You’re experienced with dogs and want a devoted canine companion that’s loyal to the family, good with kids, and a good house dog. Congratulations! You’ve just described the German shepherd! Working with your dog on German Shepherd training can be very rewarding, so read on to find out more about our tops tips and tricks!
German Shepherd Characteristics
The German shepherd is both intelligent and sensitive, which means in the right hands they make great family dogs. A young person walking alongside an obedient German shepherd is a real boost to the former’s self-confidence, plus peace of mind for you, the parent, knowing that few people will take liberties with someone who has a German Shepherd Dog on the other end of the leash.
Likewise, if you want a dog in order to get fresh air and exercise, then a German Shepherd is one option. They love to be active and need an outlet for that energy. Their quick learning means they will thrive when challenged with advanced obedience training or physical activities such as agility trials.
Not for nothing do the police and security forces use German shepherds. Their imposing presence makes them an ideal family guard dog. It is indeed a foolhardy burglar who breaks into a house where a German Shepherd resides. But don’t forget you’ll have the best of both worlds! Your guard dog is also a devoted and loyal companion who loves to be with you and worships the ground you walk on.
In short, a German Shepherd is a great match for the experienced dog handler who craves exercise and wants to be involved in the challenge of advanced German Shepherd training. In addition, they make a devoted companion and an imposing guard dog, for the right person.
German Shepherds: Things To Consider
The intelligence and quick wits of the German Shepherd mean this is not a breed for the beginner. The dog will just as readily learn bad habits as good, and so the hesitant trainer could quickly get out of their depth. Some form of training is likely to be essential!
The GSD is an energetic breed, and if left for long periods of time without a chance to run and chase, can develop bad habits. These include barking, chewing, and destructive digging. So if your lifestyle does not allow for daily long walks, you’ll either need to employ a dog walker or consider a different breed. They also have certain character traits such as a tendency to mouthiness. This needs correcting at an early age in order to reduce the risk of serious bites, which even when done in play can be painful and dangerous. Also, consider that these dogs are prone to guarding- it’s in their nature- which can become unmanageable if not controlled with German Shepherd training.
Another quirk of the breed is a love of their own voice. This means they don’t hold back when it comes to barking, and also exhibit an impressive array of ear-splitting howls. Beware the bored German Shepherd! He might make his own amusement by singing…and not in a way that the neighbours enjoy.
Despite their imposing presence German Shepherds are described as “sensitive”, meaning they are prone to nervousness, especially when poorly socialized. This can be corrected with training and the help of a confident owner who knows how to react (and when not to react!) when the dog shows signs of fear aggression, or unwillingness to approach a strange situation
Unfortunately, German Shepherds are also prone to health problems. These conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia, lack of pancreatic enzymes, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergic skin conditions. Treatment can be costly, especially for a large dog like the German Shepherd.
German Shepherd Training: Our Top 10 Tips
Know the German Shepherd is a Working Dog
Your dog is descended from working dogs and as such has an insatiable appetite for exercise. When you meet his needs to run, chase, jump and retrieve on a daily basis, you have a happy dog that is eager to please. This means he’s tuned in when it comes to training, rather than distracted and looking for trouble. Know that boredom is the enemy when it comes to training. Your first task is to meet the dog’s need for physical activity. Take stock and see what adjustments you can make to schedule at least two, 45-minute active exercise sessions each day. If your work schedule doesn’t allow this, then consider using a dog walking service.
The 3 Cs: Clear, Consistent, Cues!
Proper German Shepherd training requires a combination of exercise and mental stimulation. To be effective, you need to stick to certain basic rules, which include the 3Cs. Be clear and make sure you have a simple set of commands that everyone uses. Remember, English is a foreign language to your dog so using “Down” and “Drop” for the same action will confuse him. Decide on command words and stick the list on the fridge door so the family knows the correct cues to use. Be consistent and apply all house rules consistently. No feeding from the table means just that 7 days a week! Use cues, too. This means using your tone of voice to guide your dog and give verbal cues to mark good and bad behaviour. Let your dog know he’s about to make a wrong choice with a short, sharp, “Uh no”, followed by a happy “Good boy”, when he does as asked.
