There is little doubt that most of us love dogs. There is even less doubt that we all prefer a well-trained dog to an untrained one. The latter tends to bark randomly, chew on things they shouldn’t, and not obey commands that they are given.
Training your dog correctly ensures that they do everything they are supposed to and avoid those untrained inconveniences that can be an annoyance.
German Shepherds, in particular, have the potential to be trained efficiently and effectively. This is because German Shepherds are among the most intelligent and brightest working dogs there are among the species.
Put it this way: German Shepherds have the ability to understand new commands in five repetitions or fewer and will obey the first command a whopping 95% of the time or more. That means that training can go smoothly and doesn’t require massive amounts of time and effort.
But German Shepherds can also be stubborn. This is why a firm hand and a smart approach is necessary to properly train them. This is where a few helpful hints can go a long way toward effectively training your German Shepherd.
Your Dog Is a Reflection of You
While there’s nothing wrong with it, we as humans tend to personify everything that we love. This includes our dogs, and we tend to ignore or forget the fact that our dogs operate on instincts that can be influenced by our emotions.
For instance, if you feel tense, your dog will recognize it. If a person causes that sort of reaction in you, your dog will want to get up to defend you. This is where that fierce loyalty can be both beneficial and something to keep an eye on.
Establish Yourself as the Alpha
As stated, German Shepherds can be a bit on the stubborn side. Establishing that you are the alpha, that you are in charge, is one of the most essential aspects of training your dog properly. Without that understanding, they will continue to challenge you whenever it suits them.
Your dog will look to you for guidance if they trust you, feel safe around you, and have a level of comfort. Developing that by guiding them with a firm hand can establish that you are the alpha in the relationship without having to do any yelling or getting aggressive.
Establishing yourself as the pack leader, the alpha, lets them know who is in charge. Not only that, it is precisely what they need to develop that trust and security in you, allowing them to feel the comfort that they need to follow commands.
Socialize Your Dog
The more the German Shepherd socializes the better and easier the training will go. This to get your dog used to be around other dogs and humans so that they won’t react unfavorably when a stranger or someone they don’t know approaches.
Think about how scary that can be to a stranger: this huge German Shepherd showing teeth and growling out a warning. It’s enough to send anyone running the opposite way. But they are sweet and loyal dogs and will do anything they can to protect their owner.
Being able to socialize, to pick up on body language, and familiarize themselves with other dogs and people can be a huge step for your German Shepherd in their training and obedience development.
Begin with Basic Obedience
You can’t run before you walk and training your German Shepherd follows the same basic principles. This level of training should be handled in a confident, sensible manner. It requires a lot of patience and, above all else, consistency from you.
Whether it is a puppy or an adult dog, limit the training sessions to around 5 to 10 minutes. Focus on a single command, too. The idea behind this is that spending too much time training or on too many different commands could leave your dog feeling confused or, even worse, bored.
When starting with basic obedience training, use food, treats, and a lot of praise. This helps to reinforce your commands and encourage them when they perform a task the right way. Never, ever show stress or frustration. Because of their naturally bullish nature, this will likely lead to an aggressive response from the dog and that doesn’t help anything.
Make certain that your dog is comfortable on a leash. If you have a clicker (more on that later), have that with you and some treats as well. You can choose to reward your dog with toys as well, but food generally tends to be the most effective method of reward.
The Clicker Method
One of the most effective ways of training any dog is through what is known as the click method. This involves getting a plastic clicker, oftentimes with a single button. You can get one that makes any sound that you prefer so long as it is a clear sound.
The idea here is to introduce it to your German Shepherd slowly. Introduce it visually at first, then let them know how it sounds by clicking it a few times. From there, you can begin clicking it once or twice and providing treats. This is to establish in their minds that a click of the button will lead to a treat.
The next step is to begin implementing commands. Begin with one at a time to avoid confusion or frustration out of your dog. Once they begin to establish that they understand the commands, start to mix it up. You don’t want the dog associating the clicking with that single command nor do you want them associating that command with that particular setting or situation.
Mixing it up allows you to begin training your dog on multiple commands while reinforcing the ones that they know. Space out the treats as you go. Instead of going one-for-one, perhaps you can have the dog perform a couple of different commands before finally giving them a treat.
Teach Important Commands
There are a handful of basic, important commands that your German Shepherd should be able to obey. Using “no” or “stop” is important for them to understand so that they know when they are doing something inappropriate, either at home or with other people or pets present.
The other important commands are to stay, sit, and down (lie down). Remember to use one command at a time until your dog performs that task and can show repetition. As always, use the clicker, give lots of praise by saying “good boy/girl,” and have a treat ready.
It is the constant repetition as well as being persistent with the commands that will help the German Shepherd retain those commands and understand them each time that you use them. Remember to maintain patience when trying to teach your German Shepherd new commands, especially if it is their first time learning it.
Teaching and training a German Shepherd can be done efficiently if you follow the right guidelines. The key is to be patient and watch them as they react to the emotions that you display.
Above all else, do not react negatively as it can trigger a response in them that could lead to a bite or worse.