15 Super-Easy Games to Mentally Stimulate Your German Shepherd (Even Puppies)
If your German Shepherd could talk he’d tell you how bored he is and how he needs mental stimulation right away.
But, he can’t talk.
He chews up your expensive shoes, digs holes all over the backyard, and eats your favorite couch cushions.
That’s why mental stimulation for a German Shepherd is so essential… especially for puppies!
Keeping a high-energy dog’s brain engaged is one of the most important ingredients that’ll go a long way to keep them calm, relaxed, and well-balanced.
And when you know the best German Shepherd mental stimulation games, both you and your dog are happy!
German Shepherd Mental Stimulation
We’ve all heard that German Shepherds require plenty of physical exercises and must start obedience training at home from day one.
But what about mental stimulation for German Shepherds?
What exactly is that?
Mental stimulation for German Shepherds are activities that engage their minds, keep them entertained using their senses, and are challenging and fun. In essence, it’s brain games and brain training.
There are plenty of ways to mentally stimulate your dog, and these brain games only take a few minutes each day. So, stimulating your German Shepherd’s mind is easy to fit into your busy schedule.
There’s even a handy schedule for you, found below the list of ideas, to help get you started! ✅
Do German shepherds need mental stimulation?
Yes, German Shepherds need mental stimulation to develop life skills essential to their training. Your German Shepherd is a willing and responsive learner with high intelligence and needs mental stimulation to help to reach and mold this intelligence into productive channels. Engaging your German Shepherd in mental stimulation helps to avoid frustrating behaviors, such as excessive barking and chewing. Mentally stimulating your German Shepherd provides a positive way to bond while offering new and interesting games to take a break from following the same old routines.
Without mental exercises to stretch your GSD’s brain, simple obedience tasks and behaviors will be more difficult to achieve. Your dog could even become destructive, bored, or worse — depressed and withdrawn (source).
How much mental exercise does a German Shepherd need?
German Shepherds need at least 2 hours of both physical and mental exercise per day, ideally more. This time ideally includes essential daily walks (45-60 minutes), purposeful engaging activity (45-60 minutes), and mental stimulation (30-45 minutes). Look to start including mental exercise for your dog in small bouts of a few minutes, working up to longer, more engaging mind exercises strewn throughout the day.
Mental stimulation and mind exercises for your dog or puppy have numerous benefits. Engaging your dog’s mind can tire out a puppy or adult dog just as much as physical exercise and can keep them from developing inappropriate behaviors.
How to Start Mental Stimulation Games
Start with a shorter time of 5 minutes of mental exercise for German Shepherd puppies and dogs new to brain games. Work on increasing the difficulty of the games over a few weeks to help introduce your dog to new challenges. A total goal time to work towards is 30 to 45 minutes of mental exercises, including a variety of challenges and activities.
This time can be split throughout the day with smaller sessions of a few minutes or longer, ideally. For puppies, even just a few minutes of mental stimulation can have a great impact on their development and learning.
Include mental stimulation a few times a week, with the goal of including mental exercise and brain games daily for the best results.
And, don’t just stop with these fun mental stimulation games for your GSD pup.
Do yourself and your dog a favor…
Focus on strengthening your early bonding by learning how enrichment for a German Shepherd can improve your life with your dog.
How do you mentally stimulate a German Shepherd?
In the wild, the ancestors of the GSD would have had to use their natural abilities to track down prey (scenting), listen for hazards (hearing), and roam for miles to find fresh hunting grounds and water. They would have spent an enormous amount of energy physically moving about and using their minds.
But in this modern world mental stimulation helps to appease these natural urges that your German Shepherd still maintains and helps focus your dog’s instincts into productive activities.
You can mentally stimulate a German Shepherd puppy or dog by:
- Teaching them new training tricks
- Exposing them to different objects, people, and places
- Training them to play brain games
- Giving them mental exercise to sniff, track, and hunt
- Providing them opportunities to use all their natural instincts positively
Most importantly, try a few of the ideas listed below to mentally stimulate a German Shepherd and explore the games and activities your dog prefers.
