Activities For Old German Shepherds

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Introduction

As your German Shepherd ages you will notice that they are slowing down and not able to do the fun things they used to enjoy. Do not allow them to simply lounge around and give up on life. This is important in order to keep them mentally and physically fit. Before committing to any activity for your old German Shepherd, have them fully checked out by your veterinarian so you know their limits. Be sure to modify any activity to fit their abilities and do not push them too much to do something they are no longer physically able to do. It is important to make sure they do not become overly tired or become injured during any activity you guys are participating in. 

Swimming

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Sunny Day
Free
Easy
30 Minutes
Items needed
Water for hydration
Towel
Leash
Activity description

This is a low impact activity that is excellent for joints and gives your senior pal plenty of exercise. Older dogs especially benefit from spending time in the water and working their muscles without the harsh shock of walking or running on solid ground. If you have a swimming pool in your backyard, you are set for the summer; if you do not have a pool, check around your area for dog friendly bodies of water. Do not take your dog into a body of water that has a strong current. If your old German Shepherd has never been swimming, introduce them slowly and be sure to stay close to them while they are in the water in case they get in trouble while swimming. Senior dogs will still have the heart and drive to swim longer than their bodies will allow. Seniors are more susceptible to the cold and will tire quicker. Do not stay in the water for longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Step
1
Introduce them to water
Most German Shepherds love to play in the water, however, if you are introducing them to water as a senior do so slowly. Start in shallow water so they can get a feel for the water and move into deeper water when they become comfortable. Dogs that are comfortable with swimming and bodies of water should just jump in and start having fun.
Step
2
Jump in
Once your dog is comfortable with the water, teach them how to simply jump in. This may sound simple but some dogs will hesitate before entering a body of water. If it is a swimming pool, start by having them jump into your arms in the shallow end and gradually work up to jumping without you catching them.
Step
3
Watch closely
German Shepherds are a double coated breed but just like with any senior dog, they will be more susceptible to the cold and could easily become hypothermic. They can also tire a lot quicker than when they were younger. Swimming is easy on their joints but it is still work and they will not be able to swim alone for long periods of time.
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Hide and Seek

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
45 Minutes
Items needed
Hiding Places
Toys
Treats
Activity description

This is an activity that can be done inside the house when the weather is nasty or it can be done outside in the backyard or even in the local park. While not necessarily called exercise, hide and seek does get your senior German Shepherd moving and interested in life once more. They will feel that they have actually accomplished something when they find the item that was hidden. Most hide and seek sessions should last about 45 minutes, but you can adjust the time to suit your dog’s attention span and activity level. When first introducing the activity, be sure to hide the item in an easy to find place so their reward is quick or they may quickly lose interest.

Step
1
Introduce the scent
Before you hide the treat or toy, introduce it to your German Shepherd. They need to know exactly what they are trying to find. Make sure you start the activity with something that has a stronger scent to make it a little easy. Then start hiding items that have a milder scent in harder to find places to challenge them.
Step
2
Hide the item
Find hiding places that are easy for your dog to find until they become more familiar with the activity. Start by placing the treat or toy under a pillow or cushion so they can quickly locate it. Then begin finding more difficult spots; do not make it impossible for them to find. Remember you are working with a senior dog that may not be as sharp as they once were.
Step
3
Praise and reward
If you hid a toy or treat, be sure to allow them to play with the toy or enjoy the treat before you move on and hide another item for them find. Another item such as a sock or shirt that is hidden and found should be quickly retrieved from your dog and a treat be given in its place. Without the gratification of enjoying their reward they will not want to continue the activity.
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Fetch

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
30 Minutes
Items needed
Frisbee or Ball
Activity description

It may sound simple to say play fetch with your senior German Shepherd. However, it is not that simple. Owners need to remember that a senior dog has special needs and cannot chase after a Frisbee or ball for long periods of time. Do not expect them to leap through the air making fantastic catches and racing back to your side for you to do it all again. Their joints and bones cannot take the harsh impact of leaping and catching in mid-air and then landing on the hard ground. Take it slow and lightly hurl the Frisbee or ball across the yard or field. Your dog will still enjoy the exercise of the activity and be grateful that they are not expected to race around like they did in their younger years.

Step
1
Get them moving
Before you start tossing the Frisbee for them to fetch, start slowly with a lap around the yard so they can work out any kinks from laying around too long. You may notice that it takes your old German Shepherd a little longer to get moving and they may need a few extra minutes of moving around the yard before they are ready to play fetch.
Step
2
Toss the Frisbee or ball
Sounds simple enough, but remember to not throw it too far or your dog may decide to rebel and go sit under the big shade tree. Toss the Frisbee or ball lightly for the first few throws and then lengthen the distance to where you think your dog can handle. Do not overtire them, this is easily done in warmer weather or when your dog is not used to physical activity.
Step
3
Reward and rest
Your senior German Shepherd does not have the same stamina they did when they were younger. Be aware of their abilities and if you feel they are tiring quickly, take a break and enjoy a treat so they can catch their breath and relax. Do not allow them to play fetch for longer than 30 minutes at a time without any rest. Bring along plenty of water and a favorite toy or treat for them when taking a break.
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More Fun Ideas...

Tug-O-War

Senior dogs will not necessarily play tug-o-war the way they played when they were puppies or younger adults. Their physical abilities will have changed significantly but they will still enjoy a good tug on a favorite toy. Keep in mind that their jaws will not be as strong and they may have loose or missing teeth that can cause them to not be able to pull as hard. Modify the activity to fit them and only play for short periods of time to allow them to rest between activities.

Doggy Massage

This may sound odd, but just like people, dogs love to be massaged too! Take about 10 to 15 minutes and sit on the floor with your senior German Shepherd and start gently massaging their neck, shoulders, along their spine and their ears. This is very relaxing for them, forms a stronger bond between you and helps with any slight aches and pains they may have.

Conclusion

You will notice your old German Shepherd beginning to slow down both physically and mentally. It is your job to keep them active and help them keep their mental functions from fading too much. By engaging them in fun activities that are similar to those they used to enjoy, you will be helping them live longer and enjoy their life as they age. Just remember to modify any activity to fit the needs of your dog and be mindful of any special needs they may have.