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Do you want to learn how to exhaust a German Shepherd to tire them out so you can stop feeling worn out and stressed?
It might feel like a well-kept secret guarded by famous dog trainers, but it’s not!
So, how do they do it?
They use essential dog skills, which you can learn easily right here.
Now, take a moment to imagine this: the next time you sit down to read your favorite book, you’ll be armed with tools to make your dog calm down so you can get a bit of peace and quiet.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Below, I will show you exactly how to exhaust a German Shepherd (even a puppy) to not only tire them out…
But to calm them down, too.
Dealing With a Hyper German Shepherd
As much as you adore your German Shepherd and laugh at their silly play, you’re probably not particularly fond of their high-energy destructive behavior — especially at inappropriate times.
While most German Shepherd puppies will outgrow their hyper behavior, adult German Shepherds will most likely still maintain a high energy level that you’ll need to learn how to channel into more calming activities.
German Shepherds have one of the highest exercise needs and are considered not only athletic but highly intelligent. These two traits coupled together make for a breed that may seem hyper and overactive. Some might even refer to their dog as having ADHD.
Most likely your German Shepherd isn’t hyper or overactive. Instead, they probably need a more creative daily routine to help them meet their breed-specific needs.
Let’s see how you can do that!
Can you teach your German Shepherd how to be calm?
I know you feel overwhelmed with your dog right now, but please remember they’re a working breed living in your modern, more sedentary, world. They most likely won’t respond immediately to your attempts to calm them down.
Being calm is a learned behavior that takes time to master and requires daily interaction and ongoing training to perfect. Don’t punish them or use harsh discipline, because this will elevate their energy levels and they won’t understand what they’ve done wrong because they don’t have an alternative calming behavior.
It’s YOUR job to teach your German Shepherd how to use up their energy in productive ways, so they can relax and be calm later when you need them to.
Here’s how to train calmness and exhaust a German Shepherd to tire them out the right way.
How to Exhaust a German Shepherd
Putting together an effective calming routine for your hyper German Shepherd isn’t impossible (in fact, it’s far from it). But it does require time, effort, and grit.
Stick with the program for a few months to see the best effects.
Exhausting a working breed dog is quite a feat, but you can teach them how to release their energy in more productive ways that don’t drive you mad.
Step 1: Don’t just focus on the daily walks.
I’m sure you already know that German Shepherds require 2 hours of exercise a day. But your daily walks aren’t enough for this fast-paced, high-drive breed.
You’ll need to rethink your exercise routine and understand more about your German Shepherd’s breed history.
Your German Shepherd is a well-muscled athlete whose body structure is designed for endurance. They’ve been bred to work all day long and are always on duty and on guard. This isn’t going to change because you give them an extra hour of walks.
You’re going to need to think of ways to physically tire out your German Shepherd other than neighborhood walks.
Think you can outrun and outdistance your German Shepherd?
Probably not — unless you’re a seasoned marathon runner, tri-athlete, or Olympian.
Never forget that your dog is first and foremost an athlete and must be challenged regularly and exercised in a variety of ways daily. The German Shepherd can wait all day while you’re at work or school without suffering separation anxiety or becoming destructive, but he needs to know that at the end of the day you will spend time exercising him and interacting together.
Walking Isn’t Tiring for Your German Shepherd
Instead of focusing on walking your German Shepherd, consider all of the options you can introduce to your working breed dog.
There are several kinds of exercise that are easy to add to your routine:
Exercise for elimination, this is generally your daily walk
Exercise for muscle building
Exercise for coordination skills
Exercise for fun and bonding
Exercise for learning and mental stimulation
In my experience, most owners who have problems with hyper German Shepherds that don’t tire often neglect the full athleticism that caring for a working breed dog requires. If your dog doesn’t work off their physical energy outside, then he or she will work it off inside.
Follow these steps for a rounded exercise plan:
For puppies, let them enjoy off-leash exploration in your yard or use a long line leash in a safe area and encourage them to explore at least 20 minutes daily
For adults, try hill walking to increase muscle, or using fallen logs, tree stumps, and other natural obstacles and have your dog move around and jump over them to improve coordination and balance
Find a physical game your dog loves, such as tug, and play an extra 15 minutes in the morning and evening
Offer them mind games, described below, to have them use up their mental energy
Find new activities to enjoy together with your German Shepherd, such as backyard agility or dog parkour
As your dog learns to figure out the game or puzzle they’ll use up their energy in productive ways that keep them calmer.
When they master one of the mind games you can increase the difficulty with a different and harder challenge. This keeps your German Shepherd’s mind engaged and reduces boredom. When your dog is bored they’re more likely to become hyper.
Exhausting their mind through mental challenges encourages calm, thoughtful play.
Playing mind games also:
encourages calming behavior
are great for small spaces
are perfect for bad weather days
increase confidence and problem-solving skills
Mental stimulation and mental exercise are best played 2 to 3 times daily for 5 to 10 minutes each session. Add in a mental enrichment session in the morning before you leave for the day and after their last walk to help calm them down for the evening.
