If your German Shepherd is older than 18 months and you’ve got the OK from your vet, then you must include a variety of exercise routines daily to keep their athletic forms in shape and help use up their stamina in productive ways. A GSD puppy who is under 18 months of age has bones that aren’t calcified (fused together), his bones are still developing, and rigorous daily exercise might hurt them and cause long-term damage.
Your German Shepherd puppy shouldn’t be involved in tiring exercises until they are at least 12 months (1 year) old. So be sure to follow the right guide and advice for your German Shepherd.
This information is for German Shepherds over one year of age who are healthy and without any known diseases or medical conditions.
Your German Shepherd’s Daily Routine for Fitness and Health
If you own an adult German Shepherd Dog his exercise tolerance will be almost limitless!
Unless you’re a triathlete, marathon runner, or competitive sprinter you’ll find that you won’t exceed the exercise your German Shepherd needs daily. This breed suits very active families and prefers lots of exercise daily (source). They can become bored easily without a suitable daily routine.
It’s essential that your dog has an adequate amount of exercise daily, and not just on weekends.
Your German Shepherd’s daily routine ideally includes:
A daily quota of 2 hours of exercise is mandatory for your lively, active, intelligent breed. At least 90 minutes of physical activity meets your GSD’s daily activity needs, with the rest of the time spent on brain and mind games, mental stimulation, and training.
Planning your exercise routine can assist you in meeting your dog’s daily physical needs and helps make his life more consistent. If you’re flexible and creative you can work around your own schedule while meeting your German Shepherd’s daily routine.
Take a few moments to consider if you are meeting your German Shepherd’s desire for physical activity and consider some of these exercises for German Shepherds.
Exercises for German Shepherds
The best exercises for German Shepherds move their bodies in a variety of ways while letting them explore their environment.
German Shepherds love to exercise:
On different surfaces and terrains
Lets them run, trot, and sprint at their own pace
In different weather conditions (but not in freezing temps or the hottest parts of the day)
Involves their favorite person or people
Uses their high stamina to their advantage
It’s better to spread out your German Shepherd’s daily exercise than to group all the time together in one go. And, don’t expect your German Shepherd to run a marathon with your right away.
Build up their physical tolerance slowly and gradually and you’ll find an exercise companion that is always up for a physical activity with you.
In fact, here are some of the best ideas to include in your German Shepherd’s daily routine.
1. Walking your German Shepherd daily for the right amount.
Walking a German Shepherd is the most popular form of exercise for fitness and health.
Walk your German Shepherd at least twice for 90 minutes
Preferably split into 2 sessions in the morning and evening time
Avoid extreme cold and heat to keep both of you safe
Vary the surface you walk on to avoid damage to their joints from repetitive motions.
Don’t always walk on concrete sidewalks
Avoid continues use of asphalt roads
Watch out for broken glass, sharp stones, or slippery surfaces
Instead, look for:
Green grassy areas which are softer on their paws
Sandy beaches or trails to offer them an alternative to concrete
Dirt paths and trails that are softer on your GSD’s hips and joints
If you have any nature paths or trails nearby, use them and allow your dog to enjoy sniffing around and exploring the trees.
Are you avoiding walks because your German Shepherd pulls you along wildly and you’re afraid of falling?
I’ve been where you are, too!
But, don’t neglect daily walks since they’re necessary for not only your dog’s health but also to help use up their energy for better behavior while living indoors with you.
Invest in a no-pull dog harness, which is easier on your dog’s neck and your shoulder. Try this no-pull harness to have more control on your walks.
The harness has 2 points to clip, in the front and on the back, which puts you in greater control of a wild-walking German Shepherd. The comfortable padding on the harness also helps prevent sore spots on your dog to avoid any skin issues or fur loss.
Walking Exercise Routine
Two walks of 45 minutes to one hour each for an adult, healthy German Shepherd is a good start for an exercise routine to meet their needs.
If you’re walking a puppy go slowly and don’t walk your puppy for more than 5 minutes for every month they’re old. Remember they require gentler exercises to avoid bone and joint damage.
