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How To Discipline A German Shepherd Puppy

How To Discipline A German Shepherd Puppy

German Shepherds can be the most well-mannered and obedient dogs. However, much of how they behave depends on how you train them and keep their manners in check.

Although adult GSDs are perfectly capable of learning, it’s always ideal to start disciplining dogs when they are young.  So how do you discipline a German Shepherd puppy?

This article will dive into the best and most effective ways of disciplining a GSD puppy when needed.

Best Ways to Discipline a German Shepherd Puppy

Positive reinforcement training remains to be the best way to discipline any dog, especially a German Shepherd puppy. This method works not only for obedience but also for encouraging good behaviors. For GSDs, this is especially effective because their high level of intelligence enables them to quickly associate rewards with their actions.

Effective Ways to Discipline a GSD Pup

There are many opposing beliefs about the best ways to train and discipline dogs. While some believe that the best training methods involve punishing bad behaviors, research suggests that reward-based training methods are actually the most effective.

Additionally, behavioral issues can be addressed through redirection and behavior-specific training.

Here are the most critical parts of fostering good manners in a young German Shepherd:

Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training involves rewarding your dog for good behaviors. This increases the likelihood of them performing the right behavior and can also discourage unwanted behaviors.

For example, if you want to teach your dog not to jump up to greet you (something you want to do before they’re big enough to topple you over), ignore them when they jump up and reward them with plenty of praise and attention when they sit or do something else you find desirable.

Eventually, they will stop jumping up at you because that doesn’t get them what they want. Instead, they will greet you by sitting in front of you because that gets them the reward they want.

On the surface, positive reinforcement training might seem simple enough. However, here are some things you need to get right for effective training:

Step 1: Find The Right Reward

First, you need to find the right reward. Different dogs have different motivations. Some are driven by food while others are mostly motivated by toys and play.

GSD Puppy With Toys

Others find that the best reward is cheerful praise and a good ear scratch. Learning what motivates your dog will help you raise them more successfully.

Step 2: Get The Timing Right

Second, you need to make sure you get the timing right. Dogs basically live in the moment, so you need to reward in the moment as well.

When rewarding, catch them in the act of doing the right behavior. Otherwise, they won’t be able to make the crucial association between the action and the treat.

Step 3: Consistency

Third, you need to be consistent. When they’re young pups, you need to pay enough attention so that you can always reward the behaviors you are encouraging.

Only with consistency will they be able to make the positive associations and reinforce the behaviors so you don’t need to keep rewarding later on.


In most cases, the most difficult part of training dogs is to reverse unwanted behaviors. Dogs often don’t really understand when you tell them to stop doing something. So, the most effective thing to do is to redirect them to more appropriate behaviors.

For example, if your German Shepherd likes to dig holes in your backyard, you can redirect that behavior to something more desirable, like playing with a ball.

As soon as you let them out into your yard, toss a ball and encourage them to play. This diverts their energy into something more positive. If you do this consistently, they will associate the yard with playtime rather than digging time.

Controlling Behaviors

When training German Shepherds, you’ll also find that not all undesirable behaviors can be redirected. Excessive barking, for example, is very difficult to divert. In such cases, it’s helpful to train specific behaviors to enable your full control.

In the barking example, it helps to teach your dog to bark on command. Mark the bark with a command like “speak” or “bark.” Then, while barking, introduce a “quiet” or “silence” command.

Make sure you reward them as soon as they stop barking. Practice this until you can make them speak and keep quiet on command. Eventually, the same “quiet” command will work when they’re randomly barking at something else.

What You Shouldn’t Do to Discipline a GSD Pup

Having a headstrong and energetic German Shepherd puppy can be tiring and exasperating. However, you mustn’t direct any aggressive responses towards your dog.

This is especially critical during these early stages when they’re still building their confidence and also their relationship with you.

Additionally, certain types of punishment can instill fear in your pup. Not only would that severely hinder their ability to develop a good relationship with you, that might also lead to some fear-based aggression down the road.

To discipline your dog in a way that fosters a healthy relationship, here are some things you need to avoid:

Don’t yell

Yelling is useless because your dog has no idea what you’re saying. Worse, it might instill fear for something they don’t understand. That breaks a puppy’s confidence and might lead to reactivity.

Don’t hit

Hitting your dog is another act that will make them fearful of you. It doesn’t help your relationship and it won’t help discipline them either, because they won’t understand why you’re hurting them.

This might also lead to fear-based aggression where they will growl, lunge, or bite to defend themselves.

Don’t overreact

Disciplining a GSD puppy is no easy feat, so, understandably, you’ll get frustrated sometimes. When that happens, try your best to avoid overreacting, because your dog won’t understand your actions. Step away, try again another time, and believe that it’ll all be worth it.

Don’t discipline too late

Only bring attention to an infraction that has just occurred. Otherwise, your dog won’t be able to make the connection.

For example, if you come home to a pee accident, don’t make a fuss. If you catch them in action, however, you can give them a hard “no,” pick them up, take them outside, and reward them for peeing in the right place (even if you literally had to take them there).

Don’t have unreasonable expectations

Videos of extremely disciplined German Shepherds on social media might give you unreasonable expectations of how your puppy should act.

What you don’t see, however, is the amount of time and effort people put into training those dogs.  In fact, most will still experience some frustration. They just don’t post it.

No dog is inherently well-mannered all the time. The owners of the social media dogs you see have also gone through (and are likely still going through) the hardships and frustrations you’re going through now. 

Tips for a Well-Behaved German Shepherd

Instilling discipline in your GSD pup is not all about training and rewarding good behaviors.

Here are some things you can do to improve your success while also strengthening your relationship with your canine companion:

  • Start early. It’s easier to train good behaviors on the onset rather than correct or redirect ones they have already developed.  
  • Be consistent. The only way your puppy is going to associate the rewards with the right behaviors is if you’re consistent with your training.
  • Establish verbal cues. Apart from training for specific behaviors, you can improve your communication by enabling them to learn cues like “yes” and “no.”
  • Use games for training. Training doesn’t have to be work. Use playtime as an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Tire them out. Excess energy can often be the root cause of bad behaviors. If you give your GSD pup plenty of opportunities to exercise, they’ll spend much more time resting indoors. It’ll also make it easier for them to focus during training sessions.
  • Hone their abilities. GSDs are working dogs. They’re intelligent with many skills they need to use to become well-rounded dogs. If you give them opportunities to sharpen their mental abilities and also hone their other skills (e.g., scenting, agility), the more well-behaved they’re likely to be.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ve owned dogs before or you’re a first-time dog owner, learning how to discipline a German Shepherd puppy can be difficult and sometimes even frustrating. However, with some patience and dedication, you’ll be rewarded with a well-mannered and obedient companion.

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