How Much Exercise Do German Shepherds Need to Thrive?

German Shepherds are strong and intelligent dogs originally bred for herding livestock. As working dogs, they need lots of exercise, but how much exercise is healthy? What happens if you don’t exercise your German Shepherd enough? 

We’ve got all your questions answered in this ultimate guide to GSD exercise:

How Much Exercise Do German Shepherds Need to Thrive?

How Much Exercise Do German Shepherds Need?

Let’s start with the most obvious question: how much exercise do German Shepherds need? Generally speaking, your German Shepherd will need between 40 minutes and three hours of exercise each day, with breaks in between, of course. However, their exercise needs will vary depending on their age:

As a Puppy

German Shepherd puppies need tons of exercise to ensure they grow up big and strong, but they don’t have the same amount of stamina as adult German Shepherds. When exercising your puppy, they’ll need to go at their own pace and take breaks more frequently than adult GSDs. 

As an Adult

Adult German Shepherd dogs still need lots of exercise, but they also need a variety of exercises in their routine too. Make sure your German Shepherd runs and sprints each day.

As a Senior

Like German Shepherd Puppies, senior German Shepherds don’t have as much stamina as they used to. When exercising a senior German Shepherd, ensure they have plenty of breaks too!

How Much Mental Stimulation Does a German Shepherd Need?

How Much Mental Stimulation Does a German Shepherd Need?

German Shepherds aren’t just buff; they’re smart too– exercise without mental stimulation will leave your doggo bored and willing to cause mischief. 

Puzzles like interactive treat toys are another great way to keep your dog mentally occupied while they enjoy some downtime.

Toys are one of the best ways to keep your GSD enriched. We’ve done all of the research for you on the best toys for German Shepherds

What Happens if a German Shepherd Doesn’t Get Enough Exercise?

How Much Exercise Do German Shepherds Need to Thrive?

Source: Katelyn MacMillan – Unsplash

So, what happens if your German Shepherd doesn’t get enough exercise? In short, behavioral problems. 

An understimulated German Shepherd will show tons of problems many inexperienced owners may chalk up to as “bad behavior.” Without a regular outlet to manage their energy, your German Shepherd might expel that energy in other ways: tearing up your furniture, chewing on shoes, barking loudly, and whining are all common signs of an understimulated dog.

Your German Shepherd may also become more withdrawn and less likely to interact with you. They may also put on weight and lose stamina.

When you give your German Shepherd enough exercise both physically and mentally, they transform into energetic, loving dogs that can’t help but make you smile. 

What are the Best Exercises for a German Shepherd?

So, what are the best exercises for German Shepherds?

Daily Walks

german shepherd daily walk

Walkies are vital for German Shepherds. Try to get at least two hours of walking time each day with your German Shepherd, splitting the time into two one-hour walking sessions. Several routes with varied terrain are best for building up your Shepherd’s balancing muscles and keeping them interested in their environment.

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How Far Should a German Shepherd Walk Per Day?

For a dog, it’s not about how far they should walk but for how long. While on a walk, try to aim for about 90 minutes of walking time, which usually comes to a distance of 5-8 miles for an adult German Shepherd.

Running and Sprinting

german shepherd running and sprint

Running and sprinting are super important in any exercise routine for adult German Shepherds. While walking can build muscles and stamina, jogging and sprints take that workout to the next level. They really get your dog’s heart pumping and, when coupled with doggy playdates and a healthy diet, are the perfect way to keep your doggo fit and healthy.

Doggy Squats

doggy squat

Dog squats can build hip strength and improve stamina for longer walks and are nice obedience exercises too. To do this exercise, instruct your German Shepherd to sit down and then stand up repeatedly. Give them a treat every few reps to let them know they’re doing great!


tug of war

Tug-of-war is a pretty straightforward bonding exercise you and your pup can do together using a strong rope toy. Spending at least ten minutes playing tug-of-war daily will help your Shepherd build up their front leg muscles. This game also pairs great with obedience training– include “drop it” commands occasionally to help keep your German Shepherd thinking on their toes and build their confidence!


german shepherd swimming

Reddit user JackieDRabbit has a varied exercise routine for her Shepherd that involves walking, tug-of-war, and the occasional swim. She advocates giving your Shepherd time to slow down and take breaks, too– especially when they’re puppies.

