==> Life-enhancing factor No. 2: The right exercise!
How to fit a GSD's exercise needs into today's "have no time" lifestyle choices
German Shepherd Dog Exercise Regime for Busy Dog Owners
Exactly 50 Periodicals ago (fifty Periodicals ago, yes!) you received our Periodical GSD Life Extender No 1. Now let's continue in that spirit and discuss today life-enhancing factor No 2: the right exercise for the individual dog! And another 50 Periodicals later we may have a slot to send you life-enhancing factor No 3.
Nooo, don't you worry! Let's take a shortcut: you'll get that next week or so.
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
If you then implement all three life-enhancing factors, your dog should be sharing a happy life with you through to age 72 and older, according to the LeBeau scale. AND: you won't need to share your bank account with your vet! How cool is that!
In line with this spirit in this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL:
- How to assess your dog's exercise needs
- What exercise is suitable for both dog and owner?
- Drafting an exercise plan
- GSD exercise regime for the active dog owner
- GSD exercise regime for the sluggish dog owner
- GSD exercise regime for the I-shouldn't-have-a-dog owner
So, you got no time for GSD-appropriate exercise? Guess what, neither do I. Fact is: you've got 24 hours in a day. - Surprise, so do I.
You got family commitments, work commitments and personal problems? - Welcome to the club.
But how comes that I can still take time out to prepare sophisticated MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICALS to help you with your dog?
It's because I want it. Because I choose to miss out on other things. Like you choose to miss out on certain things too. Just different ones. I am thinking of Tim's Dog Expert Interview Series, indeed.
It really is your own fault if you always find an excuse in life:
The Dog Expert Interviews with Reviews are such thing. I've made them that, to save you years of learning and wasting money on dog health, dog care, and dog training. Some training tips in there save you hundreds of dollars each (proof inside), and the health tips in there save you thousands of dollars - and the life of your dog. You just need to apply what is offered.
(End of Spiritual Intro)
How to assess your dog's exercise needs
How much exercise does a German Shepherd Dog need anyway? Or an Alsatian if you prefer. Or basically, any mid-size herding dog.
Obviously, this depends a lot on WHAT exercise our dog is getting. But here is a more complete list of factors that determine a dog's exercise needs in order to stay healthy, calm, and balanced!
- dog's health
- dog's fitness
- dog's weight
- dog's age
- climate zone and weather
- and for unspayed females the heat cycle too
You notice that with this list we outright combine the minimum exercise requirement (needs at least) with the maximum of healthy exercise for the particular dog (needs no more than). We can't speak of "ideal exercise amount" though because, like I said, the right amount depends on WHAT type of exercise the dog is getting. Our unique GSD Online Health Profile considers factors 3 and 4 when you input your dog's data.
Factors 1, 2, and 3 are both factors and outcome: Obviously, the better your dog's exercise regime the healthier and fitter the dog and the lower the dog's weight, ceteris paribus (ie subject to all other factors being equal) - and then you won't get the dreaded "Obese - Enormous health risks!" result in our GSD Online Health Profile.
As a factor (review the list above), note that:
- When your dog is sick, the dog's exercise needs are minimal: Energy should be reserved for recovery, and thus exercise should then be limited to a) allowing elimination, b) avoiding boredom, and c) preventing cardiovascular, respiratory and hematological complications from inactivity.
- When your dog is not used to exercise (other than plain dog walks), start slowly, like you would for yourself - do not risk cardiovascular or musculoskeletal complications from overactivity.
- When your dog is underweight, the dog has little in energy reserves, so you must keep exercise sessions shorter; when your dog is overweight, the cardiovascular system has to work overtime even under rest, so you must avoid heavy exercise.
- When a German Shepherd is under 12 months or over 9 years of age, make sure to follow the guidance in our GSD Online Health Profile, ie limit both amount and type of exercise (see below).
- If you live in hot or humid climate, get used to regularly recording your dog's heartrate and breathrate under rest and run to prevent heat illnesses (from cramps up to and including heat stroke!)*
- If you have a female dog in heat (and obviously when pregnant all the more), limit both amount and type of exercise (see below).
* Note that domesticated dogs have adapted to people: Most of them feel most comfortable when air temperature is between 20C and 27C (68F to 81F) and relative humidity between 40% to 65% (a hygrometer is a great item to own, we have several, in different places).
In order to stay healthy, calm, and balanced dogs need both mental exercise and physical exercise, and both forms must involve all senses, and the physical exercise must involve all muscles.