2. Jogging and running to increase endurance.
Jogging and running with your German Shepherd is a great way to get in both your and your dog’s cardio fitness and exercise.
Warning: Your puppy’s bones must totally fuse before you take your dog for this high-intensity activity. Bone fusing occurs around 12 to 18 months, so don’t run with your puppy!
Many German Shepherds love to run for fun with their owners. Your breed is built to move long distances over grassy, rocky, hilly terrain, and this shows in their desire for running.
Running also has benefits for your German Shepherd Dog, such as:
Strengthening large muscles
Naturally keeps nails short and filed
Increases strength in long bones, tendons, and ligaments
Conditions and slowly hardens their pads (which helps the skin to withstand small cuts and abrasions)
While you can put on your special athletic shoes to cushion your joints, your dog can’t!
Consider the impact on your dog’s joints if you run or jog on asphalt roads or concrete sidewalks frequently. Look for softer surfaces to include with your daily exercise routine.
Vary your surfaces for maximum health benefits. Try soft grass and dirt trails for variety and to give your dog’s bones and muscles a break from concrete and asphalt.
Also, running and jogging at a set pace is very repetitive on joints.
A change of pace is beneficial in terms of both pleasure and exercise value as the variety keeps your dog’s muscles and brain working differently and can increase the health benefits.
Running or Jogging Exercise Routine
Introduce jogging and running with your adult Shepherd gradually. While your breed is a natural-born runner it’s best to limit their exposure to this physically demanding activity to 3 to 4 times a week if you’re looking to add in distance.
Once your dog is more conditioned you can increase both the time and distance they run with you.
Give them plenty of time to recover so their muscles don’t become overworked or fatigued. Check their paws daily after each run to look for any sores, abrasions, or cuts. Don’t run with a German Shepherd under 18 months of age without your vet’s approval.
3. Tug-of-war game for strength and power training.
German Shepherds are powerful and athletic, and they love to play games with their owners.
Include simple strength training exercises at home to increase muscle mass and overall power by playing tug with your German Shepherd daily.
The charm of tug is that it’s a simple game that allows your German Shepherd to burn energy while bonding with you!
It’s a perfect way to provide your GSD with countless hours of entertainment and fun. Plus, it’s so simple to initiate a game with your dog, even when you can’t get outdoors for a long walk or run.
The tug game exercise allows them to use up their excess energy (which results in a better-behaved dog that’s easier to train).
And playing tug-of-war goes a long way in helping your Shepherd develop fuller, stronger muscles and more energy and vitality.
This tug toy for strong and large breed dogs is long enough to keep your fingers away from your dog’s sharp teeth. The knots allow you to grip the rope and maintain control better while the cotton rope provides a soft surface for your German Shepherd to grip.
Worried playing tug might make your German Shepherd more aggressive?
Vets agree that playing tug does NOT make your dog aggressive, but can actually encourage bonding, be used for teaching a drop or wait command, and can even boost your dog’s confidence (source).
Tug-of-War Exercise Routine
You can play tug anytime during the day. German Shepherds are most active at dawn and dusk, so try to include at least 10 to 15 minutes of tug before work.
Play a game of tug with your German Shepherd at least 3 to 4 times a week in areas that your dog won’t slip since they need traction to stabilize their muscles to pull and tug. Ideally, aim for tug daily if your dog enjoys the exercise.
4. A flirt pole increases endurance.
The flirt pole is a gift to worn-out German Shepherd owners!
It not only helps your dog improve their basic manners and impulse control, but it also gives them a workout. And in just a few minutes of play!
You don’t have to do much work yourself, either!
Look for a pole with an enticing lure to excite and interest your dog. I prefer this fun tail-teasing lure flirt pole since it’s easy to handle and the fuzzy toy really encourages my GSD to chase it.
How a Flirt Pole Works
Lure your dog to play by dragging the toy on the ground in a large arching half-circle pattern.
They chase the lure while you move the toy in different ways to keep them moving.
They catch the lure and tug.
