Basics of German Shepherd Obedience Training
German Shepherds are extremely intelligent and active dogs. And just like intelligent and active human children, they need to be given both stimulation and boundaries in order to be happy and well-adjusted. Some owners forget (or perhaps do not realize) that these large, active dogs need obedience training. Not because they are bad dogs or difficult to handle, but because obedience training establishes you as the alpha in the pack. This makes sure that your dog knows the commands and signals that will keep him safe and will provide him with the structure that he desires.
While taking your shepherd to an obedience training class is always a good idea, here are some basics to get you started:
Socialization of Dogs
Socializing your dog is going to be very important. Those that are not properly socialized can become anxious, fearful, and aggressive around other dogs as they grow older. This is especially true of the German Shepherd, who is naturally protective and will want to protect your pack from outside influences if he is not taught that there is no need for alarm.
Once he has had all of his vaccinations, it might be a good idea to start taking him to a local dog park, where there are other, friendly dogs that he can play with. Learning that other dogs and people are friendly will help your dog be better adjusted in the long run.
Imprinting Your German Shepherd
Your first task as an owner begins even before your dog is old enough to start learning basic obedience. Imprinting helps your dog understand that you are in charge and that what you say goes. It bonds you together. German Shepherds are, at their core, working dogs. They want to know what their job is, and they want to know where they fit into their pack. In order to do both of these things, you will need to make sure you treat your shepherd how you want him to act.
Dogs that are yelled at and cowed during training will be aggressive and unpredictable as adults (because that is how he views your behavior). Dogs that are firmly, but lovingly corrected, given plenty of attention and praise, and are rewarded for good behavior, are well-adjusted adults.
Some owners will start their dog off in the crate from day one. If this is your plan, you need to have everyone in your family on board. Your puppy will probably cry and cry while he is the crate and you will start to believe that you are torturing the poor thing. If you want your dog to come to understand the purpose of his crate and to love it, you will have to be strong for this first couple of nights while he is crying in his crate. Eventually, he will learn to soothe himself and to recognize his crate for what it is, his den.
Leash Training Your German Shepherd
The size and power of this breed make it very important to properly leash train your dog. Leash training will be one of your first obedience lessons. It will teach him to listen to you and to respond to your movements, instead of trying to direct you on the lease. The right sized leash is important—it should be short enough to give you control, but long enough that it is not tight.
Use treats to reward good behavior. If he starts to pull, stop, and wait for him to stop pulling. Only start moving again when the leash is slack. If you let your dog pull you around, he’ll learn early that this behavior is okay, and when he is eighty pounds of muscle, you might not be able to correct the behavior.
Basic Commands: Sit, Stay, and Heel
The most important obedience commands for a German Shepherd are "sit," "stay," and "heel," Choose whichever words work best for you (those are the ones that you will remember in a moment of stress). Sit, stay, and heel will be useful for protecting your dog during a dangerous situation. They are also great for keeping him well-behaved in a high-energy moment (like when someone they know and want to greet comes through the door). “Stop” is another excellent command for your dog to learn. This will enable you to immediately get him to stop chewing on or eating something that you do not want him to chew on or eat.
Most German Shepherds are old enough to start obedience training at around eight weeks. You can start the imprinting and socialization process earlier, but eight weeks is a good place to start for training that requires focus. Never force training these young dogs, be gentle and patient.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2016 Sam Shepards