German Shepherd Training: Top tips on getting the best results from your dog!
One of the most popular breeds of dog, the German Shepherd, demands a lot of respect. They are not only beautiful and highly intelligent; they are also extremely perceptive. Ensuring you are using the right method to train your dog is crucial. With so much contradictory advice on the internet and in various training guide books it can be confusing to decide which method is correct.
This article will cover various methods and techniques on training your German Shepherd to be the dog that you want them to be. Looking at the pros and cons of each method you can decide what is best for your dog. They may all be the same breed, but they are all extremely unique personalities and it is important to remember what works for one German Shepherd will not necessarily work with the next.
German Shepherds are a relatively new breed of dog in the scheme of things, only being officially recognised since 1899. Originally bred for the purposes of sheep herding people quickly caught on to the intellectual capabilities of the breed. In recent years, German Shepherds have been one of the most popular breeds used for search and rescue dogs, special assistance dogs and are also the breed of choice for police forces around the world.
The reason for this is their ‘trainability’. They are quick learners and under the right conditions and very intuitive – therefore they have become such a loved breed and popular choice as a family pet. Extremely loving and respectful when treated right, there is not much more one could ask for in a breed. German Shepard’s intelligence is not always a benefit to us as their ‘master’. If you spoil your dog as a puppy or skip some basic training, then your German Shepherd will quickly learn how to play you!
Why is it important to train my German Shepherd?
As mentioned above the German Shepherd is a stunning breed with intelligence exceeding almost all over popular breeds of dogs – and this makes them so popular. It can however also lead to issues. They are a large breed and extremely strong.
They require a firm hand from their Master because if you choose to let your German Shepherd do as it wishes they quickly revert to a wilder state of mind. Agitation is common and this can lead to your dog being aggressive and snappy towards you and towards others. An aggressive dog the size of a German Shepherd can be very intimidating, and the last thing you want is to fear your own beautiful dog, or even worse, to have it taken away for being a threat to society.
Do you understand your German Shepherds behaviour?
The key to training your dog successfully is understanding the behaviour that your dog is displaying. The sad truth is that many problematic dogs are the result of bad ownership. People misunderstand or over-react to their dog’s behaviour and this in turn creates a vicious cycle of more unwanted behaviour. German Shepherds require a lot of attention and need long walks, if you can’t invest this time in your pet then maybe the German Shepherd is not the breed for you.
Boredom is the main reason that German Shepherds start to misbehave. If your dog starts to show signs of aggression then don’t punish it too harshly, maybe you need to be giving more attention to your dog. Go for longer walks, and make sure that any positive behaviour is rewarded. As with punitive methods, don’t go overboard with rewards either – a small treat will suffice. If your German Shepherd continues to show signs of aggression then maybe the issue isn’t boredom, another key to a well-behaved dog is consistency.
Is your dog suddenly snappy one day and then fine the next, or does the aggression come and go throughout the day? This could be an issue with consistency. German Shepherds may be extremely intelligent but to prevent them from becoming agitated, routine is vital. Walking them at the same time at least twice a day is extremely important, as is feeding them at the same time daily. For example, if you walk your German Shepherd at 6pm for a week and then one day decide to walk him at 8pm, there is a chance that your dog shows different behaviour starting around 6pm.
This is due to your actions! Do not punish the dog for this behaviour. Simply take the dog for a walk or at least let the dog outside until you can walk him if possible – try to reassure your dog that nothing is wrong. This leads us to the third point, maybe the most important, your German Shepherd has to trust you – not fear you!
Many owners confuse trust and fear when it comes to German Shepherds. A dog that fears its master is a disaster waiting to happen. Although it may seem to follow orders and will still be capable of being genuinely happy you have a ticking time bomb. The saying ‘violence breeds violence’ is a perfect example in this situation.
The second your dog feels threatened or cornered in a situation then it could snap at any moment. It is important to know that the most dog bites treated in the US were dog bites that had come from a German Shepherd. For your dog to trust you it must see you as it’s pack leader, and this comes from being firm but fair with your dog from the day you get it.
A German Shepherd that trusts you will turn to you when it feels threatened or cornered instead of lashing out as a first response.
Remember Boredom, Consistency and Trust. If you manage to think about those three things every time your dog behaves negatively then hopefully you will better understood the behaviour it is showing. With very slight changes in your methods of care you could be able to revert it’s behaviour very quickly!
Getting a German Shepherd puppy? Start training from day one!
Before getting any puppy, a German Shepherd it is vitally important that you are sure you are ready to take on the task. German Shepherd puppies will take up most if not all your free time and can require a lot of attention. Before you take the leap and purchase a puppy think about the following:
Do I have the space? German Shepherds require a large area to play in outside even when they are not being walked – or do you want your living room to become a toilet permanently!?
Do I have the time? Too many people who work full time go ahead and buy a puppy on a whim, this is unfair on the dog and is only going to stress you out. Stress is likely to manifest as resentment of the puppy and it is unlikely to feel loved and learn to trust you.
Do I have the patience? German Shepherd puppies will test even the most patient of people. Scratching, biting (They have extremely sharp teeth as puppies!), damaging furniture, urinated and or defecating inside and waking you at all hours whining for attention. These are just a few of the things that you can guarantee your puppy will do, however cute it is this can be extremely tiring physically and emotionally – do you have the patience to not get angry and teach your dog how to behave?
