As former working dogs, German Shepherds need regular exercise from the time they are old enough to walk.
Usually, they can walk from 2 weeks of age, and pet owners can begin focused playtimes when they reach 4 months.
As they grow (and they grow quickly), their exercise routine must keep up with their growth.
Adult dogs need more exercise than puppies, and senior dogs should be allowed to rest according to their health and abilities.
Here’s what you need to know about how much exercise a German Shepherd should have throughout its life.
German Shepherd Exercises
Dog owners can provide their German Shepherds with multiple exercise options. High energy dogs like GSDs need regular exercise to stimulate their muscles and mental capacities to keep them from getting bored.
Bored dogs tend to bark more and become destructive, so mixing exercise routines keeps it fun for you and your German Shepherd.
#1 Dog walking
Dog walking is the most basic exercise form to put your pet through. Begin training your German Shepherd puppy on a leash at home and slowly progress to walks outside the home.
Something as simple as daily walks down the street help them to get to know the neighborhood and put them on track to become an active dog.
A walk in the park is another fun activity to engage your pet, especially once you can trust them to obey commands when off the leash.
If you have a GSD puppy, long walks should be avoided until they become adults dogs as their bones and joints are still developing. Long distances put too much pressure on their hips, which are more prone to dysplasia than other dog breeds.
#2 Obedience classes
Obedience classes introduce your dog to another way of life. Your pet gets to meet other people and other puppies of its own age.
Obedience training stimulates your pet’s mental capacities, keeps them interested in positive ways to spend their energy levels, and develops their ability to respond positively to commands.
When you exercise your German Shepherd in obedience classes, you also instill behavior that gives both of you the confidence to go anywhere together.
#3 Running and cycling
Once your dog gets the gist of walking on a lead, you can take it running with you. If you aren’t fond of running, cycling is another way to exercise your GSD.
The excitement of new sounds and sensations creates experiences that positively stimulate your dog’s physical and mental abilities.
You both become fit, get tired, and need time to recuperate, which are good things. Make sure to keep these exercise sessions short, as GSDs joint problems can become aggravated through over-exercise.
#4 Hiking as an exercise for your German Shepherd
Hiking is a wonderful way to bond with your pet. Walking in nature, exploring, stopping, and starting, jumping over rocks, and wading through rivers is good exercise for your German Shepherd.
These dogs were made to work, so the more activities they can engage in, the happier they are.
#5 Playing fetch
Exercise your German Shepherd with a traditional game of fetch. You throw the ball or frisbee and teach your German Shepherd to retrieve and return it to you.
If your home space is not big enough for this game as your puppy grows, you can always take the game to a local park.
#6 Take your GSD to Schutzhund classes
If you have a local club that offers Schutzhund training, focused on giving your GSD protection and obedience skills, this is a perfect way to exercise your German Shepherd, as well as provide mental stimulation.
Your young dog will love learning new skills revolving around obedience, tracking, and protection.
#7 Dock jumping
Another sport to keep your German Shepherd active is dock jumping. Local clubs may offer facilities for this sport which involves your pet doing a running jump to see how much distance it can cover.
Your pet jumps into the water, which means that it will have to swim back to shore. You cover running, jumping, and swimming in one exercise, which is exhilarating for your German Shepherd.
#8 Tug of war
A challenging game of tug of war has always been stimulating for big dogs. They get to pit their strength against yours, which is loads of fun.
You can use materials available at home to play this game or purchase a strong rope made from natural fiber.
Remember to treat your German Shepherd’s progress with every win.
#9 Hide and seek and discovering treats
Treat your pet when they successfully find treasures that you have hidden.
Make things more exciting by playing hide and seek with your pet. This is an entertaining game that the entire family can play.
#10 Search and rescue
Contact local authorities to determine whether they offer search and rescue training exercises for German Shepherds.
You will both learn new skills and potentially do your community a massive service if you follow up with these classes.
