As Training Director at SMDTC, I am asked a lot of questions and I have learned that for every person who asks a question, there are others needing the same information, but for various reasons don’t ask. So, I have decided to post some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on a regular basis. If you have a question you would like to ask, or more input on an answer, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.
Q: My almost 10 month old male German Shepherd is a really great dog overall. During the summer and fall we enjoyed playing Frisbee most days. But on days that I can’t go out and play Frisbee with him because I am busy or it is too cold, he is a mess with WAY too much energy. I put him out in the backyard to play on his own and he just paws aggressively at the door to come in. We still have a lot of winter to go! What can I do to get him to behave better on these days he is acting ‘crazy’?
Lots of energy is part of being an older puppy of many breeds, and when the dog is approaching its adult size as a larger breed, things can definitely get out of control. I commend you for having found a way to channel his energy on most days; unfortunately that energy never takes a day off! Imho, I think that lack of adequate exercise and brain stimulation is one of the main roots of behavior issues for many pet dogs today. You have also chosen a breed that REALLY likes to be with their people and may not spontaneously handle separation or change in routine well. We have two issues here – how to get more activity/stimulation when you can’t go outside and the dog being outside on its own sometimes without damaging your door! Because each topic requires a lengthy answer, I will answer the exercise question here and focus on the behavior at the door in a future answer.
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do indoors with your dog to take the edge off that energy. Let’s start with a more active idea. I love a tennis ball on a 10 – 15 foot length of parachute cord. Make a hole with something sharp in each side of the ball, run the cord through it and tie it off. Of course, you could also use another favorite toy. This way, you control the ball/toy and where the dog can take it as long as you hold the end of the cord. If you have any open space in your house at all (sometimes a hallway works great) 10 minutes of chase the ball can make all the difference. Dog won’t give up the ball? Try trading it for a treat or another toy then bring focus back to the one on the cord. If your dog is too big, or your space too small for this much activity, put your own twist on the game! Try Come games, having members of your family call the dog from different rooms in the house. When Fido finds a family member its party and treats time!
Also, don’t forget to work obedience or other training into your everyday routine. When your dog has to engage his brain it can burn as much energy as physical exercise. Just 5-10 minutes of work in a few sessions throughout the day will result in a much calmer pooch. Tired of the same ole routine? Jazz it up with a few tricks, or some simple nosework games by playing hide and seek with a favorite toy, a treat, or an old sock. Reward with a treat when the object is located (or finding a treat is self-rewarding) and your dog will be eager to find it again and again. There are also many commercial toys you can purchase that require problem solving by your canine. A search of Canine Brain Games returned 674,000 results!
Ready to take it to the next level? Enroll in Tricks, Nosework, Agility or one of our many other classes (please check prerequisites). You will have homework to keep both of you thinking, and coming to class is guaranteed to make even an adolescent German Shepard dog-tired the next day.