As a German Shepherd owner, I love spending as much time as possible with my dogs. This often includes just hanging out on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but I also frequently participate in many athletic activities with my pups.
German Shepherds are fantastic companions for many different physically demanding activities. The breed is frequently seen as a hiking companion, on the agility field, and working with police and the military. But what makes this breed of dog so good at doing those types of things?
German Shepherds are considered an athletic breed of dog because they were originally bred to be hardworking dogs with jobs. They have an athletic and powerful body type, and their high level of intelligence and trainability make them an ideal athlete that can excel in dog sports.
In the below article, we’ll look at what makes the German Shepherd such an athletic dog, as well as the types of activities you can do with your German Shepherd. We’ll also look at how to condition and train your German Shepherd to accompany you on your athletic activities.
What Makes A German Shepherd Athletic?
German Shepherds, as one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, are known to be involved in a wide variety of events and activities, many of which require a large degree of athleticism. But what makes this breed of dog so athletic?
1 – German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs.
German Shepherds are classified by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and multiple other dog breed classification organizations as being a working dog, usually within the herding dog groups. As such, the German Shepherd has been bred for decades to be a hardworking and athletic dog who is capable of handling many physically demanding tasks.
From hiking with their owners to assisting police officers in their duties, the German Shepherd can do it all! Their athleticism is also something that makes the breed a great choice for owners who want to take up all kinds of dog sports. German Shepherds can be seen competing in agility, nosework, Schutzhund, and herding trials.
The breed is also known for being high energy to maintain their work drive throughout the day, so they are a great choice for athletic events requiring a higher degree of energy and focus, such as marathon runs or endurance events.
2 – They have an athletic body type.
Considered a large breed dog, the German Shepherd can weigh between 50 and 90 pounds, and much of it can be muscle. Their endurance and muscular stature make them an excellent choice for use in any type of athletic sport, job, or event where they must work for an extended period of time.
They can also be quite speedy and cover a large amount of ground quickly, which adds to their overall athleticism and may come from their wolf ancestors who also require a lot of speed and stamina to survive. This muscle and speed make them a prime choice for use as police and military dogs where they are frequently required to move quickly and over rugged terrain for long periods of time, or run in short, powerful bursts to help apprehend a suspect.
While the German Shepherd breed can be prone to genetic health conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, in general they are still considered a healthy breed provided breeders are responsible for testing for genetic conditions and only breeding dogs who are healthy.
Owners can also ensure their German Shepherd remains healthy by feeding them a high quality diet and providing them with ample physical and mental exercise.
3 – German Shepherds are considered highly intelligent and easily trainable.
This breed of dog has a well-earned reputation for being one of the most intelligent and trainable dog breeds in existence today, which also makes them a great choice for first-time dog owners. The intelligence and trainability of German Shepherds adds to the overall athleticism of the breed as it makes it easier to help train and condition them for specific athletic endeavors.
With some other breeds who are considered a little less energetic and enthusiastic about long training sessions, such as the Bulldog, it can take an extended amount of time to train and condition them for an event. With the German Shepherd, it can usually be accomplished much more quickly as they are usually very easy to train and they can be worked with for an extended period of time before they need a break.
German Shepherds are also known for being very loving and loyal, which also makes them more likely to want to do the athletic event in the first place, in comparison to some types of dogs who tend to have a lazier reputation.
The breeding history of the German Shepherd has also led to an excellent work ethic and level of focus, which further adds to their learning capabilities.
What Physical Activities Can A German Shepherd Participate In?
Due to their athleticism, intelligence, trainability, and drive, the German Shepherd can be found in almost every type of dog sport and in many different working environments where those same traits are used on a daily basis.
German Shepherds make great hiking companions, and with proper training can go for extended distances and in rugged terrain. They are also great choices for runners, and can run for extended periods of time unlike other dog breeds, such as the Boxer, which may not be able to run as long due to specific breed traits and health-related issues.
They also tend to be fans of water, and love to go for swims in the lake or even compete in dock diving competitions.
On the working side, the German Shepherd is frequently found in police work, military work, and other physically demanding jobs such as search and rescue.
You can also find them in some of the most popular, high-adrenaline dog sports, like agility and flyball.
How Can I Tell If My German Shepherd Is Athletic?
Like other athletic breeds, such as the Rottweiler, the German Shepherd tends to be high energy and requires a lot of physical activity to tire them out. If your pup loves to run, jump, play, and engage in physical activities, then he can probably be considered athletic!
If you are wanting to do a specific sport or event with your German Shepherd, you’ll first want to determine if your pup is fit enough to do the activity in the first place.
If you are just planning on walking with your German Shepherd or going on an easy hike, then it’s probably not necessary to prepare much for it provided your German Shepherd is in otherwise good condition and has no underlying health conditions (such as obesity or arthritis).
