Have a beautiful German Shepherd but finding it difficult to train him? Then you are at the right place. In this article, you will find some excellent tips for a straightforward process of training German Shepherds.
German Shepherds are most often known to be large, very active, agile, muscular, and highly intelligent and noble character. When dog lovers think of getting their first dog, they often dream of having German Shepherds. This is primarily because this dog breed is known to be self-assured, loyal, steadfast, and extremely brave.
However, the dog training part is what people do not think of when they consider getting a German Shepherd. Getting or purchasing German Shepherds is very easy. However, training German Shepherds can be quite tricky if you are a first-time dog owner. You will either have to enlist the help of a dog trainer, or you can do it yourself. However, you must start early. In this article, you will find some amazing German Shepherd training tips.
You need not get special gear to start the dog training process. The only equipment required for training German Shepherds are treats and lots of patience. If you are planning to get a German Shepherd puppy, you should be ready to start the dog training early in life. Do not wait for your puppy to become a full-grown adult before starting the dog training process.
Training German Shepherds should start the day the dog enters your home. Check out the following tips to achieve success in training German Shepherds, whether you are a first-time dog guardian or not.
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Since German Shepherds are a highly intelligent breed, they can pick up on commands very quickly. However, the problem the dog trainer or dog guardian faces is preventing distraction during the dog training process. Most dog guardian complain that during training, German Shepherds easily get distracted. It is very hard to refocus his attention on the task at hand. If you follow through with the following tips for training German Shepherds, trust me, the dog training process will look like a breeze.
When should you start training German Shepherds?
The first question that most dog guardians ask is when to start the dog training process? The training process should start the moment the dog enters your home. This scenario is applicable if you are getting your dog from a reputable dog breeder. However, if your own German Shepherd has had a litter of pups or if you have rescued very young puppies, then you should wait till the pups are at least 8 to 12 weeks of age before you start the training process.
Tips for training German Shepherds
As I mentioned before, the training process should start the moment the dog enters your home. However, before you start the training process, you need to have a set of rules that you abide by when you are training German Shepherds.
The first thing that you must do is form a schedule. This schedule will contain your puppy’s feeding times, walk times, training periods, etc. If the schedule mentions that the feeding time is at 8:00 AM, the feeding time should be 8:00 AM every day. If you have to take the puppy out for walks four times a day, then you must take the puppy out for walks at the same time every day without missing.
You cannot provide four walks in one day and two walks on the other. This way, you will never be able to train German Shepherds. You need to be consistent in yourself and your habits before you start training German Shepherds.
Your first priority should be to focus on the timetable and follow the timetable to the T. Once you have gained success in sticking to the schedule and not wavering, you can assure yourself that you will get success in training German Shepherds as well.
Be consistent in your commands.
Here is one of the common problems that many dog guardians face. It is:
They use one command and expect different results from the dog.
They use different commands and expect the same results from the dog.
An example of the first scenario will be if I ask Delta to come to me. For this, I use the command ‘come.’ Delta comes, and he gets a treat. However, next time, suppose he is comfortably sitting on the bed. I want him to jump down; I use the same command, ‘come.’ This will leave Delta confused. At this point, I should be using the command’ jump’ to indicate that he has to jump down from the bed. Furthermore, by jumping down from the bed and following my command, ‘come,’ Delta is trading in a very comfortable spot for roaming around on the floor, which he may not prefer.
An example of the second case scenario will be if I use the command ‘come’ and ‘let’s go’ for the same action. Suppose I ask Delta to come. Therefore, ‘come’ is my recall command. However, I decide to use the command, ‘Let’s go’ to indicate that he has to come to me. Therefore I am switching the recall command from ‘come’ to ‘let’s go.’ This will confuse Delta.
I hope the above examples have made it clear what I mean when I say you are not being consistent in your commands. If you have assigned ‘come’ as a recall command, ‘come’ should be the only command that you use for recall. You cannot exchange the word ‘come’ for ‘let’s go’ or ‘time to go’ etc. Consistency is key in the dog training process, especially when training German Shepherds.
