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If you want to know how to keep a German Shepherd busy and entertained then you’re in the right place.
Entertaining a highly intelligent dog is quite a feat, but with a bit of preparation and creativity, you can keep a German Shepherd busy…
Even if you’ve got a hyper puppy!
Below, you’ll find fun ways to keep your dog happy and help prevent boredom.
How to Keep a German Shepherd Busy and Entertained
Due to the hectic lifestyles that many of us lead today, German Shepherds might spend many hours alone at home every day.
Left to their own devices they’ll find ways to entertain themselves, which can not only destroy your home or belongings but lead to behavioral problems. It’s best to learn how to keep a German Shepherd occupied and busy, especially puppies, or you’ll walk into your front door one day to a totally unexpected and unwanted surprise.
So, when you’re going to be out and away from home for a while, make sure your German Shepherd puppy has something to keep her busy and happy. And, if you want to keep your dog entertained while you’re at home you’ll also find some fun activities to enjoy with them.
Here are some of my favorite ideas.
1. Give them the King of toys – the Kong.
You’re truly missing out if you don’t own a Kong…
Or half a dozen of them!
They’re one part toy and one part treat — that equals a 100% happy German Shepherd!
Kongs are great for hiding treats or serving their daily meal and keeping them busy. The snowman-shaped toy has 2 openings — one that’s small enough to provide your German Shepherd with a challenge to remove their treat or food and another that allows in the air for safety.
Stuff the Kong with natural peanut butter, their favorite dog-safe foods, special treats, or even fill with a mixture of all. Most German Shepherds will stay happily busy working for their food.
And, a properly stuffed and frozen Kong could take a lot of time for your dog to release all their tasty reward.
That means you can take that conference call, make tonight’s dinner in peace, or even just relax with a coffee and favorite book.
Is it summertime and you need to help them beat the heat?
Kong to the rescue for busy-time and summer fun!
Not only can the Kong toy itself be filled and frozen, but for an extra treat fill a freezer-safe plastic container with low-sodium broth and water and drop your food-filled Kong inside the mixture. Leave it to freeze overnight. Then, take the toy and your dog to a safe spot where they can enjoy licking and chewing their giant-size pupsicle!
Do you have a teething German Shepherd puppy to keep busy?
Place their soaked kibble in the Kong and freeze for them to soothe their inflamed gums and aching jaws while they chew and squeeze away the pain.
Some Shepherds enjoy watching the sights and sounds of the world going by. Others will bark at leaves falling. Depending on where you live and your dog’s personality, leave your television on a channel that interests your dog.
Here are a few stations that dogs generally enjoy:
There are even YouTube channels that cater especially to dogs at home that need some visual and auditory stimulation. While watching these videos your German Shepherd can see squirrels, cats, birds, other dogs, and nature scenes — all while hearing the sounds of the animals along with calming music.
The sights and sounds of yapping dogs and purring cats help to stimulate your German Shepherd’s brain in a quiet house (source).
If you know your dog gets upset hearing other dogs or animals, then look for calming music channels that play soothing sounds and tunes to comfort anxious dogs. Even relaxing sounds can be engaging for dogs that prefer more mellow activity and keep their minds occupied while you’re at work.
Keep trying a few different stations and channels and watch your German Shepherd’s body language. If you get their ears up with a head tilt you’re on the right track to finding sights and sounds they’ll enjoy while you’re away at work.
Show them a window to the world so they don’t have to feel alone.
3. Provide a search and sniff scavenger hunt.
Did you know that sniffing helps to calm dogs and provides needed mental stimulation to keep their minds occupied (source)?
Encourage your dog to hunt for her meals by hiding small piles of her kibble around your house in safe, easy-to-reach areas so she has to use her nose to find them.
Scatter a couple of handfuls of kibble in the places where your dog hangs out during the day before you leave for the day or when you want to keep her entertained. She’ll have fun hunting her treats while using her nose to follow the food trail you leave behind.
And, if your German Shepherd is busy playing a scent game and entertaining her nose, then she can’t get into trouble around the house.
You determine how easy or difficult you want the game to be depending on where you decide to hide the treats. At first, you might need to leave the food in more open areas as your dog learns to play and sniff for their treasure.
As your dog progresses you can start hiding the food in more difficult areas, but always keep in mind her safety while you’re unable to watch her.
Easy Scavenger Hunt
Hard Scavenger Hunt
larger groups of kibble placed in the open
smaller groups of food placed under safe items
groups of treats together next to items, but not hidden
a kibble trail that leads your dog on a sniffari indoors
You can make the Scavenger Hunt more difficult as your dog learns the game.
You can also hide one of her meals in her Kong puzzle toy right before you leave home. This prompts her to associate you leaving for the day with a positive – as opposed to a negative – emotion and can help lessen the fear of being alone for her.
4. Play a classic game of tug-of-war.
There’s a reason your dog enjoys the old standby game of tug — they get to play it with you!
All you need for this old-school game is a tough rope toy and some space to move around safely. To entice your German Shepherd to grab the rope, wiggle it like a snake, let her take hold of it, and gently begin tugging the rope.