How do I stimulate my German Shepherd puppy?
Even a German Shepherd puppy can enjoy mental stimulation. All of these mental exercises are age-appropriate for a young dog.
German Shepherd puppies stimulation ideas:
- Games and fun
- Brain training and mind activities
- New adventures
- Novel toys with different sounds and textures
Don’t neglect mental stimulation for your puppy!
In fact, the earlier you begin mentally stimulating your German Shepherd puppy the easier they’ll be to train and live with later on. Many owners look to physical exercise when trying to tire out their energetic puppy (source).
But, over-exercising your German Shepherd puppy and the wrong types of exercise could do more harm than good! Focus on age-appropriate fun German Shepherd puppy exercises that’ll keep your puppy healthy and happy. 🎉
When should you give a German Shepherd mental stimulation?
Don’t wait until your German Shepherd has behavior issues or is destructive in your house to give them mental stimulation. Your German Shepherd should have mental stimulation daily, starting from when they are 8 weeks old and continuing into their senior years.
One of the best benefits of mental stimulation is your ability to adjust the mental exercise and activities to your dog’s personality, likes and dislikes, and age.
Give stimulation to your German Shepherd:
- Starting early as a puppy
- Using positive training and encouragement
- Continuing into their adult and senior years
- BEFORE they act out or have behavior issues
Let’s get down to business with exciting and fun mental stimulation games you can play with your dog right now.
15 Proven German Shepherd Mental Stimulation Games to Play Right Now
Looking to stimulate your German Shepherd puppy?
These super-easy mind game ideas are not only easy to play, but they also keep your puppy out of trouble and focused on the right things. Don’t forget that a stimulated puppy is less likely to destroy things, chew, and develop behavioral issues.
So, get started right away.
Game on! 🏐
Mental Exercises for German Shepherds
|Mental Game||Stimulation Benefits|
|Find the treat||Nose game for scenting and to prevent boredom|
|Mental exercise with puzzle toys||Brain game for their mental health and mind growth|
|Bubble chase and pop||Environment game that’s visually fun and burns energy|
|Nature obstacle course||Exercise game, new ways to move, outdoor time|
|Train a new command||Mind training, bonding with you, better behavior|
|Social enrichment||Stimulation with their own kind, learning social skills|
|Try a new exercise||Physical and mental stimulation to avoid monotony|
|Create an enrichment box||Surprises around every box boost brain stimulation|
|Provide chew toys||Chewing decreases anxiety and stimulates their mind|
|Flirt pole game||Hones their chasing behavior in a positive way|
|Give them a job||Focuses their working breed energy and intelligence|
|Scavenger hunt||Brain game that uses their nose and mind|
|Teach them to weave||Begin agility training to give them a job and a purpose|
|Enjoy a balancing act||Use balance boards to stimulate their brains and bodies|
|Buried treasure||For puppies and adults – allows them to dig appropriately and satisfy their natural digging urges|
1. Find the Treat
Grab a handful of treats for your German Shepherd and have your dog in another area where they can’t watch you.
Hide the treats in various locations for your dog to search and find. Remember to start out easy.
You may need to place a few treats in obvious areas, like right in the open.
Release your dog and say “Find the treat!” Take them through the room and help them search for the treats.
After a few rounds of play, your GSD will use their nose to race ahead of you and find those little hidden treasures!
Here’s the deal if you’re worried about too many treats…
To keep your dog’s weight in check, choose from this list of the best treats for German Shepherds (Yes, even puppies!) 🐾
2. Mental Exercise with Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys are an excellent way to stimulate your dog’s brain using interactive movements that give them the opportunity to challenge their mind to earn a reward.
There’s plenty of puzzle toys for dogs that your German Shepherd has to paw and nudge to reveal the hidden treats inside.
Here’s the thing…
With so many fun puzzle games on the market, how will you choose the right ones?
Luckily, my German Shepherd went through vigorous (and fun!) testing to bring you the best puzzle game toys for German Shepherds that’ll blow their minds!
3. Bubble Chase and Pop
Do you have an energetic German Shepherd and a kid?
