Activities For German Shepherds

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Introduction

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 Hunt

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
45 min
Items needed
Hay bales
Treats
Live rats
Plastic tubes
Activity description

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!

Step
1
Learn the rules
There are certain rules that must be followed when participating in a barn hunt. In fact, there is a Barn Hunt Rule Book that you can read through. Some of the rules may seem a little odd such as you are not allowed to touch the hay. Your dog is allowed to touch the hay but people must keep their hands off. Other rules are in place to ensure that everyone involved has a good time. One such rule is no swearing is allowed. Many families participate in barn hunts and harsh or foul language is not tolerated. By learning the rules before you attend your first barn hunt, you will not accidentally make break any rules and be asked to leave.
Step
2
Introduce the rats and tubes
Many dogs are naturally curious about smaller animals so play off that curiosity and introduce your dog to live rats. The best way to introduce them is to put the rats into a ventilated cage that is secure so your dog can sniff them and become comfortable around them. After introducing the rats, show your dog the tubes that the rats will be in. Show the tubes first empty so your dog does not become overly excited. Once they know what the tubes are, introduce the tubes with the rat inside.
Step
3
Hide the tubes
The next step is to hide the tube containing the live rat within the hay bale maze. Walk your dog through the maze letting them sniff through the loose hay until they discover the hidden tube. Once they find the tube give them a treat and lots of praise. Eventually, your dog will associate finding the tube with the reward they receive after and will work harder to find the tube. After they are able to easily find the hidden tube, add obstacles to the maze so they have to work harder. This is where some knowledge of agility may come in handy so you and your dog can communicate using agility commands when competing.
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Hiking

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
1 hr
Items needed
Dog Pack
Bags for Waste Disposal
Collar and Leash
First Aid Kit
Bottled Water
Collapsible water bowl
Activity description

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. 

Step
1
Plan your trip
When you decide to take a hike and want to share the experience with your favorite canine companion, take the time to properly plan your trip. Gather together important items to put into a pack to carry with you while hiking. A first aid kit and plenty of water is essential as is a collapsible water bowl for your dog so they can have plenty of water throughout the adventure. You will also need to plan your hiking trail, this way you can inform others of where you plan to be in case something happens on the trail. You can be located easier if someone knows your route.
Step
2
Give your dog a job
While you may think that simply hiking is a big enough task, remember your dog will not necessarily be enjoying the scenery like you are. They can easily become bored and want to wander. This is where the collar and leash come in handy to keep them reigned in. Give them a specific job while hiking such as carrying some of the supplies. There are small packs for dogs that you can purchase and stash some their gear to take some of the weight out of your own pack. You can also bring along a favorite toy or treats to hide along the trail and make them search for their toy or treat.
Step
3
Enjoy the scenery!
Your German Shepherd may not enjoy the scenery but that does not mean you can’t either. Stop and smell the flowers, snap some photos of interesting plants or even do a little bird watching while you are hiking. The most important thing to remember when you are hiking with your dog is to enjoy your time together. Being together strengthens the bond between you and their loyalty will become unbreakable the more time they spend with you. While hiking you can also work with your dog on his basic obedience training, just pack extra treats so you can hand them out when they follow your commands.
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Schutzhund or IPO

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Any Day
Expensive
Hard
60 miin
Items needed
Jumps
Blinds
Collar
Harness
Bite Sleeve
Bite Suit
Activity description

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. 

Step
1
Find a club
Find a Schutzhund or IPO club that will fit you and your dog. There are several different styles of IPO training and the first thing you need to do is figure out what style of training you want to do with your dog. Talk with members of the clubs you are interested in and if possible, visit them during a training session. You should plan on staying with your chosen club until your dog has achieved IPO1 status so training is kept consistent. After you have chosen a club, look for a mentor within the club to help you get started and encourage you along the way. You want a mentor with the same training philosophy so there is no conflict during training.
Step
2
Be patient
Have patience while learning the fundamentals of IPO. Patience is especially important when working with a young dog that does not have the desired attention span that an older dog would have. Keep training sessions short and take breaks between. Do not add in any distractions until your dog is able to focus for long periods of time. Part of being patient includes learning your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. Learning about your dog includes finding out their natural drive and nature. This allows you to tailor their training to fit them rather than trying to fit the dog into a standardized training program.
Step
3
Persevere
Being an IPO handler takes perseverance. Expect to have good days and bad days with your dog. Dogs are expected to work in any weather situation and therefore so do their handlers; therefore you can have cold days, wet days and even hot, sticky days. They will learn at their own pace! Just like with any type of club, there will be negative people. Be sure to form a close relationship with your mentor so any negativity can be shrugged off and you can still take pleasure in the time you have with your German Shepherd. IPO is an extremely challenging sport and it does take a lot of practice with your dog to get it right. Enjoy the journey!
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More Fun Ideas...

Nose Work

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. 

Dock Diving

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. 

Conclusion

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.