Originally bred to herd flocks and protect sheep from predators, German Shepherd dogs are a naturally dominant breed that loves taking charge. They are also confident, loyal…and above all else, smart. German Shepherd dogs (GSDs) are also a hardworking breed, and they respond very well to commands from an early age. Moments spent training your pet will foster a strong bond, promote the right behaviors, and ensure their safety. Using the right techniques and avoiding the most common missteps will make your efforts infinitely more effective.
The Best Treats for German Shepherd Puppies
To get the best training results, one of the first things to do is to find the type of treats that excite your German Shepherd. Dogs often have unique taste buds, and while some might be partial to peanut butter, others might salivate over beef, chicken or even cheese-flavored rewards.
The treats that are the healthiest for puppies are organic, clean tartar from teeth, and are free from artificial flavors, corn, grain, soy and dairy. Too much of a good thing can make your pet chubby, so if you decide to give them something from your fridge like cheddar cheese or beef, make sure that they are cut up into small pieces and don’t overdo it.
7 Simple Obedience Commands for Your German Shepherd
It is important to start training your puppy early in life, and the younger they are, the easier it is to introduce new commands with success. Therefore, if you’ve recently got hold of a German Shepherd puppy, you should get started training them right away. German Shepherd puppies are ready for simple obedience commands when they are 6-7 weeks old, and what follows are some commands that you can start working on when your puppy reaches that milestone.
If you’ve never trained a dog before, keep these important rules in mind:
- Be consistent
- Keep it simple
- Reinforce behavior you want
- Never, ever hit your GSD
Here are the steps for teaching “sit,”
- Step 1: Grab a treat and then wait for your puppy to come stand in front of you. Flash the treat so that he can see it, and then hover it over his head towards his rear.
- Step 2: You want the treat to always be a sniffable distance away from his nose so that your pet is both excited and engaged. More often than not, this tactic will cause German Shepherd puppies to drop down into a seated position so that they can keep their eyes on the prize. Once your pet is in the desired position, give him the treat and offer praise.
- Step 3: After several successful runs without a verbal command, start using the word “sit” to encourage the action you want, rather than moving the treat. Once this is mastered, stop showing the treat at all.
- Step 4: You should keep practicing this command until your pup recognizes it and becomes adept at sitting, regardless of the reward. If they are not sitting on the ground, gently push his croup down and reiterate the sit command.
- Step 5: Keep practicing until your GSD sits without treats.
For more detail, you can watch the video How to Train Your Dog to Sit or Lay Down.
The “down” command is just as important as “sit” or “stay”, especially if you have an especially rambunctious dog who likes jumping up on your guests. Mastering this command while your GSD is still little will ensure that you never have a large, intimidating dog hopping up on visitors or strangers. It will also soothe them, even when they are agitated by new sights and sounds.
Here are the steps for teaching “down,”
- Step 1: Start “down” training when your pet is already in a seated position and place a treat between your index finger and thumb. Show them the treat and move your hand close enough to their face so that it is plainly in their view.
- Step 2: Slowly move the treat towards the floor while gently preventing them from getting up from where they are sitting. Say the command “down” while you are doing this.
- Step 3: If your puppy gets up from the sitting position and tries to go for the snack, even if he’s already in a down position, speak the command again.
- Step 4: Once your dog stops attempting to grab the snack, give your “good boy” or “girl” the praise they deserve and the reward they’ve worked for.
- Step 5: Practice the “down” command until the German Shepherd can respond to the command without being treated.
Whether on or off-leash, this command will get your dog to stay put, even if he’s got his eye on a feisty, fast-moving cat or squirrel. “Stay” is easily the most important basic obedience training command that you can teach your pet as it can prevent him from running towards danger.
According to research, even at an early age, your GSD will be adept in determining your attentional state. The more tuned-in you are, the easier it will be for your puppy to focus and master this slightly more challenging command. However, you should only teach your GSD the “stay” command after he’s already successfully mastered “down”.
Here are the steps for “stay”:
- Step 1: Once your dog is in the down position with his palm over his head, deliver the command “stay” while maintaining eye contact. When your dog tries to rise from this position, use the command “stay” again.