Because both kids and dogs love this game!
Have your kids (or yourself) blow bubbles for your dog to chase and pop while they burn off their pent-up energy outside!
Don’t use the regular store-bought bubbles though, since the soap in the formula could make your dog sick.
Treat your pup to these dog-safe peanut butter-flavored bubbles!
4. Use Nature as an Obstacle Course
What better way to keep your German Shepherd active, fit, and mentally happy than by strapping on a small backpack and taking them to a new place to hike and explore?
There are endless interesting scents your dog will smell and the varying terrain provides your German Shepherd a way to tap into their skills and increase their mental stimulation.
Mother nature provides all you need for this obstacle course.
Large fallen log? Have your dog walk or hop over it!
Big puddle? Splash right in!
Pile of leaves? Get ready to rumble!
To really hone in on their working breed background, why not try a comfortable and adjustable doggie backpack loaded with no more than 10% of their weight?
If you have a puppy, it’s safer on their joints to not load any weight in the backpack, but you can get them comfortable wearing the backpack for future hikes. And, they still will enjoy the new hike with you!
5. Teach Them A New Command
Do you think your German Shepherd knows every command possible?
Well, think again!
German Shepherds are very intelligent and eager to please their owners. This makes them prime candidates for even more mentally stimulating training.
There are endless commands and tricks to teach your German Shepherd who will enjoy every minute of these challenging mental exercises with you.
Sounds good, right?
Catch up on all your obedience using the Ultimate List of German Shepherd Commands and watch your dog’s brain love the mental stimulation of learning a new skill.
6. Stimulating Social Enrichment
While socialization is a crucial part of your German Shepherd puppy’s development, it’s also important for adult dogs.
Provide your puppy the opportunity to play with other vaccinated puppies and dogs that you know are happy and safe around other dogs. Don’t venture into encounters with unknown dogs to avoid any negative feelings about socialization.
And don’t force your dog or puppy into playing or meeting a dog they shy away from.
I suggest simply sitting on a bench in an area that allows you and your German Shepherd to observe from a distance the world passing you by… literally.
When they look back to you after watching another dog or object, give them a tasty treat for behaving nicely. If your German Shepherd is lunging or barking they’re too mentally stimulated, so back away from the new things they don’t like until they’re calmer.
7. Enjoy a New Exercise Together
Are you and your dog stuck in the same exercise rut?
Why not switch it up and enjoy a different exorcise together?
German Shepherds generally love to swim, jog, and run with their owners.
Especially those that are high drive and stuck indoors most of the day. Take advantage of your breed’s athletic abilities and put their stamina to use.
New Exercise Ideas
If your German Shepherd is an adult and has the vet’s OK, think about registering for your first 5k together. Use a training program like Couch to 5k to start off easy with your dog and work up to longer distances. If your dog is under 18 months of age, don’t force them to run with you or you could damage their joints.
Only run or jog when heat isn’t an issue, such as early morning times, and carry water for both you and your companion. Try to run on softer surfaces mostly (stay away from concrete and asphalt) to avoid any bone and joint damage.
Too hot outside to run and jog?
Do a search for ponds, creeks, or lakes nearby where you can take your dog for a walk in the evenings as the sun goes down. Always, always watch your dog around water, especially puppies since many overestimate their swimming abilities and could get hurt.
Even changing up your dog’s current walk can easily increase their mental stimulation opportunities.
Why not try one of these exercises for your German Shepherd to brighten up their day?
8. Create a Dog Enrichment Box
To make this mentally stimulating enrichment box, find a larger cardboard box, some smaller boxes of various sizes, empty toilet rolls, and old newspaper or brown packing paper.
Place a few treats in the toilet rolls, inside the smaller boxes, or wrap them in the newspaper and brown packing paper. Now, fill up the big box with these treat treasures!
Look: You may have a mess of shredded paper and chewed boxes to clean up.
It’s great mental stimulation and enrichment for your German Shepherd puppy that builds confidence, too!
9. Provide the Right Chew Toys
Chewing is a totally natural behavior for your dog and even has many benefits.