Tug-of-war is great for tiring out your German Shepherd, but it’ll also give you a workout, too! While your dog sinks their teeth and puts her bodyweight into the pull you get a bit of an upper-body and cardio workout.
Plus, did you know that cotton tug ropes provide your German Shepherd the opportunity to easily help clean their teeth?
As they move their jaws on the rope the natural fibers help to remove plaque and buildup, so it’s not just a game it’s a hygiene tool, too.
It’s best to have separate indoor and outdoor tug toys so your house doesn’t get muddy and bring in dirt from the yard. I also buy shorter tug ropes for indoor play to keep my German Shepherd busy when the weather doesn’t permit us to go outdoors.
And despite what you might have heard, playing tug with a German Shepherd doesn’t cause aggression. In fact, research shows that playing tug with your dog is much more complex. In one study dogs handicapped themselves (i.e.: played less rough, let the other dog win) when playing tug for cooperative play (source).
So, rest assured, you can play tug with your German Shepherd puppy and they won’t turn aggressive later. Tug, when played correctly and with rules, can build confidence in German Shepherds and help teach them more about your owner-dow relationship.
And, yes, you can let your dog win frequently without them thinking they’re the alpha.
5. Teach your dog a new trick.
I bet your brilliant German Shepherd would love to keep entertained by learning a new trick or obedience command.
And, I’m sure you want to bond with them even more by spending time training another skill that you can show your friends and family later. You can pick a hard trick that takes a while to learn or an easy trick that your dog might quickly pick up on.
Try getting your dog to “shake” or “give paw” for a tasty treat. Or aim higher by working on naming all of her toys in her toy box so she can get them by name when you ask.
Your German Shepherd is capable of learning almost anything that you take the time and patience to train. Remember, your German Shepherd is so smart for a reason.
Don’t let their intelligence go to waste.
Whether you have a German Shepherd puppy or a full-grown dog, this is super fun to try! Plus, it keeps your dog mentally stimulated so they’re less likely to get into trouble when left alone.
Sometimes your German Shepherd just needs to play with other dogs and socialize. You can schedule playdates with other well-behaved dogs with your friends and family for some puppy entertainment.
If you don’t know anyone else with a friendly dog that you know well, you can look for a playgroup online or ask your veterinarian. Always make sure that both dogs enjoy each other’s company and play well together and never leave them alone, especially puppies because they can quickly find trouble together.
You can also look for a doggy daycare that offers drop-off play sessions when you’re at work. Many doggy daycares will provide discounts if you purchase multiple play days to keep the price reasonable and provide your German Shepherd with more opportunities for entertainment.
There are separate play sections for puppies and larger, adult dogs, so your dog is matched to their appropriate playgroup. Be sure to have all your dog’s vaccinations up to date since reputable doggy daycares require this shot history in order for your pet to join them.
Never underestimate the value of a healthy play session to keep your German Shepherd entertained.
7. Sneak in a new toy.
Do you have a dog that loves to play with toys?
Then help keep them busy by sneaking in a new toy to spark their interest and keep their self-directed play fun. Just think of how excited your German Shepherd will get when they sniff out their new toy!
Also, rotate her toys every week or so to heighten the excitement of playing with her toys. Simply put away a few of the usual toys and sneak in another to replace the missing old toys. Then, rotate them again for a fresh perspective!
It’s so simple to do and saves you money!
8. Teach them how to stay calm.
I know what you’re thinking…
“Teaching them to be calm isn’t busy work or entertaining for them.”
But that’s far from the truth!
Teaching a German Shepherd how to calm themselves and channel their energy into resting and relaxing is actually difficult. This is a breed that seems to stay continuously in the “on mode,” so training them to stay calm helps them to regulate their energy and tires their mind.
Eventually, you’ll find they can go from on to off more reliably, and training a German Shepherd to be calm is a great way to keep them busy and burn off their mental energy too.
If your German Shepherd becomes nervous, anxious, or overactive when you leave home, try these ideas to help comfort them, especially puppies.
Here’s how to teach a German Shepherd calmness:
Spray her bedding and the places she sleeps most of the time with calming scents.
Give a treat designed to encourage rest and relaxation, like these calming chicken and hemp chews. Some owners find calming treats may help keep their pet relaxed while they’re gone and can lessen barking, whining, and other disturbing behaviors.
Use a dog pheromone diffuser. Use a dog-appeasing pheromone diffuser if you think your absence causes anxiety in your German Shepherd. Adaptil makes a calming dog diffuser for this specific purpose that is shown to lessen anxiety symptoms and promote calm. The pheromone released by the diffuser is similar to the one that lactating mother dogs emit to calm their newborn puppies when feeding. So, the pheromone is familiar to your German Shepherd and creates a sense of relaxation and calm. Place the diffuser in a room your dog generally uses or spends most of her time in.
These calming tools are especially helpful to German Shepherd puppies who might be overwhelmed in their new home and miss their littermates and mother.
