German Shepherd owners fully understand the necessity to keep their pets active and enjoying life for as long as possible. Being larger dogs, German Shepherds need plenty of exercise to keep them fit and trim. Sometimes owners struggle with finding activities that are great for their companion and that help build a strong bond between owner and German Shepherd. There are plenty of activities available for you and your dog to enjoy that vary in difficulty and expense. Finding the right activities should not be stressful; if you are unsure something is for you, take the time to research the activity and sometimes you can even try it out for little cost.
Barn hunting is a newer sport that was initially only for smaller dogs; however, the sport has expanded and larger dogs such as German Shepherds are able to participate. Each dog must be able to maneuver within a barn setting and hunt live rats that are contained within tubes. The objective of the barn hunt is to locate and indicate the live rat in the tube within certain about of time. They must be able to discern the live rat from an empty tube or a tube that is filled with used rat litter that has been hidden along the course. Barn hunts require your dog to be agile with an excellent nose. Barn hunts are regimented with specific rules that must be followed in order for everyone to be safe and successful. Barn hunts are fun but do require training for at least 45 minutes each day to get your dog ready. You will also need to set up a hay maze or find a dog club that offers barn hunt training if you do not want to play with live rats!
Going hiking with your German Shepherd is a fun, cheap and easy way for both of you to get plenty of exercise. Be sure to plan for a safe outing by packing a first aid kit, bottled water and a collapsible water bowl for your canine companion to ensure that all goes well while out on the trail. When hiking, plan on walking for about 45 minutes to an hour and then resting so both you and your dog do not become overtired or overheated. As long as you take plenty of breaks, it is safe to stay out on the trail for hours or even overnight as long as you have packed accordingly and provide plenty of food and water for your German Shepherd.
IPO, formerly known as Schutzhund, stands for Internationale Prufungs-Ordnung. This is a three phase training system that encourages a strong bond between dog and handler. Originally, IPO was used as a way to evaluate the worthiness of a German Shepherd but it is now a sport that is enjoyed by several breeds that are capable of performing the work required. The three phases include tracking, obedience and protection. Dogs that train for IPO undergo intense training for both dog and handler. Both must be dedicated to the sport and enjoy the work they are doing. As dogs go through the training they are pushed beyond their limits and ultimately shaped into obedient companions that are bonded to their handler. Police and military dogs all undergo IPO training to determine suitability to the job they were chosen. It can be somewhat expensive to train your dog in IPO and it does take a lot of physical exertion for both you and your dog. Most dogs take between two to three years to earn their IPO1. Expect to spend a significant amount of time and money training your dog.
Most German Shepherds are ideal for nose work because of their exceptional scenting ability. This makes them wonderful as drug or bomb sniffing dogs and even search and rescue. If you are hoping to train your dog in any of these areas or just want to spend time sniffing out interesting things, nose work may be the thing for you. Generally, this is an easy activity for them and is relatively cheap. Most German Shepherds can do nose work all day long if they are receiving treats and praise every time they find the right scent.
Dogs that love water excel in this sport! Dock diving is when a dog jumps from a high dock into a pool of water after a ball. There are four different types of dock diving: Iron Dog, Big Air, Speed Retrieve, and Extreme Vertical. For the German Shepherd that loves to swim, this is a great sport to get involved with and is easy to train for and participate. Some dog clubs will even offer classes on dock diving to see if it is something you would enjoy with your dog.
Having a noble German Shepherd by your side can be a fun experience no matter the activity. There are so many things you could be doing to enjoy the time you have with your best friend ranging from taking a long walk around the neighborhood to performing IPO or Schutzhund. If you are serious about taking part in organized dog sports, find a local dog club that offers some of the activities you think might be fun and go check it out. Whatever the activity, you will find that you have a stronger relationship with your German Shepherd than you would if you both just stayed home couch surfing.