How Much Exercise Do German Shepherds Need?
The best way to calculate how much exercise your German Shepherd needs is to calculate 5 minutes per month of age. If a puppy is two months old, you should exercise it for 10 minutes, twice a day.
When your puppy reaches 9 months, it should be getting 45 minutes of play at least twice a day.
By the time your pet reaches 12 months in age, you should ensure that you exercise them for a minimum of 2 hours daily.
Although the amount of exercise listed here are only suggestions, they are recommended by German Shepherd experts.
Treat your dog as an individual and test its exercise needs, extending or reducing exercise times to match its abilities.
German Shepherd exercise times depend on their age. Younger dogs need less exercise than adults.
As your pet matures and becomes a senior at around 7 years, you can start to cut back on its exercise routine.
Play it by ear as dog needs are as individual as people and will need an independent approach to their situation.
If your pet suffers from hip dysplasia, shorter, easier, and less frequent exercise arduous will be necessary. If your dog does suffer a specific illness, it may be wise to consult your vet about their exercising needs.
If running or hiking is no longer possible, swimming may be a good option since this will place less strain on their joints.
Can Your German Shepherd Exercise By Themself?
Some dogs may exercise intermittently if they have other dogs to play with. Generally, though, no dogs will exercise by themselves because they want company and someone to play with.
If you don’t exercise your German Shepherd, they will be prone to plenty of destructive behavior. Worse, their physical and mental condition will decline drastically.
They will probably age quicker and can become aggressive.
You will want to avoid the negative outcomes of relying on your German Shepherd to exercise itself.
If you try to get away with inactivity-both you and your pet will suffer the consequences of poor behavior and an increase in vet’s bills as the dog ages.
You may even find yourself at the receiving end of legal bills should your pet escape its confines and attack someone.
Please do not rely on your German Shepherd to exercise itself. If you cannot provide your pet with the physical activity it needs to remain healthy–consider finding a new home for it.
What Happens If a German Shepherd Does Not Exercise Enough?
The German Shepherd originally looked after livestock and enjoyed working, so this is a lively, energetic breed that should receive regular exercise.
When a dog this active and intelligent is left to its own devices, the outcome is undesirable behavior.
A German Shepherd that doesn’t get enough exercise will often:
- Become bored and irritable.
- Be irritating to its owners in efforts to gain their attention.
- Become destructive by chewing things it shouldn’t.
- Start barking excessively.
- Get aggressive during play.
- Stop responding to commands.
- Pick up weight that impacts its health negatively.
- Get lethargic and depressed.
When dog breeds like the GSD are left alone for too long without the exercise it needs, it can lose respect for you.
You may find that your pet no longer listens to you, disobeys you, and develops destructive habits.
A disobedient dog this size places everyone at risk. An overweight dog is also at risk of becoming diabetic. Its health will decline as vet’s bills increase. The result is a relationship that no longer works.
People who allow their dog’s wellbeing to decline will typically end up putting the dog down, trying to find a new home, or leaving their dog at a shelter. None of these options is acceptable.
If you do not invest the time or energy to exercise your German Shepherd enough to maintain its wellbeing on all levels, rather try and find a dog walker and encourage socialization in dog parks.
Otherwise, encourage your children to keep your pet active or purchase another dog to keep your German Shepherd company.
The best option is not to allow circumstances to decline to where any of these options are okay.
A pet requires a responsible owner. A German Shepherd is a large breed that must get at least 2 hours of exercise a day as an adult.
No dogs are capable of sufficient cognitive thought to keep themselves constructively busy for this amount of time, especially former herding dogs like the GSD.
Responsible owners will exercise their German Shepherds regularly and enough to keep their health up. If they don’t, their health will suffer needlessly.
Both you and your pet will pay the price with poor health, depression, and unwanted behavior. The solution is simple.
Exercise your German Shepherd or purchase a smaller pet.