All dogs are not the same. Even within categories or breeds of dog, there are quirks and traits that make each dog different from one another.
For people considering a German shepherd, one of the key factors to think about is making sure that your lifestyle matches with the needs of a large, smart, working-breed dog.
It’s very important that you know how much exercise a German shepherd needs and what the consequences are if it doesn’t get the exercise they require.
How Much Exercise Does a German Shepherd Need?
The German Shepherd was originally bred to herd flocks of sheep all day. These dogs are built for speed. Shepherds are brimming with energy that they need to burn off with regular exercise – at least two hours are ideal – on a daily basis.
A Shepherd left alone for too long without exercise means trouble for a dog owner. Boredom and lack of activity mean behavioral problems can start. These might be chewing, digging, and excessive barking.
The German Shepherd needs enough exercise for both body (solid time at the dog park, a brisk jog) and mind (challenging training exercises like agility or obedience training and competitions.)
It’s natural for herding breeds to bark. It’s a personality trait, but one that can be an issue for a bored dog.
These high-spirited dogs’ high intelligence means they need to be offered chances to learn, be obedience trained, and for owners to also enjoy how their dogs thrive from the opportunity to perform higher tasks than some other dog breeds.
Exercise Required for Younger German Shepherds
There is confusion out there about the right amount of exercise that German shepherd puppies need. They are among the fastest-growing of working breeds, and the stretching of ligaments can be bad for them when they are young.
The young German Shepherd also has to adjust to its rapidly growing (heavy) body size, so this can put a strain on young and growing joints and add to adulthood problems.
For the first year of a German shepherd’s life, exercise should be reasonably limited. Until then, stick to the rule of thumb “slow and low.”
At this time, you should focus on leash training the puppy as well as giving the dog time to socialize and expand his world, bit by bit. All of this socialization will be active and new for the dog. Also, it’s an excellent time to see the unique personality and behaviors of your dog.
(Find out more about how much exercise a german shepherd puppy needs.)
Why Is Exercise So Important?
In this section, we will explain why exercise is so important for your German Shepherd. If you ignore exercise, and the detrimental effects a lack of it can have, you’ll only make your pup unhappy.
To Help Avoid Health Issues
German Shepherds are generally quite healthy, but as with all dog breeds, they are prone to some illnesses. Hip Dysplasia (a condition where the femur is out of alignment with the pelvic socket of the hip joint) Elbow Dysplasia (a large-breed dog condition affected by bone growth issues in the joint) and Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, or bloat (a severe condition affecting large, deep-chested dogs) are some of these conditions to be aware of that can affect shepherds.
Regular exercise, especially in a dog’s middle years (post-puppy state and through his most active time of life, from about age two to seven), will be one of a dog owner’s best defenses against degenerative and other illnesses.
(Find out what to do if your german shepherd barks at night.)
Caution– Do Not Over-exercise
It’s also important not to over-exercise large breed dogs, who will mostly tell you by their behavior once they’ve cleared the puppy years when they’ve had enough. They’ll simply stop returning their ball or go and lay down to “tell you” that they’ve had enough.
In dogs that need more training, their focus will wander, and their attention will wane when usually they’ve been responsive, made good eye contact, and they usually enjoy playing and running for long periods of time.
(Want to know if your german shepherd gets cold?)
To Help Avoid Behavioral Issues
Behavioral problems in intelligent, trainable dog breeds like German shepherds can usually be explained by looking at what is missing in their doggy lives: it might be either fun, walks, socialization, or challenging games.
Shepherds are social, pack, and driven animals that can suffer like any other creature when conditions in their home are not happy or don’t meet their needs.
When a dog is not getting enough exercise, he may turn to antisocial behavior, such as barking and annoying the neighbors. Or the dog may start picking up bad habits, the kinds that they usually leave behind in their puppy days.
Watch out for things like chewing, the dog digging where they shouldn’t be, or a change in behavior such as lack of energy and boredom. A dog this smart will show you signs of happiness and unhappiness.
How to Exercise Your German Shepherd
German Shepherds need a variety of exercises, including walks and time off the lead in outdoor play areas. This activity should be combined with simple, at-home playtime and training time that can be done anywhere, at any time.
It should be led by qualified dog trainers, adult owners, or older children with supervision who have a good sense of their animal’s behavior. There are even exercises that owners and their shepherds can do together.
Here are some of the best exercise tips for your German shepherd. Keep your dog busy and active with these simple ideas to fulfill your shepherd’s daily required dose of physical activity:
You Might Take Your German Shepherd for A Hike!
With active, smart, high energy, and highly trainable dogs, you don’t have to leave your canine companion at home when you head out for an adventure. If you are someone who enjoys hiking on hills and mountain trails, a German shepherd dog can be your playmate.
These dogs are curious and love to explore the great outdoors, run off-leash, and unlike dogs bred for show trials or toy breeds; they also have strong stamina needed for long walks.
