I’m sure you’ll agree when I say:
A well-trained dog is a pleasure to have around.
If you own an untrained pooch you know the frustration it causes.
Whether you’ve just brought home your first German Shepherd.
Or if you’ve finally decided it’s time to teach your old dog new tricks…
You’ve come to the right place to get the 101 on German Shepherd training.
It is a fact that German Shepherds are among the brightest and most intelligent working dogs.
Preceded only by the Border Collie and the Standard Poodle.
This is according to a book published by Stanley Coren in 1994 “The Intelligence of Dogs”.
You can read more about his study and the metrics here.
Thanks to their ability to understand new commands in less than 5 repetitions and obeying the first command 95% of the time or more.
And the desire to please you; most owners can succeed at training their dog on their own.
Because of their intelligence, German Shepherds can sometimes be stubborn. They need a firm hand and a smart approach to their training.
Training your German Shepherd is exciting. But sometimes dog training can seem overwhelming if you don't even know where to begin.
So here’s the deal:
You’ve got to get inside your German shepherd’s head…
And I’m about to show you exactly how you can do this:
Use these 7 Golden Rules when teaching your German Shepherd to make training easy and fun but above all successful…
The 7 Golden Rules to German Shepherd Training
Your Dog has a Built-in-Breed Specific Function
Your German Shepherd comes from a long bloodline of working dogs. In the case of the GSD, the breed-specific function is herding and guarding.
German Shepherds also make excellent sniffer dogs and excel in search and rescue. And in the wild, each member of the pack understands their duty to work for food and water.
Your dog still understands that today.
The bottom line is:
Your German Shepherd wants to be busy. Training is like killing two birds with one stone.
You have a polite and obedient dog while your pooch gets the stimulation and work environment he craves.
Your Dog is not a Person, Your Dog is a Reflection of You
As humans, we personify everything we love including our beloved dogs. And in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with that.
As long as we remember that our dogs operate on instincts. And our emotions affect those instincts.
There's this Staffie names Apollo that has hydrotherapy on the same day as Charley.
Now, Apollo and Charley hate each other. None of us are sure why though!
So, a few weeks ago Charley was at her weekly hydrotherapy session when Apollo strolled past her massage mat.
The moment I saw him I tensed up. And within a split second Charley, who has just had hip surgery, jumped up on all fours and started barking madly.
She's never had a problem with any of the other dogs around there. Even the owners 2 Jack Russell's hang around her with no problems.
Both myself and the therapist never saw it coming. But looking back now, I should have known…
Charley was reacting to her instincts.
My emotions played a big role in her final reaction. Charley was responding to me, but the results were not positive. Because I was tense and worried.
You may be wondering what you can do to encourage your GSD to respond to you in a positive way.
This brings us to the next golden rule…
Your dog has one basic need – Understand this and training will be a breeze
See that cute puppy snuggled up on your sofa? See that old dog that needs to learn new tricks?
They look to you for guidance…
And Here’s the trick:
The most valuable thing you can do for your dog is to show him that you are a good leader.
If you're thinking good leadership is establishing yourself as an ‘alpha' – you're wrong.
Your dog knows you're not a dog and so will never see you as a dog or an alpha.
Being a good leader means your GSD can and will always look to you for guidance.
Think about it…
If your pooch is looking to you for guidance they feel comfortable and safe and that creates an environment of trust.
Being a good leader is about using brains over brawn to teach your German Shepherd.
Your Dog does not communicate like a human
Your German Shepherd will respond to many different stimuli. Your body language and tone of voice being the two most important.
In time, your dog will understand certain commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “come”, “drop” etc.
But, dogs only understand single direct commands. Use language your dog will understand. Calm, simple commands and body language will make your message crystal clear.
Your Dog wants you to be consistent
For dogs, everything is black and white – they don’t understand compromise. Remember this and you'll have fewer bad habits to break.
Training your German Shepherd will be easier.
Here’s an example of the types of mistakes owners make:
Change verbal commands from “come” to “come here” keep your verbal commands consistent throughout.
If you’re trying to keep your pooch off the sofa, be consistent. If you allow it sometimes and other times not, you’ll confuse your dog and slow down the training.
How can you expect your dog to learn if you're not consistent?
Get Your German Shepherd’s Full Attention
You must have your dog’s full attention before he’ll learn anything. Pick a quiet place, with little or no distractions.
To begin with, your back yard is the best place since the smells are familiar and so also the surroundings.
If you were in a park for instance; you have no control over the distractions. Like other dogs and their owners, the scent of other animals, children playing, or a Frisbee whizzing by.
Once both you and your dog are confident in the training, then you can step it up by moving it to a place with more distractions.
