German Shepherds (GSDs) are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them easier to train than many other breeds. When Dr. Stanley Coren was doing research for a book about the most intelligent dog breeds, he noticed German Shepherds obeyed commands more than 95% of the time and learned new commands very quickly. However, intelligence comes with a price. Breeds that thrive on challenge and stimulation can become destructive when they are ignored and starved of attention.
These are the kinds of problems you can avoid by working with a professional breeder. Breeders know the temperaments and personality traits of their dogs even at a very young age. And they use this knowledge to place their puppies in homes where they will thrive. Breeders could also be a valuable source of support and advice if you need help training your puppy. However, if you do find things taking longer than expected, it may not be the puppy’s fault.
Training Starts With Leadership
Dogs are social animals, meaning they are happiest when they know who is in charge and where they fit in. If you want your puppy training to be smooth sailing, you must be a strong leader and set a good example. This is easier said than done, but a list of tips and pitfalls to avoid from the German Shepherd Dog Club of America could get you pointed in the right direction. The list of dos and don’ts includes:
- Do: Be happy and friendly every time your puppy comes over to you.
- Don’t: Repeat commands. If telling doesn’t work, go back to showing.
- Do: Always reward good behavior with plenty of praise.
- Don’t: Yell at your dog. Patience leads to reward, but anger leads to frustration.
- Do: Be consistent. Your puppy must know what is expected, and that should not change.
- Don’t: Reward undesirable behavior no matter how cute your puppy looks.
- Do: Give your dog a chance to burn off some energy every day.
- Don’t: Give up on your puppy. The breakthrough could be just ahead.
German Shepherd Training
The GSD’s work ethic is extraordinary and goes a long way toward their training development at a young age. The following is what you can expect to focus your training efforts on to see the best results in your furry little student.
The First Eight Weeks
Your German Shepherd puppy will probably be around eight weeks old when you bring it home. For the first eight weeks or so, you should focus your efforts on socialization and house training.
- Socialization: Dogs have a socialization window that closes about four months after they are born. They grow up to be healthier, happier and more confident adults if they experience a lot during this crucial 16-week period.
Your puppy will have already spent a lot of time around other dogs, so now it’s time to meet some people. You should introduce your puppy to as many people as possible in environments that are not threatening or intimidating. Your puppy should also become familiar with your daily routine and what your average day sounds and smells like.
- House training: House training is usually a fairly quick and uneventful process with intelligent breeds. A crate makes things a lot easier, but it should not be used to punish as it must be seen as a place of comfort. Success comes quickest when good behavior is rewarded with praise and unwanted behavior is met with disappointment rather than anger.
The First Nine Months
Once your puppy has developed good social skills and learned to take care of business outside the house, it is time to start teaching him or her a few basic commands like sit, down and stay. Be patient and show the dog what you expect –a German Shepherd should understand in less than five repetitions.
This is also the time to get your puppy used to a loose leash. The two goals you should have in mind when you embark on obedience training is getting your puppy to come to you when you call and becoming a stronger influence than your puppy’s impulses.
- Recall: It can be easy to claim success and call it a day when your puppy comes to you after being called most of the time, but this is not a shortcut worth taking. Keep working recall until your puppy comes to you every time, the day will come when you will be glad you did.
- Overcoming impulses: Your dogs can very quickly become the bane of your existence, but there are three things you can do to stop it happening. The first is making sure that your dog knows its name and responds to it when called. This is why it may be best to stick to one name rather than choosing from a list of pet names.
The second thing you should do is intervene whenever your dog acts on impulse. Just call his or her name in a calm and firm voice. The last step is rewarding your puppy with praise for overcoming its impulse.
The First Two Years
You can start moving up to more complex commands once your puppy has mastered the basics. Just remember, GSDs keep learning for longer than other breeds, so the old adage about old dogs and new tricks does not really apply to them.
As an owner, you may be completely happy with a content and well-behaved family pet, or you could be interested in training your puppy to follow scents or perform feats of agility. The more you ask of your dog, the happier they will be. That can be said of all breeds, but it is especially true of German Shepherds.
Obedience Classes in Chicago, and Online Help
Training a puppy does not have to be a lonely business. Obedience classes give puppy owners the chance to swap stories and learn from one another, and some breeders (such as us!) even offer virtual dog training classes. These have proven to be very popular during the Covid-19 lockdowns when people often can’t attend dog training sessions in person.
Puppy owners attend the virtual sessions by connecting to a stream using Facebook, Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp, and they then receive one-on-one coaching to help them overcome training issues and challenges. The things covered in online training sessions include:
- Spotting bad habits and problem behavior.
- Help with crate training and housebreaking.
- Nutritional advice and exercise tips.
- Training routines and schedules.
- Reviewing progress.
We’re with You Every Step of the Way
Regis Regal has been breeding German Shepherds for more than three decades and is an American Kennel Club Breeder of Merit. Our puppies are perfect whether you are looking for loyal household companions or a highly skilled working dog. We provide ongoing advice and assistance because we want our puppies to be happy, and we even offer online training sessions. If you are looking for a reputable German Shepherd breeder but you live outside Illinois, we can use a private courier service to deliver your puppy to your home in safety and comfort. If you would like to know more, you can contact us online or call us on (847) 721-1908.