The German Shepherd Training Guide

german-shepherd-training

German shepherds are some of the most obedient and protective dog breeds when trained correctly. If you just got a new German shepherd puppy, you may be wondering how to train them properly.

Fortunately, with effort and lots of patience, training your German shepherd can be quite straightforward.

To properly train your canine companion, it is essential to be consistent, kind, and clear. Positive training methods are the most effective. Luckily, you do not need any special equipment for successful training. All they require is love and treats!

When Should You Start Training Your German Shepherd Puppy?

The answer to this is as soon as possible! Puppies tend to do better with a routine, so it would be great to start training off at a young age. An excellent place to start for German shepherd puppies is when they’re about eight weeks old. You want to start potty training them at this age, but you can also begin behavioral training and teach them commands at this age. 

The 8-12 week and 4-6 month windows are acceptable times to start training as well. Ultimately, it will all depend on when you purchased your puppy, so the sooner you start – the better!

Essential German Shepherd Training Tips

Without adequate training, dogs can become aggressive and potentially dangerous to others. Below we’ll cover the essential training tips for German shepherds.

  • Socialize your puppy

Socializing your German shepherd puppy is the most important training tip. After your puppy receives all their shots, you can enroll them in a puppy training or puppy socialization class. Some vets will recommend that you keep them inside until their full round of shots is complete, but this will result in you missing your puppy’s crucial socialization window.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you decide to enroll them in these classes. Make sure to talk to your vet and go over various plans on how to socialize your puppy. Keep in mind that you will have to socialize them at home as well.

  • Teach your pup to use their mouth properly

Like many other breeds, German shepherds like to chew on shoes, toys, boxes, carpets, your hands, and anything else they can sink their teeth in. German shepherds are capable of learning how much pressure to use when biting certain things.

You can teach your puppy to be gentle when playfully biting human skin. Most dogs will grow out of this biting stage, but this is an excellent time to teach them how to use their jaws properly. Instead of biting you as a form of playtime, teach your puppy to play with toys instead. Taking them to socialization classes will also help as they will be playing with other puppies.

When playing with other puppies, you will notice how dogs yelp to communicate that they are hurt. If your dog bites you (even if it doesn’t hurt), you should do the same. Yelp and go away from them to stop the biting behavior.

After you go away, wait until they are calm and then start playing with them again. Do this several times a day, and remember never to entice them to play using parts of your body.

  • Potty training

While you are training your pup in new behaviors, you will also have to think about potty training. You should keep track of how many times and when to take your puppy out. You’ll need to take puppies out more often than adult German shepherds. Every 2-3 hours is an excellent place to start

You should take them out right after meals, after sleeping, and after a play session. Make sure to praise them for using the potty outside.

You can use a crate to train them and remember never to punish them for an accident. If you don’t catch your puppy in the act, it’s too late to correct the behavior. If you see your puppy doing it, you can mildly scold and direct them to the correct spot.

  • Use treats

Despite what you may have heard about treat training, this is a great way to train your puppy. A good trainer can keep a dog motivated, and treats are the easiest way to do this. Using food for training does not necessarily mean that they will only obey when you have treats in your hand. If you do it the right way, they will be obedient without treats as well.

When treat training, use small treats so that your pup does not get full too quickly. Make sure to use a variety of treats and save the best ones for special occasions. Use what is known as “jackpots” to reward your pup. With this method, you’ll reward them with many small treats in a row. At the end of a training session, offer a bigger reward, such as a bone.

Make sure to start your training sessions with a hungry pup. This will give them more motivation for treats. Also, remember to always reward new positive behaviors. Examples of this are:

  • When you teach your dog a new behavior/action. 
  • When you ask your dog to repeat a specific action in a new environment.  
  • When you ask your dog to perform an action while they are distracted.
  • When you ask your dog to perform an action at a greater distance from you (gradually increase the range).
  • When you ask your dog to stay in a specific position for a certain period (gradually increase the amount of time). 