You give their release or drop command and start the exercise game again.
It’s like a giant cat toy, but better because it’s for German Shepherds!
Avoid playing this game by moving the lure in tight circles or making your dog jump high in the air for it. That’s not the point of the game. It’s made to mimic chasing prey along the ground in large movements.
If your dog is slipping frequently, definitely find another surface to play on. You don’t want a German Shepherd, even an adult, making quick twists and abrupt turns that could cause them damage.
Flirt Pole Routine
The flirt pole activity is a game, not a toy. It can become damaged if left alone with your GSD or if they are allowed to tug on it excessively. It’s not a tug toy.
Play with the flirt pole 2 to 3 times a week, but only on soft surfaces such as grass, in case there’s a fall or tumble. Don’t use this exercise tool to make your dog jump too high or you’ll risk an injury!
Only use large arches on the ground to avoid sharp turns, especially for puppies. Work on your dog’s drop command when they capture the lure to add in some quick obedience.
Remember, it’s not a toy by itself…
It’s a game for you to enjoy together! Don’t leave your dog alone with the lure.
5. Include doggy squats for healthy hips.
Dog squats help build strength in the large leg muscles.
They also can help an aging Shepherd maintain their strength to keep them more mobile and prevent hip issues later in life. And in younger Shepherds that help give your dog the power to take on physical challenges.
Dog squats are like human squats.
How to do Doggy Squats with your German Shepherd
Have your dog follow your sit command.
Then, have them stand.
Use treats to entice them to keep repeating the action.
After two weeks, increase the reps in healthy dogs (not puppies or seniors).
Have your dog start with 2 sets of 5 squats and add on more squats gradually from there.
Practice doggy squats in different areas so your dog doesn’t get bored with the training. Use a variety of tasty treats to keep them interested and motivated.
Healthy Hips Exercises
Begin by introducing doggie squats 2 to 3 times a week, but don’t do these if you think your dog has a hip issue or you are concerned about hip problems in your dog.
You can increase the number of sets and reps as your dog looks more comfortable with the exercise and builds up strength in their hips.
6. Running uphill improves muscle power and cardio health.
Having your dog run uphill gives a great, free strength training workout.
As your dog pushes themselves uphill, they must engage their rear leg muscles intensely. This is a great all-over bodybuilding exercise, but especially for their back end.
Don’t use steep hills. Instead, look for a moderate rolling hill and encourage your dog by calling them up and down to you. This is also a cardio workout for you, too!
Repeat this hill run a few times. Then, give your dog rest and repeat. Don’t overdo it or your dog’s hips will become sore.
Hill Running with Your German Shepherd
Begin by exploring hill running only 2 times a week with plenty of rest in between hill runs to recover. Only use gently sloping hills and check the hills aren’t slippery with water, snow, ice, or pebbles and rocks.
You can gradually increase their routine to 3 to 4 times a week with longer sprints to keep their hearts in tip-top shape.
7. A balancing disc helps improve reflexes and coordination.
The goal of balance activity is to enhance body awareness, encourage stable weight shifts, and promote stability and motor function.
In a nutshell, balance exercises help teach your dog the way their body moves and how to alter their movements to adjust more easily. This means that your dog is less prone to injuries since their bodies are agile.
Balance work enables you to target your dog’s postural muscles and improve their reflexes. This type of exercise routine improves the core muscles and is a highly engaging exercise as your dog’s body and mind help him to balance on an unstable surface.
Balancing discs are a very popular piece of exercise equipment for dogs and fitness professionals. They allow you to train your dog from the comfort of your home with minimal space and improve your dog’s balance and coordination.
The FitPaws balancing disc is an inexpensive exercise tool to add to your German Shepherd’s exercise routine to improve your dog’s health.
It works by having your dog stand on the disc and using its muscles to stay balanced and stable. These are great for strengthening all muscle groups as a complete body workout.
The Instability Challenge
On the FitPaws balance disc, there are three basic ways to create a challenge for your dog.
Have your dog place one paw on the platform and offer them a treat.
Next, ask for both front paws on the board to increase difficulty.