Are you guilty of pulling your German Shepherd along on their leash outside, rushing them through the routine, and hurrying them along?
Then you’re missing out on one of nature’s best free ways to tire out and exhaust a German Shepherd!
Did you know that sniffing is exhausting work for your German Shepherd because they mentally have to process the source of the smell? (source)
And while we use our eyes to interpret our surroundings, your dog uses their nose. Compared to the meager 5 million olfactory receptors in our human nose, German Shepherds have around 225 million scent receptors (source)!
Instead of rushing through your walks, let your German Shepherd linger to enjoy their favorite sniffing spots — as long as it’s safe.
Don’t just pull and tug them through the walk, but allow them time to take in all their smells of the environment.
Sniff to Calm Routine
Try this sniffing routine to help calm a hyper German Shepherd:
Set aside at least 15 minutes of your walk for sniffing.
You can split this time during the beginning, middle, or end of the walk as you see fit.
Even better, add on another 10 minutes to each of your daily walks just to engage your German Shepherd’s nose and motivate them to sniff.
You can even visit a new path or trail to allow your dog to follow their nose on different scents.
Don’t rush them along when they’re nose-deep in the grass because this tires their mind and helps to exhaust their energy.
Sniffing is such a vital part of your dog’s world that depriving him of the opportunity can cause them to become depressed, anxious, or even overly hyper!
If you want to let your dog off-leash to sniff but keep them safe and close, then consider using a long line leash that allows your German Shepherd to sniff around freely while staying safe and nearby.
Step 4: Encourage appropriate daily chewing.
Kong toys to the rescue!
Place your German Shepherd’s food inside a Kong toy which is specially designed to make them work to get to the food. When they become too hyper, focus their attention on the Kong toy.
Here’s why this is important…
They’ll have to concentrate on retrieving their reward through chewing and licking, which are behaviors that have been shown to decrease arousal in dogs. So, they stop whatever unwanted behavior they’re doing and focus on more constructive behavior that helps relieve their hyper energy.
I love to keep multiple stuffed Kong toys in my freezer. Freezing the Kongs increases the time it takes for my German Shepherd to earn her meal, so she stays calmer for longer, and working for her food tires her out.
Feed your German Shepherd from a Kong toy for at least 1 of their daily meals to give them an outlet for their hyper energy. This is one of the daily essentials that I use to help exhaust my German Shepherd.
You can learn all about how to use one of the greatest tools you’re probably missing by reading this useful guide on The Best Kong Toys for German Shepherds to Reduce Behavior Problems. The guide not only shows the most durable Kong toys so you spend less money but the exact ways to use the Kong to prevent and lessen unwanted behavior issues.
Don’t skip out on all the ways you can use the Kong to help your German Shepherd…
Or you’ll regret it later!
Step 5: Build and practice new tricks and training skills.
Do you train your German Shepherd daily?
You’d be surprised at how exhausting working on obedience commands or learning a new trick or skill is for your dog. Additionally, building a relationship based on command and responses can help you to redirect your dog’s inappropriate behavior to a competing behavior.
For example, your dog can’t jump on you if they know the down cue and follow your commands. And, if they know a handful of tricks they really love, it’ll be hard for them to run through the house with zoomies when you ask them to show off their new skills.
Spend at least 10 minutes a day, preferably broken up into smaller 2-3 minute fragments spread throughout the day, working on polishing up their old skills and learning new tricks.
Does your dog know all the basic commands even outdoors and if you’re far away from them?
Test your dog’s skills when there are distractions around them to see if they REALLY know their commands. Take them to different, safe areas on a leash and work on what they know and see how well they perform.
Start in your home, then try different rooms, in the backyard, front yard, or while on your daily walks. You can then see what you can polish up or add to their skill set.
Why You Can’t Exhaust a German Shepherd Through Physical Exercise Only
The German Shepherd is a dog built for endurance, athleticism, and tireless work. There’s a reason why this breed is chosen as a working dog for many different types of environments.
Think about this…
Let’s say you start training for a long race. Every week, you add just a few more minutes of running onto your routine. By the time several months come along, you’re running a half-marathon (or more)!
The same is true for trying to tire your German Shepherd through physical exercise alone.
As you increase your German Shepherd’s walks (or jogs or runs) they adapt to the routine.
Remember, the German Shepherd was specially bred for his adaptability, so he’ll have no problem when you continue to add to his regular exercise. What tacking on more exercise does is simply build a more powerful and athletic German Shepherd.
Let’s be honest, do you try to exhaust your German Shepherd by giving them more walks?
I know the feeling because I’ve been there too!
But, more exercise isn’t the answer.
When you think of exhaustion and tiredness, don’t just focus on the physical aspects. Your German Shepherd is more than a well-oiled athletic machine. Give all their senses a workout to truly tire out your German Shepherd.