Timing is also crucial when training. Offering treats at the right time will teach your puppy to associate a wanted behavior with a reward. Once you have applied the treat training tips and your pup has mastered their training 8 out of 10 times, you can start to cut down on treats slowly. Cutting down on treats will prevent your dog from only obeying when treats are involved.

Teaching in Different Places, and Every Time From Scratch

This may be a tedious task, but it’s necessary. Dogs are not able to generalize a concept to any situation. If you tell your pup to sit while in the kitchen, they may not obey your command in the backyard. Luckily, German shepherds are intelligent and may require less repetition than other breeds.

Once you have repeated training with your pup and they respond correctly more than 80% of the time, you should start giving them treats randomly instead of every single time they respond.

Then you should be practicing in different environments, while still treating randomly. Take your pup around the house and practice while outside until they respond correctly more than 80% of the time.

Basic German Shepherd Commands 

After your pup masters potty training and bite control, it’s time to teach them a few handy commands. Every owner decides which commands they’ll teach their dog. We’ll cover three basic commands, and you can choose where to go from here.

–Sit

This will probably be the most important command to teach your pup. This command will help your dog become well-mannered and is also the easiest way to show them how to be obedient. 

  • When your pup is in front of you, flash a treat to get their attention.
  • Hover the treat over their head slowly while keeping it in line with their nose. 
  • Once your pup sits down, reward them, and praise them for a job well done. 
  • Don’t use the word “sit” just yet. Do this after a few days of practice.
  • After a couple of days, use the word “sit” with a treat in hand. If they don’t sit, push down on their bottom gently. Do not reward until they sit without your assistance. Do this repeatedly until they no longer need treats to sit. 

–Come

This is an excellent starting command to get your pup to come to you, even when they’re distracted. It will also build communication between you and your puppy. 

  • Make sure your pup is indoors and playing with their toys. Call their name and wait for them to respond. When the dog looks at you, show them a treat, and tell them to come. 
  • When they come to you, praise them and offer a reward.
  • Your pup may not come willingly the first time, especially if the “come” command is new to them. If this happens, tug on their leash without being forceful, repeating the word “come” while showing them the treat. You may need to try different treats to entice your puppy. When they respond positively, reward them with the treat. 
  • After two days of training, go outside and repeat these steps.
  • Slowly increase the distance between you and your pup and repeat the exercise so that they will come without treats.

–Stay

This command will help if your dog is doing something that needs to be stopped, such as chasing a neighbor’s cat.

  • Do not start this command before your pup has learned the “down” command. 
  • Teach them to stay down.
  • Anytime you want them to stay put, make eye contact with them. Repeat the word “stay” if the dog gets up or lift their head. If they stay down, reward them with a treat and praise for a job well done. 
  • Repeat these steps while gradually increasing the amount of time that you want them to stay put. 

Training Collars

Many people use shock collars to train German shepherds. Shock collars have had some negative connotations, but if used safely and correctly, they can be instrumental in training. German shepherds are very smart but can be strong-willed at times, which is why some owners prefer the shock collar method.

You should never use shock collars as a substitute for training. They also should not be used to go along with training for certain behaviors, such as loud barking.

Not all shock collars use shock to train. Many of them use vibration or sound, which is enough for most German shepherds. These correction methods should have different levels to help you figure out which one suits your dog correctly. You also want a shock collar with a decent range, especially when training outside. You don’t want your pup to run off if you’re too far away to stop them.

You want to look for a collar with a good battery life, especially on long walks or training sessions. Most importantly, you want a collar that is comfortable for your pup. Measure their neck size to ensure that you get a comfy fit.

A good shock collar is not cheap, but it makes an excellent investment. Try reading some reviews of different shock collars to find the best one for you and your pup.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that training a German shepherd may take quite a bit of time and effort. While they’re incredibly intelligent, these dogs are also somewhat stubborn, so make sure that you stay patient. Remember that consistency is key.

Training your pup will be beneficial to them. It will also help you develop a strong relationship with them, so take your time, be patient, and have fun!