German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) are highly intelligent and super-athletic dogs, and they need to be both mentally and physically stimulated to stay happy and healthy. This can be achieved through regular, directed interaction with your pooch through training and games or even better, a combination of both.
While training is an essential aspect of raising a well-behaved and healthy German Shepherd, games are also vital to their health. From physical, athletic activities to mind games for German Shepherds, there are so many to choose from to keep your GSD stimulated. Read on for 12 of our favorite games to play with your German Shepherd!
Fetch is a classic game to play with any dog, but there is a huge variety of ways to play it. Simply throwing a ball or stick and getting your GSD to bring it back is not as easy as it seems, so it is a great opportunity for training. For younger dogs, you may need to use a treat or reward to get your dog to release the ball, and this can take practice.
Fetch stimulates your dog’s prey drive and gives them great physical exercise too. For large, athletic dogs like GSDs, try to use a toy that travels farther for a more extreme version of this game. A ball launcher is great because it enables you to throw the ball much farther than usual, testing your dog’s athletic skills and their searching skills.
Another classic game for playing outdoors, frisbee takes fetch to another level. Since frisbees do not fly in a straight line and float in the air for much longer than a ball, they are a great way to test your dog’s agility and their athletic ability. Begin by throwing the disc short distances at first and getting your GSD to bring it back to you, and then gradually increase the distance.
You can also roll the frisbee vertically on the ground for them to chase! This is especially great for puppies because you don’t want them putting too much stress on their joints by jumping.
3. Puzzle Games
German Shepherds are highly intelligent animals, so mind games are important for them too. There are a ton of puzzle toys on the market, most of which involve hiding treats in closed compartments for your pooch to find. Your GSD will need to figure out how to open the various compartments to access the treat, and you can increase the difficulty as they progress. Begin on the easiest level and move up from there.
4. Treasure Hunt
Games of mental stimulation that use your GSD’s amazing scenting ability, treasure hunts are fun activities that exercise your dog’s mind and body. The game can be played indoors or outdoors, so it is great for any living situation or age of dog. Simply hide treats or some of your dog’s favorite kibble around your home or yard, and encourage your pooch to find it. With your GSD’s incredible nose, this should be no problem. Once they catch on to the game, you can make the hiding spots more widespread and difficult.
5. Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is not only fun for kids, but it can also be an exciting game to include your GSD in! In the beginning, you may need two people, but once your GSD learns the game, you can play it just with your pooch. You’ll need to make sure your GSD can obey the “sit” and “wait” commands, as they’ll need to sit and wait for you to hide and only come once you give them the cue. Begin by hiding in easy places, and give your pooch plenty of praise when they find you. Gradually, find harder places to hide. This game is not only fun but will also teach your pooch patience and obedience.
You don’t need to pay for expensive agility classes for your pooch. Even though these classes are generally worth it, you can do it at home too. By simply using common items in your home like chairs, boxes, towels, and toys, you can set up your own agility course and teach your GSD to walk through it. The difficulty can be increased once your pooch gets the hang of it, and it’s a great way to stimulate your pooch mentally and physically, as well as be a fun method of training.
7. Tug of war
Many people avoid playing tug of war with their GSD, due to the worry of making their pooch aggressive. However, if done properly, the game will not make your dog aggressive and can be a great method for training. You can use basic commands like “take” or “release” and then “stop” when they get too excited. This teaches your GSD to obey commands even when they have something that they don’t want to give up. It is also a great training method that doesn’t involve treats.
It’s vital to keep your dog under control during tug of war. The game should be initiated by you only, and the toy available to your dog only during the game. Also, any skin contact, biting, or nipping, ends the game straight away, and you must walk away with the toy immediately.
8. Ring Stacking
For advanced, intelligent dogs that have mastered other puzzle games, ring stacking is a great new challenge. You’ll need a ring stacking toy, which is easily found in the kid’s toy section. Your dog will need to have mastered basic commands in order for them to play, and even then, it may take a while to master. The principle is the same — the rings must be stacked in order — and you’ll need to first show your dogs the order before they get the hang of it.
9. Magic cups
Magic cups is a fun game to play indoors when the weather is bad. All you need are three plastic cups and a treat or a small handful of kibble. While this game is not physical in any way, it is a great way to stimulate your GSD mentally. Place the three cups upside down with treats hidden underneath one. Let your dog see which one has the treats. Once they find the treat, shuffle the cups and let your dog try again. Once your pooch gets the hang of it, you can make the game harder by not letting your dog see you shuffle the cups or by simply adding more cups into the mix.
10. The Name Game
German Shepherds are intelligent dogs that can learn the names of individual toys fairly easily. You can train your GSD to bring you individual toys on command, providing great mental stimulation for your pooch. Begin with just one toy, and toss it for your dog to retrieve while vocalizing the name of the toy. Once your dog learns the name reliably, you can add other toys into the mix. When your dog has this game mastered, they’ll be able to bring you their ball, frisbee, or favorite toy with one simple command!
All dogs love balls and German Shepherds are no different. Soccer is great because it uses large balls that your pooch cannot run away with and stimulates their hunting and tracking skills. You can play the game with your pooch in mid-field trying to get the ball from you or put them in front of the goalposts and teach them to stop the ball (without biting it!). Soccer is great exercise and a great training method for your GSD.
12. Stop and Go
A common training method for dogs, stop and go can also be a fun game to play with your GSD. You can use your dog’s favorite toy, a ball, or a frisbee, and it’s a great way to teach your dog basic commands while they are excited. Throw your dog’s toy while shouting, “go,” and once they get to it, yell, “stop.” If they follow your commands, let them have a treat. Once they get this basic routine down, you can make it more challenging by making them stop mid-run or throwing the toy and making them wait for your command before running to fetch it.
Some games are great for exercising your German Shepherd, while others are ideal for mental stimulation, and still others are great for both. Since play is such a vital part of your GSD’s development and training, it helps to mix these games up as much as possible, although there’s no doubt that your GSD will prefer some over others.
Are there any fun games you play with your German Shepherd that you feel we’ve left out? Let us know in the comments!
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