So, your German Shepherd has mastered the art of sitting, staying, and coming when called. He’s even a pro at giving his paw and rolling over. What next? Well, this is where the fun really begins!
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Teaching your pup some advanced German Shepherd training commands is such a fun way to cement your bond and reinforce the basics.
These ideas below engage your GSD both mentally and physically. Plus, they lay the groundwork for even more advanced work, such as service or therapy dog training.
German Shepherd Training Commands
One quick note before we begin. In case it wasn’t clear above, your pup should have mastered basic German Shepherd training skills before moving on to advanced commands.
After all, your dog can’t run until he can walk, right? At the very least, your dog should already know:
- Drop It
Once he has all of those down, move on to these fun and useful advanced commands.
1. Watch Me
“Look” or “watch me” command is one of the first advanced training commands to teach your German Shepherd. Not only is it a valuable tool all on its own because it helps you get your dog’s attention when you’re out and about, it’ll also help make subsequent training activities a lot easier.
Teaching “Watch Me” is fairly straight-forward. Just grab your dog’s favorite treat or toy and hold it up in front of your eyes. When your dog looks at it, hold eye contact for a second or two, then give him the treat. Expert trainer Victoria Stillwell of “It’s Me or the Dog” also recommends holding the treat between your index finger and thumb, which becomes a hand signal when you remove the treat from the equation.
While playing fetch is the quintessential dog/owner bonding game, it’s not just about play time. Teaching your dog to retrieve and bring items back to you is an essential skill if you plan to train your GSD as a service dog. Fetch also reinforces basic commands like “sit,” and “come,” as well as enhances your dog’s overall recall.
Teaching dogs to fetch isn’t terribly complicated as long as he knows the basics. Just call him over using the “come” command, then tell him to sit. Next, show him a treat or his favorite toy. Then, give it a toss- not too far at first- and say “fetch.” When he goes to get it, use the “come” command again. As he returns, praise him with an extra training treat. Repeat, praising him every time he returns. It won’t take long for him to get it.
3. Find It
As the name implies the “find it” command encourages your dog to find and retrieve hidden objects. Not only is it a great way to put a new spin on an old game, it’s a vital skill for GSDs preparing for future K9 training. Start your training session with fetch. After a few rounds, let your dog see you hide his toy. Then, tell him to “find it,” and encourage him to get it from its hiding spot.
Once he masters finding objects that he sees you hide, move onto hiding them out of his view. You may need to use treats or something else that he can smell, rather than his favorite toy. Place them farther and farther away. With patience, he’ll soon be able to find objects hidden in completely different rooms.
4. Speak & Quiet
Yes, this is actually two separate commands, but it’s easier to teach them together. You don’t really want to teach your dog to bark on cue without having a way to stop him, after all. Likewise, it’s hard to teach him quiet when he’s already sitting there silently. Along with their value in setting the groundwork for service dog training, teaching “speak” and “quiet” can also help you deal with an excessive barking problem.
Teaching “speak” is as simple as issuing the command while simultaneously doing something that gets your dog barking. Reward him the moment he starts. For “quiet,” either wait until your dog is already barking or get him excited by having someone knock on the door. Then, get his attention with a high value treat or favorite toy and say the “quiet” command. As soon as he stops barking, reward him. As with all commands, you’ll need to repeat the exercise regularly until your dog understands the connection between speaking or being quiet and the reward.
Touch is another one of those commands that sounds like little more than a cute parlor trick, but again, it has its uses. In fact, it’s one of the first commands service and therapy dogs learn. By teaching your GSD to “target touch,” he can help you open doors, close cabinets and more. “Touch” also helps get your dog’s focus on you, making him easier to manage during stressful situations.
Start by standing in front of your dog with your hand open and palm towards him and say “touch.” At this point, he’ll either naturally sniff your hand out of curiosity or he’ll look at you like you’ve gone mad. If he does the former, immediately praise and reward. If he does the latter, just put a little peanut butter or cheese on your palm to entice him. Once he masters “touch” up close, add some distance and, eventually, swap out your palm for other objects.
Advanced German Shepherd Training Commands: Tips for Success
German Shepherds are naturally highly intelligent and they’re people pleasers to boot, so you already have terrific building blocks when it comes to training. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind as you begin working on advanced commands.
Patience is vital during any stage of dog training, from basic potty skills to advanced tricks. Remember, “Human” is not a native language for your dog. In other words, he has no idea what your commands mean until you give him context.
Getting angry or frustrated because he hasn’t mastered a command after one, two, or even ten repetitions won’t help him learn faster. In fact, it could significantly hinder your training, not to mention break (or at least cause a tear in) your bond.
So, if you feel yourself growing agitated, end your training session and just spend time playing with your dog. Go back to it when you’re both more relaxed.
Choose the right time and location.
Timing truly is everything, especially when it comes to teaching your GSD advanced commands. Never train your dog when one or both of you is tired, hungry, or agitated.
If possible, opt for a time between meals during the day or in the early evening an hour or so after dinner. This is especially important if your dog is food motivated. You don’t want him too stuffed or too starved to focus on his tasty treats.
Location is key, too. Choose a quiet area free of distractions. It’s hard to get your GSD to focus on you when his arch-nemesis Mr. Squirrel is over on the tree tauntingly shaking its tail. Once he masters the commands in a distraction-free zone, then you can take him outdoors to reinforce them in the “real” world.
Praise, don’t punish
Punishment has no place in dog training, period. That goes for everything from basic potty skills to advanced commands. Scientific studies show that if you’re aggressive towards your dog, he’ll become aggressive, too. Likewise, there are countless studies and articles by animal behaviorists pointing to reward training as the single best method.
Never scream at your dog for not following a command. Don’t stomp your feet in rage. Never, ever, ever hit your dog. Not only is it an incredibly cruel way to train a dog, it can (and likely will) destroy your bond. Worse, you’ll create an aggression problem that could lead to someone getting severely injured.
Know when to call in a pro
For the average companion dog, these advanced German Shepherd training commands are mostly “just for fun” tricks. So, if your dog just can’t master them, it’s not really a big deal. Work on the ones that he gets and leave the rest behind.
However, if you’re setting the groundwork for a future service or therapy dog, these “advanced” commands are just the tip of the iceberg of what he’ll need to learn. So, if you struggle to get him to learn “fetch” or “find it,” consider calling in a pro. Remember, if every single person could do it on their own at home, there wouldn’t be any need for experts. Ergo, the fact that experts exist mean you’re not alone. There is absolutely no shame in admitting that you’re just not equipped to train your dog yourself.
Last, but far from least, just remember to keep it fun! Teaching your German Shepherd advanced training commands should be enjoyable for both of you and help strengthen your bond, not make you both miserable.