German Shepherds are a medium to large sized working dogs, and they were originally bred for herding and guarding sheep. According to the book The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, the German Shepherd dog is easy to train and can quickly learn various tasks only after 5 repetitions and is third for their intelligence right after the Border Collie and the Poodle.
German Shepherds are eager to please and have a strong will to learn. If you want to have a happy well-trained GSD (and maintain your sanity), you should start your training as early as possible. It’s best to begin at around two months of age.
What are the first commands to teach your puppy?
After you’ve introduced the puppy to your household, started crate and potty training and your GSD is responding to its name, it’s time for it to learn basic commands like sit, stay, down, and come. These first four commands will be the basis for teaching more difficult commands in the future.
Being known for their focus and intelligence, these first 4 commands should not take a long time for your German Shepherd to be taught.
Remember that training should be fun for both you and your dog. Puppies have short attention spans, so if you notice that your dog is not interested in learning at that moment, stop the training session and continue after a couple of hours or even the next day.
Important things to remember when teaching German Shepherd puppy the basics
- Be consistent and use the same word each time.
- Keep the training sessions short and simple. They should last around 10 minutes and be done multiple times a day.
- Reward your GSD, whether with treats, a pat on the head, or praise with the words “good boy/girl” in a playful voice.
- Use a firm NO for corrections if needed.
- Never yell or physically punish your dog because that can make training scary and unpleasant for your puppy.
- Use both verbal and hand signals.
- Have patience!
How to train a puppy to SIT
Training a puppy to “Sit” is usually the first command to teach your dog, and it will determine a base for many additional commands.
- Step 1: Take a handful of treats and take your German Shepherd to a place or room where there will be no distractions.
- Step 2: Stand in front of your dog with a treat in the hand that you’ll be using for a hand signal. Allow your puppy to smell the treat through your hand to capture your dog’s attention.
- Step 3: Now that you have your GSD’s attention, hold the treat between your fingers, so the pup could see it, and place it above its nose.
- Step 4: Start moving your hand towards your dog’s rear side while holding the treat in line with its nose, over its head. At this point, your dog will have to bend its head backwards so it could see the treat and will automatically assume the sit position.
If your dog walks back instead of leaning in to the sit position (don’t worry, that is not uncommon), just try practicing the same activity with your dog against a wall.
- Step 5: The moment your pup sits, reward it with the treat, pet it and praise it with “good boy/girl” and a happy voice. Do not give your dog the treat until your puppy sits.
- Step 6: Repeat the same thing a couple of times. Now that your dog understands what you want from him/her and it starts associating the hand gesture with the command “sit”, start using the word sit right before doing the hand movement above your dog’s head. You should repeat this until your GSD makes no mistake.
If you feel like you would overwhelm your dog, you can introduce the word sit the next day or when you think your German Shepherd is ready.
- Step 7: Slowly start getting rid of the hand signal. By this time your puppy understands what you want it to do, so start making a shorter version of the hand gesture.
- Step 8: Parallel to step 7, start replacing the treats with using the pat on the head and a verbal praise.
After a few training sessions, your dog should be able to follow the command “sit” without food and without the hand gesture, using only your verbal command.
Here is a good video to demonstrate the command:
How to train a puppy to LAY DOWN
Teaching your dog to lie down comes with many benefits. Laying down helps your German Shepherd to naturally calm down and is a great command to use when in public and you don’t want your puppy jumping all over the place. Laying down is great exercise, especially for puppies that are too excited, and a positive way to help them practice discipline.
- Step 1: The most effective way to start teaching your German Shepherd how to lie down is to first get it in a sitting position. While there, the laying down will come more natural to your puppy.
- Step 2: After your puppy sits, show your GSD the treat and make sure it sniffs it, so you get its attention.
- Step 3: Hold the treat (you can also use a toy if your dog is more toy motivated) in front of your dog’s nose and start leading it down to the floor. As soon as your dog lies down reward it with the treat (or toy), pet it and praise it with a good boy/girl.
