German Shepherds are natural herders. In fact, the reason why this breed was first discovered was…
German Shepherds are among the smartest dog breeds in the world. They are also eager to work and especially eager to please. Because of this, it is relatively easy for them to pick up new commands.
However, GSDs are also confident and headstrong dogs. Without proper training and leadership, they could develop some unwanted behaviors.
This article will discuss German Shepherd training, why it is important, and provide some tips to help you along the journey.
Why Is German Shepherd Training Important?
It is critical to train a German Shepherd because their sheer size and strength can result in disastrous situations if they don’t know how to behave properly. However, avoiding hospitalization or lawsuits isn’t the only benefit of training a GSD.
Here are some of the most crucial reasons why you need to take the time and make the effort to train your German Shepherd:
Avoid Problems Due to Bad Behavior
Pets are only enjoyable when they can live harmoniously with you. German Shepherds can be prone to behavioral problems if you don’t how to handle them.
They will use their intelligence to alleviate boredom and may even learn to leverage their intimidating presence to get away with naughty habits.
Develop a Strong Bond
Training your German Shepherd isn’t just about teaching them good manners. It is also very much about developing your relationship with each other.
With every training session, you become more in tune with one another and learn more about how to communicate with each other. The bond you develop with your GSD through training will translate to their affection and loyalty towards you.
Raise a Happy Dog
A German Shepherd that has no purpose or has no idea what to do with themselves will grow up with anxiety issues. These are the same dogs that can develop fear-based aggression.
Training them will not only stimulate their minds but also build their confidence. Indeed, knowing how to behave is one of the most critical requisites of a happy dog.
Enjoy the Best Traits of the Breed
German Shepherds have plenty to offer in terms of entertainment, love, and companionship. But you won’t even notice those traits if you’re busy trying to deal with bad behaviors.
Training your GSD to be well-behaved is the only way you can enjoy the wonderful traits that have made them the 3rd most popular breed.
Socializing Your German Shepherd Puppy
Part of training your German Shepherd is making sure they are properly socialized. Socialization involves getting your dog used to all sorts of real-world scenarios so they can grow up fearless and full of confidence.
Fear-based aggression is a serious problem among GSDs. In such cases, unfamiliar or scary situations trigger aggressive behaviors.
The goal of socialization is to make your dog comfortable in all sorts of environments. So, as early as possible, give your puppy plenty of opportunities to interact with different people and animals.
Show them many different places and make sure they get used to all sorts of sights, sounds, and smells.
Socialization also involves being open to handling. For example, you should be able to fuss over their paws and ears without drama. They should also get used to being handled by other people.
This is useful when you need to have them groomed, walked, or boarded. Having a properly socialized dog will also allow you to train them in real-world settings.
10 Tips for Successful German Shepherd Training
Training a GSD can be challenging, but is also most definitely fulfilling. Here are a few key tips to give you the best chance of success when training your German Shepherd:
1. Start early
Ideally, training starts when your German Shepherd is just a puppy. The earlier you begin, the easier it is likely to be.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t worry if you’re taking home an adult GSD. Just make sure you start training them and laying down the rules as soon as they’re in your care.
2. Determine the best reward
All dogs have a reward that they respond best to. Most German Shepherds are food-motivated, so you’ll find that treats are effective for reinforcing good behavior.
Others, however, prefer to play as a reward. For such GSDs, you might try tossing them a toy or playing a short game of tug whenever they get things right. Other dogs are happy enough with kind praises and an ear scratch.
3. Use positive reinforcement
Studies show that the health and welfare of companion dogs are negatively impacted by aversive-based training methods. So, it would ultimately do you harm to use punishment as a means to teach your dog.
Instead, reinforce positive behaviors with irresistible rewards. This method will condition your dog to feel good about following commands rather than being fearful of punishment.
4. Show leadership
German Shepherds are bold and confident. Although those traits are part of what makes them excellent dogs, they are also what might make them challenging to train.
