Staying Active for Health and for Fun
German Shepherds thrive on activity; a gentle walk around the block a couple of times a day won’t cut it for your high-energy pooch. He’s at his best with enhanced activity, needing energetic workouts every day. In addition, with his sharp mind, if you can add challenge and adventure to these workouts, so much the better. For those of us not living on a farm, most activities we choose for our dog will also require our participation. So you’ll want to come up with the right fit for both of you and any others that might be joining the fun. We have written this article with you in mind just as much as your German Shepherd.
Walking and Jogging
Easy and Accessible
Walking is great low-impact exercise for any dog. Consider a brisk 30 to 45-minute stroll twice a day to be a reasonable starting place. Your German Shepherd will do well if he gets anywhere from 2 miles to several miles of walking each day. If you like jogging, that’s great too. While walking or jogging your dog, try as much as possible, to avoid paved surfaces. Grass is preferable because of its lower impact on your German Shepherd’s frame.
The Social Benefit
In addition to the physical benefits, walking or jogging often provide socialization opportunities for your dog. Here’s a good exercise for dog and human alike: Don’t automatically rush by other people and their dogs. Rather, look for the opportunity for your dog to meet and get to know other dogs, from the earliest age possible. Socialization is a vital part of your dog’s development. In addition, the human camaraderie formed during these spontaneous meetings may last a lifetime.
What makes swimming unique amongst activities for dogs is that it is super-low-impact. With a young healthy dog, this is not much of an issue. But if your dog gets a foot or leg injury, swimming offers hearty workouts while minimizing impact on limbs. In fact water-therapy is used for dogs where mobility is an issue, and in cases where sensitive parts of the anatomy must be protected from bearing weight or pounding on hard surfaces. For similar reasons, swimming is beneficial for older dogs, enabling them to stay fit while going easy on their frames.
Back-Yard Water Park
Swimming is a great exercise and romping opportunity for dogs. And if there are children in the mix, it will be hard to know who’s entertaining who. All kinds of games can be played, including a simple session of tag or just retrieving tossed objects.
Indulging Your Canine Explorer
Wherever we may live, it is likely that the “call of the wild” will exert its pull on your German Shepherds. And, what better way to satisfy the thirst for adventure, than by roaming hills, valleys, forests or riverbeds with his humans.
Planning for Fun & Safety
You’ll need to plan your hiking adventure, being aware of potential dangers in a given terrain. Thoughtful preparation, and vigilance as you hike will help guard against unforeseen hazards. If you are exploring a coastal area, be aware that currents and undertows have been known to overcome dogs. On rough terrain, there’s the possibility of injury to your dog, so carrying a first-aid kit is a good precaution. Being aware of the location of emergency clinics is also helpful. If you are in an area known for deer, keep your GSD on a leash to prevent him succumbing to the temptation to give chase – the deer will get away, but your dog could end up getting hurt.
Give Your Dog a Task
You can outfit your dog with a special backpack which will make him feel useful. And he will be, because he’ll lighten your load.
Working Dog Fun – Carting, Scootering, Sledding and Skijoring
Here are activities which allow for your German Shepherd to pretend he’s a Husky and tow you while you sit in a cart or sled or while you stand on a scooter or skis. Remember that your German Shepherd Dog comes from hardy working-dog stock. His ancestors had a rigorous regimen of herding large flocks of sheep. The work went on in all weather conditions, and wasn’t restricted to an 8-hour day! It’s no surprise our GSD’s love adventure and a vigorous workout. Towing sports can fit the bill.
Planning for Towing Activities
- Safety. In planning for these fun activities, you’ll want to be sure that you take steps to maximize the fun while not jeopardizing your safety and that of your dog. Since you’ll be moving at speed and at times dodging obstacles, your dog will need sufficient discipline and training to be kept under full control. It would be desirable for your dog to have Obedience Training before undertaking these activities.
- Location Considerations. You’ll need to give some thought to location. This may involve checking out whatever restrictions there may be at the local park. A bicycling path may work well, but again factors to consider ahead of time are local regulations, and your dog’s level of skill and training. Consider honing your skills and your dogs in an out-of-the-way place where initially you don’t need to contend with a lot of traffic, human or animal. As you get comfortable you can begin to do your workout in busier locations.
- Equipment Needs. They all require a good harness for your dog, and the purchase of equipment in the case of sledding and carting.
Some products worth checking out are the carts made by Sacco USA. They are high quality, and made with lightweight materials and they have an efficient breaking system.
Showing Your German Shepherd Dog in Competition
While thinking about activities for your German Shepherd and how to give him good physical and mental workouts, you might want to consider the world of competition. Our article, Showing Your GSD introduces many of the possibilities.
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OUR THANKS TO DR JEAN TUTTLE FOR FACT-CHECKING THIS ARTICLE. DR TUTTLE WAS BORN IN NEW YORK CITY, BUT SPENT MOST OF HER ADULT LIFE IN THE PITTSBURGH AREA. SHE TRAINED AT THE TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE. HER SPECIAL VETERINARY INTERESTS ARE REPRODUCTION AND CANINE AND FELINE REHABILITATION. SHE IS CERTIFIED IN REHABILITATION MEDICINE. DR TUTTLE CURRENTLY PRACTICES AT LAKECROSS VETERINARY AND AT 4PAWS REHABILITATION IN HUNTERSVILLE, NC. MUCH OF HER FREE TIME IS INVOLVED IN AGILITY AND CONFORMATION COMPETITIONS WITH HER GERMAN SHEPHERDS.