Positive Reinforcement produces positive results
Your German Shepherd will respond best to training with positive reinforcement. Yelling or physical punishment will cause this intelligent breed to mistrust you.
Reward good behavior with treats or praise or both. It’s the best way to show your German Shepherd that he’s doing it right and it’s a motivator for him to continue with this behavior.
Remember earlier when I said that your German Shepherd actually wants to please you?
Well, once your dog has mastered the behavior, you can remove the treats and reward only with praise – he’ll relish in it all the same.
You know by now that there are heaps of different training programs. Each program has a specific focus, function, and outcome.
We’ll take a closer look at some of these in future posts. So, for now, let’s look at two basic programs…
What is obedience training and why your dog needs it?
The sole purpose of obedience training is to teach your German Shepherd how to act at home and in social settings.
Socializing, house training, and basic sit, stay, and recall commands will fall into this category.
Obedience training is essential to avoid the development of behavior problems early on. It's also the only way to fix bad habits and behavior that have already developed.
What is trick training and why your dog needs it?
After you have established engagement in training and your German Shepherd has the basics under the belt. You should consider stepping things up with trick training.
Trick training will boost your dog’s confidence. It is also a great motivator and builds a strong bond between owner and dog.
Trick training will stimulate and challenge your German Shepherd. Remember, a German Shepherd has the capacity and intelligence to do just about any trick you can imagine.
Just check out this video:
Let’s look at three of the most important obedience skills you should teach your German Shepherd straight off the bat:
Without these three skills, you’ll struggle to train your German Shepherd. Master these and the sky’s the limit…
The 3 Essential Skills you must Teach Your Dog
If your dog doesn’t recognize or respond to his name, training him will be impossible.
Your German Shepherd will learn to recognize his name by hearing it a lot.
Use it often and in an excited tone when you speak to him or give him attention.
When he begins to recognize and respond to his name make a fuss over him and lavish him with praise.
A simple way to train your German Shepherd to come is to start while he’s doing something else like playing.
- As soon as he looks up and acknowledges you, call his name.
- When he starts moving towards you, say the word “come”. Once he reaches you, lavish him with a treat and praise – make a fuss and tell him what a good boy he is.
- Keep food rewards with you at all times while you're teaching this behavior. So, whether he's prompted to come or if he comes out of his own – you can reward him. This way he learns the association. So saying the word “come” when he is approaching you just reinforces the behavior you want.
- If your German Shepherd is ignoring your call or looking but not responding, you'll need higher-value rewards to make yourself more interesting. Check out the section titled “The Power of Food in Dog Training” for an experiment you can do to determine which treats your dog finds the highest value.
Remember, the recall command is the most important thing you can teach your dog. It may save his life one day.
To start out you’ll need treats for training your German Shepherd to sit, once the behavior has become second nature you won’t need the treat anymore.
Keep reading to see how…
- When your dog is standing in front of you hold the treat just out of his reach. If he jumps up, you’re holding it too high – lower your treat hand.
- Your German Shepherd will keep eye contact with the treat at all times and you’re going to make use of this focus.
- Now move your treat hand as though you’re going to move it over your dog’s head towards his tail but be mindful to keep it in line with his nose.
- The natural response will be for your dog to drop his behind so that he can keep eye contact with the treat. As soon as his butt hits the ground, give him the treat and liberal praise.
- At this point in the game, you won’t be adding the word “sit” just yet. Keep practicing this without the command and only introduce the word after a couple of days.
Soon your dog will sit for food, treats, and love without you even having to say the word “sit”.
A note of warning here, I do not recommend pushing your dog on his back or tail area to teach the “sit” command, for two reasons…
Pushing on your dog could lead to injury of the back, hips, or hind legs if you do it too hard – rather safe than sorry.
Your dog could also experience this as something negative, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
It’s always better to train your German Shepherd to perform the desired behavior without too much physical interference.
So, there you have the 101 of German Shepherd training to get you started. With this new understanding, your pooch will be well on his way to a reliable and well-behaved dog.
The key takeaways here are:
- For effective German Shepherd training, you must be a good leader in your dog’s life.
- Leadership is about using brains and NOT brawn to train your German Shepherd.
- Understand what your dog is not (a human), learn to speak your dog’s language, and get inside his head.
- Always be patient and consistent with your training and reinforcement.
- Aggressive methods are not effective when training your German Shepherd. You will see little to no results, it will cause trust issues and you’ll break your dog’s spirit. Always be kind!
- Positive reinforcement and training will bring quicker, long-lasting results. And build a strong relationship of trust and love between you and your German Shepherd.
Check out this article to learn how to teach your German Shepherd not to jump on you or your guests.