If you are wanting to do something a little more physically intense with your German Shepherd, though, it’s important to prepare your pup for it.
Depending on the physical activity, sport, or job you are thinking about asking your German Shepherd to perform, it is a good idea to research the physical demands on the dog so that you can develop a good training and conditioning plan for your German Shepherd.
A trip to the vet for a physical checkup is also a good idea. Your vet can help you create a plan to safely condition your German Shepherd, as well as make sure their bones, joints, and muscles are in good condition.
Meeting with a local dog trainer or someone who specializes in the dog sport you are thinking about doing is also a good option, and they can help you and your German Shepherd safely work towards your goals.
Can I Train My German Shepherd To Be Athletic?
If your German Shepherd is currently lacking a little bit in the athletic department, it’s definitely possible to work with them on increasing their athleticism and helping them become healthier overall.
Pet obesity is a big problem within the United States, and German Shepherds are not immune to this. If you think your German Shepherd is not at their ideal weight (whether you feel they are overweight or underweight), a visit to your vet will help you determine if there is an underlying health condition (such as diabetes or a worm infestation) that is causing the weight issues, or if it’s simply a matter of diet.
Once your vet has determined the root cause of any weight issues your German Shepherd may have, then you can work on helping your pup reach a healthier weight and that ideal athletic body type that German Shepherds are known for. Your vet can help with this, or you can also seek out a certified pet nutritionist or physical therapist to help get your German Shepherd in healthier condition.
If you have a specific sport or job you’d like to do with your German Shepherd, research the best training and conditioning plans to help get your German Shepherd ready to perform. You can work on creating a plan to increase your German Shepherd’s level of muscle, their endurance, and their obedience training, all of which will help your pup become the athlete you are wanting them to be.
No matter what type of athletic event you are thinking about doing with your German Shepherd, always make sure you are putting your pup’s health and safety first and work closely with your vet to make sure you aren’t pushing your four-legged friend too far, too fast.
Is It Bad If My German Shepherd Is Not Athletic?
As much as we would love to do cool things with our beloved German Shepherds, the reality is that sometimes our pups just aren’t cut out for certain activities.
Whether they are not physically capable of performing certain things, they have an underlying health condition, or they just plain aren’t interested in it, sometimes our dogs are better off not doing those activities at all.
This doesn’t mean they are bad dogs or unhealthy dogs, and it’s absolutely OK if your German Shepherd is not athletic! Their health and safety should always be our first priority, and we should never try to make them do something that they are not able to do.
While some German Shepherds may not be able to accompany you on marathon runs, you can find other activities to do together. Going on walks around your neighborhood or local parks, taking them on a beginner-level hike, or even just having a good play session in the backyard are all great ways to help keep your pup active but aren’t quite as physically demanding.
Your German Shepherd doesn’t have to be athletic to get a good workout and enjoy being out and about with you!
Will My German Shepherd Being So Athletic Affect His Health?
As a high-energy large dog breed, the German Shepherd also tends to have a higher metabolism than other breeds of dogs.
If your German Shepherd is particularly active, it’s important to monitor his weight and calorie intake.
If you are doing a lot of athletic events and sports with your pup, you will most likely need to increase his diet and perhaps even supplement it with high calorie dog supplements. Depending on the sport or job you are doing with your German Shepherd, you might also have to add in additional vitamin, mineral, or muscle supplements.
Your vet or a certified pet nutritionist can help you determine what the best course of action is regarding your pup’s diet to help keep them in peak physical condition.
It’s also important to be aware of any joint issues that may occur as your German Shepherd engages in physical activities.
German Shepherds are prone to several different genetic conditions that can affect their bones, joints, muscles, and neurological systems. As they age, German Shepherds may also develop arthritis and other painful conditions.
Muscle tears are also fairly common in dogs who engage in a lot of physical activity, so it’s important to always monitor your pup’s health and to educate yourself on what the signs of injury and pain are for a dog. Making sure not to exercise your German Shepherd during extremely hot weather or in dangerous situations is also important.
It is also possible for a German Shepherd to get too much physical activity.
Since these dogs are so loyal and have such a high drive, they often will work themselves to exhaustion and injury if their owners and handlers do not step in beforehand, or if their owners work them too hard before they are ready. This is especially important when exercising young puppies who are still growing.
Monitoring your German Shepherd for any sign of exhaustion, dehydration, or injury throughout your athletic event is key to preventing any medical issues, as is offering frequent breaks for your pup to recover.
German Shepherds are a favorite for those of us who enjoy engaging in physical activities. Their breeding, physical stature, and energy level make them a great option for many varieties of sports and activities.
Top that off with a high level of intelligence and a reputation for being one of the most trainable dog breeds, and the German Shepherd ticks all of the boxes for being a prime athlete!