as adults, and you can actually over-exercise a puppy if you’re not careful. According to PitPat, a German Shepherd puppy should receive five minutes of exercise or activity (including walks) every month of age. For example, a four-month-old puppy should receive about 20 minutes of exercise daily. Your puppy roaming the house and exploring wouldn’t count toward this amount, though.
Like puppies, senior-age German Shepherds don’t need as much exercise as a dog in its prime would. There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for how much activity an older German Shepherd should receive each day. It’s best just to keep your eye on your pooch and make sure he or she isn’t overdoing it during playtime or while going out for walks.
Daily Walks or Runs
As mentioned above, a German Shepherd should receive, at minimum, one walk or run per day, though two is optimal. Make sure these walks occur at roughly the same time every day, such as morning and late afternoon, so that your dog can become comfortable with a regular exercise routine. Between these 1-2 walks, aim for at least half-an-hour of total walking time.
Because of how fit and mentally sharp they are, German Shepherds can appreciate some variety in their daily walking routine. If your German Shepherd is well-trained, especially concerning the recall command, you can take the dog to a dog park and let it off the leash.
Another way to spice up walking is to fit your German Shepherd out with a weighted dog vest or backpack, which will add a safe amount of resistance to your dog as it walks around. Similar to a human becoming stronger and fitter through consistent walking with a rucksack, a dog with a weight vest can get a superior workout during those daily walks.
If you’re a strong jogger, you can take your German Shepherd out for a long-distance run. According to Doggie Sport, a well-trained German Shepherd can run with you for up to 20 miles! This comes with the caveat that your vet should clear your dog for running first, and you’ll initially need to take some time to acclimate the pooch to running with you for short distances.
Apart from daily walks or runs, your German Shepherd will love active play in your backyard or at a dog park, including but not limited to:
- Agility Training
- Catch with a Ball or Disc
- Playing Tug of War
German Shepherds need a variety of exercises to stay active, so don’t be afraid to mix things up and try out different types of play to see what your dog likes best.
We’ll talk more about agility training below, but the other activities listed above are all great high-intensity exercises for your German Shepherd. Whether playing fetch with a ball or Frisbee, battling over a rope in a tug of war, or doing other forms of cardio like swimming, there are nearly countless ways to exercise your dog and work up a sweat yourself!
Fetch and tug of war are pretty straightforward, but did you know that most German Shepherds are also avid swimmers? As a calorie-burning yet low-impact exercise, swimming is an excellent way for your dog to stay active safely. If you have patience as you introduce your dog to the water, your German Shepherd may find that swimming is its favorite high-intensity activity!
Mental Stimulation Through Training
Obedience training and agility training are great ways to keep your smart German Shepherd mentally stimulated. There are two ways to train your dog: actively and passively.
Active training is what you typically imagine for dog obedience training: demonstrating the desired action or trick, giving your dog a verbal cue, and rewarding your dog with a treat and verbal affirmation whenever he or she successfully follows direction. You can carve out 5-10 minutes of your day and teach your dog how to sit, shake, lie down, rollover, recall, and all the rest.
On the other hand, passive training occurs when your dog does something desirable without needing to be told, such as immediately running back inside after going potty. Whenever your dog does something like this without you needing to issue a command, feel free to offer praise and maybe even a tasty treat so that your dog learns to associate the desired action with positive things.
Agility training is a bit more intense than typical obedience training, but you don’t need to have any plans to put your dog in an official contest to reap the benefits of agility work. Essentially, agility training is all about teaching your dog to navigate obstacles.
You could teach your German Shepherd to jump, train your dog to jump through a hula-hoop or tire, or even encourage your dog to traverse a see-saw or a wood plank for balance. You can also purchase agility kits or join an agility training club if one is available in your area. Whatever you decide on doing, make sure your dog is safe and having a good time.
Mental Stimulation Through Toys
Getting plenty of time outdoors, including walks and doing high-intensity activities, are all essential for your German Shepherd’s physical and mental wellbeing. One potentially overlooked method of keeping your dog at the top of its game mentally and physically is through the use of high-quality toys.
Apart from games of fetch or tug of war with you, your dog may want time by itself to chew on a tough toy. A treat-storing toy, indestructible ball, or piece of rope designed especially for dogs can all keep your dog busy chewing and yanking even when you aren’t around to play keep-away.
One fun variety of toys is the spring pole, which attaches to a branch or tree trunk and uses bungee-type action to let your dog play tug of war outside even when you’re not around to put up a good fight. Other mentally stimulating toys include puzzle toys, which help your German Shepherd try out its problem-solving skills. This could be as simple as hiding treats inside a Kong.
Playing with Other Dogs
This one can be tricky, but if your German Shepherd is not dog-reactive or otherwise unfriendly toward other dogs, you can consider taking your pet to a dog park so that it can romp around with other dogs. Between calorie-burning play and socialization opportunities, giving your German Shepherd a chance to play with other dogs can be a great form of exercise.
In order to stay strong, fit, healthy, well-behaved, and mentally stimulated, German Shepherds need a lot of exercises, at least 90 minutes of it every single day. This article has described the importance of regular activity for your German Shepherd, detailed the major ways that you can provide exercise to your dog, and even offered a few out-of-the-box suggestions for keeping your pooch active.