German shepherds are a breed that has a reputation for beauty, intelligence, and strength. But even though these dogs are very capable, German shepherd training can still be difficult if you don’t know where to start. Before you begin training your new dog, consider what you want to teach them. This can include basic commands, simple tricks, guard dog tactics or even correcting bad habits.
German shepherd Training Basics
Socializing your puppy is an important part of training. This should start as early as possible, when your German shepherd is just weeks old. Allow your dog to play with other dogs his age, as long as both dogs are properly vaccinated. Taking your pup out into the world to meet people and become used to the sounds of your neighborhood is also important. This helps to reduce your dog’s chances of becoming animal or people aggressive and developing anxiety. Dogs that are animal aggressive are not used to being around other animals and will become aggressive and very territorial should an animal wander into their yard or too close to it.
Set up a play date with another pup and monitor their time together closely, giving both dogs a treat during play. If you have small children avoid letting them roughhouse with the dog until your dog has mastered basic commands such as down, sit and stay. An untrained dog can accidentally hurt or knock a small child over, so it’s necessary to hold off on unsupervised interactions until your puppy is at least one year old and has basic command knowledge.
To some pet owners, crate training seems both cruel and unnecessary, but in fact a dog’s crate quickly turns into your pup’s go to place for sleep and comfort. As your puppy grows they will go through a number of phases, some of which can be pretty destructive. During the first year, as your German shepherd grows they will start teething just like a baby. Teething is painful but the pain and pressure associated with it can be relieved by chewing. Unfortunately, they can end up chewing your favorite pair of shoes if they don’t have the proper toys and are left unsupervised when you’re out.
Crate training not only gives your dog a secure space of their own and allows them to feel more comfortable when they’re at the vet or groomers, but it also protects your personal property when you’re out and about and helps with the potty training stage.
Before you purchase a crate make sure that it’s large enough for your pup to grow into a full sized shepherd. When they’re an adult the crate should be large enough for them to stand and turn around in, comfortably. Anything smaller can give your dog anxiety and cause any number of behavioral problems and physical problems, so size does matter. Never leave a puppy in their crate for more than a couple of hours due to bladder size.
Most pups will need to be taken out every two to three hours to use the bathroom.
During potty training, always go outside with your dog and praise them each time they successfully eliminate outdoors. Puppies are like babies and cannot be potty trained successfully until the muscles in the bladder can be easily controlled and the bladder is the correct size so be prepared for plenty of accidents until your dog’s bladder has matured. Bladder maturity usually occurs around six months. Never scold your dog should he or she have an accident indoors. Positivity is key here.
German shepherds have a strong desire to please their masters, which is why it’s so important to remain positive during training, especially with puppies. Puppies can quickly pick up on negativity and can become anxious and afraid of displeasing you.
How to be the Alpha of your Pack
If your shepherd has a number of behavioral problems, doesn’t respond to commands or basically runs your house, now is the time to assert yourself as the alpha of the pack and take the lead. Your dog needs to know who is boss. Letting your dog have his or her way when it comes to begging for treats, leading you around on their leash or jumping all over you and guests are all common problems that occur during your dog’s teen years. But by establishing that you’re the alpha in the pack your dog will come to respect you and look to you for commands.
Never allow your dog to drag and pull you when you’re out for a walk. Instead, your dog should be at your side, slightly behind you. Never allow them to push past you into the house. Controlling your dog on a leash and entering the home before they do establishes your alpha status. All dogs have a pack mentality and will respond to this type of training. Having better control over your dog during a walk is also a safety issue, especially if you’re walking in a new area and are unsure if there are loose dogs in the neighborhood.
The Truth about Leash Training
There’s no doubt about it, leash training is hard. Especially when you have a strong, eager and excited dog that’s dying to smell everything. Wind the leash up, providing only enough slack for your dog to walk comfortably at your side. Every few feet stop and hand your dog a treat, pulling the treat from your pocket on the same side the dog is walking. The goal here will be to walk further distances between each treat you offer. This will keep your dog happily by your side. Eventually, you’ll be able to forego the treats, but we recommend keeping them on hand in the event of a loose dog.
While an eager pup may get excited to run across the street to sniff, or even nip the other dog running around loose, offering them treats until the loose dog is out of sight will distract your dog and give you total control over the situation.
Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t immediately respond to leash training, every dog is different. The important thing is to remain consistent and positive. If your dog is too active to control on a walk, start off slow, attaching the leash to their collar and allowing them to run around the house in their excitement until they settle down. Only take them out the door once they’re calm and more manageable.