Focus on reward-based training
Reward-based training is easy for the dog parent and keeps the puppy engaged when training German Shepherds. Would you do something when someone asks you if there is no reward involved? Most likely, not. Similarly, when you train German Shepherds, you need to understand that they will initially follow your command only if they get something in return. Once the command has cemented itself in their brains, you can wave off the treat or reward. However, during the German Shepherd training process, having a treat in your hand is crucial.
Ensure that the treat is enticing
Using dog food or puppy food is not enough if your dog is not interested in the food itself. When you train German Shepherds, you must use a treat that is highly enticing to your dog. You can either use boiled chicken, dog biscuits, dog food, or anything that your dog loves.
Many times, guardians complain that their dog does not respond to them even though they have a treat in their hand. The most likely problem here is that the treat that the guardians have in their hands is not enticing enough for the dog. If the dog loses interest in the treat, he will not follow your command. Therefore, make sure that the treat that you have in your hand is super enticing for your pup, and your pup will do anything to get the treat.
German Shepherds are very easy to discipline and train. However, remember to use positive reinforcement and never punish your dog for any unruly behavior that they might display. Using shock collars, hitting your dog with the newspaper, or shouting at your dog is not going to get you results. Instead, these will only make your dog fearful and aggressive towards you.
Treats are a boon
The best way to train German Shepherds and to teach them right from wrong is to use treats. When your dog performs a task that you want him to, praise the behavior and offer a treat. When your dog is engaging in negative behavior, say ‘no.’ The command ‘no’ should be short and decisive. Since your dog did not get a treat after the action, and instead got a NO from you, eventually, he will understand that such actions are not appreciated by you.
The people-pleasing behavior that dogs have will force your German Shepherd to stop doing what you do not like. It will take time and patience on your part, but it is not unachievable.
Redirect your pup’s attention
Another common complaint from dog guardians during the puppyhood stages is the excessive chewing behavior of their dog. If you have a German Shepherd who loves to chew on any and everything he sees, you need to focus on redirecting your pup. Redirection cannot only be used for excessive chewing behavior. It can also be effective if your dog has a tendency to jump on other dogs or people. Jumping unless encouraged is not good behavior and should be avoided.
If your German Shepherd is jumping on you, ignore him completely. Once your dog realizes that jumping is not getting him what he wants, he will stop jumping. He will then try to do something that you generally encourage, like sit. Once your dog stops jumping and sits, you encourage the behavior and offer a treat. This way, your dog will eventually learn that jumping is not acceptable behavior. Instead, he should sit if he wants attention from you.
Stop biting behavior
Another situation where redirection can be necessary is if your dog has a biting behavior. If your dog is biting or chewing on something that you don’t want him to chew on, say ‘no.’ When your dog looks up from the item to you, offer him a treat that he will not be able to ignore like boiled chicken. When your dog goes for the treat, his brain will get redirected from the object he was chewing on to the treat in your hands. Use this opportunity to hide the item that your dog was originally chewing on.
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Teach basic commands first
You may want to start training German Shepherds for adult competitions. However, if your dog does not know the basic commands, you will not have any success with the German Shepherd training process. Therefore, always start training German Shepherds with the basic commands first, and then move on to the complicated ones.
The first commands that you must teach your German Shepherd are:
- Stop or No.
- Look at me
Work on resource guarding behavior
Many dogs have a tendency to resource guard. Your German Shepherd may show resource guarding behavior towards food, toys, or any specific object that has got his fancy. Eliminate this behavior as soon as possible. If resource guarding behavior is not eliminated quickly, it will increase aggression in your dog.
How to reduce resource guarding behavior in training German Shepherds?
Suppose your dog is showing resource guarding behavior towards food. How do you eliminate that? A dog will growl when the food is taken away if he has resource guarding tendencies. To eliminate this behavior, you need to first teach your puppy to sit and look at you. Before you give the food to your pup, you ask your German Shepherd to sit.
Next, you will ask your dog to look at you by using the command ‘look at me.’ When your dog looks at you, you will put the food bowl on the food stand. However, the moment your dog tries to prowl on the food, you will take the food away and ask your dog to look at you.
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Repeat these steps till your dog understands that he is to look at you and not at the food. When your dog focuses his entire attention on you and not on the food, place the food bowl on the stand, hold your dog’s attention for a few more seconds, and then say ‘eat.’ ‘Eat’ is the command which indicates that you are allowing your dog to go and have his meal.