9. Include a mid-day walk.
The typical dog walking schedule for many working owners is in the morning and evening. But the German Shepherd Dog is a high-energy breed and will benefit from a mid-day walk to add some entertainment to their day.
Many reputable pet care facilities include a dog walking service and will walk your German Shepherd with other dogs that are similar in personality if you like. This way she’ll not only get a healthy walk, but also a dose of socialization and a much-appreciated pack walk with her new friends.
I highly recommend that you also get a GPS tracker for your German Shepherd if you have a dog walker. That way, when your dog is out walking with the dog walker, you’ll know precisely where your pet is…
Plus, it gives me peace of mind to know where my dog is when she’s out with other people.
10. Give remote surprise check-ins.
With all the modern pet technology today you might be overlooking how to keep a German Shepherd busy remotely.
Remote cameras are a great way to keep your German Shepherd occupied and surprised. You can use the app and camera to say hello and give a quick check-in when you’re away from home or at work.
Plus, this affordable pet camera comes with a video and speaker so that you can talk to your dog while you’re away and even train them!
How amazing is that for modern pet technology?
Don’t let a hectic schedule keep you from training your German Shepherd when there’s plenty of creative technology out there.
We’ve all used toys to catch a bit of rest from our German Shepherds and enjoy some quiet time without their nudges. But, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t expect your German Shepherd to play independently all the time.
In fact, it’s good for German Shepherds to learn how to play by themselves since they may find themselves bored and alone without you at times.
Additionally, many toys can exercise your dog’s mind and body without your interaction. Puzzle toys, such as these mesmerizing puzzle toys for German Shepherds, keep your dog’s brain and body occupied as they work out how to get the treats you’ve hidden inside the game.
Each puzzle takes a combination of reasoning, persistence, and paw dexterity to work out. They range in difficulty level and provide your German Shepherd with many benefits while you’re at work or away.
Boredom and German Shepherds: The Most Frequent Cause of Problems
The very act of leaving a German Shepherd alone for 8 hours or more a day and then being too tired to spend time with them in productive ways is the reason for most of the behavioral problems they develop.
Boredom in your German Shepherd is caused by the fact that they aren’t normally able to express themselves as nature intended.
How would you feel if you were left at home all day, every day, with no one to talk to, no television to watch, no books to enjoy, no work to do, and no opportunity to exercise?
It would be awful!
But, that’s what many owners expect of their high-energy, intelligent working breed dog.
It’s your job to provide a substitute for the activities your dog would naturally enjoy to keep them busy. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and enroll your German Shepherd in herding classes!
Instead, think of creative ways to tap into your breed’s likes and desires that are productive, not destructive. Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise, and many German Shepherds suffer as much from boredom due to their owner’s hectic schedules as they do from lack of walks or outdoor activity.
Playing with your German Shepherd enriches your relationship with her on a unique level.
Together, the two of you will have a distinctive interaction during your play sessions. This is vital information because play helps build a strong relationship foundation.
While some people believe that German Shepherds are rough, tough, working breeds they genuinely have a playful nature and seek out the companionship of play with their special person.
German Shepherds seek out play with those they feel close to and are comfortable with. If you want to increase your German Shepherd’s comfort with you, then include daily play sessions and games with your dog.
Play has even been shown to increase dogs’ attentiveness during training sessions when their owners play beforehand.
Every Dog is Different
What’s considered fun and will keep your German Shepherd busy is in the eyes of your dog, not you. Although there are many different ideas to entertain your dog, every dog is unique and has certain preferences.
You can make predictions about your dog’s favorite toys or type of play based on his breed and likes, but some dogs simply will refuse interesting games and toys if they don’t think they’re fun.
Don’t force your dog to play games they’re not interested in
Toys should always get chosen based on their safety and your German Shepherd’s chew and play style
Keep track of the activities your German Shepherd enjoys and have a list handy so you know how to keep them busy quickly
It’s important that you don’t leave your adult German Shepherd dog alone for more than 8 hours a day. If you need to stay out longer, it’s vital you have a friend or dog sitter stop by to check on your dog and spend time with them.
The German Shepherd isn’t a dog meant to be left to his own devices in solitude. They tend to develop behavior issues when secluded from their family and can become depressed, act out for attention, and develop other health conditions due to the stress of spending too much time alone.
Keeping Your German Shepherd Happy and Busy
Keep in mind, a happy German Shepherd won’t seek out things to destroy. They’re better behaved and more content in their home.
It means that you:
ensure they aren’t left alone for too long
have plenty of playtime with you and other dogs
use up their mental energy to discourage boredom
engage them in physical activity and games
frequently provide one-on-one time to bond with you — their favorite person
A contented dog is one who is not only easier to live with but a joy to own and be around!
When you understand how to keep a German Shepherd busy and entertained both of your days will go by more smoothly. Exercising a German Shepherd mentally and physically can be a challenge at times, but it’s vital to give your dog attention throughout the day and keep their brains and bodies occupied.
The time you put into your German Shepherd creates an unbreakable bond.
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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