The Best Exercise Formula to Tire Out Your German Shepherd
The best way to exhaust a German Shepherd depends on their age, health, and unique personality. But, as a general rule, you can use the following exercise formula to help you exhaust and tire out your German Shepherd.
Adult healthy Shepherds need a minimum of 60 minutes of physical exercise, but most adult German Shepherds do best with 120 minutes of exercise, split throughout the day. This time should include about 15 to 30 minutes of high-intensity physical activity, such as tug or off-leash running. Also, include at least 15 to 30 minutes of mental activity and brain training, a daily chewing session (preferably with a food-filled frozen Kong). And last — but definitely NOT least — set aside 15 to 20 minutes of your day or longer to enjoy one-on-one time with your German Shepherd to help them bond with you.
Exhausting and tiring out your German Shepherd means a complete and balanced routine that you perform daily over a long period.
Tiring a German Shepherd usually isn’t immediately done, but these are the techniques that’ll help make your life with a high-energy working breed more enjoyable.
Consider that your German Shepherd puppy might not need you to exhaust them if they seem too hyper and wound up. Puppies need lots of sleep and rest and may act wild, crazy, and uncontrollable when what they really need is a quiet place to rest and get a nap.
Always give your puppy the opportunity to find a place where they can rest, away from the bustle of the family. Many German Shepherd puppy owners have success feeding their dogs a stuffed Kong in their crates or bed when they have a lot of energy, which encourages calmness and helps them to tire while in their resting place.
Try giving your hyper German Shepherd puppy a frozen Kong to help with teething and give them an outlet for their hyper energy or a way to help calm themselves and drift off to sleep.
Use Caution When Exercising a German Shepherd Puppy
German Shepherd puppies’ bones are still growing and cannot take high-impact activities. Running your puppy while their bones are not fully fused can cause lifelong damage and put them in pain.
Your German Shepherd puppy needs the right amount and type of exercise for their age. Accidents may still happen but ensuring that you don’t overdo it will give your puppy the best opportunity of developing a strong frame for his body.
Examples of good exercise for German Shepherd puppies include:
playing with other dogs and puppies of similar energy levels while supervised
self-directed play indoors and out in safe areas
short walks that gradually lengthen over time, preferably on grass
As your puppy grows you can then slowly include more activities such as going up and down stairs, jumping onto soft surfaces, and introducing swimming.
Try the following routine when looking for safe exercises for your German Shepherd puppy. The workouts listed in the post work on the essential physical movements your puppy needs to master while protecting his or her soft joints.
Hold off on running and other joint-impacting exercises until your puppy is over 18 months and you’ve checked with your vet (source). This way, you’ll ensure you keep your dog safe and healthy.
Trust me, you’ll have plenty of years to run a marathon with your German Shepherd after they’re fully grown.
Physical Versus Mental Exercise
The right balance of mental & physical activity can keep a German Shepherd busy and entertained. A German Shepherd requires both mental & physical activity to not only tire them but exhaust their energy reserves.
To build the perfect plan for your dog, add new steps each day until you find the routine that works for your dog’s energy level. You’ll know you’ve found the proper balance when your hyper German Shepherd begins to relax more throughout the day.
If you’re giving your German Shepherd plenty of physical exercises and they’re still hyped up, then increase their mental activities and the variety of their physical exercise and watch how they respond. (P.S. – There are more fun games to tire out your German Shepherd here you might miss out on!)
A properly stuffed and frozen food-filled Kong can keep a dog busy for 30-minutes or more while tiring out their minds. And puzzle games will provide your German Shepherd with a way to work out when the weather is less than ideal to release some of their energy and improve their problem-solving skills.
In other words…
Tiring out and calming a German Shepherd requires a healthy balance of both mind and body exercise.
Thinking Outside the Box: Tiring Out A German Shepherd
Knowing how to exhaust a German Shepherd means thinking smarter, not harder.
Instead of focusing on more exercise, think of all your German Shepherd’s senses and abilities. Spend time not only with physical movements but mental enrichment, as well as their innate desire to chew and sniff.
While it takes some time to see the benefits of adding these tips into your daily life, the new routine will give you more freedom with your German Shepherd and help prevent annoying behaviors.
Tiring out and exhausting a German Shepherd means:
using more than just walks for exercise
increasing their mental engagement
focusing on their innate desire to sniff
letting them chew to release calmness
working on brushing up old skills and learning new ones
Don’t get caught up in the trap of simply increasing your dog’s daily physical exercise. They might seem tired the first few days, but German Shepherds have extraordinary athletic abilities and are known for their quickness to adapt.
The end result of all your running and jogging?
They’ll quickly learn to keep up and outpace you, leaving you in the same spot you were before draining yourself.
Here’s what to do instead…
Think outside the box! 📦
Use your dog’s natural abilities and instincts to build a routine that focuses their energy into productive activities with you that balance both their mental and physical needs.
A German Shepherd is capable of learning almost anything, even being calm.
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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