Your dog may not get this the first time around. You may have to conduct this training session a few times before your dog understands that he has to look at you till you give him permission to eat.
Once your dog has aced the first step, it is time to proceed to the second step. The second step involves taking away the food bowl when your dog is still eating. This will be difficult at first. Your dog may even display aggression. However, eventually, your dog will understand that the food always comes back to him and that he has nothing to worry about. No one will eat his food.
Use the above steps to curb the habit of resource guarding in your dog. Use these steps for food, toys, or any specific item that your dog has taken a special liking to.
Teach the puppy to be quiet
When training German Shepherds, it is crucial that you teach them the quiet command. Barking is very useful dog behavior and can alert the dog guardians towards intruders or any other potential danger. However, if your dog has developed a habit of unnecessary barking, it will be difficult to handle. Therefore, from the puppyhood stages, you should start training German Shepherds to be quiet. When your pup follows the quiet command, reward and praise the behavior.
Award good behavior
As I mentioned before, German Shepherds are highly intelligent. They will understand your needs and requirements very quickly, depending on your behavior. If your puppy displays favorable behavior, always reward it. This way, you are marking the behavior and encouraging it simultaneously. This will also tell your pup that this behavior should be conducted more often so that he gets rewards and treats.
Never punish when training German Shepherds.
One tip that probably every dog trainer and experienced dog guardian will give you is to never shout, scold or threaten your dog. As I mentioned before, threatening your dog will only make him aggressive and fearful towards you. It will not yield the results you want from your pup. Therefore, exercise patience and understand that training will not happen overnight.
Dog training takes a long while, and your dog may conduct mistakes during the training process or even after the training is over. However, if you start punishing your dog, then the relationship between you and your dog is doomed to go downhill. Instead, ignore the negative behavior, or say ‘no.’ The absence of physical affection, rewards, and treats will tell your puppy that this behavior is not encouraged and he should not engage in such behavior next time onwards.
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Stop leash pulling behavior.
Most dog guardians, when taking their pup out for walks, are either pulling the leash of their dogs or are being pulled by their dogs. This has been especially observed in the case of German Shepherds. This is not a good dog walking experience. You may land up with pain in your shoulders and hands.
Alternatively, your dog may pull you, and you may fall and get injured in the process. Therefore, training your dog on how to walk on a leash is crucial. I have written an entire post on how to avoid leash pulling behavior and how to encourage your dog to walk properly on the leash. Feel free to check out the blog post and implement it in your training routine.
The alpha theory does not work.
You may have heard many dog guardians preach the alpha method. The alpha method is when you establish yourself as a leader of the pack. Your dog will recognize you as the leader and will follow your commands. However, these ideas originally stemmed from research done on wolves that were kept in captivity. When the same research was conducted on wolves in the wild, the theory got disproved. Hence, do not use the alpha method for training German Shepherds.
Focus on the bond
Instead, focus on deepening your bond with your dog. Dogs are very loving and loyal creatures. If your dog loves you and respects you, he will follow you to the ends of the world. Thus, your primary focus should be on establishing a good relationship with your dog. If your relationship with your dog is excellent, your dog will recognize you as his parent, the provider, and a leader. Your dog will learn to be loyal to you and will do everything in his power to keep you happy.
Focus on learning the body language of your German Shepherd. A crucial part of training German Shepherds is to understand their body language. Dogs may not be vocal creatures, but they can tell you a lot through their body language. You need to have the right kind of mindset to understand your dog. Every dog’s body language is different.
Some cues may be common amongst most dogs. However, there will be certain cues that are specific to your dog. Hence, you should be careful about your dog’s needs, wants, and what he likes and dislikes. Over time, your dog will look to you as someone who understands him and can be trusted with his emotional needs. Thus, if your dog faces a problem, he will come to you instead of running away from you.
Never train your dog when you are distracted.
This is a point that you will probably not find in the other dog training articles. When you train German Shepherds, you are also training yourself. This is especially crucial if you are a first-time dog guardian. Before you start training your dog, you must train yourself to act in a certain manner every time your dog follows the action or command.
However, sometimes people try to behave like a robot and train their dogs irrespective of whether they are mentally present during the training process or not.