When your dog chews for an extended period of time it has a calming effect on the brain. Stress levels are lowered and your dog experiences a sense of calmness. While your dog chews it releases special endorphins which give its brain a relaxing feeling.
Chewing on the right toys redirects your dog from destructive chewing of your household items and can even help improve their dental health.
Looking for a tasty chew treat that takes your German Shepherd hours of chewing and naturally cleans off tartar and plaque buildup?
Give your dog a Himalayan Yak Milk Dog Chew to help them release those feel-good endorphins while supporting their dental health and engaging in mental exercise.
10. Flirt Pole Game
Do you have an energetic German Shepherd but not a lot of space to let them run free?
Enter the tail-teaser flirt pole!
The flirt pole is basically like one of those cat toys where you move the stick around with a fish on the end of it for them to chase, except…
It’s for high-drive dogs and way sturdier!
Simply move the attached toy around the ground for your dog to chase and catch. You can work on your release/drop commands at the same time, so it’s great for your German Shepherd’s mental stimulation and training.
Don’t make your dog jump high or twist wildly to get the toy since this can injure their paws or hips.
Instead, move the fluffy toy along the ground like a rabbit for them to hunt and chase.
You can even change out the toy on the end to their favorite toy when you get a model like this sturdy flirt pole for German Shepherds that’ll keep them stimulated! 🎣
11. Give Them a Job
Why not teach your German Shepherd a job they can do at home to help you out and give them some needed mental stimulation?
If your dog knows the basic training commands, then step it up a notch and give them a dog job at home.
- Teach them to close doors
- Carry your mail inside
- Put their toys away
- And so much more!
- Use these ideas for jobs for German Shepherds at home 🏠
Your imagination and patience are the only limits!
Put your dog’s brain training to work for you and let them help around the house.
12. Doggie Scavenger Hunt
A doggie scavenger hunt keeps your German Shepherd’s mind stimulated by playing a game similar to hide and seek. But, instead of finding people hiding, your dog finds things with their nose.
Here’s how to play this stimulating game:
- Begin this brain game by starting with one of their favorite toys.
- First, place the toy in an easy-to-find spot in plain sight.
- Now, ask your German Shepherd to “Find” the toy.
- If the toy has a name, say “Find” and then add the toy’s name.
- When your GSD finds the toy, reward them with exciting praise and engage them in play with their toy and you.
Finally, repeat the same steps above.
But now, hide the toy a little bit harder every time you play. Work up to hiding the toy in another room while your dog waits patiently. For an even bigger challenge, work on naming your toys and hiding different toys around the home while telling your dog to find a specific toy.
This type of brain game works your German Shepherd’s mental stimulation and challenges their mind to focus while their nose tracks the scent of the object.
13. Teach Them to Weave
Did you know that your German Shepherd is naturally designed to weave in and out?
And you can start by teaching your German Shepherd dog or puppy to weave around your legs for a quick dose of mental exercise.
This mental exercise can be trained anywhere you can stand while your German Shepherd moves around you (even during commercial breaks for your nightly television program).
Here’s how to begin this physically and mentally stimulating brain game:
- Stand with your legs wide enough apart for your dog to go through them.
- Hold a treat in each of your hands and lure your dog through your legs from the front to the back using the right hand with the treat.
- As he follows your hand through your legs, lure him around the outside of your right leg to the front and then offer him the treat.
- Continue the pattern by bringing your left hand behind your left leg and lure him back through your legs and around the outside of your right leg to the front. Now offer him the treat.
- Keep repeating the pattern until your dog finally seems to weave with ease. Now, name the behavior, something like “weave” should be said once your dog moves comfortably through your legs.
Once your German Shepherd learns this new trick, you’re prepared to give them another boost in their brain by using weave poles, like these, to begin agility training!
14. Balancing Act
Learning to balance is not only a mentally stimulating trick for your German Shepherd, but it helps them to avoid future injuries.
In order to stay balanced your dog must learn to control their body movements, which requires great physical and mental skill.