Sometimes we may be able to combine some form of mental exercise with some form of physical exercise (if we make adjustments), but normally we must set aside dedicated time for each of these, and for the subcategories within. And that's actually an advantage: It gives ourselves the chance to rest a bit while our dog is exercising. Meaning, we can provide our GSD the (massive!) exercise such dog breed needs, but we don't need to match it with exercising ourselves as much, and at the same time.
Note that the variety is as important as the amount of exercise. Meaning, with a German Shepherd we cannot confine say, to a 10 hr dog walk every day (even if we have the time for that), or 30 min swimming every day (even if we have a pool), or 1 hr treat toy "search & rescue" session every day (even if the toy is as mentally stimulating as Nina Ottosson's Dog Tornado). We really must go for variety!
Besides 1) amount and 2) variety, 3) the intensity of exercise is an equally important consideration. Further to list point 4 above (dog's age), if for the next minute (only) we leave exercise variety aside, this is what I feel a German Shepherd needs in terms of exercise amount and intensity, in order to stay healthy, calm, and balanced:
- age < 12 w: only gentle dog walks (to relieve every hour or 2 hours max!), gentle play; avoid jumping!
- 3 < 4.5 m: brisk dog walks fine (four 10-min stretches a day, plus relieve walks), gentle play; avoid jumping!
- 4.5 < 6 m: vigorous dog walks (three or four 30-min stretches a day, plus relieve walks), normal play; avoid jumping!
- 6 < 9 m: short runs next to bike (three a day), intense play, and gentle jumping fine
- 9 < 12 m: stretches of up to 10 min next to bike (5 or 6 stretches/day) and intense play fine; still gentle jumping!
- 1 y - 9 y: in line with fitness level, progressively more running (build up to 2 hrs min!), vigorous play, and normal jumping fine *
- > 9 ys: reduce intensity and amount) of exercise each year in line with fitness level - but maintain variety!
* Meaning, even if you have a couch dog at the moment(??), in order to stay healthy, calm, and balanced an adult German Shepherd you must build up to at least 2 hrs of heavy exercise a day (ie in addition to dog walks). If you don't do that but you complain about "dog problems", don't ask me for help - because then that's all you need to do.
Obviously, a quick summary like the above is merely scratching the surface of the exercise needs of a German Shepherd Dog or other mid-size herding dog. I've only put it here for the benefit of those who won't make it to the nuggets of this Periodical because they failed to become a site member to log in.
What exercise is suitable for both dog and owner?
I have summarized for you the answer to this question in one of those ingenious sports graphics:
Before we start planning an exercise regime for our GSD (and possibly for ourselves), it's good to develop some sense of what exercise is suitable for dog and owner together, and what exercise we cannot share with the dog (even if we wish to perform it ourselves nonetheless).
So first, here's a list of forms of exercise that - admittedly in general - we cannot share with the dog:
- Teamsports that involve a ball (from football to squash, and all in between), because the other players will feel disturbed if we bring our dog along
- Sports on dedicated sports grounds (municipal or private: track, pool, court)
- Sports that are no sports (be honest!), eg chess, remote-control piloting, cherry-pit spitting, etc
What, that's it? I think so, yes. Everything else can be shared with our dog. But do share your own experience below.
Next, a list of the forms of exercise that are ideal to share with the dog:
- beach- or lake-swimming: swimming together (where dog allowed)
- pool games (dog goes swimming, we don't)
- stick, floppy-disc or ball throwing
- racing (for an item or to a goal; headstart is fine)
- tug of war
- find games (item or person)
- broad/long jumps
- most agility exercises
Finally, some exercise that may seem unsuitable but indeed can be shared with the dog - we just may need to make one or two adjustments:
- Beach volleyball and other ball sports on public grounds: if the other players don't mind
- Outdoor badminton and other racket sports: dog collects shuttle/ball, trained to use lips only
How true. Again, share your own experience below: Aim to benefit others, like they and I aim to benefit you. We do!
Drafting an exercise plan
Now let's move on to the exercise plan itself. As with everything else in life:
So, let's plan out a good variety of mental exercise sessions that involve all senses, and combine that with a sensible amount and good variety of physical exercise sessions that involve all senses and all muscles. And all of this within the budget of the time-strapped modern dog owner.
While intensity I already indicated above - and if you think about it, for something so subjective, an indication is all I could possibly give.
Since not all time-strapped modern dog owners are the same - eg I've always been outside the accepted average - let's take this even a step further and differentiate between what all time-strapped modern dog owners differ in: their activity level, yes!
Just look how much your fellow subscriber (and site member) snickiesowner participates in comment box discussions under the Periodicals (and how many books she has reviewed but that's yet another story), and then notice how content and competent she is, and BANG! you know exactly the importance of activity level.
GSD exercise regime for the active dog owner
==> In our next edition: What's life-enhancing factor No 3? <==