Suppose you have just returned from the office. You had an awful day at the office. Your boss shouted at you for no mistake of your own. You are already in a pissed-off mode, and you have to train your dog. Since there is a schedule and you are a good dog guardian, you decide to go ahead with the training process.
The point that you are missing out on here is that dogs are very susceptible to human emotions. If you are in a bad mood, your dog will also feel distracted and will not be able to pay attention to the training process. Thus, the training will not go as smoothly as expected. This, in turn, will cause a buildup of frustration in you, and you will lose patience with your dog.
Every one of us has good days and bad days. If you are having a bad day, you can take the day off from training your dog. Instead, just revise the commands that your dog is already trained in. Do not teach your dog anything new.
Never train your dog when your dog is distracted.
Whether you or your dog, if one of you is distracted, the training process is not going to go well. Therefore, as I mentioned before, if you are distracted, do not train your dog on that day. Train your dog only after you feel better.
However, if it is your dog who seems distracted, you can redirect your dog’s attention to yourself by using the command ‘look at me’ or by using treats. If your dog is still struggling with the command, ‘look at me,’ you can use treats instead to focus your dog’s attention back on you. Distractions are part and parcel of the dog training process. You need to understand how to deal with the distraction and keep your dog’s attention on you before you start the training process.
If you train German Shepherds in the dog park or in the backyard, the dogs will have many stimuli to get distracted with, like birds chirping, squirrels hopping, people walking on the streets, etc. Under such conditions, you must make sure that your dog’s attention is on you before you give him any command.
Start the training process in-house and level up.
The purpose of most of the commands in dog training is so that you have a well-behaved dog even in the face of distractions. The process of training German Shepherds must start in-house. This is because the least number of distractions are available indoors.
Experts suggest that you start training your dog indoors before you take the training process outside. If you try to train your dog in an environment where there is a lot of noise, kids playing in the background, birds chirping, etc., you will never be able to get the training done properly.
You should level up in the following manner.
- In the house
- In the yard
- Right outside the house
- One house away from your house
- Some distance away from your house
- Solitary parks (if possible)
- In a dog park
- In a very busy environment
Check the training at random times.
How do you understand if your dog has understood the command that you taught him or not? For this, you need to ask your dog to follow the command that has been taught and random times of the day. If your dog follows the command, well and good. If your dog does not follow the command, give him a quick recap of what was taught. This way, your dog will be ready to follow through with your commands anytime and anyplace you ask him to.
This point cannot be emphasized enough. Even if the training process is complete and your dog knows all the commands that you taught, this does not mean that you stop training your dog. Keep at least five minutes of time daily to revise all the commands with your dog. This will not only keep the commands fresh in your dog’s memory, but it will also reduce the response time of the commands. You will not have to repeat the command twice to get your dog to follow through.
Do not rush the process.
Every dog is different. Every dog learns at a different pace. In a classroom, there are many different kinds of students. Some students can grasp the concept in 5 minutes, while others may take five days to understand the same concept. The case is similar when it comes to dogs. Every dog is not the same. Not every dog of the same breed is the same.
Even if you have three German Shepherds and you are training them, do not expect all of them to follow the command at the same pace. Some may grasp the command and start responding very quickly. Others may take longer. Hence, it is your responsibility to not rush the training process and go at the pace of your dog.
Some final thoughts
Now that you know all the German Shepherd training tips, it is time to put them into action. There is no right or wrong way of training a German Shepherd, as long as you do not use aversive punishment methods and exercise patience. You can also use the clicker training process to train your dog if you’re comfortable with it. The one thing you should never forget is the importance of treats.
Your dog will only follow your command if you have something good to offer him. Make sure that the treats are mouthwatering for your dog before you start the training. Reward good behavior, ignore or say ‘no’ to bad behaviors. Stay consistent in the training process and use the same command every time. Within a few weeks to a few months, you will have a completely well-trained and well-behaved German Shepherd puppy.
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Do you have a German Shepherd? How did you start the process of training German Shepherds? What is your go-to method? Please feel free to mention your comments, observations, and opinions in the comment section below. If you have any queries pertaining to this blog post or any other articles on The Happy Puppers blog, feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels. You can also email me your questions. I will be happy to help.
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