Not only does it prevent destructive behavior, but it can actually be a lot of fun for both you and your dog if you know how to mentally stimulate your German Shepherd.
German Shepherds, as a breed in general, are intelligent and will want to find ways to channel and put that brain power to good use.
Most people when they think of mental stimulation think of dog toys, bones, and physical exercise like walks, but there’s actually much more you can do for your dog or puppy in terms of stimulation.
Let’s see what mental stimulation activities might be suitable for a German Shepherd Dog or Puppy
If you like, you can also read this guide we previously wrote about the different types of exercise your GSD can get
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
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Ways To Mentally Stimulate Your German Shepherd Dog Or Puppy
Before we get into this list, it’s important to remember dogs can see, touch, smell, think, hear – so it makes sense to utilise those sense and capabilities.
Any activities where you dog is using any of those senses or capabilities they are likely to enjoy, so use your imagination and don’t be afraid to try something new.
1. Get Creative With Existing Household Items – Consider Homemade & Secondhand Toys For Your Dog To Play With
You don’t have to spend a tonne of money and money to keep your dog stimulated.
Some dogs LOVE playing with things like old shoes/shoe laces or a BPA free plastic soft drink bottle with the lid tightly screwed on.
Bottles are great – you can put something inside that is going to make a noise like some tiny pebbles and when your dog knocks the bottle around they can chew on it plus they get the sound of the pebbles moving around.
You could also put a couple of pieces or kibble or a treat inside the bottle and watch your dog try to spend hours trying to get it out.
Garage sales are fun as well as thrift stores – to try to find dog toys (although make sure you disinfect them before giving them to your dog)
2. Raw Bones, Wooden Sticks, & Deer/Elk Antlers
Raw meaty bones can be great for your German Shepherd’s natural desire to want to chew.
Some things to watch out for with bones and chew toys are though:
Make sure the bone or toy is big enough that your dog won’t swallow it (generally a bone the size of your dog’s head might be a good size as a rule of thumb)
Make sure the bone won’t break or splinter and harm your dog (this is why cooked bones aren’t a good idea for your dog)
It’s always good to supervise your dog when they are chewing in case something unexpected happens and so you can step in to help
Work with your vet to pick the type of bone and size of bone for your dog.
Other natural objects your dog might like to chew on might include:
Wooden Sticks (made from safe wood, with sharp edges rounded off, and big enough that your dog won’t swallow it or choke on it)
Deer and Elk Antlers
3. Dog Toys (Chew Toys, Balls, Plush Toys, & So On)
There’s many different types of dog toys to choose from.
Chew toys, ball toys, and treat type toys in particluar can provide interaction and stimulation for dogs.
As a summary, some of our top rated dog toys and relevant guides to check out from that guide were:
- Chuckit! Ultra Rubber Ball Dog Toy, Large (on Chewy)
- Chuckit! Fetch Ball Dog Toy, Medium (on Chewy)
- Chuckit! Ultra Ball (on Amazon) (2.5 inch balls and bigger, for medium to bigger dogs)
- Chuckit! Ultra Ball (on Amazon) (2 inch ball, for smaller dogs)
Ball Thrower Toys
- Chuckit! Classic Launcher (on Chewy)
- Chuckit! Sport Launcher Dog Ball Thrower (on Amazon), or Chuckit! Pro Launcher (on Amazon)
- KONG Extreme Ball Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- KONG Extreme Ball Dog Toy (on Amazon) (small, and medium/large sizes available)
- Nylabone DuraChew Original Flavor Bone Dog Toy (on Chewy), or Nylabone DuraChew Peanut Butter Flavor Souper Dog Chew Toy (on Chewy)
- Nylabone Original Dura Chew Dog Chew Toy (on Amazon)
- West Paw Zogoflex Jive Tough Ball Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- West Paw Design Jive Zogoflex Durable Ball Dog Chew Toy (on Amazon)
- Nylabone Power Chew Wishbone Dog Chew Toy (on Chewy)
- Nylabone Power Chew Extreme Wishbone Dog Chew Toy (on Amazon) (for dogs 35 lbs and under)
- Deer and Elk Antlers
- Raw Bones (approved by a vet)
- ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide & Seek Plush Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- ZippyPaws Woodland Friends Burrow, Interactive Squeaky Hide and Seek Plush Dog Toy (on Amazon)
- Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy (on Amazon)
- Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Plush Hide and Seek Activity Dog Toy (on Amazon)
- Frisco Hide and Seek Plush Volcano Puzzle Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- Multipet Plush Dog Toys (on Amazon)
Treat Dispensing, & Stuffable Toys
- KONG Classic Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- KONG Classic Dog Toy (on Amazon)
- KONG Extreme Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- KONG Extreme Dog Toy (on Amazon)
- KONG Wobbler Dog Toy (on Chewy)
- KONG Wobbler Treat Dispensing Dog Toy (on Amazon)
Eco Friendly & Sustainable Toys
- Wooden Sticks (made from safe wood, with sharp edges rounded off, and big enough that your dog won’t swallow it or choke on it)
- Second hand or used toys from other dog owners, garage sales, and thrift/charity stores
- Used Plastic Soda Bottles (unfilled, or filled with with food and treats. And, BPA, PVC & Phthalate free)
- Used & Second Hand Balls (Tennis Balls, & Other Balls Like Soccer Balls and Footballs)
Toys Specifically For Large Dogs
Toys Specifically For Small Dogs, & Puppies
4. Daily Walks & Exercise
A really simple one – take your dog for a 20 minute to half hour walk daily.
They get physical exercise but you can also let them sniff and explore which they love.
They also get to hear the sights and sounds of other people, dogs and cars/traffic.
Usually, local parks and walking on the sidewalk is good.
If you live near a park and you can let your dog off the leash, some dogs love playing fetch with a stick, toy, ball or frisbee.
5. Obedience Training – Learning New Tricks
Contrary to popular belief, you can teach some older dogs new tricks with some good training.
Teaching your dog a new cool trick, or simply commanding them to do existing ones in exchange for a reward is always fun.
6. Put Your Dog’s Nose & Sense Of Smell To Work
Dogs love sniffing things.
A fun way you might work out your dog’s sense of smell is to let them see you have treats in your hand and let them smell them.
What you can then do is put the treat somewhere out in the yard like under a bucket in the middle of the yard, or somewhere where your dog is going to have to sniff around and try to figure out how to get what they are sniffing for.
7. Spend Time Playing & Interacting With Your Dog Just By Yourself
One of the things or perhaps the thing they love the most in the world (apart from food and sleep) is YOU.
Playing with your dog normally by scratching them, patting them, talking to them and letting them know you love them is a good way to keep them stimulated.
8. Competitions & Dog Sports
For higher drive German Shepherds, you may want to check out dog sports and competitions.
There’s something for everyone from IPO, to herding, to agility, to dock diving.
9. Take Them To The Dog Park
If your dog can play nice around other dogs, there’s few things dogs love more than interacting with other dogs.
From jump on each other, to sniffing each other, to chasing each other around – dog parks can provide hours or mental stimulation for free.
10. Play Sound Stimulation Video & Audio For Them
Here’s a really fun one – get on YouTube and type in ‘Sounds Dogs Love’.
There’s a whole heap of videos with hours of sounds that dogs react funny to or just love hearing in general.
Watching your GSD head tilt to the dog barking videos is a bit of a sight.
11. Download A Dog Interaction App On Your Ipad
You could also get on your Ipad if you have one and search for dog stimulation apps where there are things moving across the screen and your dog has to use their brain to figure out what is going on.
Some apps also let your dog interact by using their nose/snout to bump an object like a mouse on the screen.
12. Go For A Hike
It could be to a national park, or a hiking trail somewhere – it’s a different stimulus to get out of the urban area and walk for a few miles.
13. Go To The Beach, Or Take Your Dog For A Swim Somewhere
Some dogs love the sand and beach, and some dogs love swimming too (whether it be in a pool, lake or in the ocean).
14. Go For A Drive
As long as you’re doing it legally, some dogs love being securely riding in a passenger seat and looking out the window and feeling the wind on their face with the window down in a car.
So, going for a drive can be great for some dogs.
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