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Home Alone! Keeping Your German Shepherd Entertained

German Shepherd playing with rubber duck

German Shepherds are among the most social breeds in the canine world. They just love spending time with you, whether taking a walk or just curling up next to you. So when it comes time for you to leave the house, it can make your Shepherd a little anxious.

For some dogs, the anxiety is so great, it can lead to extreme behavior such as persistent barking or howling, destructive chewing, scratching or digging. These are signs of separation anxiety.

The following tips can help you keep your Shepherd entertained while you're out.

Confine your dog. Try to keep him in an enclosed area when you're out, such as a crate with water, toys, and soft flooring (such as a rug, pad, or blanket). Dogs are den animals, and even large dogs like German Shepherds feel safer in their own small space.

Hire a dog-walker. German Shepherds love people—and there is nothing better than an extra person to love. A dog-sitter can play with your dog, take him for walks, and provide a welcome break while he's home alone.

Doggy daycare. The social German Shepherd is a good candidate for doggie daycare. Just make sure that the facility you choose is equipped to handle dogs that are big and active.

Distractions. Distractions such as puzzle-type chew toys, television, or the view from a big window can cure his loneliness. These tricks can help keep your dog entertained and playing long enough so that he may not even remember you're gone.

Alter your habits. Do you have a set routine each day before you leave the house? Perhaps you jingle your keys, put your bag or briefcase near the door or kiss your spouse and kids. Your dog picks up on these cues, and associates them with your leaving. Try to mix up your normal routine by doing your usual activities in a different order.

Go for a long walk. Taking your dog out for a walk before you leave will help make him too tired to misbehave after you leave.

Try not to cure your dog's anxiety problem by giving him even more attention—you'll only create a vicious cycle of neediness. Likewise, never get angry when your dog acts clingy as you prepare to leave. This can cause even more anxiety because your dog will associate your absence and return with punishment.

With some time and a lot of patience, your dog will have a renewed sense of security—and you can be confident knowing that your dog is fine being home alone.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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