Exercise and Weather Preferences for German Shepherd Dogs
German shepherds are usually not bothered by most weather conditions. They have a heavy coat and are more active in the cooler (even cold) weather and seasons than in hot summer weather when they will slow down and find some shade, especially when they reach maturity and get their full coat.
At these times, it’s best to take your German Shepherd for a few walks a day early in the day before the heat reaches maximum temperatures, and later in the evening when things have cooled.
(Find out what to do if it’s too hot for your german shepherd.)
Remember that active dogs who regularly walk in cities will suffer from things like road salt in winter weather, hot pavement, or anything dangerous they might walk across, like broken glass that can be missed during night walks.
Active dogs need regular care, including their footpads with a quick examination during nail trimming (or your veterinarian will do this if they do your German Shepherd’s nail trimming during regular checkups.)
Swimming Is A Great Exercise for Your German Shepherd
German shepherds love to swim, and this is an excellent chance for dogs and owners to bond and enjoy the summer months even more than the usual activities on land.
Dogs can play fetch in the water with floating pool toys (make sure to supervise them), and the activity is a way to enjoy something new with your dog that is fun for the family.
Searching and Digging – Another Fun Way to Keep Your German Shepherd Active
Dogs love to search for favorite toys or bones. Hide and Seek is a great indoor game for dogs when the weather is too bad for a long walk or off-lead.
The dog will search to find the toy with a focused mind and a happy tail wagging. This type of game will exercise both Shepherd’s body and mind.
These dogs also enjoy running after frisbees for play, and these toys can also be used for more intense exercise (which works for the dog mentally and physically) with agility training.
Agility training can be a competitive activity for dogs that really take to it and show a long attention span (Note: the dog must be well trained and well socialized for these events).
Walking Is a German Shepherd’s Core Activity
Remember that a German shepherd’s requirement is for exercise about a minimum of two hours a day.
The morning, after work, and bedtime walks are an important part of healthy routines for a dog to do doggy-business; maybe socialize a bit with others on the walking route, and get their “tree mail” (sniffing poles or trees to get the news of dog activity on their turf.)
This daily routine is the secret to both happy dogs and good dog-owner bonds.
Walking the dog is often the first independent family chore of older children (the ones who might have begged mom and dad to get a dog in the first place).
Make sure that the kids are old enough to keep full control of your German Shepherd, always keep him on a leash, and do this only if the dog is not prone to unpredictable behavior.
Young dogs or those that have not been well socialized (if you live away from a lot of people, your Shepherd doesn’t get to play with other dogs often or may not be used to babies or children) might react or bark in new situations.
What Happens If They Don’t Get Enough Exercise?
In this section, we will discuss what can happen to German Shepherds if they don’t get enough exercise.
They Are at Risk of Different Health Issues without Enough Activity
Without enough exercise, these dogs are at risk of minor to severe health issues. Having a pet, especially an active dog is a serious commitment you should make for the life of your pet (around 10 years in large breed dogs.)
Just like people, dogs need routine, sunlight, fresh air, and a good stretch to stay limber and healthy. Regular exercise will prevent or help with health problems that might be common to these dogs, and another benefit is that they will stay at a healthy weight and are less prone to becoming overweight.
They Can Have Behavioral Issues Without Enough Exercise
German shepherds (or GSDs) can be prone to aggression. It’s part of their breeding, and their temperament, which made them natural pack leaders in shepherding, and their assertive and vocal nature makes them ideal partners in fields like law enforcement.
Some German shepherds have jobs, as you may have seen in airports. Only the most intelligent, trainable dogs are selected for things like guide dog programs or law enforcement work.
But for the non-working Shepherd, correct training when your pet is young and reinforcing these behaviors throughout the life of your pet will allow you to direct the dominant nature or any adolescent aggressive behavior positively.
Couch Potato Dogs
Sometimes German shepherds, even as working breeds who were bred for hard work and herding all day, running free across fields, might seem to be lower energy than you expected. Every dog is different.
As they can’t tell us what’s wrong, changes in behavior could point to something not right. If your dog is not acting, as usual, it’s time to see the vet. But some dogs just aren’t “as advertised.” Make sure they get enough activity through a few walks a day.
If the dog perks up, shows interest in a new toy or some kind of activity you haven’t tried, like the exercise options discussed above, go for it, but don’t push it. Some dogs are just happy to nest and be with people.
Selecting a German shepherd for your pet is the right choice for active people who are willing to put a little time in to give the dog the right exercise, activity, and fun challenges that suit a shepherd’s temperament.
Investing in good exercise routines for your German Shepherd is good for you, too. Daily, moderate walking is a gentle exercise that almost anyone can do, and it’s a good habit to start along with your canine. With this in mind, you can look forward to many happy years with your new family member!