The puppy should naturally lie down. But if instead of that it lifts its bottom, try gently pushing its bottom down (remember: don’t use force, this may scare your dog, it should be just slightly harder than petting). If that doesn’t help, simply start the process all over again until the correct behavior is given.
- Step 4: After your dog understands what you want it to do, start introducing the word “down”. While guiding it with the treat (or toy) to the ground say the word “down”.
- Step 5: When your German Shepherd starts associating the word “down” with the command you can start losing the treats (or toy).
After some time, your puppy should be able to obey the “lay down” command without treats, toys, hand gestures, and without going to the sit position first.
Here is a video to demonstrate the command:
How to train a puppy to STAY
If you want to train a German Shepherd to stay, we suggest teaching first teaching the commands “sit” and “lay down”. After making sure that your GSD responds to those commands, the “stay” command will be much easier as you will use sit or down in teaching your puppy to stay.
Stay is one of the most useful commands to teach your puppy. There will be many situations over the course of your GSD’s life where you will want your dog to stay. For example, you have company, and you don’t want your dog mauling them at the door; or for safety reasons like you don’t want your puppy going out of an open door.
- Step 1: Take your dog to a place where it won’t be distracted and where you will have enough space to move around.
- Step 2: Stand right in front of your dog and give it the “sit” or “down” command and then show your GSD the treat to capture its attention.
- Step 3: Maintain eye contact for a couple of seconds and then give your GSD the treat and praise it.
If your dog gets up or tries to take the treat, start the process all over again.
- Step 4: The next time move the hand a little further from your dog and say the word “stay”. If it obeys, give your German Shepherd the treat and praise him/her.
- Step 5: If your puppy is doing well and understands what you want it to do, start to gradually increase the time and start adding distance by going backwards step by step.
- Step 6: After you increased the duration and the distance it’s time for you to add distractions.
After some time, your puppy should remain in the “stay” position without any treats. It is important to start with only a second or two and then gradually increase the time as your GSD learns the behavior.
Here is a video to demonstrate the command:
How to train a puppy to COME TO ITS NAME
In order to teach your German Shepherd to come to its name, it first needs to learn what its name is. Check out my full article on how to teach a puppy its name for step by step instructions.
This is one of the most important commands because you never know what situations will arise where you need your dog to come to you without fail.
You should start teaching your dog this command indoors and then move the training outside.
- Step 1: Wait until your puppy is busy with playing with its toys or it’s lying down and looking the other way. Then call its name.
- Step 2: When it looks at you, show your dog a treat and say “come” with a playful voice.
- Step 3: When it comes, give the treat to your puppy and praise it with the words “good boy/girl” and a lot of petting.
If it doesn’t come, simply move a little closer to your dog and show your GSD the treat. Be patient. If your puppy still doesn’t respond, try it again until you get the desired behavior.
- Step 4: Keep increasing the distance every day and after your puppy learns to come to its name, take the training outdoors.
- Step 5: After some time, start losing the treats.
Here is a video to demonstrate a command:
Why you should teach your dog the basic commands in a foreign language?
Dogs don’t understand the language as we do, but they can understand multiple words for the same command, which means that they can be multilingual (in a very limited sense of course).
Often people who own German Shepherds, or other breeds that originate from Germany, like to teach their dogs commands in German.
Teaching your GSD commands in German can make it easier for it to distinguish the words you use every day from the words intended only for your dog.
For example, if you often use the word sit with your kids, your puppy will start recognizing the word and realize that it’s not directed towards it, and the next time you try to tell your dog to sit it may not be sure who you are talking to.
Basic dog commands in German
Below are some basic dog commands in German:
|English Commands||German Commands|
The below video will help you with the pronunciation for these basic commands:
These basic commands will get your training journey started off on the right foot with your new German Shepherd puppy. Have fun and this is only the beginning of what your new puppy is capable of learning!