Dominance theory has been disproven. Yes, German Shepherds need a firm hand, but alpha rolls and harsh punishment are liable to create a nervous, subservient dog that behaves unpredictably and resorts to aggression. Instead, try German Shepherd training by rewarding their good behaviour. The rules are easy! You use a treat, praise, or play to reward the dog when they correctly carry out a command. Guide them with a disapproving “No”, when he makes the wrong decisions. This way they learn that the way to earn goodies is to be a good boy, and training becomes fun. This is the basis behind our own training techniques here at Royvon.
Consider the German Shepherd’s Character
Understand your GSD is intelligent but sensitive. When attempting German Shepherd training, use compassion, kindness, and knowledge to teach your dog how to behave. Engage your dog’s intelligence and motivate them with things they love doing. For example, if they love playing ball, use this is a reward for a command well done. Likewise, remember German Shepherds are capable of learning complex routines as long as they are broken down into individual steps. For example, provide mental stimulation by teaching your dog to put their toys away in a box. Teach one step at a time (Pick up and drop a ball, fetch and drop a ball, fetch and drop a ball into a box). Only move on to the next step when they’ve mastered the first.
Don’t baby your German Shepherd
A German Shepherd feels most secure when they know and understand the rules. They thrive on firm, consistent, fair, leadership when it comes to German Shepherd training. To this end, don’t treat him as a lapdog, as it will confuse and unsettle him. A happy dog looks for guidance and finds routine reassuring. Once again, write down the house rules and stick them to the fridge for all the family to use. Know that treating your dog to the occasional cuddle on the sofa will only confuse them!
German Shepherds are unfortunately prone to joint disease and hip dysplasia. The developing joints of a young dog must be protected by feeding them a good quality diet that is designed for large breed growth. Also, avoid over strenuous exercise and training such as agility training until their bones have finished growing at around 12 – 18 months of age.
German Shepherds are wedge-shaped with a tucked up waistline. However, it’s all too easy for a German Shepherd to pile on the pounds and lose that midriff definition. Watch out for hidden calories in training treats. Keep up the rewards but be sure to cut back on their meal-time kibble, and weigh out their ration at the beginning of the day, putting some aside in a pot to use as training treats.
Use the Right Tools for the German Shepherd Training Job
The perfect recall doesn’t happen overnight! Be realistic and take the pressure off yourself by using the right tools for the job. For the non-responsive returner, attach a long line to their collar. They have the option to respond of their own free will, but if they’re too distracted you still have control. Likewise, if your dog is over-reactive and behaves aggressively, consider using a muzzle. The peace of mind that they can do no harm will relieve your tension, which in turn helps the dog be more relaxed.
Seek Professional Help
German Shepherds are strong, demanding dogs. If the training isn’t going to plan, don’t be afraid to call in the professionals. Putting a plan into place before bad habits become entrenched is much better! Otherwise, they may be too hard to correct.
What German Shepherd Training Can Look Like
Training your German Shepherd can be hugely rewarding! Here at Royvon, we love working with this energetic breed and seeing hard work pay off. They can be fun-loving, friendly family pets.
Take a look at our YouTube video that shows you what a fully-trained German Shepherd can look like:
Do you need help with training your German Shepherd? We know that this breed can be a handful but when they’re trained correctly they’re amazing pets! Royvon offers a variety of training options to help you and your dog. These range from 1-2-1 sessions to residential stays to get your furry friend on the right track. Please contact us to find out more about what we offer and to find the right one for you!
Darren is the Managing Director of Royvon Dog Training & Hotels. The business has been in his family for over 60 years! Darren uses this blog to share knowledge and information about dog training and more.