We all love our German Shepherds, and we want them to have the best lives possible. Part of that is providing them with plenty of exercises and mental stimulation. When your dog gets bored, they often find their own ways to entertain themselves, which may not always be what you had in mind! It’s important to provide a variety of toys for your dog that keep them entertained while also giving them the opportunity for some quality time with you.
Why is Playtime Important for Dogs?
Intelligent dogs like German Shepherds need plenty of opportunities to exercise their minds as well as their bodies. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, it gives them a way to release energy and prevent behavioral problems like excessive chewing, digging, or barking. Second, busy dogs are satisfied dogs! Third, playtime keeps your dog active and happy. Finally, it also strengthens the bond between you and your GSD, which is incredible for both of you.
While you may think your dog doesn’t care for toys or games because they often ignore their squeaky bones or tennis balls, that’s actually not the case! Dogs are just as receptive to playing hide-and-seek with a Frisbee as children are! All you need to do is find the right games for your dog.
How Often Should You Play with Your Dog?
It really depends on the dog. Busy dogs may need a lot of playtimes to keep them happy, while some breeds are more laid back and don’t mind doing as they’re told (even if that means just staying home all day.)
If your dog is full of energy, like German Shepherds, I’d recommend spending at least an hour or two with them each day. That time can be split up, of course—a few minutes here and there adds up to an hour over the course of a week! Remember that it doesn’t have to be all work and no play, even if you’re busy throughout the day.
Ready to get started? Here are the 15 Best Games to Play with a German Shepherd!
Dogs like German Shepherds are very energetic and driven by instinct. They want to hunt, run, and conquer the world! Playing fetch is one of their favorite activities because it gives them a chance to satisfy those urges while interacting with you at the same time. It’s also something they can do for hours on end without getting bored!
Fetch isn’t the only game that lets you and your dog play together like this—you could try chasing them around the yard, for example. However, fetch is a classic that most dogs love.
How to Play Fetch:
Choose a soft or light frisbee. Hard flying discs can damage teeth and jaws if they’re thrown too hard. So you want it to be soft enough that your dog can chew on it when they get bored, but also hard enough that you can throw it far.
Throw the flying disc around 10-15 feet away from you. Your dog will likely come running and bring it back to you. Let them drop the disc in your hand and reward them so that they’ll be excited to go fetch again.
If you’re in a park, don’t let them run into the street! They may become distracted by other animals or objects and forget that they should be bringing you their toy.
2. Scavenger Hunt Game
Scavenger hunts are fun for both you and your dog because they’ll feel like it’s a chance for them to explore the world around them.
How to Play Scavenger Hunt:
Take your dog’s favorite treat. Choose a room in your house that the dog is not allowed in, like the bathroom or kitchen. Hide one of the treats there and place another one in plain sights, like on top of a cabinet.
Your next step is to call your dog. If they come, great! Take them to the room where you hid the treat. Let them sniff around for a bit until they find it and enjoy their reward when they do! Once your dog understands the game, try a different hiding spot around the house.
3. Magic Cups
If you’ve ever played with cups before, you’ll have some idea of this game. It’s a fun way to get your German Shepherd involved and is easy for both of you!
How to Play Magic Cups:
Create three cups out of cardboard or plastic. In one of them, place some of your dog’s favorite treats and leave the two and third empty. At first, let your dog see which cup the treats are in so they can find them easily.
After a few rounds, once your dog fully understands that there could be food underneath any one of them, shuffle the cups around and see if they can still figure out where the treats are.
4. Flirt Pole
When you want to give your German Shepherd a good workout without spending hours at the dog park or running around outside, this is a great game to try.
How to Play Flirt Pole:
The flirt pole comes with a long, flexible stick and a fabric rope that is often brightly colored for easy visibility. It’s used to lure dogs around the yard. To play, start by letting your dog see the stick. They’ll likely want to inspect it, so let them!