- Step 2: When your dog continually keeps the stay position and even lies flat, reward her with a treat and praise. Mastering “stay” is a huge accomplishment for a dog, as their instincts tell them to run, chase or play. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to lavish your pet with a bit of additional praise when he finally gets this one right. Over time, you’ll find that your GSD stays put even when you don’t have the treat to offer.
- Step 3: If your dog continues to struggle with the “stay” command, you can always get additional tips and guidance by taking part in one of our virtual GSD training sessions.
Even with his leash off, “heel” will teach your GSD to trot contentedly beside you. This is an excellent command to have mastered when you’re ready to go for a run on a private beach or trail and want your pet to enjoy the freedom and comfort of being leash-free. “Heel” can be easily taught while playing.
Here are the steps for teaching your dog to “heel,”:
- Step 1: Start by taking your German Shepherd puppy into the yard to frolic. After several minutes of free play, put a flat buckle collar or leash on him.
- Step 2: Your pet may initially react by pulling and resisting. You can simply wait these challenges out. However, once he stops pulling, show him some affection and reward him with praise.
- Step 3: After having done this routine a few times, put the collar on your GSD using a counter-clockwise movement. Then say “heel” and try to get him to heel with you. You may even want to use a few hand signals to show him what you want.
- Step 4: You can reward your pup with a treat once he actually heels. As mentioned before, practice makes perfect. The more that you revisit this command, the sooner your pup will heel without requiring the promise of a treat for inspiration.
For more detail, you can watch the video How to Teach Your German Shepherd Puppy not to Pull You.”
5. “Drop It”
This is the command to teach when you want a quick way to stop your German Shepherd puppy from mauling your TV remote or a favorite pair of shoes. Well-trained and fully-grown GSDs don’t generally engage in these behaviors, but you can’t expect your pup to know things that you haven’t yet taught him.
Here are the steps for “drop it,”
- Step 1: To teach “drop it,” start by giving your pet her favorite toy. If you can teach your dog to drop something she loves, you’ll have a much easier time getting her to drop something you love.
- Step 2: If your puppy starts chewing on the toy or won’t drop it from her mouth say, “No!” firmly, and follow up with the “drop it” command.
- Step 3: Next, use the treat to divert your puppy’s attention away from the toy by holding it in front of her nose. When she releases the toy to grab the treat, reinforce the good behavior by giving her praise.
6. Barking on Command
Barking is an instinctive behavior for your GSD, so it can be a bit of a challenge to teach them to do it on command. On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is get them used to nuisance barking. The key is consistency, and when training, it’s best to only reward barking when you’re requesting that they do it.
Here are the steps for teaching barking on command:
- Step 1: As soon as your puppy barks, immediately mark the behavior with the command “speak!” Immediately after, reward him with a treat, their favorite toy, or high praise.
- Step 2: If you are clicker training your puppy, make sure that you click it as soon as they bark.
- Step 3: Continue marking and rewarding your pet’s behavior until they determine how to “speak” when command.
7. Bite Inhibition
Puppies’ mouths contain many tiny, sharp teeth, which can hurt like the dickens when they gnaw on your fingers like they’re a chew toy. Such behavior is known as “play biting.” Luckily, there is a simple way to teach your pup the behavior is inappropriate.
You simply cry out “ow!” in a high-pitched voice to stop them, and they usually get the idea. Their mothers do something similar when they get too free with the unwanted biting and chewing.
Some puppies get more wound up than others when you say “ow,” though. In this case, walk away or turn around quietly. You can also put them in a crate for a few minutes to let them calm down. If your pet does back off, reward them with a treat and spoken praise.
If you have problems with your puppy nipping at your legs watch this video on our YouTube channel – How to Stop a Puppy Nipping at your Legs.”
Your first 2-6 months with your new GSD is the perfect time to set the foundation for comfortable, harmonious living in your home. With these basic commands, you can discourage bad behaviors, keep your pet safe, and take your animal out and about without worry.
Enroll in a German Shepherd Class
Should you choose to continue, early training can set the stage for success in mastering more advanced commands such as those for promoting increased agility and higher intelligence. Regis Regal breeds and trains World-Class German Shepherd Puppies, Adults, Estate Dogs, Therapy Dogs, & Service Dogs. If you live in Chicago, IL, or the surrounding area and would like to find out more about training your GSD, you can contact us at (847) 721-1908. You can also send us a message using our online form.