HOW MUCH EXERCISE DOES A GERMAN SHEPHERD NEED?
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As you can guess from their name, the German Shepherd was developed in Germany and they were originally herding dogs. They were guardians for their flocks and herds as well as workers to drive the animals to market. With the rise of the railroad, the German Shepherd found themselves out of a job and were quickly adopted as home guardians and are still among the most loyal companions.
The breed has changed little since their refinement in the early years of their breeding but have become amazingly capable police and military dogs in Germany as well as throughout Europe and the US. German Shepherd’s are incredibly loyal and affectionate canines that love being with their family, so don't expect them to exercise themselves well enough if you're not right there with them without getting into trouble.
To excel at police and military work, the German Shepherd must have exceptional mental and physical energy and a quick walk around the block just won’t cut it with these powerful canines. They are generally considered a high energy breed and need as much physical exercise as they do mental.
You may have some individuals that are higher or lower energy than others, but in general, German Shepherds have a high energy level that can border on moderate. Given their tendency to bond closely to a primary person, this person will be the one who needs to put in the extra effort the German Shepherd requires to be a calm member of the family.
When you're thinking about ways to burn off their energy, be mindful of their joints throughout their whole life, and it's often better to opt for longer and more frequent walks or jogs over runs. You should plan to go for a long, brisk walk or jog at least several times a day with your German Shepherd and ideally incorporate some hills or agility work to keep them in shape. Know that certain lines can be more prone to joint issues than others and do a lot of research before selecting a breeder if that’s the route you choose.
The German Shepherd is a highly intelligent breed that is very capable of excelling at mentally demanding canine sports like obedience and Schutzhund. They can be stubborn at times no matter what level of training you take them to, but regularly working on their obedience will exercise their big brains wonderfully. It's actually a cuticle part of having a German Shepherd because they are so powerful and have such deeply rooted protection instincts.
I know it sounds like having a German Shepherd requires a lot of extra effort on your part as their canine leader, and that is absolutely true. But you also have to remember that exercising their brain and body often happens at the same time.
For example, every time you take them on a walk, don't just walk the neighborhood for an hour. Incorporate sit, stay, down commands along the way and double back on your path or run every so often to refine their heeling.
I go over all of this more in-depth in my Boot Camp course, and it's great for adult dogs. If you're just starting out with your German Shepherd puppy, though, check out the Perfect Puppy course that builds a rock-solid foundation for their lifetime training.
German Shepherds are natural guardians, which means they are wherever you are. Don't expect them to work off all their energy in the backyard while you watch TV, especially if they are the only canine in the home. They'll play with other dogs of all sizes, but it's best if you supervise because of their size and high energy.
Playing with other dogs only works off so much of their mental energy, though, and they need structured playtime with you as their canine leader. Most German Shepherds will to roll around and wrestle, while others might prefer to sprint after a large ball with you or love games where they have to use their powerful sense of smell. They can be taught to fetch easily, and it’s a game that can burn through a lot of their energy with less effort on your part. No matter how you exercise them, your German Shepherd will always be happiest when they are making you happy and getting quality time with their whole family.