Mental Stimulation - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 10-08-2008, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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Mental Stimulation

Our breed is high energy and extremely intelligent. Many people don't realize how much mental exercise needs to go into a German shepherd to keep it happy and its owner sane. We're always told to make sure they get enough walks and chances to run and play fetch, but no amount of physical exercise in the world will satisfy a GSD unless there is plenty of mental exercise involved. But sometimes we get stuck wondering just what we can do to tame the crazies in our beasties.

What do YOU do for mental exercise for your GSD?

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue

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"German shepherd dog breeding is working dog breeding or it is not German shepherd dog breeding." -v. Stephanitz
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 10-08-2008, 06:02 PM
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Re: Mental Stimulation

Kenya is very clingy and wants to always be with me so for us it's training and proofing. She really loves doing obedience training, lol! Doing even just a solid 15 minutes of heeling patterns, pivots, recalls with all sorts of distraction...really that satisfies her more than a three mile 45 min walk. I don't usually set aside obedience time but just kind of do a few minutes here and there. For example so far since I've been home I used walking out to the mailbox as a chance to have her Fuss there and back, with a few practice stop-sits each way. My dogs get most of their exercise playing and running off leash. Walks do not satisfy Kenya no matter how far we go. Sometimes DH takes her on his jog if she's being hyper. I've found that she can go for days without hard physical exercise, but if we don't do something together she starts getting twitchy, pacing around, etc. In the past, we were always in at least one training class at a time. Right now we're kind of on a break but I've been working on some things in the yard and also practicing agility stuff like serpentine, pinwheel, my crosses, etc (I have jumps and stuff in my yard).
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 10-08-2008, 06:19 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Mental Stimulation

I'm always working on keeping things interesting with Renji. We have no yard but we do have access to dog parks for fetch and running and training when they are empty. We do go to obedience and agility classes and will also be starting rally classes. I can honestly say that training classes wipes my dog out more than lure coursing and hard running, even if he doesn't run around much at class. So that's a BIGGIE. Involve a dog with classes and you'll have one happy dog (and it's fun for people, too).

At home, we work on fronts and finishes, directional commands, targeting, names of toys, getting used to handling and exams and handling his paws, heeling on both sides, and focus. I'll do long sits and downs with him as well and I'm working on teaching a "stand" command. We also started to play training games where I do absolutely nothing but reinforce desired behaviors- his job is to just "behave" while I look for pieces of the puzzle that I want to reward and we build from there. It teaches him how to think and learn and it's really fun. I'd like to do more tracking work with him and start working on rally things. We're working on improving his paper-fetching ability and also delivering things to be thrown to hand. While we play fetch, he has to out the ball on MY command or else he has to go back and grab it. I just recently started to work with him on tossing out two balls, having him fetch one, then sending him back out for the other. That makes him think. I'd like to work on directed retrieves as well. I also saw those neat toys in the Whole Dog Journal that the dog has to manipulate in certain ways to get the food out- they're made of wood but they seem very cool!

When we're out in the park, typically before we play fetch, I work with targets and teach him to laterally move away from me and to move away from me forwards and backwards. I'm teaching him a command to look and focus ahead. We work on our crosses and I work on my timing. After fetch, I'll walk around the park and he'll follow, but if he gets too far away I'll zip around in the opposite direction. I find he's paying more attention to me and not getting as far away from me as usual, now that he knows that if I'm out of his sight for too long, I might vanish!

Basically, the name of the game is to TRAIN. We are working on competing but we may never even get a CGC. But boy will he know a lot of stuff. I need to make a list of the things he's catching on to and what he already knows. Oh, yesterday he started to learn how to sit "pretty" (sit up in a beg position). It's cute! There really doesn't need to be a purposeful goal, just teach SOMETHING. They really do appreciate a little schoolwork. And yes, it doesn't take long. Yesterday's session was a bit over a half hour and it was really mixed up and he was an angel the rest of the night. The night before, he was a nightmare. And he didn't have a walk (they don't do anything for him except fire him up). Tonight though, I plan a bike ride which does have some mental stimulation as well since he is learning left from right from straight.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 10-08-2008, 10:19 PM
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Re: Mental Stimulation

Lately I've been doing "group mental stimulation" .. *L* .. I've been in a flare-up and hurt pretty much all over, so it limits what I can do with the dogs. In addition, my Mom went on vacation and her GSD mix came to stay with me so I have five dogs to entertain.

So we go back in the shop and I do a lot of games with them. I take treats or dog food and I toss it around and behind and under things so that they have to search it out (it's fun watching a group of five dogs all intently searching for bits of food - and not a grumble or argument in the group!). With the shepherds, I toss their toys back into the storage area of the shop where they have to search through boxes and equipment to find the toy (although the orange Cuz disappeared when I threw it back there .. Tazer searched, I searched and we just can't find it! The gremlins stole it.).

I also have a tunnel, a jump, a ramp and we play with having the dogs do the different obstacles - I can sit and send them over or through these.

We do group exercises, too, like spin or sit or down or bark or wave, etc. I taught Eddie (Mom's dog) to spin and bark so he could do these with the other dogs. It's hard to get them all to do it at once, but I can go through the group pretty quickly .. *L* .. he's quick to sit and down with the girls which is pretty neat, as he was adopted from the pound this spring and had to learn fast how to deal with the bitches (and Tazer does her best to drive him crazy).

When I'm feeling better we do obedience work - practice finding heel position (Tazer especially as she's learning this - Khana (chow) is an amazing heeling dog and can heel every-which-way: forwards, backwards, sideways, on the right, etc.), practice with the dumbbell (they all try to get it as whoever gets the dumbbell gets the treat), recalls and drops on recall, etc. I'm getting ready to teach Khana the scent articles now that she's doing a pretty reliable retrieve (she's in training as my service dog and retrieving has been a focus of ours).

I try to do things like this with the dogs at least 2-3 times a day. It's good for all of us, myself included!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

Positive 1ST! More reward, less correction makes a GREAT trainer.
Chows: Khana CD RE SD & Dora NA NAJ GSD: Tazer SDIT
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 10-09-2008, 11:45 AM
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Re: Mental Stimulation

I also try to do some mental stimulation with Meb & Shay. For their treats I put them under an old plastic container and make them sit/stay until I say "OK" Usually Shay grabs the container and runs off with it and Meb gets his treat but he is now starting to realize "Hey, there is a treat under there".
I will try to do the sit and spin and would love to get an agility course in our field in the spring but I know nothing about it and will have to read up on it.
Thanks for some good ideas!!

Meb 4 year old male German Shepherd
Shay 2 year old male German Shepherd

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