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How Much Exercise Does a German Shepherd Need?

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German Shepherds were originally bred to be working dogs and many people relied on them for herding sheep. In today’s time, German Shepherds are still a known working dog and are put to work in many different areas. They are used as service dogs, police dogs, military dogs, and sometimes work with fire and rescue crews.

two german shepherds running next to each other outside

The desire of a German Shepherd to be considered a working dog meant that they had to be bred with certain qualities that make up the beautiful dog breed we know today. They are large, muscular dogs that are agile, strong, intelligent, and have lots of energy. 

All dogs need different types and amounts of exercise depending on their size and energy levels. As German Shepherds were bred with a muscular body type and high energy level, they have their very own exercise needs.

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How Much Exercise Does A German Shepherd Need?

A German Shepherd should have at least two hours of exercise daily. Two hours is the minimum and it should be provided in a variety of ways. If you are someone who likes hiking or doing other outside activities, including your German Shepherd is a great way to get their exercise in for the day. Of course, it is recommended to break down the two hours worth of exercise throughout the day rather than doing it all at one part of the day.

This keeps them from overexerting themselves and allows them to release the energy they may have through the course of a day.

What Happens If You Don’t Exercise Your German Shepherd?

Just like any dog breed, there are negative effects that come into play if you don’t provide adequate exercise for your German Shepherd. As we all know, exercise is a key part of caring for your dog and a key part of making sure they maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.

One of the biggest known downfalls of a German Shepherd not getting enough daily exercise is that they release their energy in other, undesirable ways. 

Behavior Changes 

While being destructive really makes a pet owner mad, the pup isn’t trying to upset you. They are actually lashing out because they are bored! If you notice your GSD suddenly starting to wreak havoc around the house, chances are they need more physical activity. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may find that your dog seems depressed, isn’t eating like they should be, or seems sort of sick. This can be another sign of lack of exercise. 

Obesity and Weight Gain

Another downfall to German Shepherds not having plenty of exercise is that they may become overweight. While it isn’t common for German Shepherds to become obese as it is for other dog breeds, it can still happen. Once they become overweight, it really takes a toll on their overall health.

German shepherds not only need adequate exercise but a high quality diet as well. This means only 10% of their calories should come from treats such as table scraps and fruits. The other 90% should be high-quality dog food that suits the stage your pooch is currently in. 

This isn’t an issue you have to worry about in german shepherd puppies because they are still in the process of growing. It’s normal for them to put on weight at a faster rate than an adult dog. 

Obesity as we know can cause a range of other health problems such as hip dysplasia, cardiovascular complications, diabetes, and other joint issues. 

Excessive Barking 

This breed is not naturally prone to more barking like a chihuahua. If you find your GSD is barking more than normal, they are simply trying to tell you they want something. In this case, more playtime! Here’s are a few more reasons GSDs may bark too much, and what you can do to help.

What Is The Best Exercise For A German Shepherd?

Even though German Shepherds are a highly active breed, and they aren’t very picky on how they get their exercise in, that is… as long as it’s outdoors! 

Considering how big they are it is best to take the activities outside anyway! If you’re an active person, this dog breed will fit right into your lifestyle and will love going on adventures with you. A few activities that German Shepherds love that are considered good exercise for them include hiking, swimming, daily walks, and jogging. They also love to play fetch! 

These are all great ways to incorporate long distance physical activity and allows them to exert the built-up energy they have. Not to mention, doing these things with your dog allows you both to have quality bonding time together and you can even include the family! 

If you struggle to find time to fit in daily activity to get your pup moving, finding another dog to play with can come in handy. Whether it means you get another dog yourself or you have playdates with your friend’s dog. The dog park is a great place to take them. Also, hiring a dog walker can be an option if you are gone for long parts of the day. 

Puzzle toys are also great for active dogs because they enjoy the mental stimulation. 

How Do You Tell If A Dog Is Over Exercised?

As we have discussed, your dog needs to have proper exercise every day. While this means making sure they have plenty of exercise, it also means making sure they aren’t over exercised. It isn’t good to overwork the dog no matter the circumstances and no matter the size of the dog. If you are concerned that your dog may be exercising a little too much, here are a few signs you can look for.

Overworked Paw Pads

Dogs will tend to keep running around to play even when their paws are overworked. You can tell if this is the case by looking at the padding on each paw to see if there is a lot of wear-and-tear. Some dogs may even show signs of their paws being in pain in this situation.

Sore Muscles

If your dog had a long exhausting physical day, you may notice signs of sore muscles to follow. Typically, the dog will struggle to get up and down compared to normal or they may not want to run up or down stairs like they usually would.

Heat Exhaustion

This is usually a bigger concern in the warmer months but can be deadly if not noticed immediately. Heat exhaustion occurs when the dog gets overheated and becomes severely dehydrated. Be sure to keep your pup hydrated properly with water and even a little Powerade.

Excessive Panting And/Or Drooling

 Dogs pant to cool themselves down so if you notice that they are doing this much more than usual, it could be a sign of overexertion.

Some of these signs can happen during the physical activity while others may not be noticed until hours or days later. If your dog has any of these issues, it is best to take them to the vet to be sure that this is indeed the reason behind it and to also address the issue properly.   

german shepherd playing with a stick next to a pond and shaking off

What Is A Good Daily Schedule For A German Shepherd?

The German Shepherd’s daily routine will look different depending on their age. A german shepherd puppy shouldn’t do tiring exercises but once they are over 18 months old, they will need a variety of activities.

An adult German Shepherd will need a mixture of physical activity, mental stimulation, bonding activities, training, and time for rest and recovery. 

Their daily physical activity should be a minimum of two hours per day while the rest of the time should be spent on other needs. 

They tend to have the most energy in the morning and at night which would be the best time to play with them or do whatever activity you choose to use as exercise.

Are Walks Enough Exercise For A German Shepherd?

In short… no, taking your German Shepherd on walks is not enough exercise. 

They have a lot of energy and require a variation of exercise methods. Taking them on walks is a good start and is a good way to exercise but it doesn’t need to stop there. 

This breed is highly intelligent and loves exercises that include mental stimulation on top of the physical activity. German Shepherds may eventually get bored going on the same walk every day and can in turn, start to act out.

Final Thoughts

Overall, dogs need exercise just like humans to stay healthy. Every breed is different and so are their needs. Knowing what does and doesn’t work for your particular dog will help make it easier to provide the best quality of exercise for them. 

Even though most German Shepherds do well with the routine we have described, your dog may have its own individual needs. There may be a trial-and-error phase that will ultimately help you nail down what your dog likes and doesn’t like. 

Keep in mind that having plenty of exercise and not exercising too much is just as important and with time you will find the right balance.

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