Early on, you must establish your leadership and make sure your dog respects you for it. You should be an awesome source of treats, pets, and scratches, but you should also be firm in your handling when it matters.
5. Be consistent
Never let bad behaviors slide. When you have a German Shepherd, one of the worst things you can do is to let them have their way “just this once.”
You need to establish your rules and make sure they are followed no matter what.
Additionally, training a GSD works best when you establish a daily routine. These dogs understand a schedule. So, try to make every day the same so your dog understands when it’s time to potty, eat, work, or rest.
6. Be in tune with your dog
As you spend more time with your dog, pay attention and observe them closely. You’ll notice that they have their own ways to communicate with you.
If you make an effort to listen and figure out what they’re trying to say, you’ll appreciate how communicative German Shepherds really are, and this is critical for successful training.
7. Commit to basic commands
Even if you don’t intend to do upper-level training, join obedience competitions, or participate in Schutzhund, you should commit to mastering at least the basic commands of sit, down, stay, and come.
German Shepherds belong to the first tier of working dogs in the Dog Intelligence Ranking. Dogs in this group can obey commands at least 95% of the time.
This is the standard you should strive for when it comes to these basic obedience commands as these will help you handle your dog in many real-life situations.
8. Address bad behaviors immediately
Puppies should be disciplined for things they shouldn’t be doing. Not only is this undesirable in a pet but also could progress to even worse habits.
Ideally, you’d have nipped unwanted behaviors in the bud before your dog gets big and strong enough to cause real damage.
Your dog might also increasingly try to challenge your leadership, so it’s important that you don’t budge.
9. Give your dog responsibilities
German Shepherds thrive best when they’re pre-occupied and able to use their unique physical and abilities. In fact, if you give your GSD some household chores, you’ll find that they’re happier and better behaved.
Apart from having a happy helper at home, giving your dog a job also gives you plenty of opportunities to train and reward them for their positive behaviors.
10. Be patient
German Shepherds are remarkably intelligent, but they won’t always pick up lessons right away. When this happens, don’t release your frustrations on your dog.
You may need to take a step back and see how you can break down the command even further. If they still don’t get it after a few tries, take a break and try again tomorrow.
When Should I Start Training My German Shepherd Puppy?
Training your German Shepherd should start as soon as you take them home. If you’re getting your puppy from a breeder, this would be around 8 to 12 weeks old.
As puppies, German Shepherds are very impressionable. They learn rather quickly and have not yet picked up bad behaviors that can disrupt training.
Potty training will be a breeze and they can learn basic obedience very quickly. Additionally, they will learn to respect your leadership right away.
Differences Between Training a Puppy Versus an Older GSD
You can successfully train a German Shepherd no matter how old they are. However, you’ll need to adjust your expectations based on their age.
It’s generally easier to train puppies because you’re starting from a clean slate. They’re not yet set in their ways and will be more open to looking to you for guidance and leadership.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t worry if you’re getting your GSD as an adult. Your training might have to involve reversing some bad habits.
Additionally, it might take longer for them to respect your leadership. However, if try your best to understand them and give them a reason to trust and follow you, training a German Shepherd as an adult is definitely possible.
A well-trained and properly socialized German Shepherd is incredibly joyful to live with. It will undoubtedly entail a considerable investment of time and effort.
You’ll be rewarded with a well-behaved dog that’s perfectly in tune with you. By then, you’ll be able to enjoy this wonderful breed that’s affectionate, loyal, and eager to please.
Establishing your leadership and developing a strong bond through training will quickly pay off. Once you’ve trained for the basics, you’ll be able to teach your German Shepherd to do all sorts of things and enjoy their company in many different ways.
For example, you can go rollerblading together or even participate in canine sports like flyball and agility. No matter what you decide to do with your dog, a well-trained GSD will provide you with many years of fun, love, and companionship.