After a minute or two, pull out the flirt pole and swing it around a little bit. Your dog will instinctively chase after it and try to catch it. Give them plenty of room before you stop so that they don’t run into anything!
5. Obstacle Training
If you’ve ever done agility training, then you’ll have some idea of what this game entails. If not, it’s a great way to work with your dog and improve their coordination skills!
How to Play Obstacle Training:
Start by placing some obstacles around your yard. Anything will do—wheelbarrows, chairs, small pieces of wood, and other things that are easy to move around. Have your dog stand on one side of the obstacle and then call them over.
With their focus on you, give a command like “forward” or “over.” After your dog steps over the obstacle, reward them with praise! Each time they do well, move onto something slightly more difficult.
6. Rough Housing
When you want to work up a sweat but still want an activity that your dog will enjoy, it’s time for some rough housing! Be careful not to injure your German Shepherd during this time, though.
How to Play Rough Housing:
Rough housing is simple enough—throw a ball or toy around and let your dog chase it but don’t let them get it! You might even chase each other around and wrestle with them, too!
This is a great way to encourage your German Shepherd to use their nose and smell some great new scents. It’s also a good exercise for them because it involves a lot of sniffing!
How to Play Nosework:
Get two items that smell distinctively. For example, one might be a tennis ball while the other could be a plastic container. Put these items inside of a box or bag and let your dog sniff them out!
When they find the container, feed them their treat and allow them to explore that area more before moving on. If your dog has any trouble, add 5-10 drops of the essential oil to the box.
After you do this a few times, start hiding them around the yard and see how quickly your dog can find the scent.
8. Ring Stacker
Though dogs are naturally athletic and active, they can sometimes get bored even if you keep them busy. When this happens, it’s best to find a way to add some mental stimulation to their activities.
How to Play Ring Stacker:
Get yourself a small set of plastic rings (found in the craft section) and start stacking them up. If you want to make it easier, start with a few and work your way up to seven or eight! Let your dog watch while you stack the rings up, then let them have a go at it.
9. The Name Game
When you introduce a new toy to your dog, it can take them a while to learn that they’re supposed to do something relevant with the item. Name That Toy is a fun game that will help them get used to their toys and explore all possibilities!
How to Play The Name Game:
Grab a couple of your dog’s favorite toys—the ones they love to play with the most, for example, a ball. Now, give them the ball and say “ball,” and watch how they respond. Then, every time they do something that you want them to do with it, like chew on it or throw it, reward them!
Place the ball on the ground and tell them to “go fetch the ball!” If they d say “yes” and reward with a treat! After a few successful rounds, move onto another toy.
10. Use Food-Dispensing Toys
When you’re busy but want to give your dog an activity that will keep them occupied for a few hours at a time, food-dispensing toys are the best things to use. These toys release treats as they push or pull on the toy, so it can entice your German Shepherd to play and interact with it.
How to Play with a Food-Dispensing Toy:
Test out the “difficulty” of your toy by dispensing some treats into it. If they’re too easy to get, make it more difficult. Place the food-dispenser toy on the ground and let your dog try to get the treats out! When they’ve finished playing with that toy, increase the difficulty level and see if they perform just as well.
You can play tug with just about any toy, but it’s especially fun with a tug rope! These ropes allow you to play and interact with your dog without worrying about getting too rough. It’s also one of the best ways for bonding between dogs and their handlers.
How to Play Tug of War:
If your dog hasn’t already learned how to play tug, start out by showing them the ropes. First, introduce them to the idea of tugging on a rope and getting treats when they’re done by handing it over to them and rewarding any effort made towards moving it closer to their mouth—even if they don’t know that they’re playing tug!
Once they’ve gotten the hang of the rope, grab it and move away so that they start to pull on their own. If you want, you can also pick up your end of the string—this will encourage them a lot! Keep an eye out for any unsafe behaviors like snapping or biting.