Hide and Seek

German Shepherd

If you’ve got the space and plenty of foliage, an outdoor game of hide and seek is excellent for German Shepherds. Not only will they get to run around looking for you, but the process of searching for their human is mentally stimulating, too!

How Long Can a German Shepherd Be Left Alone?

Although they aren’t necessarily considered “needy” dogs, it’s best not to leave your German Shepherd alone for more than eight hours. Remember, you’ll need to be there for walkies and jogging, after all!

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions? No worries; check out our FAQ!

How much exercise does a German Shepherd need daily?

German Shepherds require at least 1-2 hours of exercise each day to maintain their physical and mental health.

What types of exercise are suitable for German Shepherds?

German Shepherds enjoy a variety of physical activities, including running, hiking, swimming, and playing fetch. Mental exercises such as obedience training, agility courses, and interactive games like hide-and-seek can also help stimulate your dog mentally.

Is it necessary to take my German Shepherd for a walk every day?

Yes, walking is an essential part of a German Shepherd’s exercise routine. Walking provides low-impact exercise and helps maintain your dog’s cardiovascular health. It’s also a great opportunity to bond with your dog and explore new surroundings.

How much exercise should I give my German Shepherd puppy?

German Shepherd puppies have a lot of energy and need more exercise than adult dogs. However, their exercise routine should be tailored to their age and physical abilities. Puppies should be given several short walks throughout the day, with playtime and training exercises included.

What are the consequences of not providing enough exercise for my German Shepherd?

German Shepherds that don’t get enough exercise may become bored, anxious, and destructive. They may also gain weight, which can lead to health problems like joint issues and heart disease. Regular exercise helps keep your German Shepherd healthy, happy, and well-behaved.

Can I provide indoor exercise options for my German Shepherd?

Yes, German Shepherds have many indoor exercise options, such as playing fetch in a large room or hallway, using interactive puzzle toys, and practicing obedience training exercises.

Is it safe to exercise my German Shepherd in extreme weather conditions?

It’s best to avoid exercising your German Shepherd in extreme weather conditions, such as very hot or very cold temperatures. If you must exercise your dog in these conditions, make sure to provide plenty of water, take frequent breaks, and monitor your dog’s behavior for signs of distress.

How can I tell if my German Shepherd is getting enough exercise?

A well-exercised German Shepherd should have a good muscle tone, a healthy weight, and a calm and content demeanor. If your dog seems restless or anxious or exhibits destructive behaviors, they may not be getting enough exercise.

Should I vary my German Shepherd’s exercise routine?

Yes, varying your German Shepherd’s exercise routine can help keep them mentally stimulated and prevent boredom. Try to incorporate a mix of different activities, such as walks, hikes, swimming, and training exercises, into your dog’s daily routine.

What is the best food for your dog?

The three foods that are super healthy and that almost every dog loves, even the pickiest dogs, are:
1. The Farmer’s Dog.

This is a fresh-frozen food that’s delivered to your home in just the right amounts for your dog. There are a number of fresh frozen dog foods available on the market and I tested them all. The Farmer’s Dog came up the winner with my picky dogs. You can see the fresh frozen food test here.

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2. Sundays Food For Dogs
Sundays For dogs woman pouring into bowl
This is an air-dried food. It has the convenience of kibble (just pour it in the bow) but is much much healthier. It’s like little pieces of jerky, so dogs go crazy for it. There are a number of air-dried foods on the market. My dogs tested 3 of them. You can see the results of the air-dried food test here.

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3. We Feed Raw.

This raw food for dogs comes delivered to your home is perfectly sized portions for your pup. They primarily source their ingredients from trusted U.S. farmers, with two exceptions: venison and lamb. These ingredients are sourced from New Zealand, where some of the highest-quality and most ethically raised venison and lamb can be found. Pasture-raised and grass-fed and finished, we highly recommend trying these formulas if you’re interested in the best-quality ingredients. Save 25% on your first order.


I highly recommend using a supplement on your dog’s food, not matter what you feed them, to ensure the meal is balanced and they are getting all the right supplements to help them stay healthy. The supplement I use is called The One from Front of the Pack. It has 12 ingredients that have been clinically-proven to keep your dog’s joints, skin, heart, digestion, and even their breath in tip-top shape. It’s also a powder, so easy to sprinkle on your dog’s food. For a limited time, when you buy one month you get a second month free.

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