As they gain confidence in these skills you can encourage them to try more challenging balances.
And, you’d be right if you were thinking this is a great brain game to play on a rainy or snowy day!
How to Perform the Balancing Act:
- First, begin small by asking your German Shepherd to place one paw on the balancing board.
- Next, have them place two paws.
- Keep working on how long they can hold their positions before moving on to having them step entirely onto the board.
By teaching your German Shepherd to have more control over their bodies, fine-tunes their muscular system, and helps prevent future injuries.
And the best part?
It’s easier than you think to get started with this mental and physical stimulation by using an inexpensive dog balancing disc made especially for large dogs
Teaching your dog to balance has long-term benefits not only for their mental health but for keeping aging bones flexible and less prone to injury. And, puppies love to use their energy learning a new physical skill!
15. Buried Treasure
Make no doubt about it, every German Shepherd owner should let their German Shepherd express their natural instincts of digging and foraging.
I don’t mean digging holes in your furniture for fun!
And you’d be right to want to discourage that type of unwanted behavior in your puppy.
Instead, offer them an old blanket or comforter with their toys or food treats wrapped and buried in the folds of the material.
Not only is this a totally free activity, but it’s a useful outlet for dogs that love to dig and burrow to get their energy out!
Let your puppy watch you hide their toys or treats in the folds of the old blanket the first few times so they understand the game. Then, encourage them to “Find” their surprise!
As you continue your brain game, tuck the toy or treats further inside the folded material. This really mentally entices your dog and their brain!
Buried Treasure Outdoors
But what about adult German Shepherds who are too powerful to play this game inside?
If your German Shepherd digs frantically, then why not get them their own sandpit outdoors?
Instead of fighting this natural urge, redirect their digging to an area that you can control.
Simply fill a kid’s plastic pool with clean play sand and let them dig in an approved area, instead of tearing up your roses.
It’s a tip that’ll save not only your pretty plants but your relationship with your German Shepherd!
Below, you’ll even find a German Shepherd mental stimulation schedule as an example for you to get started with brain exercises for your GSD.
Easy Schedule for a German Shepherd’s Mental Stimulation
|Highest Energy Dog||Brain game puzzle, learning new obedience command||Outdoor obstacle course, chew toy||Flirt pole game, balancing activity|
|High Energy Dog||Obstacle course outdoors, teach them a job around the house||Flirt pole activity, brain game training puzzle||Social enrichment time, learning to pole weave|
|Medium Energy Dog||Bubble chase and pop||Training a new command||Balancing act game, chew toy activity|
|Low Energy Dog||Chew toy exercise||Brain game puzzle||Dog enrichment box|
This is just an EXAMPLE schedule to help you get started with brain training for your German Shepherd. Please choose activities your dog loves and adjust to their personality and energy level.
Not all dogs will enjoy all of the suggested brain games. Feel free to drop what doesn’t work, and try new games with your dog.
To Round Up – Mental Stimulation for German Shepherds and Puppies
Remember, just like you, German Shepherds crave mental stimulation to keep them interested and happy in their lives!
But here’s the problem…
It all boils down to this…
You think you don’t know what to do or have the time to invest in learning how to give your dog the mental stimulation he needs and wants.
Would you rather come home to a house that looks like it’s been torn up with furniture broken and stuffing from your lounge chair all over the place?
Or, will you take 5 or 10 minutes to engage your German Shepherd in mentally stimulating exercises and brain games that keep them out of trouble?
It’s your responsibility to focus their intelligence and energy on the right types of mental stimulation to ensure they are stable and satisfied in life (source).
Brain Training Your German Shepherd
But, don’t worry.
There’s a solution to keep you on track with your German Shepherd’s mental stimulation and brain exercises.
It’s called Brain Training for Dogs and is a scientifically-based online dog training program. Sometimes, all you need is a bit of help to enjoy a well-behaved and well-mannered German Shepherd through a program that keeps you on track. 💡
So take the next step and get started right away.
Enjoy these brain training games for your German Shepherd! 💗
If I can brain train my German Shepherd you can too!