Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend, and apart from great individual companions are often integral family members for many, with many breeds to choose from, but no matter the species there is a variety of activities than can strength your bond with your canine companion and stimulate its innate and long selected desire for play and activity.
Whether camping with German shepherds or playing fetch with golden retrievers, the following is a list of activities in which you can participate with your pet to keep him or her, and by extension yourself, as happy and healthy as possible.
Fetch is a well-known game that is simple yet very enjoyable for most dogs. It’s as easy as simply throwing an object such as a tennis ball or a Frisbee over some distance so that your dog can go catch it and bring it back in its mouth. Though enjoyment of this activity is shared among most dog breeds, certain play styles suit some dogs better than others. For example, a German shepherd might enjoy chasing a bouncy object over a long distance, but a small dog may not respond or even be able to chase or catch the object.
2: Hide & Seek
Not unlike the game of the same name that’s played among humans, children for the most part, hide and seek can be a fun and easy game to play with your dog that stimulates its natural hunting instincts, giving it the challenge of finding something you’ve hidden and even giving you the challenge of keeping the dog from finding it. Having the object be a dog treat can also serve to motivate and excite your dog even more. This is not only good for the physical stimulation of your dog but also exercises its instinctual and sensory capabilities as well.
3: Blowing Bubbles
Much like you may have enjoyed during childhood, or maybe even still do, blowing bubbles can be a ton of fun. It is important, however, to purchase or create your own bubbles at home that will be safe for the dog to bite at. Blowing the bubbles so that they are sent high into the air can give your dog the chance to jump at them, while blowing them over a long distance can give it the option to run after it as if playing fetch. As each bubble disappears, they will initially be surprised, then on to the next!
4: Water Streams
Dogs seem to love water, and German shepherds are no exception. Much as you might enjoy cool water on a hot day, whether to drink or bathe in it, dogs are no different. In particular, they seem to enjoy biting the streams of water that emanate from garden hoses and sprinklers. Toys also exist that allow your dog to step on a pedal to release a stream of water at a time. This could also save more water if your lawn and plants have already been sufficiently watered but your dog still would like to play with the water streams.
While dogs may not have opposable thumbs and some of the other evolutionary advantages of humans, they can still adapt quite well to man-made sports, especially in areas that are suited to their anatomy and temperament. A great example of this is soccer, where dogs can make great goalies, jumping after and intercepting incoming soccer balls, which stems from and taps into their hunting and tracking instincts. In addition to one-on-one play time between you and your dog, this can present a great way to bond with children and keep friends and everyone in the family fit while having fun.
6: Tidy Up
As with most activities, fun or functional, things are taken out and then must be put back, and playtime with your dog is no exception. Making a game of tidying up the dog’s toys can be a great way to help set boundaries and limits for it, as, unlike humans for the most part, the dog sees putting its toys away as a game rather than a chore, while you as the owner are freed from any needless hassle associated with cleaning everything up. Furthermore, the dog can then establish times to begin and to end play time, improving communication.
7: Flirt Pole
Akin to the dynamics behind playing fetch is the use of a flirt pole to stimulate your dog’s hunting and tracking instincts in much the same way. A flirt pole is essentially a decoy, usually resembling another animal, that is attached to the end of a wire or pole. The dog perceives this as prey and chases after it and retrieves it or maybe even destroys it! But not to fear, as for a well-made flirt pole, the wire is durable and the decoy is replaceable, ensuring the toy lasts and the dog doesn’t get bored with its pretend prey.
8: Tug of War
Tug of war is another great game to play with your dog, particularly with such breeds as German shepherds. Contrary to popular belief, tug of war does not make your dog more aggressive, but rather playfully and constructively expends its energy, allowing it to keep its teeth sharp and jaw strong, while not ending up restless in the case of insufficient stimulation. However, for safety and other reasons, rules and boundaries are important to establish. For example, any skin contact ends the game, and the rope is not to be interacted with apart from playtime, keeping it fun and safe.
The common theme among all the previously mentioned activities is that of the outdoors. Your dog, though a domesticated pet, is nonetheless a wild animal at heart that needs and enjoys physical stimulation and interaction with the outside world, indeed not unlike a human. Tracking, hunting, and camping with German shepherds is great for both them and you to keep fit and keep in touch with nature, all while strengthening your shared bond together. Even children can be included, as camping and other outdoors activities done with family can be priceless fun for them and teach them lifelong valuable skills.
Andrew Garf is editor in chief at TrainYourGSD.com. You’ll often find him playing with his furry buddies Max and Roxie. He loves to write about all things dog and loves to share his knowledge with you!