Finally, move into harder positions such as all four paws on the disc, sitting on the disk, or even backing up onto the disk with only the back paws.
Balancing is also a great way to bond with your dog since they need to trust your commands and the support you provide to them.
Balance Disc Exercise Routine
3 to 4 times a week start with an easy pose for your dog on the disc. As they improve their balance, increase the time slowly as you ask them to hold other poses, for example, front paws on disk, back paws on disk, and stepping on and off slowly.
Balance work is a wonderful addition to a German Shepherd’s daily routine to help your dog improve their minds while exercising.
8. Sprints build muscle and cardio fitness.
Sprints increase your dog’s speed and overall performance.
They’re also fun!
And your German Shepherd naturally excels at speed because of its herding history. While excessive and sharp turns on the ground can injure your dog due to the stress of stopping, you can still play a game of catch in moderation.
Instead of seeing how far you can throw the ball and having your GSD slide into the ground, aim for shooting the ball in the air a short distance in front to allow your dog to catch the ball and avoid harsh slides.
If you find that you don’t want to tire your arm trying to keep up with your dog’s boundless energy, then look for a tennis ball launcher to save your shoulder while exercising your German Shepherd. You can launch tennis balls up to 50 feet in the air without exhausting your arms!
Short sprints are great for burning away energy that would otherwise become pent-up anxiety in your dog.
Sprints also increase lung and heart health, challenge muscles and balance, improve coordination, and make your German Shepherd happy!
Sprints While Playing Catch
Don’t injure your dog by having them always slide into catching the ball on the ground, which twists their joints and bodies roughly. Instead, 3 to 4 times a week with rests during your sprints so they can catch their breath, aim for them to catch the ball from the air.
Puppies shouldn’t jump until their bones are fully fused, so save this fun activity for adult GSDs.
I bet you also would love to see these interesting, fun toys that German Shepherd loveto keep your dog out of mischief and chewing on the RIGHT things!
9. Weave poles for speed and agility.
Did you know that the German Shepherd holds the record for completing the fastest weave pole (source)?
Nature made your breed for pole weaving!
So don’t leave this agility sport off the table when creating a great exercise routine for your German Shepherd.
Weave poles are easy to teach by luring your dog through with a treat. It’s easier to use an adjustable weave pole to start since the poles move into a wide position for beginner training.
Set up your weave poles in your yard. Adjust them so they’re wide to start since it’s the easiest way to teach your dog the weaving motion.
Begin at one end of the weave poles and slowly lure your GSD through the poles. Reinforce their efforts with tasty rewards regularly.
Practice slowly. Gently speed up after a few repetitions. Add in your command word to weave.
Gradually phase out the rewards during the weaving and only reward a treat at the end.
Don’t rush your early training and your dog will speed up quickly when they get the idea and the feel for the weaving motion.
Many Shepherds love the weave and will readily enjoy it when you increase the difficulty with more poles.
Weave Pole Exercise for German Shepherds
2 to 3 days a week train your German Shepherd to use the weave poles. Start slowly as they gain confidence in their new agility.
Increase the challenge by adding in more poles or shortening the distance between poles. Encourage your dog to repeat the weave once they come through the end by running with them to the start of the weave poles and giving your command to weave again.
Daily German Shepherd Exercise Routine for Health
Experiment with different activities to see what your dog enjoys. Find a
schedule that works for you and stick to an activity routine for the best
health benefits for your companion.
A complete daily fitness routine also means that your dog’s mind, behavior, social interactions, and body is active and strong.
Exercising your German Shepherd doesn’t mean just walking them.
There are many parts of a well-balanced daily German Shepherd exercise routine.
Depending on your GSD’s age and activity level, adjust the time, distance, and intensity of your activities. Don’t push your dog too hard too soon. Use a variety of exercises and activities to keep your dog active.
Give your dog rest, nutrition, and time to recover after strenuous activity to keep them fit and healthy.
Find a fitness routine that works for you and your dog and enjoy watching them become super athletes and the picture of physical health.
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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