Do I have the money? One thing that people often forget to think about when purchasing a puppy is the cost of keeping a dog. It can be very expensive! German Shepherds eat a lot and dog food costs money. Veterinary bills for vaccinations and for any unexpected problems that may occur need to be factored in. Pet insurance is a good option here as if anything goes wrong there will be no massive one-off cost, however insurance is not cheap either. Then you must consider all the potential damage to your doors, walls and furniture that a puppy can cause. German Shepherd puppies might be adorable to look at – but they can easily break the bank!
If you decide that you are ready to go ahead and acquire a puppy make sure that you go to a breeder who loves and respects their dogs. Visit a few breeders and see what feeling you get, it should be obvious from the dogs’ behaviors whether they are being treated well or not. Most states require that commercial breeders have a license. If you are purchasing from a commercial breeder make sure that they have the correct paperwork and licensing for your state.
Do not take home a puppy that is under eight weeks old! The first eight weeks of a puppy’s life are crucial for future development. You do not need to play a part in this as the puppy needs to stay with it’s mom during the first six weeks. After six weeks, the puppy will normally stop needing so much attention from its mom and start to become more independent. By week eight most puppies are independent enough to be rehomed to a forever home and you can collect your puppy!
If the breeder suggests the puppy stays with the birth-mom for an extra week or two take their advice and let them. Two weeks means nothing if you can have a happy German Shepherd puppy instead of one that misses its mom!
Before you get bring your puppy home consider whether professional obedience training is a good option for you. If you have no experience with puppies in your household, then it is recommended that you do send your German Shepherd puppy for obedience training. Not only will it be faster than training the dog all on your own, it will be less stressful for you. Your puppy will be socializing with other puppies the same age with an expert in dog behavior present.
This allows for quick development that may take only days with a professional but would have taken weeks at home. As with breeders, many states have accredited training agencies, make sure to read reviews and see the place you will be taking your puppy. Speak to the trainer(s) at the training center about what methods they use. Many will use the same techniques you will be using such as conditioning with rewards and punishments. Punishments will generally include being told to stay in their bed while the other puppies play and rewards will be edible treats or extra human affection.
If you choose to get professional obedience training, then it is important that you remain the master in your puppy’s eyes – the obedience trainer will set tasks and goals for you and your puppy over the time you have agreed and it is important you do your best to reach these.
Taking on a rescued German Shepherd? Make sure you are well prepared!
Taking on a recue dog of any breed is something that you should be proud of if you have the means to do so – even more so if the breed is big dog like a German Shepherd. Many rescue dogs are just as loving and kind as dogs that have been in loving families their entire lives.
It is important to remember that many of these dogs have been abused, and although they may settle and seem calm it can take only one small noise or smell to fill these dogs with fear as they have been conditioned to expect pain – this can result in serious aggressive behavior. This behavior can appear to come from nowhere and can be dangerous, if you have young children you might want to re-consider this option until.
Re-conditioning takes a long time! Rescue dogs will need even more attention and human interaction in general than non-rescues. Spend as much time as possible gaining your new German Shepherds trust, and don’t blame yourself or the dog if it takes a long time. Give your dog all the attention you can and spoil the dog occasionally at first – the way to a dog’s heart is food – so have plenty of treats on hand for the first weeks or months.
Bad behavior still needs punishment if you want to re-condition your rescue. If your German Shepherd starts misbehaving withhold the treats and affection until the behavior ceases, then treat the rescue again. If this doesn’t work taking the rescue for a walk will normally reset them to how they were before they started misbehaving. Re-conditioning can take a lot of time and can sometimes feel like you are making no progress, however with patience and perseverance it might be one of the most rewarding things you ever do once you start to see your German Shepherd start to trust again!
Conditioning, Conditioning, Conditioning through repetition!
The most simple and effective method of training is condition. Reward positive behavior, don’t reward negative behavior and reprimand for bad behavior. And repeat. Eventually your dog will learn. This works for toilet training puppies all the way to teaching dogs which paw they can eat the treats off first. If your dog trusts you and you never show any signs of aggression, through conditioning you can get your German Shepherd to learn all sorts of basic verbal commands!
These training techniques are used by professionals to train German Shepherd dogs to do all sorts such as sense seizures before they occur in people who suffer from epilepsy to differentiating cancerous cells from non-cancerous cells by scent. Make sure you continue to use conditioning techniques and allow your German Shepherd to keep learning and to prevent your dog from developing bad habits.
Overall there is no right or wrong when it comes to training your German Shepherd. As previously stated; just because dogs are the same breed does not mean training will go at the same speed for two German Shepherds – each dog is individual!
So long as you love your dog and make sure that your dog knows that by showing affection as much as possible and never showing aggression your dog will respect and adore you. Make sure to be a good role model as once your dog trusts you and has started learning they will pick up bad behavior fast – if you feed your dog from the dinner table don’t get annoyed if they beg for food the next day.
Patience and perseverance are two personality traits that you will need in abundance to train your German Shepherd. All of your hard-work is not for nothing, and it is important to remember that. You will have a beautiful dog that loves and respects you unconditionally. The amount of joy this breed can bring is immeasurable. German Shepherd’s may require a lot of attention but the amount they give back is equal if not more. The better trained your German Shepherd the easier your dog will find it give back to you – so keep up the good work!