Have you ever arrived home at the end of a long day to find your puppy bouncing off the walls with energy? You don't feel like going for a walk yourself, after being on your feet all day, but your poor guy has been sitting at home all day, unable to stretch out his legs and really run. What if you could take your puppy out your back door, into a fenced-in yard, and sit or stand in place while your puppy did all the work?
Playing fetch is a fun and easy way to exercise your puppy once he has learned how to play. Your puppy will probably naturally chase after the ball due to his predatory instincts and the movement of the ball. He might even bring the ball back on his own. He also might need a little bit of encouragement before he will bring the ball to you, and perhaps need to unlearn the game of "keep away". With some training and encouragement, your German Shepherd can likely excel at the sport though, and fetching will give you both hours of enjoyment for the rest of his life.
In addition to being fun, 'fetch' is also a wonderful command to teach your German Shepherd, because it will mentally and physically stimulate him, especially if you add some structure to the game, such as having him sit and wait for the ball between throws. German Shepherds need a job to do, and many Shepherds are prey driven and have a desire to chase something. Learning how to chase after and bring back a ball for you can satisfy your dog's longing to chase and perform a job.
Once your puppy has learned how to fetch a ball, then you can also teach him to bring you other items by using the same methods, but with a different object in place of the ball. You can teach your dog the name of the object first, then once your dog has learned the name of the object, you can have your dog chase after that object when you throw it, and then eventually bring you the object even while the object is stationary.
If you are using the 'Long Leash' method, be sure to toss the ball only half the length of the leash, so that your puppy will not get jerked by hitting the end of the leash. Another reason for only throwing the ball half the length is so that you will have enough length left in the leash for your puppy to run after the ball if it rolls or bounces after landing. Also, practice this method while your puppy is wearing a padded harness that you can attach the leash to, rather than a collar, so that if he does get jerked by the leash, his throat will not be damaged.
Because your puppy's bones have not finished growing, he should not be exercising too strenuously until he is past one year of age, when his growth plates have closed. When you play fetch with him, keep the exercise moderate, and do not let him run long distances, jump at this age, or become exhausted to the point of injuring himself. Some dogs love the game so much that they will play until they literally collapse--do not let your puppy get anywhere close to that point.
Try to always end the game on a positive note. If your puppy is getting too tired or is losing interest in the ball, throw him just one more ball, and praise him enthusiastically when he brings it back, then end the game. You always want to try to end the game while your puppy is still having fun, so that he will want to play again next time.
To get started you will need two similar balls, treats that are easy to eat, and a safe, enclosed, and spacious area to teach this in. If you are using the 'Long Leash' method then you will also need a lightweight thirty or fifty-foot leash, and a padded back clip harness to attach the leash to. If you are using the 'Movement' method then you will also need a bit of silliness and excitement to get your puppy to come to you. If you are using the 'Run Away' method, you will need to be able to run away from your dog excitedly. With all of the methods, you will need a great attitude, a willingness to have fun with your dog, and patience while he learns.